On May 16, 2011 I wrote about the controversy in Iran surrounding its first ever Blinding sentence. The sentence that was set to be carried out on May 14, 2011 was postponed. I am anxious to see the outcome of this story and in that regard would like to keep all who read my blog updated with any new information. There has yet to be a new date set to carry out the verdict and both the opponents and proponents of the acid blinding ruling are still up in arms.
From an American’s point of view the events that have unfolded are quite simply unbelievable. It is hard to understand the controversy as neither side’s arguments are in line with a way of life we are familiar with. That being said, I don’t live there. I think when analyzing International issues you must leave your own ideas and perceptions at the door and be open to considering ideas that are extreme in order to understand the arguments of residents in other parts of the world. You must understand that just as you grow up being taught and believing the laws of the United States, these nations have their own beliefs and laws that are no more outrageous to them than our laws are to us.
That being said, an article was released on May 15 after the sentencing was postponed that gives one point of view to the philosophy that some people who oppose the ruling may hold. In the article titled, “Amaneh and Those Two Drops of Acid”, the author Amin Bozorgian acknowledges the anxiety and criticism many Iranians express when it comes to Bahrami carrying out the blinding. He posits if the subconscious ideals of a “blatantly honour bound society” could be the root of the resistance to the sentence. He acknowledges male chauvinistic expressions in Iranian society and suggests that those challenging the judgment struggle with labeling a man culpable and administering such an egregious sentence when his only fault is defending his honour. The act of dishonor having taken place when Bahrami turned down her attackers repeated requests for marriage. Additionally, Bozorgian looks into the jurisprudential history of Ghesas and discusses how the ancient practice furthers violence by re-enacting the original crime (for more on Ghesas and the facts of this story please see my May Blog Eye for an Eye).
In response to the article Bahrami’s sister writes a compelling and heartbreaking letter to the author which I have below in its entirety.Mr. Bozorgian! Understanding what you have only seen from a distance is very difficult. You have only read about it. You have not seen! You see the “crime” on paper and fail to understand its effects on our lives, capabilities, destiny and future. Talk is easy and lovely but acting is far more difficult. If you were my sister, you would not ask for ghesas? She is willing to settle for a punishment of life imprisonment but she knows that it is not possible. Therefore, she feels it’s better to cut off the invasive, male chauvinistic and selfish hand of Majid, as ghesas provides, so that he will never again assault or inflict harm on anyone.
You must remember that my sister never represented the so-called “honour” of Majid or anyone else; not even of her father or brothers. My father always stayed away from such words and brought us up with a belief in equality, away from fanaticism and all such patriarchal concepts. Your use of the word “honour” is revolting and nauseating to me. I apologize for saying it, but these words can only be found in the vocabulary of the uneducated and not in the minds of freethinking men and women who are suffering on the path of freedom and feel the boot prints of ignorance and oppression on their face. If you wrote your article just to attract readers, that’s another issue.
Do you guarantee that if Majid Movahedi is released without ghesas, my sister, my family and I, as the main plaintiff, will be safe? You cannot begin to understand the extent of Amaneh’s medical treatment, for which the Movahedi family has not even bothered to offer any help. Do you know how much each of Amaneh’s operations, even with all available discounts, has cost us? Anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 euros. Add to that the cost of medication, ointments and creams applied over and over again each day. Where were you when Amaneh went to take a shower on her own and passed out when she found her eye socket empty?
Amaneh is very strong. She did not cry, or complain in front of us. She always consoled us instead. She does not deserve to be accused of vengefulness and cruelty, nor to be judged unfairly in order to secure an audience for someone.
You should think carefully before discussing something. This is not a story. It is something that actually occurred, completely crushing our lives and future. We nurse her day and night, always waiting and worrying that her situation will decline. With the disappearance of her eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and lips, she is constantly asking me if she is very ugly now. And what shall I say to my little sister? The truth, a lie or a meaningless conjecture?
Have you ever been in my shoes, feeling ashamed of being attractive and healthy? No! But I have been ashamed of my ordinary beauty, of the fact that I see and my little sister can’t. For years, I have felt guilty and ashamed.
When my sister asks me to describe a room or a space, I writhe in pain. When she walks into the door or the wall and apologizes when she walks into people, I suffer in silence. When she found herself alone and lost, trying to get by with a walking stick, I felt the world crumbling upon my head. I wanted to cease existence and disappear and just not witness such things. You speak of suffering but we have lived it.
Despite being taught to be civil with people, I have had to harshly put people in their place to stop them from voicing their dismay in front of Amaneh, my parents or my little brothers. You cannot imagine how I have suffered whenever people were awestruck at the sight of my little sister. I try to silence them with dirty looks, anxious that Amaneh not sense their pity.
I remember one day when my brother came home unexpectedly to surprise us after a three-month absence, and how he was surprised instead. My other brother could only look on in shocked and silent disbelief. The day Amaneh’s eyelid fell down and her burnt eye was revealed, my mother and brother were frozen stiff. None of us dared to touch her eye. We feared the burnt eye would ooze out any minute. But someone had to pull her eyelid up and cover the eye. I did it. And still to this day I tremble at the memory of that moment and many others that were similar or even worse. I had no answer when my brother asked why she was writhing so and couldn’t bear to stand still or sit. I should be thankful that Amaneh was not there to hear how we cried, her four siblings; she had gone to change the dressing of her wounds.
After that episode, we promised each other to be strong in front of Amaneh, to make her laugh and to give her hope. And yet you sit so facilely in “judgement”? What gives you the right?
The article written by Bozorgian and the letter written by Bahrami’s sister leave no clear answer as to how this tragic case will end. Nor do they show a subjective right or wrong answer from the eyes of a Iranian citizen. The works do showcase the battle between the archaic yet still surviving Iranian traditions and philosophies that emit an oppressive attitude toward women and the more liberal forward thinking stance based around equality that the younger generations of citizens are fighting to push forward.