War of Words

Jan 13, 2016

A woman’s battle to end stoning and juvenile execution in Iran.

by Laura Secor

In the Mazandaran province of northern Iran, where the Elburz Mountains careen toward the Caspian Sea, Asieh Amini grew up on a farm surrounded by kiwi and tangerine orchards. Born in 1974, Amini was the third of four sisters. When she was very young, her family, which came from the gentry of feudal times, owned animals and employed gardeners and housekeepers. Amini understood that her great-grandmother was an important person because everyone, including Amini’s father, had to sit up straight when she entered a room. In the north of Iran, women could own property, wield social power, and work on farms with their sleeves and their pants rolled up. But it was still common for men to have multiple wives, and because of this Amini’s extended family sprawled. Amini’s father was a teacher. Though he was a religious man, he wore his faith lightly.

Amini was five in 1979, when revolution came. The monarchy fell; an Islamic Republic replaced it, with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as its leader, and for a decade Iran convulsed with violence and privation. First came internal conflict over the revolution’s spoils, and then an enormously costly war with Iraq. The Aminis, no longer able to afford the animals or the gardeners or the farmworkers in straitened times, became middle-class.

Amini and her sisters spun themselves a cocoon of nature and literature. When they weren’t playing outdoors, they read, wrote stories, and painted. Amini and the second-oldest sister spent Thursday afternoons at a poetry circle that met at a nearby public library. It was Amini’s first taste of literary life, and she loved it. She imagined that she would one day be a painter and a writer.

Amini was largely shielded from the tribulations of her country, but there were some things that she would always remember. She was not allowed to wear white shoes or short socks at school. She thought the required dark hijab ugly, and she cried when she had to put it on, but her mother gently explained that this was a rule no one could disobey. Young men returned from the Iraqi front without limbs; many did not return at all. Within Amini’s extended family, some supported the new regime and some opposed it. There were young relatives in prison, and older relatives who thought that they belonged there. And then there were the three sons of Amini’s maternal aunt.

The brothers lived in Tehran and had been briefly imprisoned for taking part in revolutionary activities under the Shah. Just before the monarchy fell, they came to stay near Amini’s family, among relatives who were not engaged in political fights. The oldest of those brothers came to the Aminis’ house, which streamed with visitors eager to hear the news from Tehran. He died in a car accident not long before the revolution.

The boys’ father, Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani, became the Islamic Republic’s chief justice. He presided over the courts during a period when they ordered the execution of thousands of opposition members. Gilani held that Iran’s body politic needed to be cleansed of toxins. As it happened, his remaining two sons were members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, a leftist Islamic militant group that had been part of the revolutionary movement but which came to oppose clerical rule. By 1981, the group had been declared illegal. Gilani was a man of terrible integrity. He insisted that, before the law, he could not hold his two sons to a different standard from that applied to other people. He was alleged to have signed an order for their execution. If the boys straightened out ideologically, Gilani reportedly said, he could guarantee their safety. But they didn’t. They went into hiding and died, Amini heard, trying to evade capture.

The judge’s decision, which was reported in the official press, became notorious. To many Iranians, the name of Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani was synonymous with an era when the Islamic Republic executed its own children. But within Amini’s family no one dared to speak of the matter. Not even the boys’ mother mourned them. Before Amini became a teen-ager, she had glimpsed a void at the core of the Iranian justice system.


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16 comments on “War of Words

  • i pulled out this line:

    “The monarchy fell”

    when i read it i almost fell out of my chair – that Monarchy was the illegal puppet ruler (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi) the USA an Britain put in place after getting rid of Mosaddegh

    from wikipedia

    “In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected Prime Minister and committed to nationalizing the Iranian petroleum industry controlled by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (AIOC).[16] Under the leadership of Mosaddegh’s democratically elected nationalist movement, the Iranian parliament unanimously voted to nationalize the oil industry – thus shutting out the immensely profitable AIOC, which was a pillar of Britain’s economy and provided it political clout in the region.”

    and then he was overthrown and the Shah put in place

    and boy oh boy was he a scum bag

    and did the Iranian people ever hate him

    imagine China overthrowing the US government and then putting a puppet ruler in place (eg Hillary Clinton – but anyone would do)

    so some good ol boys from Texas with guns and bibles clutched to their breast lead a revolt to overthrow the puppet and push Chinese “advisers” from the land

    it might be a while before those good ol boys are subsequently voted out again and the place might be a tad over-Christian for a while – but you get the point i hope

    this post smells a lot like the “babies are being thrown from incubators” allegations that led us into war

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayirah_(testimony)

    Richard, if you are ever reading anything that’s posted in your name – you need a way way more worldly editorial team to screen what gets posted in your name

    this one does not do anything to ensure intellectuals are 100% supportive of your efforts to bring about the end of religions

    pop



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  • Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Richard, if you are ever reading anything that’s posted in your name – you need a way way more worldly editorial team to screen what gets posted in your name

    On this site, articles are posted for critical discuission and analysis, – not as an endorsement of their content!



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  • point: how can i believe any of it can be taken as truth if part of it is obviously un-truth?

    and by truth i do not mean that things that have been reported are un-true but that the intent of the conveyance is to create an un-truth

    as the “babies thrown from incubators” story reveals – it was a blend of truth and un-truth for the purposes of a greater un-truth

    i’m glad to hear everyone who ever reads these comments (now, the future) is well versed in the crimes of US foreign policy – but just in case one reader isn’t….

    a problem with New Atheism (and by that i mean fundamentalist Atheism) is that it allows us to attack aspects of religion without thought to the consequence

    when a foreign invader is lining us all up and shooting us because some of our more extreme citizens are fundamentalist Christians it wont be much use waving and saying “hey i’m an atheist” (yes i know it wont happen but that’s the sense of it)

    maybe 90% of people who hang out here are thoughtful people who live without gods or maybe 99% – and maybe most of those are adamant they don’t want to support creating yet more crap in the middle east

    but sometimes i wonder

    pop



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  • PoP. Whilst you are taking your lumps from various folks here and there, one little lumpette from me (this one always gets me)-

    Don’t presume from a few comments to know exactly what people think and what values they have. This is unfair and it takes a lot of unreasonable hard work to set straight again. Wait a bit or ask rather than presume and accuse.

    Happily all the main posters here are nuanced (and different in details) in their views.

    I approve of passion, but dialogue is pre-eminent.



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  • when i read it i almost fell out of my chair – that Monarchy was the illegal puppet ruler (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi) the USA an Britain put in place after getting rid of Mosaddegh.

    Mosaddegh was removed by the US and Britain in 1953. Mohammad Reza was already Shah of Iran and had been since 1941.

    From wiki:

    “Mohammad Reza Pahlavi came to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah. During Mohammad Reza’s reign, the Iranian oil industry was briefly nationalized, under the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, until a US and UK-backed coup d’état deposed Mosaddegh and brought back foreign oil firms.”

    It seems the Russians and British got rid of his pro-Nazi father to secure petroleum for the war effort.

    Getting back to the OP. “When the monarchy fell” refers to the overthrow of the Shah by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. This is at the beginning of the article, referring to the early life of Asieh Amini- at that time she was 5. Why would you expect the article to include the history of the rulers of Iran and Western interference going back to the 1950s.

    this post smells a lot like the “babies are being thrown from incubators” allegations that led us into war.

    Any particular reason? What is the connection between the article and the Nayirah testimony you linked to?

    Richard, if you are ever reading anything that’s posted in your name – you need a way way more worldly editorial team to screen what gets posted in your name.

    As mentioned by Alan, “articles are posted for critical discussion and analysis, – not as an endorsement of their content!”. You have certainly been critical but have not provided any substance – just a rant about the history of Iran decades before the subject of the article was born and a suggestion that “this post smells”.

    Have you got an issue with the author of the article or The New Yorker or Asieh Amini. Did you know she received the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Free Expression Award in 2012 and the Hellman/Hammett Award, issued by Human Rights Watch in 2009?

    Asieh Amini, a journalist and women’s rights activist who has committed a great part of her career to raising awareness about the situation of women sentenced to execution and stoning has been awarded the the prestigious Hellman/Hammett Award, issued by Human Rights Watch. Asieh has also worked extensively on eliminating stoning sentences from the Iranian penal code and on overturning the death penalty, especially for youth offenders and women.



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  • Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    a problem with New Atheism (and by that i mean fundamentalist Atheism)

    The term “fundamentalist atheist” is an invented piece of psychological projection, preached by the fundamentalist religious and their apologist stooges, in an attempt to equate their fundamentalism with scientific atheism!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

    is that it allows us to attack aspects of religion without thought to the consequence

    It is precisely BECAUSE of the damage which (particularly fundamentalist) religions cause, that new atheists (as distinct from theist-preferred closet atheists), look at the damaging consequences of religious impositions, and tackle theist dogmas which are causing the problems on these issues.

    There is no evidence that the new atheists are in anyway responsible for decisions in American politics, as these politics are dominated by religious represetatives.
    When G.W. Bush said, “God told him to invade Iraq”, that was nothing to do with atheism. Nor was the backing he received from the UK’s closet Catholic Blair!



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  • 🙂 nuanced eh

    nuanced as in cognitive dissonance? 🙂

    it’s an interesting scale – people’s attitude to religions and religious people

    pretty much the most gentle generous man i ever knew was a Christian (who as also a professor and a PhD and a doctor) – though i did not know he was a Christian for a long time because he did not ever say it except once i asked him (because it dawned on me one day as an explanation for some behaviour). We’d worked together for years before I knew. I liked his Christianity. It was all actions for the benefit of others and zero preaching or proselytizing.

    That being said, most of the scummiest scum bags i’ve ever known were Christians.

    There was a time for a few years when i was traveling the world a lot that whenever i got into a taxi cab i’d find out as soon as possible if they were either Christian or Russian and if so just get out of the cab. Christians because they pretty much always tried some scam and Russians because those days they were all survivors of post-Glasnost era when millions dies of poverty and hunger etc – surviving ingrained into them scamming not because they were slimy but because it was second nature – that’s the only way they had survived.

    Russians i’ll drive with now i guess but i still feel insecure about any cabbie with Christian icons etc

    🙂

    Took me years to get my adopted daughter to not openly hate Muslims – and it was not that she knew any – it was all indoctrination from her “Buddhist” upbringing. Took years to get her to stop believing in ghosts too. She still wont eat beef or lamb.

    If it takes years of patience and careful talking and experiences to get a young person to break their indoctrination (whatever it is)

    how much harder is it to change what is intrinsic to much older people?

    how difficult is it to Un-Christian a Christian? Or Un-Muslim a Muslim? I don’t mean to get them to sound the words “i don’t believe anymore” (it’s a start) but to nor automatically be what they were raised to be in circumstances the evoke those reactions? (Like automatic feelings of revulsion for things we might accept without qualm)

    how much hard to bring people to Un-condemn “other” – especially when the other is both a historically ingrained enemy and a modern enemy painted with the techniques we have perfected over generations – marginalization, dehumanization

    savages

    barbarians

    terrorists

    Muslims

    pop

    how much more difficult to Un-hate



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  • no doubt

    but though i’ve met plenty of critical people and quite a few well informed ones

    i’ve yet to meet a truly rational person

    everyone seems to me to be as emotionally driven as anyone else

    p



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  • Peak Oil Poet
    Jan 19, 2016 at 5:33 am

    i’ve yet to meet a truly rational person

    This is perhaps a problem of perception rather than an objective observation of scientific methodology!

    everyone seems to me to be as emotionally driven as anyone else.

    To understand if an analysis is objective and rational, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the evidence, and to follow through the reasoning process to the conclusions.

    Without these, personal preconceptions and cognitive biases, corrupt the evaluation and thinking, leading to psychological projection and other perceptual problems.



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  • Iranian people have an interesting saying “Relating fart to forehead”. Which means talking about irrelevant things and pretending you have a point about another.

    Did you seriously started bitching about the whole damn article just because it said “The monarchy fell”?! When had the monarchy fallen before my dear? “Monarchy fell” on all accounts (my account as an Iranian outside Iran included) is true and very much unrelated to Mosaddegh’s era. Whether Mosaddegh’s government was legitimate and was overthrown as a result of US meddling or not, the monarchy was in power up to 1979 (the year of the cursed “revolution”).

    Your whole post is entirely irrelevant to the article about a journalist woman in the current regime of Iran, and your responses to other people’s comments do not help at all. Did you even read the article?! My goodness, then he says “I haven’t yet seen any rational person here”.



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  • Moderator message

    B.S Knight has correctly pointed out that the discussion so far has become derailed away from the point and purpose of the original article.

    All further comments to be on the actual topic of the OP, please.

    Thank you.

    The mods



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  • Moderator message

    As B.S Knight has correctly pointed out above, the discussion so far has become derailed away from the point and purpose of the original article.

    All further comments to be on the actual topic of the OP, please.

    Thank you.

    The mods



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