Maryam Kousha is editor of the English bi-weekly publication of the Organisation for Women's Liberation. The interview aired on International TV October 24, 2004.
Maryam Namazie: Zhila Izadi, a 13-year-old girl, was recently sentenced to death by stoning by the Islamic Republic of Iran for having sexual relations outside of marriage with her brother. Soon after, the regime backed down saying she had never been sentenced to stoning and gave her an 'alternative' punishment instead. Can you give us an update?
Maryam Kousha: Zhila, the 13-year-old girl has been held by the Iranian regime and has been given 55 lashes. She is frightened and in poor conditions. Let me just say something about what the Islamic Republic has said. The fact that they say they had never condemned her to stoning illustrates a retreat from the regime's side.
They did sentence her to stoning. According to Islamic laws, stoning is the punishment for having sexual relations outside of marriage in Iran. It just shows how effective our campaigning and that of others are in making the regime back down from its original sentence.
It is so horrendous. We are talking about children here. She is only 13; her brother 15. We were quick to publicize the news and gain international support. We also tried to get people to condemn this atrocity. To this effect the campaign has been successful. However, this is not the end. She is still in danger of being executed by stoning or any other form of punishment.
The Islamic regime of Iran does not want to contradict itself, so it has said that they are not going to stone her now; at the moment she is in custody (a so-called safe house!!) and will most probably be executed when she is 18 years old if the pressure lets up. It is unbelievable.
The Organisation for Women's Liberation and the International Committee against Stoning are campaigning for her and her brother's immediate release.
Yes. According to reports that we have received, they are both in 'safe houses'. What is eventually going to happen to them, we have to see. From our point of view, they should be freed and taken care of instead of being punished. They are children; they should be given counselling and be given every help possible. The present punishment or any other punishment planned to be inflicted on them when they turn 18 should be abolished.
We are totally against execution and capital punishment. And here we are talking about children. It goes without saying that children should not be harmed in any way, let alone executed. No child should be in prison, no child should be executed, and no child should be in any sort of danger. We will continue our campaign until their release. There are no buts and ifs about it. They should be released and given every possible opportunity to live a normal life.
Another woman, Seema, had also recently been sentenced to death by stoning but it was revoked again. The regime has not stoned anyone for over a year now. You talked about international pressure. Would you say that it has been this pressure that has prevented women from being stoned in Iran over the past year or so?
International pressure plays a major role but it is not the only factor. Seema along with three other women have been sentenced to stoning but have not yet been stoned. There are two factors: the international campaigns that we run and the degree of protests in Iran. We are talking about the students, the nurses, the teachers, the workers' strikes and struggles. We are talking about a whole wave of protest movement that has always been in Iran but is gaining momentum now.
It is a juggling act for the Islamic Republic of Iran as to how far they can go. The more pressure we put internationally and nationally in Iran against the Iranian regime, it makes it more difficult for them to implement their reactionary and backward Islamic laws.
For example, as far as Zhila's case is concerned, Mina Ahadi the chairperson of International Committee against Stoning has been very active to ban stoning. She has had many meetings with European Union officials; she has had press conferences publicising the case. This does have an effect. It may not stop stoning in one day, but it prevents and slows down the implementation of this criminal act.
We have collected more than 220,000 signatures condemning stoning. These activities do have an effect. Even if we save one life, it is important because it will set precedence. It also shows how powerful people are. The Iranian regime cannot just go around killing people right, left and centre. People in Iran are watching and focusing on it. It is an important pressure and we must carry on with it.
It is interesting that you say this because when the Islamic government of Iran imposed a moratorium on stoning they did mention that there is so much pressure on them and that it was causing them bad publicity. So it is obvious that this pressure is effective. What would you say our viewers could do? People who are outraged by what is happening to Zhila Izadi and the issues of stoning and so on?
People can do a lot of things. Those who are aware of the facts and the campaigns we are running, can e-mail us, or the TV, and if you would be kind enough to forward the mails to us, condemning the flogging and imprisonment of Zhila and her brother and other stoning sentences.
We are also campaigning to save the lives of 2 women in Nigeria. People can write to their MPs, to the Iranian regime's officials, condemning stoning and demanding an end to stoning. People can distribute our paper… They can get in touch with us. We want to spread the word. Sign our petition; send us donations. All these activities need financial support.
Maryam Namazie is the host of TV International English, is a Central Council Member of the Organisation of Women's Liberation and Director of the International Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.