August 30, 2009

Dealing behind the scenes

It was almost ten days after disputed presidential election in Iran that I talked to a friend of mine. Massive rallies of reform supporters in Tehran and a few other cities had turned violent, many prominent reformist figures were under arrest and some demonstrators had been killed.

By then, it was almost clear that dissidents could not overthrow Ahmadinejad administration and fulfill their primary dream, i.e. annulling the election or convincing the regime that Musavi should take the power.

My friend had a point: if reform movement was about to give in, it either should achieve something big enough to make its supporters believe “it’s worth what we’ve done, now let’s give up;” or it had to come up with a justified reason to demand an end to demonstrations. In either case, their supporters needed a reason to quit.

The regime, however, was not ready to compromise, believing that it had the upper hand. Reformers had no winning card to take the regime to negotiations table. Hardliner propaganda machine upped the ante, trying to take advantage of the situation, even seeking for the trial of Musavi. Ultra-conservatives claimed that Musavi and reformist movement were responsible for the death of citizens and damages caused to public and private properties for they conducted allegedly illegal demonstrations.

Reformists’ struggle was seemingly bound to fail. They were under harsh criticism of hardliner centers for being connected to foreign powers, trying to destabilize Islamic Republic, and orchestrating a velvet revolution.

By then, there was a widespread rumor that many people detained during demonstrations were tortured and killed in prisons. What turned the page was a piece of official news: son of a top official died in prison.

Mohsen Ruholamini, who was arrested in pro-reform demonstrations, reportedly died in Evin prison. His father was an advisor to Mohsen Rezayi, a member of Expediency Council, general secretary of Justice and Development Party (a moderate reformist party) and a former member of an influential conservative party. Rafsanjani, Rezayi, Zarghami (head of IRI state TV), and parliament speaker offered their respective condolences to his father.

Mohsen Ruholamini was apparently tortured in the prison. His death triggered a wave of criticism of what was going on in prisons. In an important development, Mahdi Karroubi publicly announced that he had found information and hard evidences showing that some prisoners were raped.

Since the very beginning of Islamic Revolution, there had been rumors regarding rape and torture in prisons. Top IRI officials, however, always rejected such accusations. In one case, serial killing of intellectuals by some intelligence agents, the case of torture in prisons got public. Rape, however, was a redline.

At first, regime was reluctant to admit. Lecturers of Friday prayers in the country unanimously criticized Karroubi. They even said that ‘if he fails to prove his accusations, he should be lashed 80 times’ (an Islamic penalty for those accusing an innocent person of adultery and rape).

After a while, rape and torture reports got a momentum. According to Parlemannews,

“A journalist was arrested in post-election demonstrations. For he had been in contact with the office of a senior official [usual slang for Ayatollah Khamenei] since several years ago, he was set free after two weeks. When he paid a visit to that senior official, he was asked to take a seat. But he refused, telling that he could not seat. He said that he was repeatedly raped by stick.”

The hole was too big for the regime to cover. Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the closure of a ‘non-standard prison’ in Kahrizak. A judge was suspended and some agents are waiting for trial.

It seems that the regime finally agreed to a limited compromise. In a speech delivered this week, Ayatollah Khamenei said that reformist leaders were not agents of foreign powers. He added that those who caused death and loss, regardless of their organizational affiliations, should be tried.

This may not be what reformists longed to achieve. However, given the circumstances, it was a noticeable outcome. They were about to be put aside as some ‘non-insiders.’ Moreover, torturing and raping prisoners is a blow to a regime that finds itself the pioneer of morality and Islam. This shall be remembered forever.

Finally, reformists got to save their face and credibility. And the regime is assured that protests are not to be continued, at least temporarily. It might be a deal behind the scene.

August 18, 2009

Blood-Owners Rule

In Islamic Penal Code, the concept of Qisas refers to ‘Eye for an Eye’ principle according to which the offended party has the right to seek for retaliation. In the case of murder, close keens of the murdered, called Blood Owners, has the right to ask for capital punishment. They also can set conditions to let the murderer live. Islamic Penal Code does not limit the conditions they may set, save that the terms must not be in conflict with other Islamic decrees.

In some cases, enforcing this law leads to disturbing situations. Following is an example of such an event. According to Baztab,

A woman who had murdered her husband got married to her brother-in-law to escape death penalty. Razieh, who committed murder when she was 15 years old, was taken into prison six years ago. She said she could no longer tolerate her husband.

Her account of the event is as follows.

“I was just a kid when I got married to him. He was a moody person and used to tease me. I had no relatives, and I was illiterate thus I could not work. Therefore I had to cope with my life. On the day of crime, I stabbed him with a knife while he was asleep.”

Parents of the late husband asked for capital punishment. During investigations, Razieh found out that she was pregnant. Since a pregnant woman must not be executed, she was taken into prison. She gave birth to a girl, and officials gave her another 18 months to breastfeed her daughter.

Meanwhile, community workers finally convinced her parents-in-law to let her live. They, however, set a series of conditions.

They asked Razieh to pay them 20 thousand dollars. In addition, they said that Razieh should marry their 18-years-old son. Moreover, Razieh shall not have any right to her daughter, her daughter shall not go to school, and her daughter shall marry once she is matured (9 years old). Finally, Razieh should live in the very room she committed murder.

To stay with her kid, Razieh agreed to their terms save the ban on schooling.

After a while, supervisory judges of the prison convinced her parents-in-law to let her live in another room and let her daughter go to school.

Ultimately, Razieh got married to her former brother-in-law and was set free.