Death by stoning for adultery

37-year-old Iranian woman to be executed.

Published July 28, 2006 8:42PM (EDT)

Ashraf Kolhari, 37, has been sentenced to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death in Iran. The mother-of-four's capital crime: adultery, which she committed after failing to be granted a divorce, Ms. Magazine reports. Kolhari was arrested five years ago, and has been awaiting her sentencing in prison, where she is serving 15 years imprisonment for participating in the murder of her husband. It's the cheating, not the participating in murder, that carries the death penalty, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran's penal code. Eight other women in Iranian prisons are currently awaiting the same fate.

The news of Kolhari's sentencing comes on the heels of the release of a new TV documentary about the hanging death of a 16-year-old girl in Iran for "crimes against chastity," according to BBC News. Atefah Sahaaleh, who was not married, died in a public square in the Iranian city of Neva on August 15, 2004. How could an unmarried girl be accused of adultery?

Sahaaleh's mother died when she was four or five, and her grieving father subsequently became a drug addict, so she was left in the care of her grandparents. Sahaaleh was often seen wandering on her own, which was conspicuous to the "moral police," a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. She received her first sentence for "crimes against chastity" at age 13, after attending a party and being alone in a car with a boy. Sahaaleh spent time in prison, and received 100 lashes. Out of prison, she was raped several times by a 51-year-old married father, Ali Darabi. When the crime was revealed, Darabi received just 95 lashes, while Sahaaleh was sentenced to die.

It's very hard to prove rape in Iran, because the age of consent is nine. "Men's word is accepted much more clearly and much more easily than women," according to Iranian lawyer and exile Mohammad Hoshi, told the BBC. "They can say: 'You know she encouraged me' or 'She didn't wear proper dress'." When Sahaaleh realized her case was helpless, she shouted at the judge, and threw off her veil in protest.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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