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Ricken Patel

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Save Sakineh

Posted: 07/16/10 11:19 AM ET

Ten days ago, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was just another nameless person on death row, a tally-mark in the ledgers of a remote Iranian prison waiting to be brutally erased.

But last week it was a global outcry that saved her from being stoned to death -- a shocking practice where victims are buried up to their necks in the ground and then pelted in the head with rocks until dying an excruciating death.

Sakineh's brave children told her story to the media, and within hours outrage spread across the world. The uproar spread to the highest levels of government, as Turkey and Britain's Foreign Ministers condemned Sakineh's stoning sentence. Amidst this backlash, Iran announced that the sentence had been suspended.

But while Sakineh will reportedly not be stoned, she may still be hanged -- and, right now, fifteen more people in Iran like Sakineh are awaiting death by stoning.

The vindictive brutality of throwing stones just small enough to make sure the victim suffers before dying, the extremism of a death sentence for the alleged crime of adultery, the double-jeopardy punishment and retroactive charges dumped on her by the Iranian justice system -- these all combined to fuel global outrage and depict in full view the grotesque perversion of justice Sakineh has faced.

Online petitions are helping to channel this outrage into support for the campaign spearheaded by Sakineh's children. Already more than 400,000 people from every corner of the world have signed the Avaaz.org petition calling for Sakineh's release and an end to execution by stoning.

Sakineh was convicted of adultery, like all the other 12 women and one of the men awaiting stoning in Iran. But her children and lawyer say she is innocent and that she did not get a fair trial -- they assert her confession was forced from her and, speaking only Azerbaijani, she did not understand what was being asked of her in court.

This is no Western crusade. Iran's parliament passed a law banning stoning last year, and Iran has signed a UN convention that requires the death penalty only be used for the "most serious crimes." Stoning is even opposed by some Iranian conservatives, and yet still it continues.

Sakineh's lawyer says the Iranian government "is afraid of Iranian public reaction and international attention" to the stoning cases. And after Turkey and Britain's Foreign Ministers spoke out against Sakineh's sentence, it was suspended.

This partial reprieve, triggered by the call from her children for international pressure to save her life, has shown that if enough of us come together and voice our horror, we may be able to save her life and stop stoning once and for all. Join the chorus of conscience -- sign the petition.

In Persian -- the official language of Iran -- the meaning of "Avaaz" is "voice" or "song". Let's make our Avaaz heard.

Ricken Patel, Executive Director, Avaaz.org

FURTHER READING:

An International Appeal to Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernardhenri-levy/an-international-appeal-t_b_642265.html

Iranians still facing death by stoning despite 'reprieve', The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/08/iran-death-stoning-adultery

Britain condemns planned Iran stoning as 'medieval', AFP:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hjVdkvkzicGeInqw2R10rCKrqs3A