I am sickened by reading about the horrible stoning of a 17 year old Kurdish girl. Apparently now the video is available on the Internet. Of course, I will not watch the video or link to it, but I’ve read descriptions of other stonings (and videos of stonings). Apparently it’s somewhat common in the Arab world (according to John David Powell, in a shocking description). The most horrifying thing about these events is that the perpetrators are motivated by religious self-righteousness.
What’s new of course is that these things are being videotaped. It was uploaded to youtube and to other less scrupulous sites. I have mixed feelings about this, not entirely negative. It’s one thing to read an account; it’s quite another to see someone being victimized, to hear their cries. Once, in a car on the way to work, I heard on BBC (!) audio of an Egyptian man being raped. Its newsworthiness was justified because someone videotaped it with their cellphone and put it on the Internet, where it was passed around over and over again. So I’m driving on a Houston freeway and hearing 8 seconds of a man’s yelling. And I ask, why?
The most bizzare thing is that the source of these videos have tended to be not human rights advocates but gleeful witnesses wanting to preserve the delicious memory of a savage killing. (The same thing happened in Abu Graib where US soldiers photographed themselves humiliating Iraqis). For that reason, the cameraman usually is granted a choice seat and the freedom to shoot it all from a desirable camera angle.
There is much inhumanity in this world. My petty complaints and self-absorption pale by comparison. (I had in fact sat down before my PC to begin a short story; god, why?). I am generally not a fan of video surveillance (I fear Big Brother more than anyone), but if blanketing the world with video surveillance cameras prevents just one or two such crimes, I would reconsider my opposition. Such an event is an outrage. If the publication of a video helps to raise public awareness and ultimately public pressure, it cannot be a bad thing.
Update: Let’s not forget state-sanctioned stonings in places like Iran. Amnesty International notes:
The Iranian Penal Code prescribes stoning to death for Hodoud offences (crimes with fixed as opposed to discretionary punishments) such as adultery and prostitution. The Penal Code is very specific about the type of stones to be used. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery: ”…the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could not be defined as stones”.
It is clear that the punishment of stoning is designed to cause the victim grievous pain before death. The UN Commission on Human Rights earlier this month expressed concern at ”continued executions [in Iran] in the apparent absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards, in particular public and especially cruel executions, such as by stoning” (UN Document E/CN.4/2002/L.33 11 April 2002).