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Iran carries out an ‘eye for an eye’ punishment — literally

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 3/7/2015 Abby Phillip
Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman was blinded in an acid attack by a man who she had refused to marry. © Manu Fernandez/AP Photo Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman was blinded in an acid attack by a man who she had refused to marry.

A man convicted of attacking someone with acid five years ago was punished at an Iranian prison by having his left eye gouged out, according to reports.

The practice of carrying out a literal "eye for an eye" punishment, based on the principle "qisas" in Sharia law, is exceptionally rare in Iran.

The man, who was not named, was partly blinded by medics at the demand of his victim, who has the ability to make a final decision, the Guardian reported, citing the Iranian state newspaper Hamshahri.

The punishment was carried out at the Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday. The man was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison — and to having both of his eyes gouged out. But his victim postponed the gouging of his right eye for another six months.

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Retributive justice of this kind is highly controversial in Iran. And among human right activists, it is considered akin to torture.

“This is horrific,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam of the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group told Newsweek. “It is a brutal and criminal act, and very similar to what Islamic State is doing, but Iran is doing this as a state in a very controlled manner, using trained doctors. This form of punishment doesn’t belong to our time. What is happening in Iran at the moment is beyond alarming.”

Alarm has been growing recently in Iran over the increasing frequency of vicious acid attacks — many of them targeting women who are perceived to be in violation of the country's conservative dress and behavior restrictions.

Protesters took to the streets last year to condemn such attacks. And President Hassan Rouhani appeared to be sympathetic to their cause, The Post reported:

“It is upon all Muslims to exhort love, respect for others and human dignity," Rouhani reportedly said Wednesday, a comment that was widely perceived as being in support of the protesters....

A second "eye for an eye" punishment was also supposed to have been carried out this week, according to reports. The man was convicted of throwing acid on Davood Roshanaei, causing him to lose an eye and an ear.

But that sentence apparently was postponed because of the difficulty finding a doctor willing to do it, according to the New York Daily News:

It was the second time the sentence was postponed after a medical staff refused to perform the surgery in January.

This latest revival of qisas comes several years after the high-profile case of Ameneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman who was blinded in an acid attack by a man who she had refused to marry.

Bahrami controversially lobbied for her attacker to be punished in the same way that she was attacked. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Iran's former judiciary head, urged Bahrami at the time to accept a payment instead.

"Shahroudi really pressed me to demand blood money instead of retribution. He explained that such a sentence would cause lots of bad publicity for Iran. But I refused," she told The Post in 2008. 

Ultimately, Bahrami changed her mind.

"It is best to pardon when you are in a position of power," Bahrami said in 2011.

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