Good News Day

By skepticlawyer


In one of those odd bits of synchronicity, the two women share the same name, and the former Miss Canada who made most of the running was also born in Iran:

After two grueling years in prison, Iranian teen Nazanin Fatehi (left) was released today and spared from her original death sentence following an international campaign spearheaded by former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam.
Fatehi was initially sentenced to death for murder by a court in Iran after she stabbed, in self-defense, one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 15-year-old niece in a park in Karaj, a suburb of Tehran, in March 2005. She was 17 at the time.

On June 1, 2006, following extensive international pressure and media coverage, Iranian Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi announced a stay of execution and a new trial. During the new trial on January 10, 2007, the five judges presiding over the case found inconsistencies with the testimonies of the male witnesses and unanimously overturned the charge of premeditated murder.

Although the court recognized that Fatehi acted in self defense, it ruled that excessive force was used. Therefore, the court asked Fatehi to pay “diyeh” (blood money) to compensate the family of the deceased — a judgment that her lawyers, Shadi Sadr and Mr. Mostafaei, vehemently oppose and will appeal.

Bodog Music recording artist Nazanin Afshin-Jam’s relentless year-long campaign to save the life of her namesake included a petition signed by 345,000 people, numerous speeches and rallies worldwide and months on the media circuit. With the help of Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Execution, Afshin-Jam engaged and received support from Amnesty International, Canadian Members of Parliament, the European Union and the United Nations. Afshin-Jam also hosted “The Tale of Two Nazanins,” a documentary funded and produced by the Calvin Ayre Foundation.

More here.

There has been some tough – but largely legitimate – criticism of western feminists who’ve not been as forthright in defending their Islamic sisters as they could be. Often restrained by a species of immoral equivalency, feminists have been remarkably careful when criticising the misogyny that characterizes many Islamic cultures (and much of the third world generally). They have couched their support for Ayaan Hirsi Ali in cautious terms, drawing attention to the lies that helped her gain entry into the Netherlands (conveniently forgetting that many refugees tell lies, although – of course – saying that about the individuals on the Tampa is considered, ahem, non-U).

In this case, the relativistic pretense that underlies much of the unwillingness to attack non-western values was swept aside. A former Miss Canada united with anti-death penalty campaigners, feminists and secularists to achieve a positive result. I couldn’t help thinking that this is far more productive than picketing Miss World, or complaining about frilly knickers in video clips. Sure, I’m not a fan of much of the advertising that passes as ‘female targeted’. But at least I have choices. There is an important and very real difference between my circumstances, and the circumstances that Nazanin Fatehi has had to endure.


  1. GMB
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    It is a good news day for sure.

    And this happy occasion ought not be seen as unrelated to the Bush administration, 3 years late and not as strongly as they ought, finally breaking the tabboo on talking about Iran assisting the killing in Iraq.

    Of course they still aren’t talking about Saud-family and Syrian involvement in this sort of thing.

  2. Posted February 4, 2007 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Good news indeed! Thanks!!

  3. conrad
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I guess another question that leads from this is the extent that one can use self-defense against agressors. I believe the actual level allowed differs across different countries.

    For instance, if she had done everyone a favor and stabbed the other 2 as they were running away, should she still be inocent? I believe this type of thing is in fact very common with guns, where people just keep on firing, even after the initial aggressor has no ability to fight back.

  4. Jason Soon
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I agree with Conrad. I would never wish the Iranian justice system on anyone but it does not seem to me that this has anything to do with relativism or misogyny as such, just laws on self defence that we happen to disagree with and even then as a matter of magnitude rather than a difference in kind. After all bear in mind that what caused the original outcry on this was that Iran was signatory to some agreement prohibiting capital punishment of people under the age of 18. Now, the fact that they were in breach of this in the case of this woman seems to me to have nothing to do with misogyny, just that they happen to be pretty draconian.

    To put this in perspective, the secular states under which the Kurds have a degree of autonomy are pretty soft on honour killing whereas it is strictly speaking prohibited under shariah law.,

    If anything the Iranian culture is relatively more civlised in its treatment of women (having passed through a stage of embourgoisation under the Shah) than plenty of nominally secular Arab and South Asian societies where shariah isn’t as widespread but where honour killings are nontheless treated with leniency.

  5. Jason Soon
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Well I stand corrected in one respect – Iran apparently does have a lower minimum age for capital punishment for women than for men. Wonder why they signed that international agreement in the first place?

    Still I think the issues here aren’t as clear cut. Perhaps the original judges were biased and refused to take her testimony seriously. But that’s a failing of the judges. I don’t think the original verdict can be compared to, say, a judicial implementation of an honour killing if that is what is being implied.

  6. Posted February 4, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    For instance, if she had done everyone a favor and stabbed the other 2 as they were running away, should she still be inocent? I believe this type of thing is in fact very common with guns, where people just keep on firing, even after the initial aggressor has no ability to fight back.

    As a peace through superior firepower type of gal, I’m a fan of women ‘packing heat’ and doing the world a few more favours in circumstances like these. I also approve of the Texas laws that allow people to shoot home invaders and set ‘man-traps’ (a quaint common law expression for booby traps).

    It is only in the past thirty or so years that western countries have modified common-law principles with respect to self-defence and provocation to allow for the fact that some women can and do defend themselves, and that men alleging ‘she provoked me’ shouldn’t work in mitigation. The laws changed in western countries largely as a result of feminist pressure, which is why I’ve framed Nazanin’s story as a feminist, rather than a legal issue.

  7. Posted February 4, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Women’s testimony is worth less than men’s under shariah law, Jason. Even in relatively liberal Muslim states (like Turkey and Bangladesh) this attitude carries over into the judiciary. It is like the 18th century common law principle (long since overturned in the west) that prima facie women were lying when they accused a man of rape.

  8. Posted February 4, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    If it is true, does anyone know what is the justification for Iran having a lower minimum age for capital punishment for women than for men?

    Is it that they think women mature at a younger age?

  9. Posted February 4, 2007 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I think much of it has to do with a very literal reading of Muhammad’s life – he married a nine-year-old (Aisha). This site has more:

    According to Iranian penal codes, a girl at nine years of age is considered to be an adult. If she commits a crime which is punishable by execution, the courts can indeed sentence her to death. If a man and a woman become paralyzed as a result of an accident, the punitive damages provided to the woman according to law is half that of those provided to the man. If a man and a woman are both witness to a crime, the law does not recognize the woman as a witness, but the man can serve as a witness. The law allows fathers, who obtain the permission of the courts, to wed their daughters even before the age of 13 (legal age of marriage) to a 70 year old man. The law does not allow mothers to serve as the financial guardians of their children, or to make decisions regarding their child’s place of residence, foreign travel, or medical care. The law allows men to take practice polygamy and gives them uncontested rights to divorce their wives at whim.

  10. GMB
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “I think much of it has to do with a very literal reading of Muhammad’s life – he married a nine-year-old (Aisha).”

    Didn’t the prophet marry her when she was six and have sex with her when she was nine?

  11. JC.
    Posted February 4, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Ummmmmm Yep.

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