Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ashtiani Has Confessed

Sakineh Ashtiani has confessed. Ashtiani is the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for the crime of “adultery,” and whose cause was championed by people around the globe. Owing to public outcry, Iran’s mullahs, in their mercy, commuted her sentence to death by hanging. But this week, Ashtiani appeared on Iranian television, where she confessed to various charges, including being an accessory to the murder of her husband.

Ashtiani’s lawyer advises that she was tortured for two days before she appeared on television. This is not the first time Iranian authorities have broadcast a forced confession from someone they seek to condemn. And using history as a guide, fears are mounting that Ashtiani’s execution – by whatever method – could come at any time.

The mullahs’ move, it seems, is to paint Ashtiani as a murderer – indeed, it was an investigation of her husband’s death that started Ashtiani’s ordeal back in 2006 – and execute her, just as other countries, including the United States, do to killers in their midst. The absurdity of the regime’s ploy is twofold – first, that they would attempt it; second, that they would expect anyone to believe it.

Originally cleared of involvement in her husband’s death, that investigation uncovered Ashtiani’s apparent “adultery,” for which she received 99 lashes in front of her teenage son. A re-opening of the murder case led religious authorities to determine that penalty had been insufficient, and they decreed she should be stoned to death.

Now, exposed as the fanatical monsters they are, Iran’s leaders want to tack the murder charge back on, and do away with this inconvenient person. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Even Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – a sometime ally of Iran and no snuggly-bear on human rights – has offered to give Ashtiani asylum in his country. Iran has declined. To sweeten the deal, I’ll even take her place. No doubt, Ashtiani is a far finer person than I am, and I have shattered any number of God’s laws in my time. Come and get me, mullahs, and I will confess to any crime you care to name – adultery, regicide, coveting my neighbour’s ass – if you’ll let Ashtiani go free.

But this isn’t about crime, or even a country. It is a perverse prescription for the entire planet. In the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini: "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

Given their druthers, Iran’s rulers would murder Ashtiani, and me, and you who are reading along, in order to realize their vision. This poor woman is one of countless thousands caught up in a twisted experiment.

It bears mentioning that the Iranian people, 60 percent of whom are under age 30, are not on board with this madness. During and after their stolen elections of last year, the citizens of Iran did what they could to bring about change. It is to the shame of free nations that we did not do more to help them.

But here, in the person of Sakineh Ashtiani, we have another chance. Let us keep her hope alive.

Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.