Tuesday, August 31, 2004

More on Atefeh Rajabi

This piece has some eyewitness accounts and a lot of comments from people in the town. The contradictory accounts of her character given by her neighbors I think strengthen, rather than weaken, the notion that, sadly, the story is true.

A pharmacist, whose shop is not far away from the Railway Square, where Atefeh was hanged, recalls her final, painful hour. “When agents of the State Security Forces brought her to the gallows, I felt cold sweat running down my back. She looked so young and innocent, standing there in the middle of all these bearded men in military fatigues. Judge Reza’i must have felt a personal grudge against her. He put the rope around her neck and left her dangling on the gallows for 45 minutes. I looked around and everyone in the crowd was sobbing and damning the mullahs for doing this to our young people.”

A couple of days ago, Alasdair Palmer at the Telegraph damns the lack of attention to this story in the Western media and the double-standard it implies.

That disgraceful and disgusting "punishment" has excited a great deal of condemnation in Iran among the reformists. As far as I can see, it has not produced any comment here. Amnesty International issued a statement expressing outrage at the execution (the tenth of a child in Iran since 1990) - but no British newspaper or television station has reported this.

Why not? The two extremes of pro- and anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain are now united in not expecting even the most minimal ethical standards from Islamic countries such as Iran: the pros because they think that Islamic laws should not be criticised for fear of giving offence; the antis because they think all Muslims are just a bunch of irredeemable barbarians.

Those two extreme views have infected media coverage. What would be headline news if it happened in America (can you imagine the response if a 16-year-old girl was executed for having sex in Texas?) is, because it happens in an Islamic state, apparently too banal to count.

That attitude guarantees that more children will suffer Atefeh's fate. Of course, it suits our Government -- which is pushing for greater trade links with our new-found ally, Iran -- just fine if people think that criticism of Islamic judges is inappropriate because standards are different. But respecting Islam does not require accepting the judicial murder of 16-year-olds (or indeed anyone, of any age) for having sex. That's wrong wherever it happens. We need a Government, and a press, that says so. [emphasis added]