Iran: Woman at risk of being stoned to death after being driven into prostitution by poverty
Posted: 29 October 2009
Kobra Babaei, an Iranian woman, is feared to be at imminent risk of stoning to death. Her husband Rahim Mohammadi was hanged for 'sodomy' on 5 October.
According to an interview given by the couple's lawyer Mohamad Mostafaei, earlier this year, the couple had turned to prostitution to support themselves financially after a prolonged period of unemployment.
Rahim Mohammadi and Kobra Babaei, who have a 12-year-old daughter, were both unable to find work for prolonged periods and were very poor. Reports state that 'they realised that certain officials were willing to help them in exchange for sexual relations with Rahim's young wife' and had therefore turned to prostitution.
They were both convicted of 'adultery while being married', which carries a mandatory sentence of execution by stoning.
Rahim Mohammadi was also convicted of 'sodomy' for which the penalty is execution, the method to be specified by the judge. Mohammad Mostafaei has said he believes the execution was unlawful and has made public a detailed letter he wrote to the Head of the Judiciary (available in English, see link below) in which he said that there was no evidence of 'sodomy' and that he believed this charge was brought against Rahim Mohammadi because it would allow the authorities to hang him, rather than stone him to death. According to the lawyer, Kobra Babaei is at imminent risk of stoning now that her husband has been executed.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
'Stoning people to death is an inhumane punishment, specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victim.
"Women and men inside Iran are fighting for an end to this horrendous practice and in some cases they have met with success. But we must show them international support.
'The Iranian authorities should abolish stoning immediately, and should abandon the practice of executing people for committing adultery. '
Five other women all remain at risk of execution by stoning after being found guilty of 'adultery while being married':
A court in Khuzestan province sentenced Iran to five years' imprisonment for complicity in her husband's murder, and to death by stoning for adultery. The stoning sentence was overturned in June 2007 and she was retried, but was again sentenced to stoning. Her case has been before the Amnesty and Clemency Commission for over a year. She is held in Sepidar prison, in Ahvaz city.
A woman known only as "H", and another identified only as "M.Kh" are both said to be held in Vakilabad Prison, Mashhad, north-eastern Iran, under sentence of stoning.
Mohamed Mostafaie's open letter can be read in English at:
Stoning as a punishment is set out in Iran's Penal Code, which dictates that the stones should be large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".
The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women, who suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. The age of criminal responsibility for women is lower than that for men and a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because in Iran they are more likely than men to be illiterate and more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery, said Amnesty.
In 2002, the Head of the Judiciary instructed judges to impose a moratorium on stonings. Despite this, at least five men and one woman have been stoned to death since 2002. In January 2009, the Spokesperson for the Judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed that two executions by stoning had been carried out in December 2008 and said that the directive on the moratorium had no legal weight and that judges could therefore ignore it.
In June 2009, the Legal and Judicial Affairs Committee of Iran's parliament (Majles) recommended the removal of a clause permitting stoning from a new version of the Penal Code currently under discussion in the parliament. The law has yet to be passed by the whole Majles, after which it will be passed to the Council of Guardians for approval. The clause allowing the use of stoning could be reinstated at either stage.