While the punishment appears for the moment to have been postponed, there is another horrible, barbarous story out of Iran. This time it’s not the stoning of a woman but the deliberate blinding of a man. He is alleged to have blinded a woman by throwing acid in her face when she spurned his advances. A Iranian court has now decided to order that he be blinded in return.
While there was a (justified) international outcry over the threat that a woman would be stoned, there has been none—at least that I’m aware of—over this latest barbarity. The man should, of course, be severely punished (if he is found guilty of doing what he is alleged to have done, just as the woman should be punished if she did commit murder), but the idea that the proposed punishment (in either case) “fits the crime” is horrible.
If I try to work out what is horrible about it, I think that it’s the continued acceptance of the old idea of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. You don’t lift a culture of violence out of that propensity by giving the state the power, not simply to punish its citizens, but to maim, disfigure or kill them; you simply give in to people’s worst instincts. I suppose that I have the same visceral response to this punishment as I have to the death penalty: no matter how heinous the crime, we simply provide by our own savagery an example that can only do more harm. The fact that, from a legal point of view, a maiming or a killing once done can’t be undone, makes the whole process even more appalling. The culture where such punishments are possible—a fortiori if they are common—demeans its values, or at least the values that I believe it should aspire to. It’s time that every culture (and country) shook off the ideas that might have seemed natural 1,000 or even 200 years ago.