herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Colm O'Gorman: Mother will be stoned to death if we don't help her

For four years the Iranian government has been trying to kill a 43-year-old mother of two. It should be easy. After all, Iran is one of the world's most active executioners. Last year the authorities executed at least 388 people. We believe the real figure is much higher. This year they have already put 190 of their own citizens to death.

So we're not dealing with squeamish people, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is at their mercy. She is in a cell on death row in a prison in a city called Tabriz in the east of Iran.

Sakineh's 'crime' is that she is accused of having committed adultery. Three of the five judges found her guilty, despite her claim that the confession was forced from her. The judges were able to find her guilty because of a rule in Iranian law. It allows a judge to decide if someone is guilty based on their instinct, even if there is no clear or conclusive evidence.

So they flogged her 99 times and forced her son, Sajjad (17), to watch. They then sentenced her to be stoned to death. Sakineh is alive only because people around the world have come out in support.

This vulnerable mother could be executed at any time. One phone call to the prison and they could drag her into a yard and hang her.

Or perhaps the stoning sentence, suspended two months ago because of international pressure, might be reimposed. In which case they would wrap her in a sheet, take her to a field and bury her in a hole up to her breasts. A crowd is gathered and they're given stones. It's important you see, when stoning someone to death, that you use the right kind of stone. Iranian law is very specific on this. It must be big enough to hurt, but not so big that it might accidentally kill the victim without suffering.

Iran is feeling the pressure. They've forced one of her lawyers to flee and harassed his replacement. Sakineh's children have been detained and threatened for campaigning for her release.

The Iranian government is hoping the world will turn the page and forget about Sakineh. And when it does, when they think no one is looking, they'll kill her.

Or you can help keep her alive. You can keep up the pressure on the Iranian government. Ring the Iranian embassy in Dublin and log on to www.amnesty.ie.

Letters, emails and phone calls are all that has kept her alive so far. Now she needs your help to set her free.

Iranian Embassy to Ireland, 72 Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin. 01 288 5881/01 288 0252

Promoted articles

Entertainment News