Iranian Woman Blinded by Spurned Suitor Persuades Court to Punish Him Similarly

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By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 14, 2008

TEHRAN -- Ameneh Bahrami once enjoyed photography and mountain vistas. Her work for a medical equipment company gave her financial independence. Several men had asked for her hand in marriage, but the hazel-eyed electrical technician had refused them all. "I wanted to get married, but only to the man I really loved," she said.

Four years ago, a spurned suitor poured a bucket of sulfuric acid over her head, leaving her blind and disfigured.

Late last month, an Iranian court ordered that five drops of the same chemical be placed in each of her attacker's eyes, acceding to Bahrami's demand that he be punished according to a principle in Islamic jurisprudence that allows a victim to seek retribution for a crime. The sentence has not yet been carried out.

The implementation of corporal punishments allowed under Islamic law, including lashing, amputation and stoning, has often provoked controversy in Iran, where many people have decried such sentences as barbaric. This case is different.

Tehran journalist Asieh Amini, who writes about human rights and opposes the sentence, said protest has been muted because people have been moved by Bahrami's story. "It's hard not to get emotional over what has happened to her," Amini said.

Bahrami, 31, said she has fought long and hard to obtain what she views as justice.

"At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid," she said in a recent interview, as rain poured against the windows of her parents' small apartment in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Tehran. "I am doing that because I don't want this to happen to any other women."

Some officials also said the punishment would be a deterrent.

"If propaganda is carried out on how acid attackers are punished, it will prevent such crimes in the future," Mahmoud Salarkia, deputy attorney general of Tehran, told reporters after the court issued its ruling.

There are no statistics on the number of acid attacks against women in Iran. "This is an extreme case of social violence, but crimes like spouse and 'honor' killings are clearly on the rise in Iran," Amini said. "These crimes are violent reactions to sexual limitations in this country."

In public life, men and women are often segregated in Iran, and sex before marriage is illegal.

Amini said she doubted that the sentence against Bahrami's attacker would reverse the trend. "Social violence will not be cured with more violence," she said.


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