By Bahman ahmadi-amouee
Vali Asr Roundabout, Tuesday, 14 August 2008 7pm
‘The person you observe, Mr …., son of …, has been sentenced to eighty lashes for drinking wine.’ This was the voice of a person speaking through the police vehicle’s loudspeaker, introducing one by one the individuals found guilty of drinking wine, harassing females, adultery, and so on.
A large crowd had gathered on the north-western side of the roundabout. Some were hanging from trees; others had climbed on top of the railings around the roundabout. The crowd had spread to the middle of the street. A massive traffic jam had been created.
The presence of an ambulance and a crane, usually used to tow away vehicles, had given rise to speculation that they might be planning to execute someone. Four police vehicles had formed a circle a few meters away and a large number of motor-cycles of different makes were parked in one corner. A young man, with bare torso, was tied to the cage of a van with straps.
A man, sitting behind the loudspeaker in the police vehicle was reading a verse from the Qor’an’s ‘Nour’ (Light) chapter, about the implementation of religious sentences on those violating divine laws. He then said: ‘In line with the policies of Greater Tehran’s Justice Office, Islamic sentences for offenders – those who harass girls outside their schools, or drink wine or commit adultery – will be enforced in public, in the offender’s place of residence. The Disciplinary Force, the Mobilization Force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the police stations are cooperating in the implementation of this plan. Telephone number … at the Guidance Judicial Complex, dedicated to the fight against the cultural offensive, is at the service of the dear fellow citizens, so they can provide us with any information that they may have. The person you observe …’
A conscript serving with the Disciplinary Force, wearing white gloves and tightly holding on to the ring at the end of a leather whip, was standing next to the accused. Another man, in civilian clothes, oversized green trousers, short-sleeved pink T-shirt and white gloves, holding on to a leather whip, with his hands behind his back, was pacing up and down, waiting for the completion of the preparations for the enforcement of the sentence.
They rolled up the trouser legs of the accused; took off his socks; and tied his feet together with a rope so he could not move. This way, the whip would easily land wherever it was aimed.
The conscript struck the first lashes. He would swing the whip around in the sky and bring it down hard: one, two, three, four, … forty. When he got tired, the man in civilian clothes took over. He was aiming at the shins. This man struck a lot more firmly and professionally. He also struck a few lashes on the back of the accused.
The man accused of having drunk wine was less than 25 years old. He was biting on a piece of cloth so he would not cry out. He would writhe with every blow. A few times, he fainted. And the lashes were still falling. The man holding the whip would swing it above his shoulder, around his head, bringing it down in such a way that its tip would land on the body of the convict.
In less than five minutes, the white skin on the back of the accused had turned completely black. If you looked carefully, you could also see streaks of blood. They untied his hands. The man sitting behind the loudspeaker said in a commanding voice: ‘Put your on shirt and get inside the minibus.’
The minibus was parked in a corner and they would take the prisoners out of it one by one. Two agents would tie them to the van. There were also several others, pen and paper in hand, apparently monitoring the enforcement of the sentences and counting the number of lashes. The Disciplinary Force conscripts kept warning the public to ‘Go away. Don’t get close to the vehicle.’
The next person, looking about 23, had been sentenced to 100 lashes for having had sex with an unmarried woman. The agents enforcing the sentence forgot to tie his feet. No sooner had the first lash landed on his body than he cried out ‘Don’t hit me’, and he threw his feet towards to the conscript, thinking that would stop the lashing.
Along with his cries, the public also shouted out in protest. The person sitting behind the loudspeaker said in a loud and dry voice: ‘No one has the right to oppose the enforcement of divine laws. The brothers serving with the Disciplinary Force, arrest anyone who is causing disturbance.’ They got hold of a couple of people and dragged them into the minibus, accusing them of causing disturbance. The public went quiet.
The soldiers took their big green batons out of the trunks of the police vehicles and adopted an offensive posture. A few plain clothes agents were also sitting in unmarked cars, weapons in hand. The agents tied the young man’s feet, and the person in civilian clothes carried out the whipping. With an angrier expression on his face, he struck the lashes. Up and down.
Another person’s name was called out of the loudspeaker: ‘According to Article 179 of the Islamic Penal Code, should anyone who has been punished three times for having violated the divine laws commit yet another offense, he should be killed. Praise the Prophet and make the spirit of the Lord of the Time [the 12th Shi’ite Imam] happy.’
From the top of all the buildings overlooking the roundabout, lots of men and women were watching the proceedings. The constant honking of the buses and cars was a sign of how angry the drivers were because of the traffic jam. The number of people standing around to watch was increasing by the minute. Those who had just arrived would ask: ‘What’s going on? What offenses did these guys commit?’
The whipping of ten people accused of various offenses took about one hour. The man sitting behind the loudspeaker thanked the public, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Mobilization Force, the staff at the police station, and the Disciplinary force, before saying: ‘Disciplinary Force agents! Disperse the crowd.’
A large number of plainclothes men, carrying mobile phones and walkie-talkies, were moving among tmhe crowd. Someone said: ‘Haji! Call the guys on the wireless and tell them the filming is over. The punishment is finished and we must go.’
The plain clothes agent who had been whipping the accused took his gloves off; bundled up the whip; put it in a red plastic bag; and hung it from the handlebars of his motorbike. He then took a black shirt out of a bag and put it on. He unlocked the motorbike and rode away, another person sitting behind him. His face was covered in sweat and he looked unnerved by the heavy gaze of the public. Three men had encircled him to make sure he would not get harassed.
At this moment, he turned to two women with heavy makeup who were passing through the crowd and said: ‘Sort out your hijab!’ The man accompanying the two women said: ‘She’s my wife. You should have pure eyes and avoid ogling!’ One of the three agents walked towards to the man, pushed him and said: ‘So what if she’s your wife? Didn’t you see how we punished these guys just now? Why wouldn’t you learn a lesson?’
It had become dark. The traffic jam was still making the drivers mad and the public were leaving the roundabout one by one. Ten minutes later, there was neither sign of the ‘Special Guidance Advisors Patrol’, nor of the plain clothes men and their walkie-talkies. And the public were moving about the roundabout as usual.
Published on Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee’s weblog
Translated by Hossein shahidi