Iran mulls reducing capital punishment

Iran mulls reducing capital punishment

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Iran mulls reducing capital punishment Capital punishment has been decreasing in Iran in recent years. The Iranian parliament is working on an amendment to the death sentence on drug traffickers, which will decrease 70 percent of executions for drug offenses, the Iranian High Council for Human Rights Deputy Chairman Kazem Gharib Abadi said.

There has been a 50 percent drop in the number of executions in Iran in 2016, according to figures from Amnesty International, Abadi told a group of journalists.

Drug smuggling is one of Iran’s major problems. Ninety percent of capital punishments are for drug offenses, he said, adding that nearly 4,000 people die every year from drug use.

Iran neighbors Afghanistan where a total of 90 percent of the world’s opium is produced. Having a 600-mile-long border, Iran often serves as a transit point for its export to the rest of the world.

Tehran is recently under pressure to end the death penalty for drug traffickers after some European countries have decided to cut off international funding for Iran’s counter-narcotics campaign.

A group of female judges working for the Iranian High Council for Human Rights told the Hürriyet Daily News about efforts to convince families of victims to use their right to pardon. The execution of almost 300 convicts, primarily women and children, has been avoided as a result of this legal option.

The Iranian authorities have not carried out the stoning to death of convicted women for almost 20 years, Abadi said. The sentence is usually given to women found guilty of having an illicit relationship outside marriage, but Abadi said it is difficult to prove the crime because at least four witnesses are required according to shariah rules.

Strict hijab dominates in state institutions

The Iranian Culture Ministry has hosted a group of female journalists last week, focused on meetings with state institutions in a bid to present the role of women in Iranian society. Female members of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights tell us that 870 of the 10,000 judges in Iran were female. When asked about efforts to improve women’s rights in Iran, the council referred to recently adopted legislation on criminal procedures in family courts and an increase in the number of female judges in those courts.

Most of the Iranian officials stress that 60 percent of university students are female, but we were unable to receive any figures about the female employment rate after they had graduated.

Fatemeh Rahbar, head of the Imam Khomeini Humanitarian Relief Foundation and a former lawmaker who has served two terms in parliament, has said she encouraged Iranian women to go into politics, but the number of female politicians are too low because they “prefer to take care of their families.”

The number of women in the 10th Iranian parliament reached 17, which is a record high for the Islamic Republic. The new government’s cabinet lacks women, although the previous government had a female minister.

“We have three deputy presidents that are more powerful than the ministers,” said Zahra Saeedi, 32. Saeedi, the newly elected lawmaker, has a Master of Science in industrial engineering and systems management.

There is no quota for women running for parliament elections and assignments are based on competence for both men and women, she notes. 

When asked about the most crucial problems for Iranian women, Saeedi points to the question of employment. 

Municipalities and civic society organizations connected to state institutions make remarkable efforts to support poor and vulnerable women for vocational training, such as textile and jewelry design. They even provide them with capital to set up their business. 

The Imam Khomeini Humanitarian Relief Foundation supports three million indigent people and 60 percent of these citizens are women, says Rahbar. The fund provides health insurance, house rent, and helps women with education and employment. The NGO has recently launched a project for the purchase of 5,000 cars, which will be allocated to women to work as taxi drivers with 33 percent of capital being provided by the foundation.

All of the women we had met at the national parliament, state institutions, local administrations or NGOs serving under the religious authority of Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, were dressed in the strict hijab, from head-to-toe, in the black garment. In public places, the dress code for women is more relaxed and open to interpretation. It is usual to see young women wearing colorful headscarves that partially reveal their hair and a pair of skinny jeans with high heels on the streets of Tehran.