Update on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

// 12 August 2010

Iranian Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, at risk of execution, has appeared on television “confessing” complicity in the murder of her husband. The Guardian reports:

Speaking shakily in her native Azeri language, which could be heard through a voiceover, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani told an interviewer that she was an accomplice to the murder of her husband and that she had an extramarital relationship with her husband’s cousin. Her lawyer told the Guardian last night that his client, a 43-year-old mother of two, was tortured for two days before the interview was recorded in Tabriz prison, where she has been held for the past four years.

“She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad and her 17-year-old daughter Saeedeh are completely traumatised by watching this programme,” said Houtan Kian.

He added that there were now fears that the Iranian authorities would act quickly to carry out the death sentence, which was reportedly commuted to hanging after an international outcry last month. The sentence was initially for “having an illicit relationship outside marriage” but some Iranian officials have claimed she was also found guilty of murdering her husband and should still face death by stoning.

Update to add: There’s a petition and links to more resources at the Free Sakineh site.

Comments From You

Kristin // Posted 12 August 2010 at 10:26 am

I have been following this case for weeks. It’s horrifying. Iran is one big prison for women. They had more rights in mediaeval times than they do in 2010. In an interview Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani said ‘they think they can do what they like to women here.’

And obviously they can.

Josie // Posted 12 August 2010 at 11:04 am

I feel sick. Jolene, is there anything we can do?

Jolene Tan // Posted 12 August 2010 at 11:06 am

There’s a petition and link to more resources at the Free Sakineh site.

ETA: Sorry, link here: http://freesakineh.org/

Josie // Posted 12 August 2010 at 1:32 pm

Thanks Jolene, I have just signed and circulated to all my colleagues. There are over 166,000 signatures already – very heartening. Let’s hope compassion prevails

Shreen Ayob // Posted 12 August 2010 at 2:03 pm

I was at a protest in Trafalgar Square just this Tuesday for Sakineh. There are lots of things happening but since Sakineh’s situation is changing so often the campaign is adapted to suit…

If you would like to stand with us a good resource is Mission Free Iran’s blog which is always very up-to-date on international protests.


Also on the 28th of August there will be a massive demos around the world to protest against stoning so if you want to show your support please please join us. More details about the demo will be out in due course.


Katy // Posted 12 August 2010 at 2:07 pm

This is repulsive!

Did anyone see that programme about stolen brides yesterday (wednesday)?

How men can treat women like the most hated vessels on the planet brings tears..

So fucking repulsive.

Kristin // Posted 13 August 2010 at 9:04 am

Katy, I saw the programme about stolen brides. It was so frightening and depressing. Saddest of all, I thought, was how a lot of the women seemed to just accept it (well, okay, what choice did they have!) and the girl who had just been married said ‘It is my fate’.

Shreen Ayob, thanks for the useful info.

Callie // Posted 13 August 2010 at 11:48 am

I’ve just seen an article in the Telegraph online in which the author asks why aren’t ‘western feminists’ speaking up about Sakineh?!

Maybe, just maybe, if he looked and read, or heard then listened…! Although it is true that the feminists he’s thinking of (Germaine Greer, Naomi Wolf, Harriet Harman, among others) have not, as far as I know, said anything. And Hilary Clinton has apparently not said anything about Sakineh except that she is ‘troubled’ by the case.

But the way he goes on about feminists in general…omg! And warning – don’t read the comments if you want to enjoy the rest of your day.

Katy // Posted 13 August 2010 at 4:01 pm

Maybe because feminists, wherever they are in the world, have enough contempt to contend with. Let’s just get on our super jets shall we! The power has and maybe always will – lie with men to do something. I mean our voices are silenced here, let alone in Iran!

I like what male feminist writer Steig Larsen said (to paraphrase) – there’s no such thing as light oppression of women. Men want to own, control, are scared of, and hate women. The world over. 

Kristen – yep, and even though these Russian women are stolen as part of tradition, the way some women (the aunt) went along with it was gross. My anti- feminist mother was repulsed! 

Urgh did you see them partying at the end? It looked to me and the mother they were celebrating her stolen life and loss of power at the wedding – while she cried in a corner! Like it was the rape and power they were dancing for! The men who steal these women off the streets do it out of hatred and contempt of women. I didn’t like the way the reporter said they were ‘justified’ either because of the war, no way to justify evil.

Mother while horrified, said ‘pigs’  

But animals do not do this, so to them to pigs is unfair!!

I will say the program opened my eyes to the huge human rights crisis that is the global oppression of women. But in no way did it make me feel lucky because i recognised the same loathing of women which we have to deal with, that comes out differenly but is just as ‘oppressive’. All oppression is the same, whether it’s subtle (western sexism) or steeped in laws and religion.

A sign that ‘feminists’ are immediately  blamed for Sakineh’s death penalty is actually a sign we have much of our own sexism to battle. Before, as a feminist army we get on that superjet to Iran.  

Laurel Dearing // Posted 13 August 2010 at 4:10 pm

probably coz the western feminists that read the telegraph promptly quit being feminists after the last report in the round up!

Kristin // Posted 13 August 2010 at 5:53 pm

Katy, yeah. Apart from the fact that feminists here have enough hate to contend with, maybe some feel that if they spoke out they might even make things worse for Sakineh. Although it’s hard to see how things could be much worse for her right now. Oh, I SO want her to be freed and get asylum in another country! Her children too. I desperately want that to happen. And not only Sakineh, but all the other women banged up in prison for so-called ‘crimes’. It makes me sick. Those pathetic, stupid, deranged men in power in Iran make me SICK. But they couldn’t stay in power without support.

Re. the programme, I did see them partying at the end, the only one not having a good time being the bride. So sad. But I’m sure a lot of those other women just thought, hey, what can I do, f-all, let’s have another drink (or weren’t they drinking alcohol, not sure!). Did the reporter actually say it was ‘justified’ though? I thought she said that in a country where literally anyone might be kidnapped, tortured and murdered any time anywhere, you could see why no one makes much fuss about girls being kidnapped and forced to marry.

It makes me really frightened, all that and Sakineh, because I think we’re just a few hours flying time from places where those terrible things happen to women. There’s still so much violence against women in western european countries, and daily sexism that no way can women who live in the west afford to be the least bit complacent.

The vice-president of Iran has apparently said that Britons are ‘thick’ and ‘not human’. Given what men in the country he represents get up to (stonings! public hangings! f.f.s), you can only laugh at that little gemmie.

This is my third comment on this thread, so I’ll be taking Twisty’s (I blame the patriarchy) advice and shut my piehole now.

Shreen Ayob // Posted 19 August 2010 at 3:11 am

“Maybe, just maybe, if he looked and read, or heard then listened…!” Callie

I don’t doubt that many people who have been involved in Sakineh’s case are self-identified feminists, but the Telegraph journo is talking about feminism of the form that is represented by Greer, Wolf and co. and as we all know, feminism is not simply what these famous so-called feminists think. I actually despise Greer because she thinks that FGM is acceptable for cultural reasons. She is no feminist, and I don’t trust any ‘famous’ feminist to speak on behalf of us all since there is no ‘us all’.

What about establishment feminism – the sort that is represented by the big organisations such as London Feminist Network or women’s rights charities? I saw that UK Feminista has a Sakineh page up on its website which is great, but I think more feminist organisations should make a public stand, create a press release or make a public statement, or even simply come and stand with us on the protests!

“A sign that ‘feminists’ are immediately blamed for Sakineh’s death penalty is actually a sign we have much of our own sexism to battle. Before, as a feminist army we get on that superjet to Iran.” Katy

I find this attitude unnecessarily defensive. I read the Telegraph article but did not get the impression the author was *blaming* feminists at. He felt that because no prominent feminists nor major feminist organisations have spoken out, what is the point of the movement? A simple question since we are usually identified to the general public via these avenues. Famous feminists are not reliable as democratic spokespeople but feminist orgs should represent and support basic causes like this.

Feminist organisations should have women like Sakineh at the top of their priority list (and yes, unpopular as it is in feminist spheres, I do believe that there is a form of hierarchy of importance with issues within feminism and human rights in general, those issues that directly and urgently affect people’s health and wellbeing, in this case the stoning/hanging of Sakineh, take priority for obvious reasons).

I recently met with an American activist called Maria Rohaly from Mission Free Iran who has been heavily involved with Sakineh’s case. She has written to many of the big feminist organisations in the States and heard nothing back. What message does that send out? Fear about being branded ‘colonialist’ should NEVER take priority over someone’s life. Maria also expressed that they could be worried about being seen to stoke the issue of a potential war. But how war and Sakineh become connected in people’s minds is absolutely ludicrous and quite frankly a pathetic excuse for inaction.

As I’ve heard this US writer Theo Caldwell point out very passionately, Sakineh’s story is about Sakineh and people like her. It’s not about oil, it’s not about war, it’s not about Israel, it’s not about nuclear weapons. It’s a simple clear cut infringement on her basic right to life! (http://www.theocaldwell.com/2010/07/always-always-israel.html)

He has also very passionately denounced some pathetic cultural relativism that reared its ugly butt during a BBC radio show about Sakineh. This is totally worth checking out! Very very funny as well and Theo totally owns. :-)



“Katy, yeah. Apart from the fact that feminists here have enough hate to contend with, maybe some feel that if they spoke out they might even make things worse for Sakineh.” Kristin

I don’t understand this. If you meant by making a big noise about Sakineh then we could enrage the Iranian authorities to actually carry out the execution, then yes it is a risk but on balance if we act meekly and apathetically then literally nothing changes. Doing nothing means she WILL be murdered. If we act at least we have a hope of changing the outcome.

So often have the Iranian authorities backed down in this campaign, reacting to the strong force of international media pressure. They cancelled the stoning, they keep pushing back her execution date, they haphazardly stuck her on TV and changed the crime she is being punished for. I don’t even believe this is her!


They are scrambling for ideas! We have obviously affected them. This is good news and shows how powerful we can be if we all act together. Pretty cheesy but true, and certainly better than letting Sakineh rot in prison as if we don’t give a toss.

Come on feminist groups, don’t take this Telegraph criticism as an attack and refuse to engage. Take it as encouragement to join in the global fight against the misogynistic Iranian authorities and laws. Sakineh is one of many many men and women being screwed over by their government – she and others need our support. Why let politics get in the way of saving someone’s life?

Let’s get to work!


M. Varn Chandola // Posted 1 September 2010 at 7:27 pm

Stoning executions in general and the Ashtiani case in particular struck such a nerve in me that I wrote the following article: http://rightlegalhelp.net/blog/modern-day-human-sacrifice-iran Unfortunately, even though she may not be stoned, she is still scheduled for execution. I hope that sufficient international exposure concerning her case will compel the Iranian government to release her.

M. Varn Chandola


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