Barbarism in Iran
One question that came up during Irshad Manji's talk at ALA Annual is whether or not Iran still uses stoning as a form of execution. Unfortunately, according to the BBC, that debate can now be put to rest:
The Iranian judiciary says a man has been stoned to death for adultery - the first time it has confirmed such an execution in five years.
Jafar Kiani was executed last week in a village in north-west Qazvin province.
Amnesty International said Mr Kiani and Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, 43, were convicted of adultery more than a decade ago.
The human rights group has appealed for Ms Ebrahimi to be spared. Adultery is a capital offence, punishable by stoning, under Iran's Islamic law.
In 2002, the judiciary suspended the practice.
This description from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) gives a sense of just how barbarous execution by stoning is:
It is also a gory spectacle. Condemned men are buried up to their waists, and women up to their chests, with their hands tied behind their backs before they are pelted with rocks until they die. Islamic code prescribes that the stone used for stoning "should not be so big as to kill the offender with one or two stones" and "nor should it be as small as pebbles."
In addition to death by stoning, Iran's legal code includes provisions for crucifixion, amputation, and flogging.
Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that Iran's 2002 moratorium on stoning has been honored in the breach. As Soheila Vahdati of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign tells RFE/RL, Ms. Ebrahimi is in danger of meeting a similarly horrific fate:
"Unfortunately we don't have exact reports. Even her lawyer, Said Eghbali, who has been representing her for eight months, has been unable to see her [court] file," Vahdati said. "We don't have enough information about her situation. We know that she has two children who are with her in prison -- we don't know the exact age or sex of the children. But activists from the campaign in Iran are going to investigate and go to Takestan to find firsthand information. They want to do their best to prevent another stoning being carried out secretly."
Reports in late 2006 suggested that at least two people had been stoned to death earlier in the year and at least eight women faced stoning sentences.
In addition to judicially ordered stonings possibly being conducted in secret, there have been reports of Islamist vigilantes taking it upon themselves to murder "immoral" individuals by stoning. In April, Iran's Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of 6 militiamen who committed several such murders in 2002 and 2003.
A number of news outlets have noted that the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is engaged in nothing less than a "cultural revolution" designed to turn back the clock to the despotic barbarism of the Khomeini era. The open return to execution by stoning, even if it does turn out to be limited, is another manifestation of this profoundly disturbing trend.