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Tehran officials raise against public flogging

8/15/01 Tehran, Aug 15, IRNA -- Tehran security officials have vehemently voiced their opposition to the rising tide of public floggings carried out on young people convicted of social vices over the past month, saying they were carried out without prior consultations with the interior ministry.

"These floggings, instead of making the victims repentant, increase public sympathy for them aside from being contrary to the Islamic objective of imposing lashes," Mohammad-Javad Haq-Shenas, deputy interior minister for political affairs, told IRNA.

"The interior minister (Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari) is sharply opposed to the floggings," he said, adding "Tehran provincial officials have ruled that public floggings are to be carried out only after they have the go-ahead of political officials."

Public flogging, used in ancient societies to punish social or moral derelictions, was rarely imposed in the country even before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Certain officials have, however, justified their imposition in particular cases to "effectively deter" their future commission.

Alcohol consumption, however, is a crime punishable by law and flogging as a punishment has not been ruled out.

But Haq-Shenas has cautioned against the use of public flogging, saying any court decision imposing such sentence would have to be reviewed by the provincial security council (led by reformist Interior Minister Lari).

"The provincial security council is the highest provincial security body and is made up of the justice administration chief as well as the police chief and should therefore have the say on matters pertaining to security," he opined.

"Public flogging is, in fact, a toughening of a convict's sentence," Haq-Shenas said, adding that they would "unfortunately damage the Iranian image abroad."

He added: "It is wrong to depict Islam as sanctioning the violent punishment of a few youngsters."

Haq-Shenas called on parliament (Majlis) to consider passing laws that would forbid public floggings.

For his part, Tehran Deputy Governor for Political Affairs Nasser Mahmoudifar said: "The Tehran governor's office has received reports of several public floggings which were not authorized by the Terhan Security Council."

"Some of the floggings that have taken place were filmed and broadcast abroad to portray the Islamic Republic in a bad light," he said.

His reactions come after 13 young boys were publicly flogged Tuesday evening in Vali-e Asr Square in the heart of the city, the ninth reported execution of youngsters over a period of one month for alcohol consumption and sexual harrassment of women in public places.

The reformist Islamic Revolution's Mujahideen Organization has also condemned the recent public floggings, saying they adversely affect Iran's image abroad.

However, conservative Muslim theologians such as Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Messbah Yazdi have defended public flogging as a form of Islamic punishment in their treatises and in public speeches, saying they are sanctioned under the unalterable, divine laws of the the Holy Koran and cannot be waived or modified to fit particular situations or modifications or conventions of modern laic, Muslim societies.

On Monday, Mohsen Mussavi-Tabrizi, a cleric and member of the powerful Experts Assembly which has the power to name or appoint a successor to the country's supreme leader, vehemently criticized public floggings.

"Punishments in public are not sanctioned," Tabrizi said.

"The application of such verdicts in streets and public places is an incorrect interpretation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book."

Furthermore, "The sole case cited in the Koran does not state that the punishment should be carried out in streets or in full view of the public; rather, the presence of a number of faithful witnesses would suffice," adding his opinion that "even three witnesses would be sufficient."

Iran flogs 13 youngsters for drunkenness

Tehran, Aug 14, IRNA -- Despite criticisms by reformist officials of public floggings, thirteen young boys were publicly whipped in central Tehran around a crowded square on Tuesday evening for "drinking alcohol" and "street banditry," an IRNA correspondent at the scene witnessed.

The flogging which was carried out during the evening rush hour had brought the traffic into a standstill around Vali-e Asr Square.

The youngsters whose identity and age have not yet been revealed were convicted by a Tehran public court. This was the ninth reported public flogging in Tehran over the past month.

An unnamed police officer at the scene told IRNA that the floggings were carried out in line with harsh policies adopted by the Tehran Justice Administration to crack down on those harassing women in the streets.

Saeed Meisami, a bystander, said, "public floggings cannot stop the cultural onslaught which is rife in the country."

"That's no fair that a youngster be flogged for having looked at a girl or talking to her," he added.

Another pedestrian, Reza Moradi, warned that the people may revolt one day if the floggings continue.

Public flogging, a cruel form of punishment common in ancient times to punish certain vices, was rarely countenanced in Iran in the few decades immediately before the 1979-Islamic Revolution but has, in the past month, been imposed in a number of cases, particularly crimes against chastity and morals and in cases calling for the application of Islamic canon law.

From the viewpoint of the laws of Islam, drinking alcohol is automatically punishable with lashes of the whip even without evidence of drunkenness, although the moral guardians of society tend to be lax in its application.

Religious minorities in Iran, however, are allowed to drink in their own private circles in the country.

Public flogging has been criticized by the Tehran Security Council. "From now on any court order for public flogging would have to be reviewed by the provincial security council (led by reformist Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari)," Ali Ta'ali, director-general for security affairs at the Tehran governor-general's office said.

The reformist Islamic Revolution's Mujahideen Organization has also condemned public flogging of youngsters, saying it adversely affects Iran's image abroad.

But, conservative Muslim theologians, among them Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Messbah Yazdi, however have consistently upheld flogging and other forms of Islamic punishment in their treatises and at their public speeches as unalterable Divine Laws that are timeless and express in the Holy Koran and that can never be suspended or modified although they may be in stark contrast with post-Islamic laic laws or conventions in Muslim societies.

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