Lashing and Flogging: Islam and Iran

Vicious and inhumane punishments are on the rise in the Muslim world.

The ruling clerics of Iran are increasing their reliance on public flogging not only for punishing people, but also for threatening those who are violating minor Islamic and Sharia laws. 

Public lashing is orchestrated for several reasons, including to punish the person who has violated Sharia laws, impose fear in the society, humiliate the victims and cause psychological harms to the individuals.

Holding a girlfriend/boyfriend’s hand, kissing in public (even for a married couple), listening to music, drinking alcohol and wearing non-Islamic dress can all be grounds for flogging under the Islamic law of Iran. As an Iranian prosecutor, Esmail Sadeghi Niaraki, who recently arrested people for “dancing and jubilating,“ said, “We hope this [flogging] will be a lesson for those who break Islamic norms in private places.”

Yesterday, according to Iran’s state-owned news agency, Tasnim, Iranian officials arrested 150 young people for being at a mixed-gender birthday party in the city of Islamshahr, close to the capital of Tehran. Young people who are arrested for attending mixed-gender parties are often fined, flogged, beaten and sometimes raped.

According to Colonel Mohsen Khancherli, Iran’s police commander for the west of Tehran Province:

“After we obtained a report about a mixed-gender party in a garden in the vicinity of Islamshahr in the west of Tehran Province, an operation was carried out by the police and another organization, leading to the arrest of dozens of boys and girls.”

He added:

“Some 150 boys and girls had gathered at the mixed-gender party under the guise of a birthday party in this garden which is situated next to a studio where unlawful music was produced and recorded. Upon arrival of the police, all those present were arrested and sent before the judiciary.”

A few weeks ago, more than 30 college students were arrested, and within 24 hours the judge ordered each to receive 99 lashes for attending a graduation party. In the last two months, approximately 600 people have been arrested, fined and lashed for celebrating.

In this video, a teenager is being lashed for helping a girl whom the moral police were attempting to arrest for wearing bad hijab. He can be heard begging for mercy.

According to Ismaeil Sadeqi Niaraki, a top Iranian cleric, Iran will not tolerate “freedom” or “having fun.” He praised the moral police for arresting and punishing those who break the Islamic laws: “Thanks [sic] God that the police questioning, investigation, court hearing, verdict and implementation of the punishment all took place in less than 24 hours.”

According to Chapter III of the Iranian Islamic constitution, Enforcement of Sentences of Flogging, Article 27:  “Flogging will be administered by a woven leather belt of approximately one meter in length and one-and-a-half centimeter in width.” The penal code goes on detailing how one should be flogged:

Article 32: Enforcement of _hadd_ for female convicts will be carried out while the convict is in a sitting position with her body fully covered by clothing.

Article 33: Flogging for male convicts will be administered while the convict is in a standing position.  For adultery, sodomy, and consumption of alcohol, there will be no clothing other than coverage of private organs, and for _qazf_ or pandering, flogging will be administered over regular clothing.

Flogging is banned according to international law. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture prohibit torture and “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” Various organizations within the United Nations, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and the UN Human Rights Committee, equate flogging with inhumane and cruel punishments.

Nevertheless, despite all the laws banning flogging, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to use these kinds egregious punishments without feeling any pressure from the media or from international organizations. This highlights the fact that Iran is actually widening its crackdown as it is receiving sanctions relief and gaining more revenue.