Iranian law lets family members of murder victims seek retribution for their losses in the most direct and violent way possible — by personally killing the people who murdered their loved ones.
The practice known as Qisas in Iran was displayed this week when the family of a young man murdered in a street fight prepared to hang his killer in public by pushing away the chair he stood on at the gallows, The Guardian reported.
“The heir to the person murdered may, with the permission of the judge (hakim-i-shar’) execute the Qisas personally, or may appoint his agent for this purpose,” says a translation of the Iran’s Islamic Penal Code by Dr. Sayyid Ali Raza Naqvi.
Qisas literally equates the punishment with the crime, allowing victims to punish their attackers in manners other than execution. In 2011, an Iranian woman blinded by a man she spurned opted to enact revenge by having him blinded, too.
Qisas, in addition to other harsh Iranian laws, has been attacked outside Iran as a violation of human rights. But Iran still defends its practice of Qisas. “As I’ve said before, many of the issues raised on the pretext of human rights, including opposing the death penalty, are in fact in opposition to Islam, because qisas [retribution] is clearly stipulated in the Quran,” the Head of Iran’s Judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said in late 2013.
In the recent case reported on by the Guardian, the bereaved parents made headlines by deciding at the last minute to forgive their son’s killer.
The crime occurred seven years ago, when two young men named Balal and Abdollah Hosseinzadeh got into a fight at a bazaar, according to the Associated Press. Balal stabbed and killed Abdollah, whose parents originally wanted him sentenced to death.
This week, as a now 20-something, Balal stood blindfolded on the gallows with the noose already around his neck, when the victim’s mother gave a speech to the crowd criticising those who pressured her to spare Balal’s life. She slapped him in the face. However, then she remarkably forgave him as she and her husband removed the noose.
Abdollah’s mother finally forgave Balal after she recently dreamt that her murdered son didn’t want her to retaliate, the Guardian reported. Balal’s mother reportedly embraced Abdollah’s mother upon her forgiveness.
But The Guardian points out that although the parents’ forgiveness spared Balal from execution, they don’t have a say over the jail sentence he is expected to serve instead.
According to Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 369 people in 2013, a rise of 18% over the previous year. That is more than any other country with the exception of China, which doesn’t release any information about the amount of people it puts to death. 80% of all known executions in 2013 took place in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
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