The court-ordered retribution against a man who answered unrequited loved with an acid bath is being hailed at once as “cruel and inhumane,” by some parties, and fair and just by others.
Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman, was left horribly scarred and blinded in 2004 when Majid Movahedi poured sulfuric acid over her head and face. He reacted in violence when she spurned his many marriage proposals. He turned himself in two weeks later and was subsequently tried and convicted in a court in Teheran. In Movahedi’s sentencing an arcane provision of Sharia Law was enacted in which certain “eye for an eye” retributions are allowed. And Movahedi’s punishment would be to have the woman, whom he had disfigured years earlier, pour acid over his head and face as well.
Ms Bahrami was looking forward to her day of comeuppance, but she worried that she would get acid on her hands as she doused her attacker. She had arranged for a doctor to do the actual pouring. She felt that she had been justly vindicated and insisted that “the verdict was completely legal.” But as the date neared, outcries of “cruel and unusual,” and “torture” were heard from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Iranian authorities then postponed the action. Amnesty International released a statement saying “The Iranian officials have a responsibility under international law to ensure that it is not carried out.”
This case is of interest for a couple of reasons. First: In most cases, but not all, under Sharia Law when there has been an offense between the sexes, the punishment falls upon the head of the woman. Second: It is difficult to know exactly where to stand. Is this “eye for an eye” retribution sufficient deterrent against the thousands of misogynistic acts by men in Middle Eastern countries, where “honor killings” are not uncommon, and women are “beaten for their own good?”
The United Nations can only estimate the number of Islamic “honor killings” which occur every year. It is in the thousands, with the majority of the victims being women. And they are not limited to Middle Eastern or Muslim majority countries.
The honor killing in Arizona of a young woman was carried out by her Iraqi immigrant father. He justified the murder with the claim that his daughter was becoming too “westernized.” He killed her by running her over with his car, and then backing over her again. In court he purported that “he just wanted to frighten her.”
A 14 year old girl in Bangladesh was raped by a 20 year old man in her village. She was ashamed and failed to report the rape, and her impregnation by the rapist. She was subsequently punished, not the rapist, and subjected to 101 lashes when she was eight months pregnant and died as a result of the beating.
In a widely publicized account, Afshan Azad, an actress who appeared in the Harry Potter movies, was beaten by members of her Muslim family and branded a “prostitute” because she had taken a romantic interest in a man who was not Muslim.
The videotaped honor killings of 2008 two Texas teenage sisters were committed by their father, an Egyptian immigrant. He shot then and left their bloodied bodies in a car. Both girls had been subjected to female genital mutilation when they were very young.
Acid thrown on victims, beatings, bloody murders, castigations, and enculturated subservience; the war on women in the Muslim world seems to eclipse the Iranian retribution story. But it is a thought-provoking story nonetheless. One may take the position that ‘it is acceptable in Iran to carry out “eye for eye” revenge if that is their law, but I would oppose it in the United States of America.’ That is a little too much like saying, ‘abortion is wrong, and I would never do it, but if someone else wants to, that’s their decision.’ Both are prostrations of principle, especially American principle.
The acid retribution is a brutish act. Iran, a brutish regime, with little concern for the rights of the individual, would allow it. This one verdict will not determine the cultural progression, or digression of a nation already burdened by contempt for its own people. A change of heart on a global scale, in which men and women, bond and free, all races, creeds and classes, are considered as free agents, with intrinsic, immeasurable worth, is required. We can only hope that the Iranian courts, and people, will emulate the United States in both the spirit and letter of the law.