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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Executing Virgins, Iran Style

By: Deborah Weiss | Monday, August 10, 2009

Despite the fact that Iran’s penal code prohibits the execution of virgins, Iran executes more juveniles than any other country in the world. The executions are conducted through hangings, stonings, and other barbaric measures consistent with Sharia law. Since the age of personal responsibility in Iran is 13 for boys and 9 for girls, surely many of those sentenced to death are virgins. How does the government get around this? On the condition of anonymity, a Basiji guard recently spoke out to explain how Iran executes virgins.

The Basiji is a volunteer paramilitary force founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Known as the people’s militia, it is subordinate to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and remains very loyal to Khomeini’s successor, the Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Explaining how he became a member of the Basiji, the guard stated that his father was a martyr in the Iran-Iraq war. At age 16, his mother took him to the Basijis and pleaded with them to accept him so he’d have a better life. They agreed.

The guard became a well-regarded member of the force. His superiors were so impressed with him that they gave him the “honor” of temporarily marrying young girls prior to their executions. The girls are forced into marriage with a prison guard, and then raped on their wedding night before being killed the next morning.

The girls always fight back when their marriage is to be “consummated”, so sometimes the guards put sleeping pills into the girls’ food. When the rapes were over, the guard would hear the girls crying and screaming. He remembered one girl who clawed her own face and neck, resulting in deep scratches all over. Though the non-consensual weddings are considered legal, the guard admitted that the girls were more afraid of their wedding nights than of their pending deaths. “By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.”

In Sharia law, certain crimes are punishable by death. According to Amnesty International, the Ayatollah, who followed strict Sharia law, had twenty thousand girls and women executed in the first three years of his rule. Though Islam does not prohibit the execution of virgins, it does teach that virgins go to Paradise after death. Many Islamic clerics, not satisfied with merely cutting short the lives of young girls, also wanted to ensure that the girls would suffer an eternity in hell. Therefore, Iran made it illegal to execute virgins, but created a legal loophole by ordering guards to “marry” and rape their prisoners. Authorities in many other Islamic countries also order their guards to systematically rape female prisoners. In Iran, the crimes of homosexuality, fornication, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking are among those deemed capital offenses. Often fornication charges are leveled even when the accused is raped. The victim is rarely able to “prove” her innocence due to a lack of due process and the fact that the testimony of females is worth one half that of a man’s.

The Basiji guard spoke after recently being released from prison by Iranian authorities. He had been jailed for the crime of releasing a 13 year old boy and a 15 year old girl after they were arrested for protesting the Presidential election results in June. Many other police and members of security forces have also been arrested for showing leniency to protestors or for releasing them from custody without authorization from higher-ups. The guard released the two teens because they looked so young and he knew what was going to happen to them. He believes it was primarily the release of the girl that got him into trouble. However, while in prison he was treated well and spent most of his time praying and thinking about his wife and children.

Ironically, it is no longer the Presidential election results that Iranians are protesting, but the kind of brutality and inhumanity that the Basiji guard himself perpetrated through his “temporary” marriages. Iranians are tired of living under the oppression of an Islamic theocracy. Protestors are willing to risk imprisonment, bodily injury and their lives for the cause of freedom. Many of them are under age 18.

As of July 30, 2009, dozens of protestors have been killed and hundreds more have been arrested. While in jail, they may have their fingernails ripped off, be forced to lick dirty toilet bowls or be beaten to death. Numerous Islamic clerics are formally demanding the death penalty for protest leaders.

Though Iran publicly condemns the execution of minors, it justifies the execution of its own youth by defining minors to be those under age 13 if male and under age 9 if female. Alternatively, sometimes Iran holds minors in prison until the age of 18 before executing them. Prior to the riots, 140 girls remained on death row for crimes committed as juveniles. This number is twice what it was in 2007. Since the demonstrations began, the current number of juveniles on death row is impossible to ascertain.

Iran accounts for two thirds of the world’s child executions, earning them worldwide condemnation. However, international criticism has not resulted in sufficient pressure to stop Iran’s practice of raping and executing minors. Let’s hope that the demonstrations will succeed at putting an end to this savage practice and other human rights violations put in place by Iran’s religious mullahs.

Deborah Weiss, Esq. lobbies for Vigilance, Inc. and is a freelance writer.



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