IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNED JUDICIARY AGAINST PUBLIC FLOGGING
TEHRAN 22 Aug. (IPS) Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi warned Tuesday the Islamic Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi of the negative repercussion abroad, particularly in the media, of the surge of public flogging and hanging of convicted offenders, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Mr. Kharrazi met Monday evening the Iraqi-born Hahsemi-Shahroudi to assess with him the international community's reaction to the public execution of court sentences, particularly flogging, IRNA quoted a Foreign Ministry’s statement.
Over the past month, at least 200 people, mostly young ones, have been flogged and ten others hanged in public places in Tehran and other cities on charges of drinking alcohol, bad Islamic behaviour or drug trafficking and killings, all carried out on orders of the leader-appointed Hashemi-Shahroudi.
Conservatives say the public punishments are an inseparable part of Islamic laws and were needed to deter rising crime and breaches of Islamic teachings.
However, the harsh and humiliating measures were opposed by the reformist-dominated Majles and the government as well as by several leading clerics, stating that Islam was against acts that harm the image and prestige of the religion and the Islamic State.
President Mohammad Khatami also denounced the rising trend of public floggings, saying, "In a society where discrimination, poverty and graft abound you cannot expect youngsters not to break the law and stay on the right course...With tough punishments you cannot remove social corruption."
"During the meeting, Ayatollah Hashemi-Shahroudi was reminded of the repercussion abroad of internal events as published by the foreign print media, events such as public flogging of convicted offenders which could depict Islam as a violent religion", the Foreign Ministry’s statement said.
Eyewitnesses said that the floggings disgusted people who saw them. During a recent hanging, police had to fire tear gas to disperse the angry crowd.
Iran has a young population, with 70 per cent under 35, and Mr Khatami's popularity among young people is largely due to the relative freedom he has brought them since he came to power four years ago.
But Mr. Hashemi-Shahroudi defended the judiciary's methods of dealing with social corruption, particularly the flogging of convicted offenders in public, saying that the people have thanked the police and judiciary for carrying out punishments in public in the past months".
The highly unpopular decision was followed by the introduction as from last Friday of new measures aimed at "cleansing" the society from "Western vices and corruption".
According to the new laws, restaurants and cafes are told not serve women not wearing strict Islamic dress, or hejab, boutiques must remove manikins and female underwear from their windows, anyone walking with dog would get arrested, photo shops also must remove all pictures and posters of music or movie stars, people wearing T-shirts with such posters would get arrested, loud music in public places as well as in the cars is prohibited.
The measures, described by Iranians as "talebanisation" of Iran, have met with dismay from the public and denounced by international human rights organisations, which accuses the Islamic Republic of gross human rights violation, comparing the Iranian regime with that of the neighbouring Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Reformists say by imposing the public flogging, hanging and "moral cleansing" of the society, the ruling conservatives aims at undermining the popularity of the embattled President Mohammad Khatami who, despite his failure of introducing his promised reforms, was re-elected with a landslide majority of the popular vote.
"A champion of détente and an instrumental factor in changing international public opinion towards the Islamic Republic, Khatami’s claim to Islamic democracy and a society ruled by law is now seriously under question", observed Mr. Mehdi Khalaji, a respected independent journalist and political analyst.
Though the President, his government, the Majles, the reformists, some high-ranking clerics and now the Foreign Ministry have warned the Judiciary against the negative effects and impacts of the public floggings and eliminating corrupt vices form the society, yet none of them are against the measures, provided they are carried out in closed places, far from the public, like in prisons, analysts points out.
Kharrazi, however, criticised certain reactions from the foreign press to the religious verdicts, denouncing such reactions as "interference in Iran's internal affairs."
"No foreign nation would be allowed to meddle in our internal affairs", Mr. Kharrazi, himself a devout Muslim, warned prior to his meeting with Mr. HashemiShahroudi.
Meanwhile, Iranian Police Chief Brigadier General Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf promised Tuesday that the Law Enforcement Forces would not allow anybody to overstep the law of the society or violate its norms in the name of "freedom and liberty" and pledged to use logical means to deter the breach of law and any move aimed at undermining society's rights.
"Police patrols have been ordered to stop offenders immediately and bring them to police centres", newspapers reported, quoting LEF authorities, left to decide what is "improper music or behaviour".
In a statement published Friday, a source in the Tehran police headquarters said: "Regarding the spread of decadent Western culture in society (the police) is seriously confronting the propagators of corruption."
"Though it is possible that once told about the negative impacts of the measures over Iran’s diplomatic relations and economic trade with outside world, particularly Europe, some conservatives decide to ease their decision, but in the context of Iranian judicial laws, it is highly improbable that they would be suspended, at least in the near future", Mr. Khalaji commented. ENDS IRAN TALEBANISATION 22801