Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani may not have long to live. International outrage over Iran's plan to stone to death the 43-year-old mother of two appears to have dissuaded it from going forward with that particular barbarity. But Ashtiani is not free. Her case is now under review by Iran's Supreme Court, and a final verdict could come as soon as next week. A state-run television news program, however, announced that she would not be executed during the month of Ramadan, which ends Sept. 9, and that instead of being stoned, she is to hang.
Exactly why is Ashtiani to die? At first, the judiciary announced that she would be executed for committing adultery. Then, caught off-guard by the international response, the government put her on television and implied that she was also involved in her husband's killing. But if Iran hoped the broadcast of Ashtiani giving a "confession" would sway world opinion, it was mistaken. Rather, the blurry telecast, in which her face was obscured and her words dubbed from her native Azeri into Persian, only emphasized her powerlessness. It reminded the world that Ashtiani is the victim of a regime that oppresses women, violates international accords regarding the treatment of prisoners and is cavalier in its disregard of human rights.