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Disfigured Woman Hails 'Eye-For-An-Eye' Blinding Of Attacker In Iran

  • RFE/RL

Ameneh Bahrami, in Barcelona for one of more than a dozen operations since the attack, holds a photograph of herself before Majid Movahedi dumped a bucket of acid on her outside her workplace in 2004.

Ameneh Bahrami, in Barcelona for one of more than a dozen operations since the attack, holds a photograph of herself before Majid Movahedi dumped a bucket of acid on her outside her workplace in 2004.

An Iranian woman who was blinded and badly disfigured by an acid attack by a spurned suitor has expressed strong support for a retributive blinding sentence to be carried out against her attacker.

The court-ordered plan for "retribution in kind" is to place five drops of sulfuric acid in each of Majid Movahedi's eyes for the 2004 incident, when he poured a bucket of acid on Ameneh Bahrami, ultimately leaving her blind and forcing her to undergo at least 17 operations.

The acid drops were scheduled to be administered at a hospital in the Iranian capital on May 14, but the blinding has now been postponed. Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency, which reported the postponment, gave no reason and did not reveal the source of the announcement.

Bahrami, now 32, has insisted on Movahedi's blinding despite being urged by the court to accept financial compensation from the attacker's family instead.

Since the judgment was handed down in 2008, Iranian and international rights activists have expressed horror at the prospect of its implementation by a state ostensibly bound by international agreements prohibiting cruel and inhumane punishment.

'I Wish I Could Drip It Myself'

Bahrami reiterated her strong support for the retributive sentence in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda on the eve of its planned implementation, saying she was "happy" that Movahedi's blinding was finally taking place.

"I wish I could drip it myself," Bahrami told RFE/RL on May 13. "Many times when I was dripping medical drops into my eyes -- I always do it myself -- I thought it's possible."

She added: "I wanted to touch [his] eyes and then pour the acid, but I thought it's not [possible] because my hands might burn, so a physician will be there and will do it."

Rights group Amnesty International has appealed to Iranian authorities to prevent the sentence being carried out and pointed out that "obliging a doctor to administer such a punishment would violate international medical ethics codes."

In a statement on the group's website, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, expresses disbelief that "Iranian authorities would consider implementing such a punishment."

"Regardless of how horrific the crime suffered by Ameneh Bahrami, being blinded with acid is a cruel and inhuman punishment amounting to torture," Sahraoui is quoted as saying, "and the Iranian authorities have a responsibility under international law to ensure it does not go ahead."

'Not The Solution'

Islamic jurisprudence adheres to the notion of an "eye for an eye" under a principle known as "qisas."

Bahrami insisted that "this is not revenge" but acknowledged that "I want to punish" the attacker.

"I want to make sure other women will not suffer like me," she told Radio Farda.

There are no reliable statistics available on the number of acid attacks against women in Iran.

Maria Rashidi, a Swedish-based women's rights activist and herself the victim of an acid attack, suggests that Movahedi's sentence would not prevent such crimes.

"This is the spreading of barbarism, the spreading of violence in society," says Rashidi, who lost part of her eyesight in an attack by her husband and has undergone numerous surgeries.

"I've thought about this for years in hospital beds," Rashidi says. "'Qisas' is not the solution -- what Ameneh needs is really good treatment."

Moral Dilemma?

Amnesty International says one of the procedures that Ameneh underwent was an effort in a Spanish hospital to reconstruct her face.

She has tried to raise money through the Internet for her mounting medical bills and said some Iranians have offered her to help raise fund for her medical treatment but have also asked her to stop the sentence against her attacker.

"Today some asked me how much money will make me give up the sentence," Bahrami said. "I said if I receive 2 million euros, I will give it up. They said, 'Give us some time.' I said I have waited for two years, I've talked about it in newspapers, my future has to be insured and not only my future, I have to know other [victims] will receive help. But unfortunately I found out that people like me are left alone in Iran, they are on their own."

Bahrami's case and her demand for Movahedi to be blinded have received widespread attention among Iranians. Many say they support Bahrami and believe Movahedi will get what he deserves.

A Radio Farda listener who identified herself as Massoumeh from Tehran offered support for the woman who had a normal life snatched from her in her 20s, saying: "None of us can put [ourself] in Ameneh's place. But I think Ameneh's [decision] is very right, because this is not the first time something like this is happening in this country -- this should be a lesson for others."

Others have called on Bahrami to give up her demand for retribution, saying that the sentence will only breed more violence.

Ameneh Bahrami was interviewed by Radio Farda broadcaster Niusha Boghrati; written by Golnaz Esfandiari in Washington with Andy Heil in Prague

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