Nat Hentoff, writing recently in the Village Voice, gave a harrowing account of sangsar, the stoning of women for adultery in contemporary Iran.

Citing human rights lawyer Lily Mazahery, a Persian-American lawyer dedicated to rescuing Iranian women from this and other cruel treatment, Hentoff points out that:

sangsar, “dating back to the dark ages,” was, for a time, suspended by the pre-revolutionary regime due to pressure from international human rights organizations, combined with protests from civilized persons around the world. But when the mullahs took over in the 1979 revolution, they brought back Shariah law, and when this president came to power, he reinstituted public stonings, as a “religious principle,” against women.

In addition, according to Mazahery, the accused women almost never are granted “‘legal representation because, under the Shariah legal system, their testimony is at best worth only half the value of the testimony of men.'”

And, under Shariah, adultery:

includes any type of intimate relationship between a girl/woman and a man to whom she is not permanently or temporarily married. Such a relationship does not necessarily mean a sexual relationship.

Further, charges of adultery are routinely issued to women/girls who have been raped-and they are sentenced to death.” (Their unpardonable crime is to have been raped.)

As if this hideous practice and twisted “legal” system were not sick enough, death by stoning is explicitly designed to be slow and painful. According to Article 104 of the Iranian penal code, as described by John Whitehead, head of the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group, “‘The size of the stones used during the execution are required to be . . . not so large that they would kill a woman too quickly, nor so small that they would fail to cause serious injury or pain.'”

It would seem also that these executions are community rituals – and frolicsome at that. In Hentoff’s words, they are:

mass murders by stone-throwing members of the community, having the kind of festive time common among American mass lynchers of blacks, when the murderers brought their children to join in the fun. In Iran too, kids are present to witness the sinners’ redemption.

Hentoff concludes his article by providing the following links to two online petitions that plead for the saving of an Iranian woman, Malak Ghorbany, from stoning: and, for related topics, and to link to videos of actual public stonings,

I urge IWF supporters to consider signing them. What better humane testimony could there be of what we independent women – blest as we are to live in a land where rule by just and humane law prevails – stand for?