Thoughts on Yom Kippur and Iran

A guest post by AKUS

Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, like many others in synagogue I have read the paragraph in the service that describes how the members of mankind will be inscribed either in the Book of Life or, via a lengthy list of rather horrific fates, in the Book of Death – the judgment to be sealed on Yom Kippur.

One of the fates listed, which had never seemed relevant till this year, is “who shall die by stoning”. I had assumed that we left that particular punishment behind in the Middle Ages, or even long before.

Apparently that is not the case in Iran, where Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by a majority of 3-2 in an Iranian court (see that linked article for a link to Amnesty’s translation of the sentence). Possibly her sentence has been commuted as a result of a global outcry – but it is not clear if to death by other means or to another punishment.  In the meantime, reports state that Iran has sentenced her to 99 lashes in prison for “spreading corruption and indecency” after allowing an unveiled picture of herself to be published in a British newspaper – even though the picture was not of her, but of Susan Hejrat, an Iranian political activist living in Sweden!

Reuters has reported that “Adultery is the only crime which carries the penalty of death by stoning under the sharia law which Iran adopted after the 1979 Islamic revolution.” Needless to say, there have been no reports of any punishment at all being ordered for the two men she was accused of having a relationship with. Meanwhile, Mohammadi Ashtiani has stated that she admitted to the “crime” under duress so it is no longer at all clear what she is charged with.

In an interview aired on Sept. 19, 2010 with ABC’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour, despite published copies of the Iranian court’s 3-2 ruling, President Ahmadinejad denied that there ever was such a death sentence handed down in the Mohammadi Ashtiani case, and claimed that “This was news that was produced and incorrect, and regrettably, U.S. media affected — was infected by U.S. politicians to make a piece of news out of it.” Later, Ahmadinejad also showed his enlightened side for Western consumption when he said:  “Now this is ancient method, an ancient method that needs to change”

We now have the gruesome spectacle of this representative of the mullahs who are unlikely to change their “ancient method” parading round New York delivering his latest diatribe at the UN and conducting interviews in the US media. In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, after claiming that the reports of a sentence of death by stoning are Western propaganda, he also claimed that the death sentence about to be carried out on a Virginia woman for the murder of her husband and step-son is as bad as the proposed stoning of Mohammadi Ashtiani for adultery.

How naive I was during all the years I had thought that removing “death by stoning” from that ancient prayer would be an appropriate acknowledgement that we are now in a more enlightened age …

6 replies »

  1. “I had assumed that we left that particular punishment behind in the Middle Ages, or even long before,” says AKUS.

    According to Tom Gross’s Middle East Dispatch on August 4 a Yemeni murderer in Saudi Arabia has been crucified before being beheaded:


    Capital punishment may be declining in Saudi Arabia, with “only” 67 people executed in 2009 compared to over 100 executed in 2008, but recently the Saudi authorities took the unusual step of first crucifying one of two Yemeni men they executed.

    The condemned Yemeni was nailed to a cross before his head was sliced off with a sword. The second Yemeni was “only” beheaded. No anesthetics were used. Saudi officials said that crucifixion is “only” applied in extreme cases.

    Remind me, where is the criticism from David Cameron and others? Or can he not afford to take a little time off from criticizing Israel?”

  2. Stoning doesn’t only happen in Iran. The Palestinians do it too, to Israeli citizens, only without even a semblance of due process. For example, in May 9, 2001 – Yossi Ish-Ran, 14, and Kobi Mandell, 14, both of Tekoa, were found stoned to death in a cave about 200 meters from the small community south of Jerusalem where they lived.

    June 11, 2001 – Yehuda Shoham, aged 5 months, of Shilo, died of injuries incurred in a fatal stoning on June 5. He was critically injured by a rock thrown at the family’s car near Shilo in Samaria.

    See here:


  3. pretzelberg – occasionally my mind wanders beyond the confines of the Guardian and Huffington Post to other matters. For example, how astonishing it is that a prayer written, I would guess 1500 or 200 years ago still applies to a few countries still practicing the “ancient custom” Ahmadinejad spoke of.

    Those old rabbis knew what of they spoke. But in the meantime, most of the world has moved on. Not the leaders of Iran.

  4. Duvidi:

    “Remind me, where is the criticism from David Cameron and others? Or can he not afford to take a little time off from criticizing Israel?”

    He can’t afford criticising oil barons full stop.

    Com’on duvidi, you know better…


    “And this has what exactly to do with anti-Semitism at CiF?”

    Nothing specific about an article published on CiF or the Guardian but we have numerous examples of the guardian taking the Iranian regime word as valid.

    This is to show how much they lie so this much discredit many published articles on ciF and comments showing support for the peaceful enlightened Iranian regime and their spiritual leaders.
    It is in my opinion anyway.
    I admit I may be wrong but for some reason i just don’t trust this little chimp face called Ahmadinejad.
    (didn’t mean to sound rude but he just has an ape face, speaking of which it is funny how the Guardian cartoons always portrayed Bush as a chimp yet never – not once – portrayed Ahmadinejad as a chimp).

    So you might say that this is for the archives to have some material on the violant means, lies and absurd comparison the Iranian regimes shows and performs in order to divert attention from their wrong doings.


    Ahmadinejad has used NY UN platform to point out that it is evident in his eyes that the US was behind 9/11.

    All of a sudden he is calling for a UN investigation into these incidents.
    So now he cares.

    This is rich coming from a man who is firing in all directions at the slightest hint he has done wrong and blaming Israel and Zionists for everything including the holocaust, which acording to him, never took place.

    It was those Jews who starved themselves for 4 years in camps which apparently they maintained…

    This is a man who firmly believes the Jews and americans are Satan.