November 6, 2014 By Interactive edit

The Serious Case of Reyhaneh Jabbari


It’s 11 days since Reyhaneh Jabbari, a Muslim woman from Iran, was executed by hanging for the murder of Morteza Abdolai Sarbandi, also an Iranian Muslim. Owing to Sharia law, Iran and woman as a ‘victim’ (from the perspective of the press), the case aroused much curiosity in the press. But it is not just a curious case, rather as serious as all criminal cases are. It is very important to keep away from preconceptions, generalizations, prejudices, and our own subjective judgments based on scarcity of information available to victimize (read character assassinate) either Reyhaneh (as the spokespersons of the Iranian government and its sympathizers have done) or the court-as if it picked a woman from the street and hanged her without trail (as was done by the press).

What we do is to publish the statement of the court and of Reyhaneh’s advocate, thereby bringing out both sides of the argument. All our readers, we know and hope, will measure the arguments and draw their own conclusions. Or they will accordingly correct or modify their conceptions about the issue.

It was bandied around as another important example for the draconian nature of the Sharia law, though it is true that all instances of the miscarriage of justice in any part of the world- instances which the media don’t amplify owing to their being local- can be cited as evidences for the draconian nature of the legal systems. Reyhana’s case brings to focus certain important questions regarding justice, crime, sentence, death penalty and legal reform, which not only Sharia law but all legal traditions should take into serious consideration.

Firstly, there appeared a case in which a woman was victimized without giving her enough space to defend herself. This is not true. Reyhaneh is alleged to have done the murder at the age of 19 and the execution was carried out when she was 26. The seven long years were spent for the accused and the victim’s family to reach a settlement, says the verdict. Also, the prosecution found inconsistency in the argument of the accused, on the one hand, that the murder was not premeditated and was done for self-defence, and the fact, on the other hand, that she purchased the knife used for murder beforehand (which Reyhaneh’s lawyer defends citing the general insecurity of women and their always possessing instruments for self-defence).

Here the person who was executed is a woman and there is ‘sex’ involved in it. There are several narratives about Reyhaneh, including the nature of her work and that the rape that the victim allegedly planned was a mutually agreed sexual intimacy to happen. But these narratives, we understand, are mostly based on unverified and unauthenticated sources. To discuss it widely outside the court might make the issue sleazy and sensational, an unethical media practice according to this website. To say that about a women who was executed, is the execution of a person’s character outside the purview of law. Sex is a vital point in the issue.The prosecution and Reyhaneh’s advocate mentioned about it in the documents produced here without resorting to sensationalism. That the prejudice against women in general has been reflected in the case is proven by the fact that one of the judges who made statement in the blog of Reyhane’s advocate, justifying the verdict, has made statements connoting intolerance to women in the public space. ( as he says that women who travel at night expose themselves to crime).

This is being written from India, too further away from Iran to make an objective, convincing picture of the issue. So we aim to reproduce the verdict, the statement of the court as to why Reyheneh was sentenced to death and the blog of the advocate about why she should not have been sentenced to death. The blog also carries the statement of the judge about women and the problem of their public exposure.

We don’t reproduce Reyheneh’s pensive last letter here. Because we believe it would be an impediment to putting the issue in perspective. But she says at one point, about what she will do in the court of god to everyone who indicted her. That is a clear standard by which every jurist, judge, lawyer and everyone for that matter should make judgement or even a statement about others. The fact that God claims our lives back should be borne in mind when we usurp the power to sentence people to death under rare circumstances ( so rare that it’s better if we don’t do it if there is alibi and some reason for the purported crime). Death penalty should be taken with all the pinches of salt it requires when death becomes the handy tool of the law enforcing authorities; those who are subjected to execution are the defenseless with no record of crime and on the other side of the spectrum, there is someone who was part of the state and has all wherewithal to defend himself.

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