Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Atefah Sahaaleh

The rape of female prisoners prior to their execution in Iran has been commented on recently, following the publication in the Jerusalem Post of an interview with one of the Basiji - the militia that was so deeply involved in the violent suppression of the recent demonstrations in Iran:

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so "impressed my superiors" that, at 18, "I was given the 'honor' to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death."

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."
Many of these young girls have been convicted of "crimes against chastity" or adultery, and are therefore not virgins - unless they were not guilty. No matter, anecdotal evidence, including this, suggests they are raped anyway.

It's worth remembering the case of Atefah Sahaaleh, a 16 year old girl who was hanged in 2004:
Her death sentence was imposed for "crimes against chastity".

The state-run newspaper accused her of adultery and described her as 22 years old.

But she was not married - and she was just 16.
Being stopped or arrested by the moral police is a fact of life for many Iranian teenagers.

Previously arrested for attending a party and being alone in a car with a boy, Atefah received her first sentence for "crimes against chastity" when she was just 13.

Although the exact nature of the crime is unknown, she spent a short time in prison and received 100 lashes.

When she returned to her home town, she told those close to her that lashes were not the only things she had to endure in prison. She described abuse by the moral police guards.

Soon after her release, Atefah became involved in an abusive relationship with a man three times her age.

Former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi - a married man with children - raped her several times.
This young girl was raped by the moral police then repeatedly raped by an ex-revolutionary guard.
When Atefah realised her case was hopeless, she shouted back at the judge and threw off her veil in protest.

It was a fatal outburst.

She was sentenced to execution by hanging, while Darabi got just 95 lashes.

Shortly before the execution, but unbeknown to her family, documents that went to the Supreme Court of Appeal described Atefah as 22.

"Neither the judge nor even Atefah's court appointed lawyer did anything to find out her true age," says her father.

And a witness claims: "The judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique... and declared her as 22."

Judge Haji Rezai took Atefah's documents to the Supreme Court himself.

And at six o'clock on the morning of her execution he put the noose around her neck, before she was hoisted on a crane to her death.
How did the judge get to look at this girl's "developed" body, if even removing a headscarf was intolerable immodesty? Wikipedia adds some also un-sourced detail that, if true, answers this question (emphasis added):
After the execution of Atefeh, Iranian media reported that Judge Rezai and several militia members including Captain Zabihi and Captain Molai were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry. Inside sources informed the media that in addition to the confession of his rape of Atefeh, Judge Rezai who served as judge, jury and executioner, also confessed to torturing her during interrogations to extract names of others she had relations with.

On a side note, I see my old friend Darius Guppy has written to The Independent in support of the regime responsible for this barbarity. That's precisely the side I would have expected him to take. I recently conducted a video interview with the former Manhattan detective who led in the case of his faked robbery, Ray Berke, and will post it here once the editing is finished. Ray makes it very clear that where my account of past events has been different from that of Guppy, my version was correct.

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