The Islamic Revolution in Iran, 30 years on


by Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh

Death sentences, executions, floggings and amputations mark the bitter reality in Iran 30 years on from the Islamic Revolution. The Bahai are particularly threatened by the prevailing law.

Mehrangiz Kar worked for 22 years as a lawyer in the Islamic “Republic” of Iran before she emigrated to the United States. In an analysis of the Iranian criminal code, Kar came to the conclusion that, 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, brute violence against men, women, children, Muslims and non-Muslims has assumed a legitimate form and become legally entrenched.   The following text is based on the Persian version of Mehrangiz Kar’s analysis, which appeared in Roozonline on 11 February 2009.   In conclusion, the worrying position of the Bahai is discussed.

Death sentences

Under article 90 of the criminal code, a man or woman will be executed if he or she is repeatedly unfaithful. Under article 95, even the mentally ill can be executed for this offence.   The code stresses that Islamic law cannot be enforced in countries that oppose Islam. On the other hand, article 7 emphasises that Iranians who commit acts of this type abroad can be condemned in Iran if they are arrested in Iran. Therefore, exiled Iranians and Europeans who have sexual relations with Iranian women are not automatically protected from Islamic law, at least not if they go to Iran.   Under article 179, a man or woman will be executed if he or she has been repeatedly caught and flogged for consuming alcoholic beverages and then continues to consume alcohol. Execution takes place when it is proven that alcohol has been consumed four times. Under article 180, the mentally ill can also be executed if they have repeatedly drunk alcohol.   Under article 157, illegal sexual acts are punished by flogging after the third occasion, followed by the death sentence in case of a fourth occasion. Article 82 is particularly discriminatory against non-Muslims.   If a non-Muslim has illegal sex with a Muslim woman, the non-Muslim is executed directly after the first occasion. This means that, under Iranian law, a European who has extramarital sex with an Iranian woman in Europe can be executed in Iran if he is caught there. This is because such acts are regarded as rape of the Muslim woman. The same article 82 lays down the death penalty as the general punishment for rape.   Under article 111, two homosexuals who are of fullage and in their right mind will be executed if they are clearly in a sexual relationship.   Under article 112, an adult male who has sex with an underage boy will be executed. If the underage boy consented voluntarily, he is punished with 74 lashes.   Under article 122, if two men had non-penetrative sex three times and were flogged three times, they will be executed on the fourth occasion.   Under article 131, if two lesbians have already been flogged three times on account of sexual relations, they will be executed on the fourth occasion.   While under Islamic law the death penalty is provided for a murderer, as is the case in Iran, a murderer is nonetheless not always executed, because of the possibility of compensation laid down in the blood law.

Only a Muslim man is regarded as a complete human being

Blood law is the law of ius sanguinis, which establishes inequality among people. Blood laws are particularly discriminatory against non-Muslims and women. Only a Muslim man is regarded as a complete human being, commanding the highest blood price. A Muslim woman is half as much as a Muslim man. According to Mrs Kar, the Iranian jurist, a Muslim is never condemned to death if he kills a non-Muslim. If a male Muslim kills a female Muslim, he is not sentenced to death. But if the family members of the murdered woman pay half of the murderer’s blood price to the murderer, the murderer can be punished.This means that the victim’s family members have the further indignity of having to pay money if the murderer is to be prosecuted at all.   If a man kills his child or grandchild, he is never sentenced to death. This is because children are the father’s property under Islamic law. Under article 220, the father can at most be sentenced to pay blood money for the child.   If a man merely suspects that his wife has committed adultery and kills her, he is never executed. Islamic law protects the murderer, who does not have to prove his suspicions and can continue living unpunished. On the slightest suspicion, the man can kill his wife and her alleged lover and walk away unpunished. Under paragraph 630, the murderer will not even be questioned.   The lawyer Mehrangiz Kar writes that murderers who give the appearance of devoutness, of “protecting Islamic values”, are not executed for their deeds. The court can refrain from a conviction if the victim is regarded as mahdur al-dam, someone whose blood is worthless. Kar cites the example of the chain murders of intellectuals committed in the 1990s. Those responsible were not prosecuted, since the intellectuals were said to have put forward anti-Islamic arguments.   Mrs Kar also cites the example of the Bahai, whose blood has no value, at least not in the Islamic “Republic” of Iran. Kar writes that, in her entire 22 years as a lawyer in the Islamic “Republic”, she has no recollection of anyone ever being executed for killing a Bahai. Nor does she recall the murderer of a Christian or Jew ever receiving the death penalty. Indeed, Iranian justice constantly stresses that if the murderer of a member of a recognised religious minority such as a Christian or Jew is killed by a non-Muslim, this non-Muslim deserves the death penalty, but a Muslim killer need not fear as much. Articles 226 and 295, which give Muslim judges leeway, provide protection for Muslim killers of non-Muslims. Under article 222, even a mentally ill person can be killed by a healthy Muslim.

Flogging is torture

Under article 84 of the Iranian criminal code, a married old man or married old woman who is unfaithful can be stoned. Before being stoned, they must receive 100 lashes.   Under article 83, a married woman who has sex with an adolescent can be condemned to 100 lashes.   Under article 88, an unmarried woman or unmarried man who has illegal sex is condemned to 100 lashes. Under article 174, anyone consuming alcohol is condemned to 80 lashes.   Under article 121, two men who have non-penetrative sex will each be punished with 100 lashes. If the active man was a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim will be punished with death. Under article 123, two naked men discovered under a blanket will be punished with 99 lashes.   Under article 129, two women who have sex will each receive 100 lashes.

Execution plus torture

If a married woman has a sexual relationship with her husband but is still unfaithful, she will be stoned. If she admits her offence, articles 83 and 99 state that a cleric must throw the first stone, followed by the crowd. If she does not admit her offence but witnesses confirm it, the crowd must throw the first stones at her, followed by the cleric.   Under article 101, the judge must inform the people of the date of the stoning. Under article 102, a man will be buried up to his hips and a woman up to her breast before the stoning begins. A woman must not have any opportunity to flee. Under article 104, the stones must not be so big that the person dies after just one or two throws, but nor must they be too small. At any rate, the person must be in agony before dying.   The lawyer and women’s and human rights activist Kar emphasises that the woman’s testimony is of absolutely no importance, particularly in respect of sexual offences. The voice of a female witness counts for nothing. In other cases a woman’s testimony counts for half that of a man’s, but sometimes a woman’s voice counts for nothing at all.   Amputations are another chapter of the Islamic criminal code. Under articles 198 and 201, a thief’s four fingers, right arm or left leg can be chopped off. The left leg will be chopped off if the thief continues to steal, even if his four fingers have already been chopped off.   By law, men aged 15 and over and women aged – believe it or not – nine and over are of criminally responsible age, as laid down in article 49 of the Iranian criminal code. Thus the law punishes little girls six years younger than it does boys.   If a 15-year-old boy or a nine-year-old girl commits murder, the judge can pronounce the death penalty for minors. They will be executed from the age of 17 years.

The worrying position of the Bahai

In conclusion, the position of the Bahai is highlighted. They are regarded as outlaws. Their blood has no legal value and they can be killed arbitrarily. At present, seven members of their leadership are accused of spying for Israel, for which they face the death penalty.   The Bahai have no civil and human rights in Iran. Not even Ayatollah Montazeri is prepared to give the Bahai genuine civil rights. Ayatollah Montazeri, who wished to become leader of the Islamic “Republic” of Iran after Khomeini’s death, went into legal opposition following his criticism of the mass executions in 1988. Even today he still believes that the aims of the Islamic Revolution have not been realised.   On 14 May 2008, Ayatollah Montazeri issued a fatwa and granted the Bahai the right to water and soil. This law goes back to the old Persian kingdom of 2,000 years ago, and is a right that was granted to peasants without land or possessions. It amounts to a right to life without full civil rights.   On 14 June 2008, Ayatollah Montazeri wrote that the Bahai were infidels and had to be fought politically. In any case the Bahai administration has been banned for 30 years. The Bahai are not permitted to disclose their identity publicly, and have been banned as a subject in society for 30 years. They are not allowed to studyat the university and even their graves are destroyed on state orders. As there is a pogrom atmosphere against the Bahai, Ayatollah Montazeri argues against genocide but wants to grant the Bahai rights as Iranians only if they have converted to Islam. The Bahai are not recognised as members of a religious minority in Iran, even though they are Iran’s largest religious minority.   Civil and human rights for all Iranians can only become reality in a liberal democratic state and if state and religion are separated. Thus it follows that Iran’s Islamic criminal code is a serious barrier to the democratisation of Iran.

Wahied is a Senior Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels.

[Source: Published in at]


4 Responses

  1. Mark Obenauer

    February 28, 2009 3:12 am

    This article about Islamic law is very interesting. It is quite an alien form of justice that (to my Western eyes) seems unjust. Someone can be accused on a whim and not have any recourse. Also what is interesting is the lack of value Islamic law places on human life. Life is cheap and easily discarded, and life within these societies becomes essentially a killing field. I pray the this awful situation changes quickly either through internal reformation, or by some other means. God is on His throne, so He will be the ultimate Arbiter of Justice, and even Ayatollahs can’t disagree with this.

  2. Heu

    February 28, 2009 3:16 pm

    Khamanei’s Shia Islam and his interpretation of its laws have given Islam a bad name. He is a Sayed not an Ayatollah. He never finished high school let alone seminary college. The title Ayatollah was given to him by Kayhan newspaper. Kayhan gave Rafsanjani the title of Ayatollah also. However, Rafsanjanis’ Shia Islam is a thausand times better than Khamanei’s. That is the problem with Shia. There are no rules. Anyone can claim a title of Sayed, Mollah, Akhund, Ayatollah, etc and open a mosque or claim they are directly defendants of Mohammad, issue orders and form their sub sect of the Shia sect. Thus Ayatollah Montazeri, who is a real Ayatollah and his version of Shia can be construed as “moderate” Shia in tune with the modern world while Khamanei’s Shia is out of touch even with the real Ayatollahs of the pre-modern world.

    In a country where real Ayatollahs are under home arrest and the fake ones are on the loose, Iranians can not expect any better treatment. Under Khamanei’s Shia, any lunatic fanatic that pledges allegience to him gets elevated to positions of power so they can serve him while he turns universities in Iran into grave yards by burrying the criminals of the Khomaini/Saddam war deads in them as martyrs. In essence the Suprem Leader of Iran who has been the Shah of Iran for the past 19 years and has lived the life of the last Shah of Iran along with his corruption in his palaces, has decided that Iran is better under his Shia than under Rafsanjanis or Montazeri’s. And he believes turning Iran’s universities into grave yards benefits Islam.

    In a world where Islam can not police itself and lets people like Khamanei to rise to positions of power and use the good name of Islam to kill people, one can not expect humane treatment of even the unborn let alone the living.

    The light of Islam has been put out by the actions of the leaders of the Islamic Republic. Their corruption and killing under the banner of Islam have made them the terrorists of the living and the dead. Mollahs claim Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians are the people of the book and all others are infidels and heretics that should be killed. Yet the trade with “infidel heretics” of China, Japan, North and South Korea, etc. who are Buddhists and of other “heretic” religions.

    Perhaps before Mollahs destroy Islam completely, Moslim countries should withdraw their ambassadors from the Islamic Republic to show their displeasure with Khamanei and institute a code of ethic so as to safe guard the good name of Islam from ever again being taken hostage by the hostage takers.

  3. Wafiq

    February 28, 2009 7:57 pm

    Heu, no need to recall our ambassadors. Another drop in crude oil prices will scare these bearded Persians back into their caves and put an end to their nukes too.

  4. Mark Obenauer

    March 1, 2009 5:50 am

    Heu, the West had a point in history that parallels what I perceive is happening in some part of the Islamic world. It is called the Dark Ages. Feudalistic criminals (knights) ran amuck and bullied commoners and kept Western parts of Europe in a constant state of war and instability. And on top of this were the pogroms against Jews who were the scapegoats for the Black Death.

    As the Renaissance started, the Roman Catholic Church became perceived as corrupt which caused the Protestant Reformation and much more unrest. The Inquisition is so similar to what I see happening in Iran. The Roman Catholic Church persecuted Christian heretics and Jews and Moslems to non-existence if they chose to stay in Spain, or forced some of these unfortunate people to leave Spain for friendlier parts of the world. Moslems are not the only people adept at torture – look at the Inquisition. The final expulsion of the Moors in the 17th century had a devastating impact on Spain’s economy. So, Wafiq, I don’t think a drop in crude oil prices makes an iota of difference – these zealots in Iran are not much different from the Catholic zealots of Habsburg Spain (who could care less about economic impact) or the Taliban. All this was done in the name of orthodoxy and all the persecution of Zoroastrians, Jews, Sunni Moslems, Ismailis, Sufis, secular modernists, moderate and liberal Ithna’ Ashariyyah, and Baha’i’s is done in the name of orthodoxy.

    Also hypocrisy doesn’t matter if you are the right side. There is a significant difference between bulldozing Sunni mosques and desecrating priceless Korans, killing Sunni Imams in Baluchistan and what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Oh and isn’t it wonderful to bulldoze those Sufi worship centers and desecrating Baha’i cemeteries? All this is done for orthodoxy, and they are on the right side, so God judges their actions as different than actions that may seem similar in, God forbid, Israel! They will continue their reign of terror because they are right! Evin prison is wonderful place where they do the work of God and cleanse the Iran of unrighteousness because they are on the right side!


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