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October 28, 2006

I Want to Intervene
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Heart-wrenching stuff. Via Eteraz, this is a letter written by a son whose mother was stoned to death in Iran. Do you want to understand the psyche of a "liberal interventionist"? Well, when I read this, I want to intervene. There you go.


I read your recent article about stoning to death.

Reading your article reminded me of the bleeding bruises in my heart once again.

You wrote about murdering by stoning?

Have you ever held a bloody tool in your hands with which they have murdered your mother?

Have you ever touched the bloody skin and hair of your mother who has just been killed in a deep hole?

Have you ever followed the line of your mother’s blood in order to find her corpse thrown at the back of a truck?

Have you ever seen the fresh grave of that dearest being with a small piece of paper on which they have written her name wrapped around a small branch of tree?

Has anyone ever said a word about the children of the people who have been stoned to death?

I was fourteen and now I am forty.

To quote psychologists, I am one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I am fortunate, because despite this contempt in my life I have been able to continue my higher education and find myself a wife, children and a credible job without letting a single black spot remain in my life.

Do you even understand what it means to be the child of a person who has been shamefully stoned to death?

If Islamic clerics tell you that you could not win over the Islamic laws, they have, indeed told you the truth.

My mother used to tell me that she had become a sex-worker in order to feed us and to support us. She used to command us in being real men. She used to tell us to stand on our own feet and to never lose our hope in Ali (the first imam in shiasm).

Seriously who would want to sell her body, to sell her sex to anonymous men except for those women who have no other way of feeding their children?

If the husband knows how to make money, the wife and the mother of the family does not have to go and seek customers.

The economic situation needs to improve and single mothers or those mothers whose husbands do not have the ability or the willpower to work, should be able to seek help from the government.

You must establish an organization for supporting these women. It does not have to be a very rich organization in the beginning. No one has the right to condemn you for seeking financial support from different sources for these types of support organizations. Women like my mother who was eventually stoned to death need your help. They need the world’s help and support. Their forgotten families, too, need the world’s help. Help them!

Executing people for having not immoral actions is not going to have an effective result.

Tell me how many people have been executed and stoned to death since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in Iran…What is the result of all of this violence other than the fact that the evil is now truly dominating our society?

I never forget the last words of my mother’s Islamic judge:

“I issued a verdict for stoning this woman to death so that other individuals learn a lesson from her doomed fate and to avoid sins of such nature. To execute by shooting would not have made her suffer enough!”

Alas. Twenty six years ago my mother was stoned to death before my eyes. Has these women’s tragic fate helped our society improve? Statistics show that the rates of prostitution and corruption have increased exponentially.

God bless you!



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Wanting to intervene, in theory, and thinking it's a good idea to intervene, in reality, are two very different things.

Are you saying the latter, or just the former?

Uh oh. Don't worry - when I say "intervene," I am by no means talking about "military intervention." I simply mean that if things like this are going on, it would be irresponsible for us to take an isolationist approach. As Americans and liberals, hearing such reports of persecution should stir in us a desire to do something. Of course, what that "something" is much a matter for debate.

Ah. That's certainly fair, though I don't think "anti-isolationism" is what most people think of when they hear the phrase "liberal interventionist". And of course, the fun debate exists in determining the "something" to which you refer.

Remember a few years back there was a scandal about somebody in texas dragging a black man behind his truck until the body disintegrated?

And there have been a few reports about homosexuals getting kidnapped and killed by homophobes?

And the occasional bombing of abortion clinics, sometimes with loss of life.

And our prisons are in atrocious shape. Officially most of it is that we let prisoners mistreat each other, but it appears there's a lot of abuse by guards too. The pregnancy rate among female prisoners can't be due to abuse by other prisoners.

We'd hear a lot more about such things if we had political motivation to make ourselves look bad. Not unlikely we'd hear as much bad stuff here as we hear about places we don't like.

Sure, it's very bad what the rednecks of other countries do, but we need to take care of our own problems first. "Shoot your own dog."

Once America is a place liberals can be truly proud of, then we can start reforming the cultural practices of the rest of the world. At the moment it's a big premature.

J Thomas, it sounds like you're an isolationist.

Shadi, it's a sad commentary on our current impasse that I would look like an isolationist.

I do want to suggest some simple rules, that we should follow most of the time. We don't get to "reform" cultures we disapprove of, any more than they get to "reform" us.

We don't get to invade other countries because we disapprove of them. We don't even get to invade them because we think they're a potential threat. It's true that if we wait to invade other countries until they actually do something to us that we'll get hurt more and we'll have a harder war. But recent experience has confirmed that we aren't good at deciding when to start wars. We do better to have the harder war on somebody else's schedule than a larger number of wars on our own schedule.

We might occasionally invade somebody just because we think we need to. We might invade panama for that reason again, and maybe again after that. We should tell the panamanians that we're doing it because we think we need to, and that we'll try to minimise the inconvenience to them within our need. Perhaps quote the Melian Dialogue at them. Don't pretend we're doing it for democracy or for their own good.

It's OK for christians to send missionaries wherever they can get a visa. It's even OK for christians to send missionaries illegally into countries that won't give them visas. It's not OK for the US Marines to invade those countries to protect the missionaries. If you want to "reform" other cultures, you do it at your own risk.

If we want to show other countries a good example of democracy and nonviolent cultural accomodation etc, we need to actually show them a good example. Our race relations are not a good example. Our relations with fundamentalist christians are not a good example.

About things like the horror story that the opening to this thread presented, I have the following suggestion:

Arrange bilateral treaties with as many nations as we can. Whenever they have a judicial case that involves capital punishment, they should give us a chance to review the case and decide whether we want to take the detainee to live in our country, all transportation etc expenses ours. And whenever we have somebody on death row we give them a chance to decide whether they want to take the prisoner to live in their country, all expenses theirs.

That wouldn't handle the problem of lynch mobs in either country, but it would give us as much say as we deserve in judicial stonings in muslim countries. Before we consider military action against nations we disapprove of for sharia law, we should take the opportunity to save the lives that would otherwise be lost.

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