News this week that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was convicted of adultery and complicity in the murder of her
husband and sentenced to death by stoning in 2006, is to be given ‘a leave’ from prison by the Iranian authorities. The story was reported in the Guardian (20 March).
Readers of this site will know that the Amnesty group in Salisbury has campaigned on many occasions over the last several years on behalf of Sakineh. It was part of a worldwide campaign. We have sent cards to her prison, asked people to sign petitions and group members have written to the powers that be in Iran asking for her release. Many hundreds of Salisbury people signed our petitions. We – and the people of Salisbury who signed cards and petitions – can therefore claim to have played a small part in the successful outcome of this case.
The case caused a storm of outrage when it became national news. For many, it was the first time that the full horror of what stoning actually involves was brought home to them. Indeed, the group had to explain to many people what in fact it involved. Men are buried up to their necks and women up to the waist. Stones are delivered to the site which are neither too small nor so large that they would kill in one go. This in a country that wants to be in the nuclear age.
Sakineh was world wide news but the scale of executions by a variety of means is at an astonishing level in Iran. It is second only to China in the number carried out. They are on course for nearly a thousand this year dispelling the optimism surrounding Rouhani’s election last year.
Nevertheless, it does show that concerted international pressure can and does have the occasional beneficial effect even on the most isolated regimes.