Nowruz is the festival of renewal and rebirth. This year it will be a new day for Mokarrameh Ebrahimi. She has been released from an Iranian prison after eleven years. Convicted of adultery, she and her partner, Jafar Kiani, were sentenced to death by stoning. That sentence was carried out against Mr. Kiani in July 2007, to the horror of people inside and outside Iran.
Ms. Ebrahimi’s lawyer is Shadi Sadr, a founder of the Stop Stoning Forever campaign. The campaign seeks to overturn the law in Iran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for adultery.
In 2002, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, announced a ban on stoning. Yet the practice continues. Recently Iran’s supreme court rejected an appeal by two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri, who were convicted of adultery last year and sentenced to death by stoning. Before Ms. Ebrahimi was released, Amnesty International said that eleven women and two men face execution by stoning in Iran.
Ms. Sadr said that her client was released on the orders of the Iranian judiciary’s amnesty commission, in what she called “a rare ruling.” “I cannot tell how the commission came up with this decision,” Ms. Sadr said. “Whether it was our defense, top clerics’ rulings against stoning, or Ayatollah Shahrudi’s decree. But you cannot deny the role of public opinion and domestic and international pressure,” she said.
Azar Nafisi is a scholar at Johns Hopkins University and author of the best-selling memoir "Reading Lolita in Tehran." She says it is important for the Iranian people to know that their plight does not go unnoticed:
"Let them know that they're not alone. I lived in Iran for eighteen years after the revolution. One of the worst things is when you think you're alone – that nobody knows about you and nobody cares."
In a written statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed concern about the “growing number of cases [in Iran] in which the death sentence is imposed after trails that were neither fair nor transparent. We are troubled” he said, “that individuals are being sentenced to death, including by stoning, for crimes that do not meet the standards outlined in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified.”