Acid in YOUR face

I didn’t hear about this case until this morning (trigger warning for image).

In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, Iran is ready for the first time to blind a man with acid, after he was found guilty of doing the same to a woman who refused to marry him.

Majid Movahedi, 30, is scheduled to be rendered unconscious in Tehran’s judiciary hospital at noon on Saturday while Ameneh Bahrami, his victim, drops acid in both his eyes, her lawyer said.

The first part of the story I heard was about the proposed punishment. I felt sickened upon hearing it – the barbarism of such a punishment (particularly as we know that it’s habitually used to punish Muslim women for their lack of “compliance”) could never be justified. When I heard about the rationale for the punishment a few seconds later, however, I felt conflicted. Movahedi is due to receive this punishment from his female victim, whom he blinded with acid. This decision is taking eye-for-an-eye to a whole new level.

But that’s the rub. I am vehemently opposed to the death penalty, which is arguably the most extreme eye-for-an-eye punishment that exists. Research tells us that the death penalty has neither a general nor a specific deterrent effect, and it offers little cathartic or healing effect to victims’ families. (Its system costs a fortune to run in the US but that issue is unimportant, in the scheme of things.) However, I can’t help but think that the punishment Movahedi is due to receive is warranted and deserved. Because this time, it’s personal. Women in too many places are living in fear of acid attacks for doing something as minor as being seen in public without a male chaperone. Movahedi’s victim, Ameneh Bahrami, suffered such an attack for refusing to marry him; for making a decision about her life and her future that women the world over make every day, without fear of repercussion. But not Ameneh Bahrami; she had to be punished for not doing as she was told.

I defy anyone to tell me that they’ve not had desire for retribution when they’ve been wronged – it’s as human an emotion as joy and sadness. This is retribution for a horrible, vicious, life-changing wrong, and I don’t think I’m going to bother apologising for feeling that it’s deserved. Are there lots of “what ifs”? Certainly. Will it achieve any deterrent effect? Unlikely. But will it help Ameneh Bahrami? Very probably.

That women in Iran might now be given a stronger voice, and that female victims there might be allowed a real say in the judicial process, is a whole other debate (heck, we still don’t know what we’re doing with victims in our “civilised” justice system in the west), but that’s something that won’t be clear for a while. For now, if one woman gets to throw acid in some patriarchal, violent fucker’s face, and in doing so achieves one tiny little bit of liberation for her sisters, then she can have at it as far as I’m concerned.

11 responses to “Acid in YOUR face

  1. I’m not sure it makes her any better than him to be honest. A metaphorical blinding would be better surely – life incarceration with no chance of seeing anything that means anything to him ever again.

  2. I absolutely agree that the feelings that are associated with such a brutal attack are entirely natural and warranted. We want the criminal to suffer in the same way that the victim suffers. I do not believe that such barbarity is justice nor do I believe that a society that metes out such responses to violent crime is any closer to changing in a way where such crimes are less “acceptable”. I’ve already seen reports of Muslims say that he should only be blinded on one eye because, under Sharia law, a man is worth two women. I’ve also seen responses that say this could have been avoided if she’d married him (as horrible as that seems).

    The legal culture in many Islamic countries is about relative value and not about the sanctity of life and freedom to live as you will. If someone hurts you then hurt them back for that is the law. What it should be is if someone hurts you then they should be taught that hurting others is wrong, society should see that hurting others is wrong and should be protected from the criminal behaviour. Until a life (particularly a woman’s life) is given equal value then all they have is revenge, not justice.

  3. It is so strange how I went from not believing in the death pebnalty to believing in it to not believing in it again. It had a direct correlation, of course, to having someone I know be violently murdered. In those first few months, not only did I support the reintroduction of the death penalty, I wanted to be the person delivering it!

    The first major piece of forgiveness and closure came when the killers confessed and explained their actions in order to relieve the State from the burden of a trial. Now, four years after that and five years after the event, I wish only rehabilitation and education for the killers, which they won’t get. But that process taught me that the death penalty can only ever be a knee-jerk reaction and that the sole purpose of the law should be to remove that emotion when it comes to sentencing and convicting someone.

    This story made me very uncomfortable. I feel that as a victim, you need to distance yourself from the perpetrator’s actions and motives. It seems intricately linked to acknowledging that you are not to blame and that the perpetrator is solely responsible for their actions. I really have to wonder how this will affect the victim psychologically.

    • Emm, yeah, I think any sort of tragic, deeply affecting experience such as that would bring about the same sort of reaction in me. I agree with you that justice and penalty should never be knee-jerk but, as I think I said above or below, there is still a valid argument around retribution and some attempt to right the wrong. What we need to do at the very least is allow for great victim voice in the judicial process, problematic as that is to many purists.

      Yes there is something to be said for distancing yourself from actions but I think it’s presumptuous to assume that it’s that easy. I wonder if the victim in the story in question has to see her attacker all the time, has to possibly interact with him frequently, and is constantly reminded of his attack by his very presence. Separation is not so easy then.

  4. What does this punishment give the victim? Does she even want this punishment for her attacker? Has anyone actually asked her? Who does this punishment benefit? How can a woman be worth half a man? On an existential level, what *is* justice? Does, to cite G&S, the punishment fit the crime? Is the punishment as barbaric as the crime demonstrably is? What do these things say about the degree of enlightenment – or even education – in that society?

    Is it too easy for an ‘enlightened’ society to sit back and offer disparaging remarks about religions in general and the Muslim one in particular? I recognise the need for the baser instinct of retribution, but should the Muslim faith be condemned for issuing this punishment?

    I would say ‘yes’. Because we can’t pick and choose, as if the whole thing was some kind of self-service salad bar. If a faith is fundamentally flawed, as I believe them all to be, no matter how heinous the crime and how ‘fitting’ the retributive punishment, I can not be hypocritical and say, about any sect of God-botherers ‘I like the way they do this one thing’. If the entire religious faith is simply a control method to rule the lives of people and rob them of various freedoms, then I can not, in all honesty, accept any aspect of it to be satisfactory.

    • But in general terms, religion and faith aside, if that punishment were to be decreed in this country (not that it ever would be but let’s pretend), would we be more amenable to at least considering it?

      Or are we all horrified because it’s “those barbaric Muslims at it again” rather than about the decision itself? I think it IS too easy for us to offer disparaging remarks about the Islamic faith and Islamic culture (see the best example of the burka ban in France) without considering the wider context in which that culture plays out.

      • Of course we would. The majority support retributive punishment for crimes. The Current Bun claim that 99% of people support the return of hanging. A figure that I can hardly credit but we must respect their journalistic integrity…

        There is something deeply satisfying about having the criminals punished so that they know how the victims feel and if we can sell tickets for a good, old public execution then so much the better for capitalism.

        It is still barbaric and brutal and the fact that an Islamic nation is doing it just allows us to feel superior but we’re only a few decades away from having done almost exactly the same thing.

  5. Pingback: In brief: Iranian sentenced to blinding for acid attack pardoned | tenderhooligan·

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