An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. -- Mahatma Gandhi
I am deeply disturbed by the thought that Ameneh Bahrami might be personally partaking in a retribution culture that Ghandi spoke against. In 2004 Ameneh suffered a very vicious acid attack in Iran by a suitor whom she had turned down multiple times. She lost both eyes, and much of her face as a result of this horrific attack and has spent the last 6 years of her life in hospitals where she has undergone 19 reconstructive surgeries. I cannot begin to imagine the magnitude of physical and psychological pain and suffering caused by such an this experience that alters one's life forever. I admire her will to live and bravely undergo multiple procedures to restore and reconstruct her face in Iran and Spain, given the many financial challenges of living abroad while seeking very expensive medical treatment.
It is for all the mentioned attributes in her that I am in a state of shock after hearing her in an interview expressing that she wishes to "first give it a try herself before the doctor". This chilling sentence was of course with regard to an act of qisas, an Arabic term for the Islamic jurisprudence meaning retribution based on the principle of an eye for an eye dated back to the old testament. In 2008, Ameneh's request for qisas was granted by a court in Iran and today this sentence is to be carried out.
Many International Human Rights Organizations have pleaded with Ameneh to reconsider this decision to no avail. Her response has been that she will not be able to forgive herself if this crime is repeated to someone else which in itself is ironic given that she will be inflicting the same pain upon someone else herself by dropping five drops of acid in the eyes of her attacker as sited in the court proceedings. This of course suggests an underlying deep disconnect and lack of empathy on her behalf. She then adds that the act of qisas would not bring any inner peace to her or restore her eyes but that it would prevent others from repeating the same crime when knowing the punishment for such an act would be equal retribution. There are many angles from which I can analyse her decision and prove that it is in contradiction of what she claims to be her moral ground on this matter but perhaps it is my human connection to her and her story above all that compels me to write on the matter. A realist outlook would argue that it is never possible to know the thoughts of others and frankly there is no way for us to know whether or not from here on every person who is thinking of committing a crime of acid throwing will think of her case before doing so. This general assumption requires that we first believe all communities or peoples she wishes to know of her case will have heard about it and second learned a lesson from it, which is completely implausible in actuality.
Acid throwing is not a new phenomena nor is the idea of punishment, whether it be capital punishment, equal retribution, a 12 year prison sentence, a few hours of community service, or sadly in many cases no punishment at all. We must realise that when an individual is disturbed enough to actually think of and later carry out such a crime they are least capable of the kind of cognitive reasoning Ameneh naively believes will take place as a result of her case.
On the issue of acting in the interest of civil society whom she feels the need to protect from the likes of her attacker, I wish she would consult with us or at least take into consideration the many pleas the international community has made with regard to reconsidering her decision before making such a judgment on our behalf. Because if I am ever attacked in such a way, I reserve the right to decide how I wish to seek justice just as she feels entitled to seeking justice her way today and I can assure you that my idea of justice differs very much from hers. Which brings me to the reason for which I resent her way of justifying her decision by hijacking societal interest and speaking on my behalf instead of simply saying that doing this would make her feel good and it's no body's business. But since that is not her argument and she has decided to make this about me and the many others she is trying to protect from such an event I would like to extend my had to her in partnership and ask that we work together to prevent this from happening to someone else in a much different manner.
If Ameneh really cares about the rest of society who is still at risk of such violent crimes in Iran she would realise that the same Sharia law she has called to her rescue when in search of justice is the one that has granted the likes of her attacker Majid Movahedi the plat form from which they carry out these unjust acts. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, discriminatory and degrading notions rooted in arbitrary interpretations of sharia law regarding the treatment of women are in ingrained in the minds of young boys in schools and society. We need to abolish the existing sharia laws and cultural structures that allow for violent and inhumane manifestations of acid throwing and stoning to exist against women in Iran instead of practising them to seek justice. We must educate the mind and heart of our children from within against the unacceptable norms set out by the Islamic Republic regime. We need not to make the Majids of this world blind for they already are blinded and brainwashed from an early age, but rather open their eyes.
It is only appropriate that I end with another profound quote in hopes that Ameneh finds the strength within to forgive her attacker before she commits to an act she may truly not be able to forgive herself for: "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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