Iran: Children and Nukes

Nov. 2, 2004 22:51  | Updated Nov. 3, 2004 16:52


While the world is busy contemplating the appropriate response to the looming Iranian nuclear threat – be it a European grand bargain, a covert operation, or a sophisticated military assault – life in Teheran appears to be running its normal course: celebrating uranium enrichment, developing a longer-range Shihab-3 missile and, of course, promoting the rule of law.

The rule of law, make no mistake, is a major preoccupation of the Islamic Republic. For it is not only determined to implement its mullah-style justice at home but also keen to export it, along with other “achievements” of its 25 years of theocratic rule.

Just last week, for example, in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Iranian paramilitary Bassij force sought authorization to send observers to the United States to monitor the presidential elections.

“The presence of observers from the Islamic republic of Iran, the most democratic regime in the world, is necessary to guarantee the smooth running of the American elections,” pontificated Saeed Toutunchian, a Bassij spokesman.

But the would-be Iranian observers, rather than worry about the validity of a Florida ballot, should find time in their busy schedules to enforce democracy and justice at home.

In mid-October, a 13-year-old schoolgirl was sentenced to death by stoning in the northwestern city of Marivan for having an incestuous relationship with her 15-year-old brother.

Zhila Izadi, who had become pregnant, was convicted of committing “moral sin” and giving birth to an “unholy child.” Her brother, who would have otherwise been accused of rape, was given a sentence of 150 lashes.

Under mounting international pressure, the clerical regime retracted Zhila’s stoning sentence a week later and announced that she would serve time in prison instead.

Last August, the regime executed Atefeh Rajabi, a 16-year-old-girl who allegedly had a “sexual relationship with an unmarried man.” Rajabi, an orphan who suffered years of abuse by her relatives, was apparently raped during interrogation by the very judge who had sentenced her to death.

Rajabi was hanged in public in the northern town of Neka. The presiding judge personally put the noose around her neck, saying she was being executed for her “sharp tongue.”

THE MULLAHS’ love and affection for Iranian children does not end there.

On October 18 the Supreme Court upheld the execution sentences of three teenage boys, the Iran Focus news site reported. The boys are being held in the Center for Reform and Education (juvenile prison) until they turn 18, when they will be executed.

Last month a 16-year-old Afghan boy, Feyz Mohammad, was sentenced to death for alleged drug smuggling. Five other teenagers are also on death row.

The execution of Atefeh Rajabi was the tenth execution of a minor in Iran since 1990, according to Amnesty International.

These children join thousands of other schoolchildren killed when they were sent, plastic “keys to heaven” around their necks, to sweep the mine fields during the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The list of child victims grows to tens of thousands when one adds the thousands of teenagers executed for political reasons since 1979.

As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is bound not to execute child offenders. Both treaties provide that capital punishment shall not be imposed for offenses committed by persons under 18 at the time of committing the offence.

Iranian justice, however, is above all that.

In the coming weeks the world will continue its debate over the handling of the Iranian nuclear question. Countries of goodwill may try to reason with the Iranian mullahs in an attempt to reach an agreement that would slow down Iran’s nuclear program.

If the abject failure of the previous agreements with Teheran are any indication, however, this exercise will also fail. Iran’s theocracy will do anything and everything to get the nukes.

And when they succeed, one can easily imagine what a regime that cares so little about its own children may do to the children of the “infidel” world.

“What might save us, me and you, is that the Russians love their children too,” observed the singer Sting in 1987 as he reflected on the Cold War.

In Iran under mullahs, unfortunately, we may not be so lucky.

Nir Boms is the vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East ( Reza Bulorchi is the executive director of the US Alliance for Democratic Iran (

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