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An Eye for an Eye: Justice or Injustice, Poetic or Barbaric?
December 29, 2008 11:23 AM   Subscribe

"At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid,"
Four years ago, a spurned suitor poured a bucket of sulfuric acid over [Ameneh Bahrami's] head, leaving her blind and disfigured. Late last month, an Iranian court ordered that five drops of the same chemical be placed in each of her attacker's eyes, acceding to Bahrami's demand that he be punished according to a principle in Islamic jurisprudence that allows a victim to seek retribution for a crime. The sentence has not yet been carried out.

If you're not familiar with acid attacks against women, you can start with Wikipedia.
Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims (usually at their faces), burning them, damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. These attacks are common in Cambodia, Afganistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and other Asian countries.
Acid attacks are being used in Afghanistan against women and girls to as part of an effort to oppress them. Specifically, girls who attend school are being targeted to prevent them from getting an education.

In India, Haseena Hussain, the victim of an acid attack, now works with the Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW).

In Pakistan, a cosmetics company is trying to help women who are the victims of arson and acid attacks.

Nicholas Kristof wrote an article about acid attacks last month, "Terrorism That’s Personal" which discusses a Pakistani organization, the Progressive Women's Association: Fighting Against the Horror of Violence Against Women working to stop this sort of violence and an effort being made by the US Congress to pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

[Previously on Metafilter, the story of Tat Marina a model/karaoke star who was the victim of a December 1999 acid attack in Cambodia.]
posted by davidstandaford (263 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems fair to me.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 AM on December 29, 2008


It is barbaric, and yet i could not come up with a better solution.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 11:33 AM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2008 [20 favorites]


It's awfully hard to have any sympathy for the guy who blinded Ameneh Bahrami from the story, it sounds as though he was an obsessive stalker who barely knew the woman, but decided to destroy her life simply because she (rather politely) rejected his offer of marriage.

I don't know how I feel about blinding someone as punishment, but I'm not going to be outside the Iranian embassy protesting when this man gets acid dipped in his eyes either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2008 [12 favorites]


Only if after they drop the acid in his eyes they hold his eyelids shut for a while...

Maybe hold them shut until they can get him to the middle of some desert and leave him?
posted by Chan at 11:35 AM on December 29, 2008


An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

True. But it levels the playing field.
posted by davidmsc at 11:36 AM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


The... ah, colorfulness of Islamic law that tickles your vengeance bone here will please you less well when applied to a woman accused of adultery - or a teenager accused of being gay.

Sorry, folks. You don't get one without the other.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2008 [70 favorites]


I meant to include something about "an eye for an eye" and totally forgot.

From Wikipedia:
The phrase "an eye for an eye", (Hebrew: עין תחת עין‎ ayin takhat ayin)(in arabic "العين بالعين") is a quotation from Exodus 21:23–27 in which a person who has taken the eye of another in a fight is instructed to give his own eye in compensation. At the root of the non-Biblical form of this principle is that one of the purposes of the law is to provide equitable retaliation for an offended party. It defined and restricted the extent of retaliation. [emphasis mine]
Meaning, the initial formulation of "an eye for an eye" wasn't as a warning to prevent such punishments, but to encourage them because the custom at the time was to respond with an even harsher punishment to a crime. The phrase was trying to instill a sense that you would engage in an equal punishment, and not something even more harsh.
posted by davidstandaford at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2008 [26 favorites]


An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
I'm not as keen on accepting Ghandi's word as gospel since I learned that he thought the Jews could stop the holocaust through the use of his non-violent protest techniques. That's stupid.

I agree with CautionToTheWind. I want to think of a better punishment, but he stole this young woman's entire life for no reason. I don't think a fine or a short prison sentence really goes far enough to dissuade others from doing this.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


The... ah, colorfulness of Islamic law that tickles your vengeance bone here will please you less well when applied to a woman accused of adultery - or a teenager accused of being gay.

I dunno. I guess you could also say that in the West we don't get Obama without Prop 8.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm appalled at the sentence, but also the crime, so I'm not sure what a better solution would be. An Iranian prison for life? Perhaps if he had a choice between the two?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:45 AM on December 29, 2008


Actually, if this punishment makes other men hesitate (if only out of self-preservation) before doing the same thing to another woman, it will actually be preventing more blindness. Soooo, with all due respect to Gandhi and dunkadunc... while I'd normally agree with it, on a literal level that quote actually doesn't quite seem to work for this particular situation.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:46 AM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


The... ah, colorfulness of Islamic law that tickles your vengeance bone here will please you less well when applied to a woman accused of adultery - or a teenager accused of being gay.

I certainly think those things could be decoupled. And certainly they can be considered in isolation.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The main difference between this and straightforward seeking of revenge is that it's gone through a court system. This isn't her and her family looking to go attack the guy, which could result in his family going after hers, etc. This is the operation of the ordinary justice system. One we don't like in most cases, but here I think it's OK.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Another post about LSD? Oh. Wait. This is the bad kind of acid.

Does anybody here have enough experience with medicine and the human body or whatever to give us an idea of how badly this would hurt? Throwing a bucket off acid in someone's face (I assume) would be painful enough to send someone straight into shock.... what would dripping it slowly into someone's eyes, counting each drop... yeah. Would that destroy the eyeballs completely? Just curious, I guess.
posted by Bageena at 11:50 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes. An eye for an eye leaves two people half blind. Ghandi really went reductio ad absurdum on that one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:50 AM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


While deterrence based punishment is iffy at best, it's better to look at this as a powerful symbolic message: under traditional Islamic law, it's not ok to do this.

Eye for an eye might not be restorative justice, on the other hand, when you're not in a position of power, you take whatever justice you can get.
posted by yeloson at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


The punishment seems a bit too sadistic. And yes, the attack most definitely was, but is the answer to violence equally barbaric violence? I'm not so sure. This doesn't seem like a good idea. (Like much of the Iranian system of justice.)
posted by chunking express at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


How is this different from the death penalty for murderers? Despite some half-hearted rhetoric about rehabilitation, retribution still seems to be the foundation of the justice system in the United States too. I tend to favor restorative justice approaches.
posted by overglow at 11:54 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The attacker should be jailed, possibly for life, but this is just too much. I don't see how anyone could think this is an appropriate method of punishment without excepting the whole of its consequences. That is to say, you think you want this - but really you don't.

I guess you could also say that in the West we don't get Obama without Prop 8.

No, I don't think you could say that and be considered rational.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:55 AM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I honestly don't know what to say about this.

Because on the one hand -- yes, there's something wonderfully Dante-esque about the specificness of its punishment. And it does trigger a vengeance-seeking instinct in my part, and delmoi is right about how this is a court-sanctioned thing.

On the other hand. This, folks, is "cruel and unusual punishment." The whole reason for outlawing cruel and unusual punishment means that for every time we have people like me saying guys like him getting blinded with acid is suitable and just, we also have guys like him who think women like me getting publically flogged for exposing my ankle is also suitable and just. Two different opinions, two different scales of punishment, both motivated by barbarism.

No. If you want fair punishment for all, you have to really make it be for all. Even when you really, really, really want to get Medieval on someone's ass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on December 29, 2008 [19 favorites]


If the punishment is actually carried out, something tells me it will involve watered-down acid that causes pain and maybe some minor damage, but nothing near what the victim suffered and continues to suffer.
posted by brain_drain at 12:01 PM on December 29, 2008


The main problem with this sort of justice is that innocent people will end up executed and or maimed for life. No court system is infallible. Yes, an innocent person being sentenced to a very long stay in prison is bad, but it's not so bloody final. New evidence may come to light, and the person could get released with a handsome compensation.
posted by Dumsnill at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What about just dunking the perpetrator's junk in a bucket of acid until suitably dissolved? The cowardly acid attack stuff just leaves me so fucking angry.
posted by maxwelton at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!

(credit to Gilbert & Sullivan)
posted by binturong at 12:06 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I find it so deeply messed up that people do this in the first place. is there no sort of societal pressure that makes people think that acid attacks are unacceptable in the first place? Even if you really hate someone, it's pretty fucked up.
posted by GuyZero at 12:06 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


How about we all, as human beings, just simply agree to stop doing awful shit to each other for the stupidest fucking reasons? Then no one has to have acid all over their face and we can go out for fountain sodas and chicken wings? Cool? Cool!
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?
posted by swift at 12:08 PM on December 29, 2008


I want to think of a better punishment, but he stole this young woman's entire life for no reason. I don't think a fine or a short prison sentence really goes far enough to dissuade others from doing this.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:44 PM on December 29


The purpose of this punishment is not to "dissuade others from doing this." It's retribution and retaliation for the crime. And it is stupid.

The victim gets nothing by having her attacker maimed. You might actually have an argument if his eyes were to be transplanted into her head, but that would be compensation which is also different.

The reason "an eye for an eye" is senseless and barbaric is because, contrary to what you wrote, the attacker did have a reason. One that made sense to him. She rejected his offer of marriage. Maybe that was an insult, or it broke his heart. But it is reason.

So you maim him, but he thinks the punishment is unjustified because in his mind he had a good reason. Remember that the villain is the hero of his own story. So now he feels like he has been further wronged. So, of course, according to "an eye for an eye", he gets to retaliate.

Multiply the victims and attackers by several million, stretch the chain of events to over 60 years, toss in some religious or ethnic bigotry at the start of it all just to make it unclear as to when the first wrong occurred and against whom, and you have the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

No go to the front page of the site, click on the thread about the conflict, and tells us why the victims in Gaza are not entitled to the eyes of the Israelis who attacked them.

Retribution and retaliation are stupid, childish, primitive, and barbaric methods of punishment. The woman's attacker should go to jail, just he he would here in the US if he committed the same crime (or even worse).

Instead of referring back to the same old thousand-year-old rotting books about make-believe superheroes for insight about justice, maybe we should consider this alternative, and once-living, thousand-year-old source:

"Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens. " - Plato
posted by Pastabagel at 12:09 PM on December 29, 2008 [20 favorites]


The cowardly acid attack stuff just leaves me so fucking angry.

Having a problem with 'cowardly' actions seems to imply that it's better to assault people in such a way that they can fight back. Fuck that shit; nobody needs to be obligated to defend themselves against disfiguring injury, or is even capable of defending themselves. The fact that it's 'cowardly' is irrelevant. The fact that someone's life has been severely damaged, her face permanently and horribly disfigured and blinded, is the only thing that matters here.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:11 PM on December 29, 2008


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?

A lengthy prison term, I'd imagine.
posted by jonmc at 12:11 PM on December 29, 2008


No, I don't think you could say that and be considered rational.

Well, I was responding to the idea that Iran's "colorful" justice system is somehow so crazy and alien that it is impossible to discuss this without understanding that the same essential barbarism is applied across the board, in ways we don't like. Which is a fair criticism, but my point was that the United States, which doesn't have a terrific track record when it comes to gays and lesbians, has suspended habeus corpus for a number of prisoners, tortures prisoners of war, illegally wiretaps its own citizens, and imprisons a larger percentage of its population that most of the rest of the world, and uses the threat of institutionalized homosexual rape as a deterrent against prison, has a pretty colorful justice system as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2008 [20 favorites]



Does anybody here have enough experience with medicine and the human body or whatever to give us an idea of how badly this would hurt?


A lot.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:15 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cruelty isn't justice.
posted by jokeefe at 12:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Seems fair to me.
posted by delmoi


I agree, but it should be noted that I'm a redneck.

The purpose of this punishment is not to "dissuade others from doing this." It's retribution and retaliation for the crime. And it is stupid.

Retaliation is something worth doing at times. This guy won't be blinding anyone again, at least not very easily. If you fuck someone over the way this guy has, you have no room to complain.
posted by nola at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


How is a state-sanctioned blinding of someone with acid any different than state-sanctioned torture? You could say that the act is a punishment rather than an attempt to discover information, but is that enough of a distinction?
posted by thewittyname at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2008


another picture of the day, if you can still see it... and then there's the whole stoning rape victims/honour killing thing; for somalia at least that's just the grisly tip (the 'president' just resigned), altho there may be still some hope for the horn.
posted by kliuless at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2008


How is this different from the death penalty for murderers?

Yes, it is a lot like the death penalty, which isn't very surprising considering Iran and the US are both in the top 5 in number of executions per year.

Personally I don't really get the point of inflicting extreme amounts of pain and suffering on people as punishment for a crime, even as a deterrent. Trying to reduce crime by becoming more and more barbaric in terms of punishment doesn't work once you get past a certain point, because mentally ill, desperate, and/or unethical people will commit crimes no matter what the penalties are. Iran has one of the harshest criminal justice systems on earth, and in my opinion that hasn't exactly created a more perfect society than less extreme systems.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:23 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie: Touché. It just seemed you were making some sort of equivalence between acid in the eyes as punishment and Prop 8. Really, however, there is little connection between these two wrongs (other than their wrongness.)

It bothers me, and this isn't necessarily anything AZ has written, that while many of us (I assume) are against torture, there are voices here supporting this cruel and unusual punishment (at least rhetorically.)

Really, dripping acid into this man's eyes isn't necessary, isn't justice and isn't doing anything for anyone at all. Like I said, he should go to jail.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:25 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


As terrible as the crime is, there is no excuse for torturing the offender.

I'm not sure exactly what should be done here, especially since I'm not convinced that imprisonment is not anther form of torture.

Perhaps if the eyes were removed under anaesthesia I would feel better about it. I don't thinks so, though. I think imprisonment is the best way to deal with an impossible problem, but more for the purpose of separating the offender from society than for punishing him.

We can't make the past better - we just have to make the future better.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2008


I don't feel qualified to comment on the Iranian judicial system, but I do know that if this guy had done anything like this to me or someone I knew, I would hold his head in a bucket of acid until his head dissolved. Right or wrong.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?

At a minimum, this is aggravated assault. Sentences differ widely across jurisdictions and circumstances. I'd guess 10-20 years on these facts.

This could also implicate criminal laws involving the use of chemical or biological weapons. Not sure what the sentence would be for breaking one of those laws, but these days, I'd expect it would be pretty severe.

There may also be other criminal violations that I'm not spotting.

Note that the death penalty is no longer legal in the U.S. for crimes that don't involve the death of the victim.
posted by brain_drain at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


See also this thread.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:29 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not as keen on accepting Ghandi's word as gospel since I learned that he thought the Jews could stop the holocaust through the use of his non-violent protest techniques. That's stupid.

If "stupid" is not meant as hyperbole, I have to disagree somewhat. Ghandi wrote about passive resistance by Jews against the Germans in 1938, and at a time when a lot of the world seemed to be ignoring the signs of impending genocide he seemed much more keenly aware of what they were going through. Also, bear in mind that he was selling a concept that he believed in even not just because of its potential for success, but because it was a morally acceptable means to an end.

The Dutch had some small success with labor strikes and passive resistance against Nazi policies intended to eradicate closely held cultural values, and while a great deal of that success was due to the almost universal reaction against certain policies, part of it was the element of human psychology. The Nazis has a limited amount of Gestapo & SS sociopaths and prison guards, and the Wehrmacht like most armies was composed of people who have to be extensively trained even to fire back at enemy soldiers much less shoot unresisting people in cold blood.

Yes, WWII Germany had moral rot at the top, and no sense of shame would keep them from policies of genocidal bloodshed as a regime, but the effectiveness of passive resistance is partly rooted in the shame of the individuals who must bring themselves to do violence to those who are taking a non-violent stance in opposition. In that sense, if the Jews had managed to utilise passive resistance techniques en masse, I think it would have forced in the moderate Germans at least some awareness of the moral bankruptcy of the Nazi regime, if not an actual reversal of fascism. To say otherwise is to indict the entire German populace for the holocaust ( which may be a valid point ). While there would certainly have been a tremendous toll in death and suffering for the Jews as a consequence of unified non-violent resistance, it's pretty obvious from hindsight that they did not come out of WWII without great sacrifice with the techniques that were tried.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Which is a fair criticism, but my point was that the United States, which doesn't have a terrific track record when it comes to gays and lesbians, has suspended habeus corpus for a number of prisoners, tortures prisoners of war, illegally wiretaps its own citizens, and imprisons a larger percentage of its population that most of the rest of the world, and uses the threat of institutionalized homosexual rape as a deterrent against prison, has a pretty colorful justice system as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:14 PM on December 29


For starters, one of the reasons we have a higher percentage in prison is because the only thing we can do with people convicted of a crime is to imprison them. We don't have the option of pouring acid into their eyes and sending them home.

Everything else you mentioned is true of every other country on Earth of comparable size and demographics.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2008


No, no, I retract my suggestion; there really is no moral way to purposefully mutilate a human being, with anaesthesia or without.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2008


I think the trouble is, we don't really have a good answer as to what to do about crime. We suck at addressing it in the U.S., people have historically sucked at it, and barbarism, to some extent, seems built into every criminal justice system, because the motivations for looking for justice are often simple revenge. I mean, the issue here is not that one guy threw acid at one woman. It's that a lot of guys throw acid at a lot of women, and do so explicitly as a semi-tolerated expression of a social inquality. Her was punishing her, a mere woman, for having the temerity to say no to him. Just burning his eyes out isn't going to change that essential social inequality, and there is precious little evidence that any sort of punishment is any significant deterrent against crime. There are programs to discourage recidivism, and some have limited amounts of success, but ultimately the focus of the system is on pure punishment, which simply satiates our need for revenge.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I want to think of a better punishment, but he stole this young woman's entire life for no reason.

Not so fast there. She still has options. Perhaps one day she'll don a black veil and star in the most addictive entertainment of all time..
posted by mannequito at 12:36 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?

In California, I believe it would be aggravated mayhem, maximum sentence life in prison without the possibility of parole.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:37 PM on December 29, 2008


Rational is as rational does. It's their law and numbnuts was found guilty in their court. Asking about the punishment in this country (the United States, in my case) is moot since it didn't happen here. That adultery or homosexuality is cause for stoning sucks, but that's their law.

I'm fairly certain that a lot of the US's laws don't make a bit of sense to Iranians so that all is fair.

My two cents' though, is that this is a pretty cool verdict and that it ought to be on pay per view.
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:37 PM on December 29, 2008


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?
posted by swift

13 years, in this case.
posted by merelyglib at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2008


WTF is going on here? Am I actually reading some sort of fucking debate about whether this is an acceptable response to the situation?

This is like our torture 'debates' except now we don't even need an imaginary ticking bomb, righteous indignation and a desire for revenge makes it OK.

The answer, for all curious parties, to all of this, is no. The why is unapologetically circular : because humane societies, ones that are making even a token effort at being 'good', don't do these things. With one of those cute dots at the end of the sentence.
posted by Bokononist at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2008 [31 favorites]


That adultery or homosexuality is cause for stoning sucks, but that's their law.

I'm fairly certain that a lot of the US's laws don't make a bit of sense to Iranians so that all is fair.


Satire?
posted by Dumsnill at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


AZ: True. I just think we should at least try to be better than our failures. While no justice system will end crime, we can attempt to mitigate the effects of crime on the larger population. While a justice system that is capable of harshly punishing the guilty has physical authority, physical authority is not enough. A sustainable justice system requires moral authority as well. When the system lowers itself to the levels of those it punishes, it loses moral authority and eventually turns to harsher and harsher actions to retain its physical authority. Ultimately, such a justice system will lose all authority to anarchy as retribution replaces justice itself.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I know Iranians look at our jaywalking laws and are all like, WTF AMERICA LOL?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, I agree, elwoodwiles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2008


Not so fast there. She still has options. Perhaps one day she'll don a black veil and star in the most addictive entertainment of all time..

???
posted by P.o.B. at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I would prefer being blinded with acid to 10 years in a California prison, much less life without parole.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm on the record as being pretty much anti-acid in the face as a form on cultural expression, so on the one hand, I'm thrilled that someone will be punished for having engaged in such a deplorable and disgusting act. I want to send the world a message which says unequivocally that mutilating someone you don't agree with is unacceptable, and by doing so, you will be punished.

That said, I don't know that dripping acid in that person's eyes really makes the world any better.

Unlike many here, I've tried to defend capital punishment as a viable response to a serious crime. But I think I have to draw the line at institutionalized maiming. Slowly dripping acid into someone's eyes is not justice. It's just nightmare inducing. Lock him up for life, put him down if the crime is bad enough and you have unquestionable proof of his guilt, but this?

*shudders*

If you really want justice, make him spend the rest of his life toiling away to provide for Ameneh Bahrami's every whim. Sentence him to servitude to his victim. That way she at least gets some direct benefit from his suffering.
posted by quin at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


brain_drain, that the Death Penalty is only applicable to actions that cause death is not true. Treason is punishable by death. U.S. Title 18 § 2381 says: Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

There may be other federal crimes that are punishable by death.
posted by Xoc at 12:53 PM on December 29, 2008


I agree with quin, so the question that Astro Zombie spurred earlier is: how do you implement a deterrent into society that thinks this is OK in the first place? How do you make people, on a large scale, realize "ya' know, that whole acid thing? That is not good."
posted by P.o.B. at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2008


It seems to me that the sanctions handed out by a judiciary system can serve the goals of 1. retribution by society on the perpetrator 2. prevention of crimes through changing the prisoner and the causes of his criminal behaviour 3. protection of society from the perpetrator or 4. deterrence.
An extra consideration is to what degree the perpetrator is still seen as a citizen like other citizens and worthy of empathy and reserve their rights as citizens.

Different societies make different choices among these options and combinations.
Dropping acid on the perpetrators eyes like they're about to do in Iran serves goals 1 and 4 and implies that the perpetrator doesn't get a lot of empathy.
Capital punishment like you have in the US probably also serves goals 1 and 4. The perpetrator loses his life but supposedly doesn't have a lot of pain.
Looking at it that way it seems that what's right and just is very contingent on cultural context and history.
posted by jouke at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2008


What they need to do is close down all of the Bucket O' Acid franchises.
posted by stavrogin at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sentence him to servitude to his victim.

I don't know what is worse -- judicial maiming or judicial slavery.

The only way this is justified -- if it actually serves as a deterrent to these attacks. Somehow, though, I suspect that others who would throw acid in the face of a woman who refused their advances would only say that the guy deserved it because he was dumb enough to get caught.

There's no good here. None. If the aliens come to judge humanity, I'd honestly point this case out as an example of why they should take off and nuke us from orbit.
posted by eriko at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm surprised at the assumption that the arbitrary violence, cruelty, and indignity experinced with a sentence of life in prison is somehow humane or not torture. I'll grant you that it may be necessary, but it is not intrinsically morally superior to other forms of punishment just because it is traditional and not frequently re-examined.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't have anything to contribute to the moral discussion, and I'm not trying to be flippant, but I just cannot fathom the thought process that begins with "I want to marry her" and ends with "I want to throw acid in her face."
posted by vibrotronica at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2008


The why is unapologetically circular : because humane societies, ones that are making even a token effort at being 'good', don't do these things.

I holeheartedly agree. The concepts of justice and humaneness are fragile, and when we give in to base emotions like revenge we coarsen our society and thwart justice. There are acceptable methods of punishment that do not involve torture and we should never, ever employ any method that is cruel and unusual, regardless of how heinous the crime. Ever.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


er. "wholeheartedly agree"?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:01 PM on December 29, 2008


Just burning his eyes out isn't going to change that essential social inequality, and there is precious little evidence that any sort of punishment is any significant deterrent against crime.

Punishment isn't supposed to deter the criminal or his crime in the U.S., it is supposed to deter crime. The criminal justice system in the US is also based on protecting society from the criminal. When the criminal steal your car and gets sentenced to jail, he is being sentenced because he is a threat to society in general, and the presence of peopl in prison serves to deter others from threatening society. This is why, by definition, there are no victimless crimes. The system that passed the law that the criminal broke is the victim.

That's why delmoi's point :"The main difference between this and straightforward seeking of revenge is that it's gone through a court system." is a distinction without a true difference. The court system in Iran is functioning as a state-run hitman, nothing more. There is no justice involved. It may be a court system, but it is not a system of justice.

The reason that some system of justice is important is staring at you in this thread. The alternative is anarchy or mob rule, in which each member of the mod tries to outdo their cohorts in meting out gruesome punishments.

We have an imperfect system but it is orders of magnitude less imperfect than the individuals operating in that system. The system filters out the rage, vengeance, prejudice, bias etc. and by and large constrains everyone in it. How often have you heard judges from the bench state that they'd like to do X, Y, and Z (expand or reduce the punishment) but that the law constrains them. The law, ostensibly passed by the people's representatives, nonetheless constrains everyone, and in part it is from this that the system however flawed is able to maintain its moral authority.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2008


This sentence is wrong. How can there be any debate? We have a justice system, imperfect as it may be, in order to sort out revenge from punishment. This is revenge, and serves nothing. Sending the perpetrators of acid attacks to jail, consistently, would do more good. Personally, I prefer civilization; civilized nations do not deliberately blind people with acid, no matter how heinous their crimes.
posted by jokeefe at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2008


I wouldn't equate burning this guy's eyes out with for eg. flogging a woman for exposing her ankles. One thinks that spurned suitors have no business assaulting their objects of adoration, the other one thinks women have to comply with restrictive rules concerning dress and conduct. Whilst I think the latter is a complex issue that won't be solved by flogging, I know for damn sure that the former is a cut and dry issue, no acid in my face or anywhere on my body please, thank you very much. Measures which recognise and deter this are welcome.

--

Dismissing all physical punishment as barbarism flattens the different motivations and value systems that animate them, I have no idea what the context and particulars are of Iranian justice and law, but in the US and UK justice system there have been massive outright contradictions between professional experts and administrators executing policy and political actors who are responding to populist attitudes and emotions for the past 30 years, it's not hard to imagine similar conflict between progressive and regressive elements in other justice systems given the emotional and moral volatility of issues of crime.

Who is to say this isn't a progressive element fighting for female equality invoking the only punishments at hand to carry out their goals? Speculating purely on the basis of this sentence:

She had several meetings with the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who tends to favor less strict interpretations of Islamic law.

It sounds like the head of the judiciary used his discretion to make a progressive gesture in difficult circumstances.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:04 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Cruelty isn't justice.

But it feels good, doesn't it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:06 PM on December 29, 2008


Xoc - actually, according to Kennedy v. Louisiana, "the power of the state to impose the death penalty against an individual for committing a crime that did not result in the death of the victim is now limited to crimes against the state (such as espionage)."

So I guess you're both right?
posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm surprised at the assumption that the arbitrary violence, cruelty, and indignity experinced with a sentence of life in prison is somehow humane or not torture.

Sure, in some countries (and the US might be one of them) this might be true. But haven't there been several cases in the last couple of decades, in the US, where people sentenced to death have, years later, been found conclusively not guilty by DNA evidence? If they have already been executed or maimed for life, well oops.

And, of course, minorities (be they racial, ethnic, sexual or other) tend to be vastly overrepresented among those innocently convicted.

And anyway, the state should not be involved in the maiming and execution business. It just ain't civilized.
posted by Dumsnill at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2008


I just cannot fathom the thought process that begins with "I want to marry her" and ends with "I want to throw acid in her face."

An article I read said that his reasoning was that by disfiguring her with acid, he could ensure that no other man would marry her, which would then allow him to marry her. He also said that he still loved her and would marry her.

That reasoning obviously makes no sense, but it's not clear whether he's just making that explanation up to defend himself or if he's insane enough to actually think that could have worked.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2008


mannequito, flagged as great IJ reference.
posted by nevercalm at 1:15 PM on December 29, 2008


Barbaric punishments only continue a cycle of violence. And they are simplistic. For example, what if a mentally ill individual threw acid during a paranoid hallucination? Or a child hurled acid? Fewer drops in the eyes as punishment? A diluted solution?

Perhaps one day we will create a legal system reminiscent of ancient times, requiring criminal perpetrators to compensate victims for what they've taken.

Perpetrators would perform services to right their wrongs. They might have to pay for therapy and medical expenses, rebuild destroyed property, compensate for lost earnings, etc. Their "punishment" would be to restore the victim to wholeness, as entirely as possible, or to accommodate that person's life after losses.

If for any reason they would falter in rendering equity, they'd lose additional rights and freedoms until they made full reparations as specified by the victim, victim's family, and court. This would be rehabilitation for both perpetrator and victim.
posted by terranova at 1:17 PM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Thanks elizardbits, that's what I meant -- I was referring (imprecisely) to state criminal laws that could arguably apply to facts like these, not to the whole enchilada of state and federal criminal law.
posted by brain_drain at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2008


Everything else you mentioned is true of every other country on Earth of comparable size and demographics.
Every country in the world imprisons more people than every country in the world?
posted by bonaldi at 1:21 PM on December 29, 2008


dunkadunc: An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

Only if half of the world cuts out the other half of the world's eyes first. Besides that, it's easy to forget that the context of that law made it clear that an 'eye' isn't necessarily a true eye, but might be an equivalent sum or service that repays the victim. This is the accepted and traditional interpretation of Exodus 21.23. Heck, that verse only applies to very few criminals anyhow (interestingly, those few are those who permanently disfigure pregnant women) and the Torah doesn't really sanction the maiming of criminals as a punishment. For all the things he was, Mr. Gandhi was not a very good Torah scholar; but who could blame him?

All that aside, the principle of just punishment is mercy. Punishment does not exist for the sake of the victims of crime; the pleasure they might feel at seeing the criminal punished actually does the victim's soul harm, since no really happy person can take pleasure in another person's suffering.

Just punishment exists rather for the sake of the criminal. It represents a declaration by the community that the criminal still has worth, that the debt is one that can be paid. Even the death penalty can be a kind of mercy, insofar as cases exist where the debt a criminal owes is so great that the criminal lacks the capacity to pay it, and insofar as there are times when people do things that make living a really happy and healthy life ever again an impossibility. Punishment gives the criminal a door to go through, a mechanism by which to vindicate themselves.

The criminal in this case committed a horrific crime, one that will follow him for the rest of his life. But, again, the principle of punishment is mercy. It seems to me that this punishment is somewhat fit, although I would at least have said that, instead of acid dropped in the eyes, the criminal ought to be blinded surgically, without pain. The substance of the punishment is purified by the elimination of spectacle and cruelty.
posted by koeselitz at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


The purpose of this punishment is not to "dissuade others from doing this."

No, but it could be a special bonus side effect.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cruelty isn't justice.

But it feels good, doesn't it?


No.
posted by jokeefe at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2008


So, of course, according to "an eye for an eye", he gets to retaliate.

Good luck to the douchenozzle, considering he can't see them to find them.

What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?

Prison time. But then, when he gets out, she'd marry him.
posted by Manhasset at 1:31 PM on December 29, 2008


Is this the 1st time that a man has been punished for this? Some form of justice for horrifically violent attacks on women is progress. Progress that involves Islamic law, like cutting off the hand of a thief, or dripping acid into someone's eyes, is abhorrent. Epic Fail, all the way down.
posted by theora55 at 1:32 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm repulsed by the idea of the state-sanctioned maiming (and pain infliction) of one of its citizens. Not so much morally, but because I can imagine just how terrifying it would be to be strapped down, waiting for the acid to come--also, watered down strong acid is just more acid, btw.

On the other hand, part of the purpose of a criminal justice system is, in my view, to make the victims of crime feel better. It does have a positive effect on the world in the victim feels closure, feels peace.

If I were raped, I would be angry... I would want my rapist to have to feel powerless and violated. If I'm beaten, I want my attacker to feel pain and terror.

This may not be about enlightened justice, but it scratches a very deep human itch.

But then, I'm a gun-toting, Heinlein-loving libertarian. I'm probably already morally bankrupt as far as most of you are concerned.
posted by Netzapper at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


How about if they poured antacid in his eyes instead?

(and then sent him to prison for a few decades, too, of course)
posted by jonmc at 1:38 PM on December 29, 2008


So, to sum up my understanding on the whole justice system thing:

1. Someone does something bad. We don't want them to do bad things.
2. The wronged person, many other offended people and perhaps invisible people in the sky want revenge. Also known as "justice".
3. To keep the bad person from doing bad things, we take him/her out of the society.
4. Depending on who you ask, the bad person is in a prison to: 5. We release the bad person. Will they do a bad thing again?
6. ???
7. PROFIT!!!

Note that pouring acid in a prisoner's eyes falls under 4a. Generally, 4a and 4c options are not "civilized". We here in the US like a little of 4a-4d and as a whole probably don't even think about why.
posted by cimbrog at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2008


Desert theories as explained by South Park. coo ur.
posted by bonaldi at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2008


Note, 6 & 7 are pretty snarky, but the point is that we can't truly know what is in someone's heart so we never truly know if he'll recommit a crime again.

Also, I must have just had a serious utilitarian attack.
posted by cimbrog at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2008


There are a lot of problems here that the old acid-to-the-eyes trick won't even address, let alone fix.

-- The man is mentally ill. This much can be inferred from various details in the story, if not from his actions alone. His mental illness certainly isn't an excuse for what he did. But blinding him is not the same as treating him, and is nowhere near as important.

-- This is a culture where women's second-class status is pretty much codified. The punishment-as-deterrent theory is nice, but is it really going to have an immediate effect on how women are (mis)treated in Iran (or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or Bangladesh, or the United States, or anywhere else in the world)? The handicaps of a particular culture cannot, unfortunately, be fixed with one judicial "don't do this or else."

-- If nothing else, this shows us why it's a horrible, horrible idea for the victim of a crime to be able to dictate the punishment of the perpetrator. The blinding wasn't the justice system's solution -- it was the victim's. They didn't have to go along with it, presumably, but the court didn't come up with the idea.

So, yeah, maybe one guy gets blinded, and there'll be some sort of, what, karmic adjustment to the ratio of sighted/not-sighted people in Iran? A lot of people will rage and protest until they grow tired of the issue and move on to something else. A whole other group of people will feel that justice has been served, and then the glow of their righteousness will fade and they'll move on to something else too.

And in the end, not a single thing will have changed.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Netzapper: On the other hand, part of the purpose of a criminal justice system is, in my view, to make the victims of crime feel better. It does have a positive effect on the world in the victim feels closure, feels peace.

I agree, but I think there's a good deal of misunderstanding concerning the role of punishment in the comforting of victims.

The only way that a victim of a crime can feel real closure is by forgiving the criminal. Barring that, some kind of peace can sometimes come about if the victim can forget the criminal. But the exact opposite of closure or peace comes about when the victim of a crime takes pleasure in the criminal's suffering; revenge is no way to understand or move on, unfortunately.

Involving the victims in the punishment is dangerous because it's almost impossible to encourage forgiveness and discourage vengeful feelings while presenting the criminal to the victim in a helpless state. But there's some sense in which seeing the criminal atone for the crime can help a victim forgive.

In general, however, I don't think victims of crime should be allowed to watch executions or be involved in punishments.
posted by koeselitz at 1:48 PM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Cruelty isn't justice.

There is no such thing as justice. Some wrongs, once perpetrated, can never be undone, balanced, or compensated for. Justice is a fiction we permit ourselves to aid in codifying society's response to rule breakers. If we do too little, we live at the mercy of the most brutal among us. If we do too much, we become the most brutal among us. So we try to find a middle ground, and we call that justice, and try to forget that there is no magic formula for deterring violence or relieving the victims of cruelty. A cruel and brutal response to cruelty and brutality absolutely can and does continue the cycle. Unfortunately, a measured and merciful response to cruelty and brutality doesn't necessarily break the cycle, either. So we aim for whatever measure of consistency best helps us sleep at night. And as always, your mileage will vary.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:49 PM on December 29, 2008 [83 favorites]


mudpuppie: If nothing else, this shows us why it's a horrible, horrible idea for the victim of a crime to be able to dictate the punishment of the perpetrator.

I agree.
posted by koeselitz at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2008


Most of you sound fucking insane, I'm sorry to say, and I am horrified that so many self-described "progressives" think that this is justice. Do you remember why the dealth penalty is horrible? Because sometimes innocent people are convicted, and once you kill someone, that's it. No releasing them, no chance for them to ever see justice done, that's it: the state killed an innocent person.

And now you expect the Iranian judicial system to be flawless, to only convict the guilty? Imagine being an innocent man, convicted, while a torturer paid by the state holds your eyes open and drips acid into them. Imagine how much that would hurt. Imagine going blind. Imagine that the rest of your life is a reminder of that moment, when an incorrect verdict led not to prison time but to an irrevocable sentence of forever-darkness.

Is this man guilty? Probably. Should he be jailed? Sure. But no judge or jury or witness is perfect, and if he's not guilty, and someone holds his eyes open and pours acid into them, and here you are, cheering for it - what does that make you? What does that make you a part of?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:52 PM on December 29, 2008 [11 favorites]


> because humane societies, ones that are making even a token effort at being 'good',
> don't do these things.
> posted by Bokononist at 3:40 PM on December 29 [5 favorites +] [!]

So then Iran is not a humane society and makes not even a token effort at being 'good.' You're content to let that stand, Boko?

When you are the victim of an atrocious crime the desire for vengeance is identical to the desire for basic equity--balance--fairness. Where the initial deed is barbaric, fairness is barbaric. He should feel what he made me feel. He needs to understand what he did.

Very likely such barbaric fairness is damaging to, uh, society (such as it is) or civilization (such as it is) and should be, or must be, denied on that account. But it's nothing to be proud of.

I expect my self-interest (it's much safer and more pleasant for me, living where barbarism is not rampant; also it's good for the neighborhood) is enough so that I would be able to deny this woman basic fairness if she desires it. But, having done that, I think I would want to slink away. I am sure I would feel not the least impulse to confront a blinded, disfigured person and say "Your desire for equity is barbaric. I, with my superior ethical sensibility, know you are in the wrong; I have put a stop to you; and I did the right thing.
posted by jfuller at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The man is mentally ill.

I thought so too. But there's no way to be sure. Maybe he just feels really, really entitled. I know men who do not think women have the right to turn them down. They're not mentally ill, just really ignorant. No, they don't blind the women, but they also don't have that as an example in their society, which it seems they do have in Iran.

The blinding wasn't the justice system's solution -- it was the victim's.

I got the impression that revenge (or whatever pseudonym was used) was the victim's choice, not the type of revenge. The type of revenge was chosen by the perpetrator when he committed the crime. That's the point of the "law"--to make people consider how their actions would affect themselves were they on the receiving end. It's not like he cut off her arm and she's yelling, "Blind him!" It basically just seems like he never though that a woman would invoke the revenge law but would just take the cash instead. That's just what I would expect a man who does something like this to believe. I'm wondering if his mom's off in the corner thinking to herself, "Oops."
posted by Manhasset at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2008


Retaliation is something worth doing at times.

Maybe so. It's not a good enterprise for a government to get involved with, however.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2008


And now you expect the Iranian judicial system to be flawless, to only convict the guilty? Imagine being an innocent man,

Dude, your argument blows. He's not innocent. And all your "but what ifs" won't make it so.
posted by Manhasset at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks very much for this post. This decision is interesting not just because of the obvious efforts to create equity in an inequitable system, but because of the reactions here. Everyone reacts to the signal instance, the judicial implementation of retribution, and no one asks how else we might eliminate the horrific practice of throwing acid in the faces of women. This is clearly a culturally specific attack, not in the sense of being associated with Islam or Arabs, (I know of some historical cases amongst Christians in the US and UK) but rather with cultures that reify feminine purity.

When a woman's only means of gaining respect in the world is her physical beauty, as it is in many cultures and was not so long ago here in the West, there's this enormous temptation to throw acid in her faces, "just to destroy something beautiful." Okay, we agree that's bad, but how might the law, the judge faced with a perpetrator, best respond to that practice?

Here's my understanding: while disgusting and cruel, this punishment is a necessary corrective to Shari'ah's double standard. What we're seeing is actually progress, no matter how troubling it may also be. Retribution truly is the most restorative option available.

All the sexism and misogyny in Muslim law isn't simply a cultural double standard. Misogyny is ensconced in the Muslim common law (Shari'ah) and cannot simply be revoked by the legislature. For one thing, Muslim jurists are usually independent of government intervention, in much the same way that the Supreme Court trumps Congress. This is doubly true in Iran, where judicial activism is considered a good thing, and the religious authorities can mobilize a large part of the population's support.

Laws are a citizen's primary education in justice, and Shari'ah is quite clear. Women living under Shari'ah are second-class citizens from the perspective of testimony, inheritance, marriage, and divorce. Two female witnesses are needed to convict one man, a woman inherits half of what her brother will receive, Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men, but Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women, (plus polygamy is allowed but not polyandry,) and men may initiate a divorce but women may not.

Is it any surprise that men who grow up with such laws would sometimes choose to destroy the face of their beloved? Shari'ah law enforces a sexist double standard that disadvantages women, and so everyone treats them as disadvantaged. Such legal standards have a strong educative effect: they persuade citizens of their justice because they are backed by the tripartite authorities of tradition, the state's allegedly justified violence, and God's Word. Yet within that tradition, from the position of an authorized jurist, and with the backing of an alternative interpretation of Scripture, there are plenty of nuances and interpretive freedoms that would allow a jurist to steer Shari'ah towards more progressive ends.

The one place where women aren't supposed to be unequal is in regards to their equality before Allah. Thus, in matters of retribution, they deserve the same protections that a man would receive. Unfortunately, so many of the other procedural inequalities don't really allow that, which is why this seemingly barbarous punishment is the best way to achieve equal procedural consideration for women and men: the question before the court was equality or patriarchy, and it has chosen equality. Equality, in this case, means judicial blinding.

Without laws that are basically fair and equitable, how can we expect citizens to relate to each other as equals? And without equality, how can there be an end to the acid, for both victims and perpetrators?
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


I just cannot fathom the thought process that begins with "I want to marry her" and ends with "I want to throw acid in her face."

I think this excellent comment pretty much accurately sums up all the varying reactions on this thread. It is *really* hard to make sense of some cultures and their customs and is the basis of the large amounts of ignorance, misgivings and fear that leads to xenophobia and racism. And I think most here would agree that the outrage at the original crime committed (and the many similar reactions of desire for vengence) is also fairly culture based. The discussion here really seems to hinge around the desire for fairness and justice, something which has been noted, isn't exclusive to "us" nor the sentencing courts involved.

What is missing, and probably impossible to conceive of, is a way to accurately map our reactions and expectations onto those of the parties involved. Like, yeah, it makes no fucking sense to go from "bride-to-be" to "disfigured-chick-who-now-despises-me". Clearly, dude has no idea what turns a woman on. Clearly, a lot of people don't agree that being gay isn't going to bring about the end of humanity. Clearly, 72 virgins awaiting you in heaven isn't the amazing prize you actually thought it was.

...okay, I got derailed there...

But anyway, clearly: putting yourself in somebody else's shoes isn't as easy as saying it.
posted by RockCorpse at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2008


Excellent post, anotherpanacea.
posted by Manhasset at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2008


There is no such thing as justice. Some wrongs, once perpetrated, can never be undone, balanced, or compensated for. Justice is a fiction we permit ourselves to aid in codifying society's response to rule breakers.

IRFH, you contradict yourself (there is no such thing as justice... yet it's a tool we use?). There is an abstraction called "justice", and it's the best we can invent to manage human conflict and behaviour. It's necessary. It's part of every human society. Rules that we agree on: you shouldn't harm others, or steal, or kill, etc. Of course it doesn't work perfectly. We no longer, in the West, brand or hang people for stealing, and in most parts of the West we don't kill them either. I think the death penalty's abhorrent, and I think this particular case is abhorrent too. And as mudpuppie says, nothing will change because of this. This is in no way a decision for women's rights; it's a crime against human rights. Which the perpetrator still possesses, in spite of everything. We have a justice system, ideally, to recognize the humanity of those of us who do terrible things, and to fix punishment or retribution accordingly, without cruel or unusual treatment.
posted by jokeefe at 2:07 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


For starters, one of the reasons we have a higher percentage in prison is because the only thing we can do with people convicted of a crime is to imprison them. We don't have the option of pouring acid into their eyes and sending them home.

That is nonsense. We have a larger prison population in numbers and percentage than any other nation in the world. This includes all the nations without brutal punishments or torture.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:08 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, your argument blows. He's not innocent. And all your "but what ifs" won't make it so.

Yes, but if you institutionalize this kind of punishment (which I presume you want, unless you want justice to be arbitrary), do you seriously not think this will result in the maiming of innocent people? And particularly despised minorities?

Yes, he is probably guilty, just like most of those sentenced to death in the US and elsewhere are probably guilty. But all those defending this kind of justice seem to think that innocent people are never convicted. Or that something good will come of this.

I honestly don't understand how so many of you guys can even remotely support this. In most other threads you seem so sensible.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tossing acid in people's faces isn't unique to people who believe 72 virgins are waiting for them. Americans and UK citizens (as well as the French) used to toss sulfuric acid at each other with alarming frequency. Not sure why it fell out of fashion here, except that vitriol became a controlled substance and so is a lot harder to get.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Screw it. If something did that to me, I'd want to be the one with the eyedropper. I don't care about high-minded Shoulds when it comes to how the justice system works in cases like these, I want to see the bastard punished in the most punitive way imaginable.

We'd had a conversation about having a gun in the house once. The conversation turned to 'handgun? or rifle?' and then to 'rifle with bullets or rifle loaded with rock salt?' -- when I said "well, I could just as easily blow a male intruder's balls off with rock salt as with a gun, they're pretty vulnerable" -- that's when my boyfriend started thinking maybe a gun WOULDN'T be a good idea...

If you are dumb enough to break into my home and threaten me or my loved ones -- and in particular, my animals, who aren't exactly capable of defending themselves like we are -- I don't care, I will take your damn head off with a baseball bat. And then I will drag your bleeding corpse out onto the porch before I call the cops, because we have oatmeal-colored carpet, and I hate scrubbing out stains. No second thoughts.

What justification does someone have for breaking into my house that could make me NOT want to take them out? If you break into my house, at best, you want to steal my stuff, for which I have worked very hard, and at worst you want to rape or kill me, and that's no good, either.

So, if you threw acid in my face for no good reason, why SHOULDN'T I want to eyedropper you right back? Because in highminded happytown we should LOVE our attackers and disfigurers? Fuck that. He's getting better than he deserves. He's not a child, he is a grown man and he is acting like a child because he didn't get the special treat he wanted, namely the woman he was lusting after. I hope his face melts like the Nazi in Indiana Jones.
When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.
DUDE. Seriously? YOU ALREADY DID, ASSHAT.
"They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I'm not sure that she cannot secretly see," he said. "The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven't done anything bad."
Oh yes, the Iranian equivalent of "she made up the rape" -- she's FAKING HER EYEBALL DAMAGE. Why, I didn't pour acid on her, it was a bucket of fluffy kittens. Yeah. Screw that. Eyedropper away.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


I just cannot fathom the thought process that begins with "I want to marry her" and ends with "I want to throw acid in her face."

How about the thought process that starts with "I want to marry her" and ends with "I'm going to kill her now, and all our kids too?" Those tragedies are sadly common in our society.
posted by jokeefe at 2:12 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Tossing acid in people's faces isn't unique to people who believe 72 virgins are waiting for them.

I wasn't making that assertion, actually. Also, Fan Death isn't real.
posted by RockCorpse at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2008


Wasn't saying you were. Just want to remind people that this behavior isn't as alien as we might think.

And say what you will, I ain't running an electric fan in a closed room overnight.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on December 29, 2008


But no judge or jury or witness is perfect, and if he's not guilty, and someone holds his eyes open and pours acid into them, and here you are, cheering for it - what does that make you? What does that make you a part of?

I'm perfectly comfortable with my opinion. As far as I'm concerned, my position is this: a court in Iran is finding in favor of the woman? Then I think they've probably got some pretty good evidence against him, eh? If he doesn't want to have acid dripped into his eyes, he should just kill himself and save the state the trouble. What he did was absolutely reprehensible. He didn't get caught with a bag of marijuana and end up with an unsympathetic judge. He DESTROYED a woman's ENTIRE LIFE. He's lucky. If I was that judge, he'd already be dead.

I'd also be in favor of him handing over 95% of his salary for the rest of his life to her, but only if she agreed. He completely ruined her ability to be independent, to work, to enjoy every part of her existence on this planet. And for what? So, once again, hell with him. If it makes me a bad person to think he isn't worthy to breathe my planet's air, then I stand guilty as charged.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


A few others have noted, and I wanted to reiterate, that violence against women is not a cultural phenomenon specific to Iran. That point seemed to be getting lost in this thread - I don't know of any society that does not suffer from that problem. The idea of using acid as a method of violence may be cultural, but not the basic problem.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, your argument blows. He's not innocent. And all your "but what ifs" won't make it so.
posted by Manhasset at 1:58 PM on December 29


That's what they said about William Marion.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2008


I honestly don't understand how so many of you guys can even remotely support this. In most other threads you seem so sensible.

Do you remember when Laura Bush started to notice the plight of Afghan women, conveniently just as we're invading Afghanistan? There was this message of mercy placed in the center of this violent action. I think it's possible for good people to be motivated a bit too much or in the wrong direction in their zeal to make the world a better place.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2008


I don't know how to respond to this. I like quin's response, i'm for capital punishment when the crime calls for it but i'm anti-torture and the idea of societal torture gives me the shivers. I think i'd have less of an emotional reaction to the punishment if they did sentence those men to death or did put them into servitude. One should surrender their civil liberties if such heinous crimes are committed. You don't deserve the rights of civil humanity if you can't act like a civil human. Is it a deterrent? I don't know, but it is a hell of alot better than public mutilation or looking the other way. Honor crimes, my ass. I looked at the slide show pictures in the second story - one of those girls was a horrific victim at 13 - 13 freaking years old because she turned down a neighbor's son wedding proposal - 13! Her face and eyes burned away for it. Poor poor girl, life is so difficult as it is but to compound that to a life without joy of heath, love, hope and only pain. heartbreaking. How many women also suffer stoning, rape and horrors because someone considers themselves the moral judge or another?

But then what's pragmatic? If some man even wanted to date my 13 year old I'm sure my soul would hearkin to my father's old country rules and get a damn shotgun - what would I think would be fair if he threw acid on my daughter's face? My heart breaks and my inner soul screams to kill the god damn bastard who did this to that girl. It's a visceral reaction sure, but when self preservation kicks in, is it all bad? We want the law to protect us and serve us justice, what is justice in such cases? About a 100 women reported being victims of the sort (only reported so we can't even fathom the real number) in 2007.

I want to be good, to be respectful of another culture and compassionate, but men who randomly spray young girls simply for going to school or spurning inappropriate marriage proposals - there is no limit to my wrath for such absolute crimes against humanity and the soul. This is the only punishment that this court did muster for this man, and if this is all I can get than this is what I'm going to take. Though in my heart I want compassion and reason for all I just can't muster up the ire to protest any embassy for it's cruel and unusual punishment in this case.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


So then Iran is not a humane society and makes not even a token effort at being 'good.' You're content to let that stand, Boko?

posted by jfuller at 4:54 PM on December 29

I unconsciously overstated the literals of the case in an attempt to communicate the strength and depth of my feelings on the matter.

97 comments and all the logic in the world can't resolve dick if we disagree on what the axioms of humanity are.
posted by Bokononist at 2:28 PM on December 29, 2008


Oh yes, the Iranian equivalent of "she made up the rape" -- she's FAKING HER EYEBALL DAMAGE. Why, I didn't pour acid on her, it was a bucket of fluffy kittens. Yeah. Screw that. Eyedropper away.

I think there's a good chance he really is mentally ill. Not that it excuses his crime, but burning out his eyeballs won't change this fact.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:28 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


bitter-girl iz bitter.
posted by Evangeline at 2:29 PM on December 29, 2008


The man is mentally ill.

I thought so too. But there's no way to be sure.
posted by Manhasset at 1:55 PM on December 29 [+] [!]


Clearly, reading between the lines and connecting the dots of a single piece of journalism is not a substitute for an in-person examination by a mental health professional. I'm willing to guess, though (and it *is* a guess -- I have no facts to back this up) that the average arrested criminal in Iran isn't given the same mental health once-over that a perp in the West would receive. So you're right. How do we know for sure?

To me, it sounds like the reporter gathered substantial evidence -- and perhaps unquotable hearsay -- that the dude has some mental health issues, but that the information wasn't sourced up to the Post's standards. So there's this little trail of breadcrumbs within the article, rather than an outright assertion that the offender is cuckoo.

To wit:
...She and her friends felt sorry for a sometimes bedraggled younger student named Majid Movahedi, so they collected sweaters and pants and asked a university staff member to pass them on to him....

***

Bahrami left a deep impression on Movahedi, even though the two had never spoken.

"He was absolutely crazy about her," said Aziz Movahedi, Majid's father. "At periods he would lock himself in his room, saying he only wanted to marry her."...

***

"I remember him as a strange boy with an obsessive stare," she said.

***

Movahedi, refusing to be turned down, began waiting outside her workplace and stopping her in the street, crying that he would kill himself if she didn't marry him.

***

When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

"They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I'm not sure that she cannot secretly see," he said. "The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven't done anything bad."
So in light of those tidbits, I don't really feel too bad about assuming mental illness. We are not talking about a paragon of mental stability here. The man has problems that seem to go a little bit beyond his propensity for throwing buckets of acid at the object of his undying love.

And to add to my previous list of Things That Are Wrong About This Story: State funding for the victim's treatment was cut off when Ahmadinejad came into power. And his press secretary has the gall, the absolute gall, to explain this away by comparing her injuries to the aching toe of an old man with an ingrown toenail??

There is something fundamentally broken in a culture that fails to see that this is just a single example of an enormous problem -- the lifetime of potential daily tortures faced by its mothers, sisters, and daughters. There is something fundamentally broken in that culture, and in the government equates those tortures with the petty discomfort of a sore toe.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:33 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Though in my heart I want compassion and reason for all I just can't muster up the ire to protest any embassy for it's cruel and unusual punishment in this case.

Yes, it is always hard to remain moral in difficult circumstances, but we have to anyways.

It is easy to protest that torturing an innocent person is wrong, but who will step up and defend the human rights of the bastard who poured acid on the innocent girl? In my worldview, he may be a horrible, horrible person, but he still is a human being, and he still should not have to fear torture.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The... ah, colorfulness of Islamic law that tickles your vengeance bone here will please you less well when applied to a woman accused of adultery - or a teenager accused of being gay.

Sorry, refresh my memory - what sort of punishment does some US states mete out to murderers? Ah yes, that's the one.
posted by mippy at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I realize that all of your motivations are good, and I am utterly appalled by these grotesque crimes myself, but come on, think this through on a slightly principled basis, will you.

If my sister was raped and killed, you can be damn sure I would have liked to see the perpetrator raped and killed. But I really don't want a legal system based on my feelings. And I certainly do not want to see an innocent person raped and killed because my desire for justice led me to point at the first person in a line-up that looked a bit like the one I wanted punished.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:36 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


What would the punishment be if this happened in the U.S.?

A lengthy prison term, I'd imagine.


Most likely, as in the case of fomer model Marla Hanson who, having rejected the advances of her landlord, ended up getting her face slashed by a razor blade. The 1986 attack left wounds that required surgery and 100 stitches to close the three cuts on her face. While not wielding the razor blade, but ordering the attack, the landlord received the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence.
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on December 29, 2008


What justification does someone have for breaking into my house that could make me NOT want to take them out? If you break into my house, at best, you want to steal my stuff, for which I have worked very hard

Why wouldn't you kill a (seemingly) unarmed intruder? Because the decision whether or not to kill someone is one of the most important decisions a person can make? Because criminals are human beings, and a human life is more important than a stolen TV, even considering what it cost you? Because under a different set of circumstances where your life somehow led to being addicted to crack, you might also break into a random person's house and steal something? Because sometimes showing someone mercy makes the world a better place in the long run? Because killing someone probably isn't legal where you live unless there is a clear and obvious threat to your own life? Because you'll have to live with it for the rest of your life, and you might come to regret it at some point?

Those are some of the reasons why I wouldn't do it, aside from the fact that I would never keep a gun in my house to begin with. Reasonable people can still reject all of those reasons, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:39 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I want to be good, to be respectful of another culture and compassionate, but men who randomly spray young girls simply for going to school or spurning inappropriate marriage proposals - there is no limit to my wrath for such absolute crimes against humanity and the soul. This is the only punishment that this court did muster for this man, and if this is all I can get than this is what I'm going to take. Though in my heart I want compassion and reason for all I just can't muster up the ire to protest any embassy for it's cruel and unusual punishment in this case.

I think that implicit with any system of criminal justice which is to be considered humane or "just" (in the western, egalitarian sense) is that it cannot act based on emotional appeals. It's not really important to feel compassion towards anyone involved in the case to come to a workable form of justice which is not dehumanizing. Of course, it's easy to feel compassion for this woman. It's easy for me to imagine her as my sister, and of course I'd want revenge if she were. But I would hope that our criminal justice system would not going to consider my desire for revenge a factor in the sentencing. I realize that this may be a step forward for the court system involved, but institutionalized brutality is not really progress in the end. It might feel good, but that doesn't really say much.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:39 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


he may be a horrible, horrible person, but he still is a human being, and he still should not have to fear torture.

I'm for that... but Bahrami's human, too. A government that does not robustly defend its citizens against harm from other citizens is already violating their human rights. It seems like you can't protest punishing-acid-throwing until you've protested acid-throwing.

Astro Zombie's links confirm that we had a rash of vitriol attacks in the US before WWII. What happened to that? How'd we eliminate it?
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:42 PM on December 29, 2008


A paedophile rapes your seven year old child.

He has an eight year old child of his own.

Your move.


I guess at that point we're all kind of agreed that an exact tit-for-tat might not be the best option, yeah?
posted by mandal at 2:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Everyone reacts to the signal instance, the judicial implementation of retribution, and no one asks how else we might eliminate the horrific practice of throwing acid in the faces of women.

anotherpanacea, if you go about fifty posts back I asked that very question. But it looks like this post is going to get stuck in another Metafilter rehash-hoedown.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:48 PM on December 29, 2008


WTF is going on here? Am I actually reading some sort of fucking debate about whether this is an acceptable response to the situation?

This is like our torture 'debates' except now we don't even need an imaginary ticking bomb, righteous indignation and a desire for revenge makes it OK.

The answer, for all curious parties, to all of this, is no.


Yes, and over in Iran, there's someone who's just as certain as you about the answer to this question, and that person says the answer is yes.

But since you live in the U.S., you must be right.

Right?
posted by jayder at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm for that... but Bahrami's human, too. A government that does not robustly defend its citizens against harm from other citizens is already violating their human rights. It seems like you can't protest punishing-acid-throwing until you've protested acid-throwing.

That's sort of a strange way to put it. Human rights are not interchangeable like that.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2008


It seems like you can't protest punishing-acid-throwing until you've protested acid-throwing.

Well, you can protest both at the same time, right? I think they're both wrong.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:50 PM on December 29, 2008


How about we just rip his eyes out with pliers and then pour acid in the open wounds, that will teach him by golly.

This is probably the most disturbing post I've seen on Mefi. Are folks here really supporting this insane solution as a proper response to an equally mad crime?
posted by pianomover at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


anotherpanacea, if you go about fifty posts back I asked that very question. But it looks like this post is going to get stuck in another Metafilter rehash-hoedown.

It might be that their criminal justice system is symptomatic of larger cultural issues. Yes, it would seem that the court system respecting women is a step forward, but the punishment indicates there is really little changing that drives these retributive actions. It is a real problem that women are subjugated in much of Central Asia and the Middle East. I don't know that we should desire to join them in their cycles of violence.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2008


IRFH, you contradict yourself (there is no such thing as justice... yet it's a tool we use?). There is an abstraction called "justice", and it's the best we can invent to manage human conflict and behaviour.

That's not a contradiction at all. I said it was a fiction. There is no Santa Clause, either, but that doesn't mean that the fiction of Santa Clause can't be used as a tool to make small children behave for entire minutes at a time during the first two weeks of December (Santa Clause can also be used as a handy metaphor and as a fantasy dessert topping).

Justice as a tool, as a word used to describe a process of law and a social agreement to a set of pre-determined consequences is necessary and fine. It's when people begin to believe that the abstraction actually exists as an absolute state of being that the trouble begins. Most people, when they talk about whether or not an action was "just" are not talking abstractions. They're speaking from a pure gut reaction. This ruling is the perfect example, really. Dripping acid in this guy's eyes is justice by definition. The rule of law has been applied. But there are many here who would argue that two wrongs don't make a right, and that cruelty is never justice. That some things are wrong or right in an absolute sense, not a relativistic sense. I change my own mind on that front rather frequently, so I certainly can't speak with any authority on the subject, but I have noticed that when people become convinced of moral absolutes, they eventually seem to feel entitled and even compelled to enforce their convictions on the world around them. And then we get shit like acid attacks and so-called "honor" killings. So it's not just the cycle of violence we have to watch out for. It's also the cycle of self-righteousness.

Just to be absolutely clear, jokeefe, the "self-righteous" comment is in no way aimed at you, or at anyone else in this thread, for that matter, pending preview, with which I almost never bother.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why wouldn't you kill a (seemingly) unarmed intruder?

Because you can't read minds. I agree showing mercy is noble, but if we're are talking about someone knowingly invading your space then I think you have every right to defend yourself. (Yes, to the death. No, not if someone bumps into on the street.)
posted by P.o.B. at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2008


I'm fine with this, under the circumstances. In places such as those where most of us live, where acid-throwing would be an unusual method of aggravated battery, it could be treated as such and the criminal punished in the same way as one who, say, blinded his victim with a fork, or inflicted brain damage causing blinding. But the circumstances here include the fact that throwing acid at women is a fad among these types of men. It has become a cultural practice. The Iranians have dragged their feet about stopping it for various stupid reasons, as the Iranians commonly do. Not properly prosecuting crimes against women is a "cultural practice" of Islamic theocracies. They need to stop it, and to do so, they need to make a very public example of a perpetrator.

Those who are advocating jail instead, and especially those who are presenting jail as the only option for punishment of crimes, need to think through your position. There are a lot of things that can be done to criminals. Jail isn't the only option, and in fact it has proven in practice over the last century or so to be a very bad option. Confining criminals to a cage, usually with other criminals under minimal supervision, is neither natural nor just in itself. It's applying the same punishment, varying it only by period of time in the cage, to all crimes, and it's removed any sense of expiation of the crime. The fact that people make profits (very large profits) out of jailing criminals makes jail ethically unconscionable in its present form.

As for the torture issue - jail is torture. I'm happy to donate to Amnesty International, and I admire their work, but on that point I deeply disagree with them: they protest judicial killing, but they give judicial torture, emotional maiming, and further criminalization a free pass. Almost all judicial punishment is, in a sense: to torture is to deliberately inflict suffering. The justification is that the suffering is inflicted for a purpose, although jail has become such a fad, a cultural practice, that the purpose is long lost in the reinforced assumption that "We Must Jail Criminals". Blinding this wretch as a public example meets the standard of "for a purpose" in a way that jailing pot smokers and parking offenders simply can't.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


The purpose of this punishment is not to "dissuade others from doing this."

No, but it could be a special bonus side effect.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:24 PM on December 2



It won't be. Deterrence operates on the rational mind. Most violent crimes are emotional and driven by passions. You would think the fact that the girls father might try to kill him would be enough of a deterrent, but it simply isn't.

That is nonsense. We have a larger prison population in numbers and percentage than any other nation in the world. This includes all the nations without brutal punishments or torture.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:08 PM on December 29


Okay, try to understand what I wrote. The fact that we have a larger number of prisoners is meaningless, as we have a larger population than most countries. My point is that systems that mete out punishments like stoning, acid, maiming, etc, which do not also involve imprisonment will necessarily have the a smaller prison population than a country with the same size and amount of violent crime.

In other words, the size of the prison population is meaningless. You cannot use that statistic to infer anything. Does the fact that we have more prisoners per capita mean that the country is more violent, because we have so many criminals, or so safe because the criminals are all serving long sentences and never being released? You can't tell unless you look at another statistic (i.e. reported crimes) that answers the question all by itself.

In any case, here is the list of countries with the most prisoners per capita. The wretched den of scum and villainy known as the Bahamas is #9. Brazil is #50.

I can only assume that Brazil low on the list because it is a paradise of social and economic equality, and not at all because there are neighborhoods in Rio and São Paulo that the police won't even fly helicopters over, let alone enter on foot to make an arrest.

Nigeria is #149. I guess that's because when you've had your arms chopped off and there's nothing of value in the country that hasn't already been taken by foreign corporations, you tend not to do a whole lot of stealing.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2008


A paedophile rapes your seven year old child. He has an eight year old child of his own. Your move.

You walk into the courtroom, pump five bullets into his head and spark a national debate about vigilantism.
posted by ericb at 3:03 PM on December 29, 2008


It is a real problem that women are subjugated in much of Central Asia and the Middle East.

I would extend it to cover much more of the world. Nonetheless, do we have some type of answer for this?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:06 PM on December 29, 2008


By the way, it is worth pointing out that the same justice system that condones the acid torture of an acid torturer that many endorse also imprisoned an Iranian blogger and Mefite for the heinous act of visiting Israel.

BTW, any updates on Hoder?
posted by Pastabagel at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


mandal A paedophile rapes your seven year old child. He has an eight year old child of his own.

Well put, but wrong on two counts. The paedophile's crime is not against you, it is against your child. Your assumption that it is a crime against you is a kind of violation of the child's status as a separate human being. The same applies to the child of the paedophile, who is innocent of any crime.

Though it does, for another reason, point out the major flaw in literal eye-for-an-eye punishment: doing act X to me is not the same as doing act X to you. I may have a greater vulnerability to act X. This can be as simple a factor as differing pain threshold, differing response to rape (consider the challenge of finding someone with whom sex is specifically abhorrent to each prospective judicial rape victim), and generally speaking differing circumstances of life. Although the same applies to fining us both $2000, or putting us both in jail for two weeks. It will ruin a minimum wage earner who exists paycheck to paycheck; a moderately wealthy small business owner could hire a temporary employee for a couple of weeks and suffer almost nothing.

I don't think this flaw applies here. Being blind is pretty much the same punishment to anyone with moderately normal sight, we can take that as a given; and there's the very pertinent issue of public example.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2008


Because criminals are human beings, and a human life is more important than a stolen TV, even considering what it cost you? Because under a different set of circumstances where your life somehow led to being addicted to crack, you might also break into a random person's house and steal something?

And you know what? Given that I believe people need to take responsibility for their own actions, I still don't give a damn what extenuating circumstances "force" you to break in to my house, or attempt to rape me, or whatever. Crack addiction? Really? this is now considered an ok reason to run around committing crimes? I'm willing to give Batshit McAcidThrowing Crazypants a little benefit of the doubt if he actually IS crazy, but last I checked, no one got addicted to crack without willingly trying it themselves, no brain malfunctions required. If someone were to break into my house and lay a hand on me, it's on. I live in a major US city whose police force isn't exactly known for quick response. I'm not going to sit here and just take it because a criminal decides it's my turn today.

In my worldview, he may be a horrible, horrible person, but he still is a human being, and he still should not have to fear torture.

Yes. He should. He gave up being a human being on the day he reduced this poor woman to a shell of what she once was -- this woman who apparently was kind enough in college to try to help him out with charity, who politely turned down his offer of marriage and who got acid poured on her face in response. He should have to spend a night in a homeless shelter thousands of miles from home after his government stops paying for his medical care. He should have to contemplate offers of marriage from the person who disfigured him (I sure hope the prison guard in question is hot! Or at least has lots of money. That ought to make the guard an acceptable match!)...

Except he WON'T. That's the difference here. There is no recompense that will make up for what he did. I can buy a new TV. But medical technology sure as hell won't buy me a new face. (Well, not quite yet, this notwithstanding).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The fact that this justice system is based on a hare brained religion only reinforces the madness.

Someone physically harms a member of my family, yes I want to exact severe and like punishment upon them. Do I want the state to behave this way? No, of course not.

We have to stop seeing these situations within the context of a particular culture, this is all wrong.
posted by pianomover at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2008


Except he WON'T. That's the difference here. There is no recompense that will make up for what he did. I can buy a new TV. But medical technology sure as hell won't buy me a new face.

Yeah, and that's why we have a criminal justice system, so that we don't leave it up to the victims to come up with their own forms of justice.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yeah, and that's why we have a criminal justice system, so that we don't leave it up to the victims to come up with their own forms of justice.

Exactly.
posted by pianomover at 3:18 PM on December 29, 2008


Because killing someone probably isn't legal where you live unless there is a clear and obvious threat to your own life?

burnmp3s, the thought process, as I understand it, is that someone who so blatantly disregards the social contract as to break into your home is not someone who you can trust to regard it as regards your personal safety.

yes, there are a lot of "regard"s in that sentence.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2008


Okay, try to understand what I wrote. The fact that we have a larger number of prisoners is meaningless, as we have a larger population than most countries. My point is that systems that mete out punishments like stoning, acid, maiming, etc, which do not also involve imprisonment will necessarily have the a smaller prison population than a country with the same size and amount of violent crime.

I would like to see some research backing this up. I think you're coming up with your own conclusions.

In other words, the size of the prison population is meaningless. You cannot use that statistic to infer anything.

I wasn't the one who brought it up. You used the statistics to infer something. I was refuting your assumptions about what the statistics meant.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2008


It's really disturbing to see how many people are endorsing this punishment, which is torture. Torture.

I guess many have been dragged down by the Bush-Cheney mindset. It's very very disturbing to see the toxicity of thinking some are demonstrating here. Does no-one get taught about the social contract, or basic civics, anymore? This is a no-brainer. Torture is wrong, under any circumstances.
posted by Rumple at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


As for the torture issue - jail is torture.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:59 PM on December 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


Jail can be torture. When someone is out causing trouble in society, where are you going to keep them until you've done whatever non-torturous thing to them to make it all better? It's a jail - it doesn't have to be the Oz, you can call it a rehabilitation center to make it sound nicer. But it's still a jail, the place where we put criminals to get them away from everyone else. Its time out for grown-ups. The question is how nice the chair in the corner is.
posted by cimbrog at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2008


He gave up being a human being on the day he reduced this poor woman to a shell of what she once was....

No, sadly, he only re-iterated that he IS a human being, and that he has some of the dirty stinking rotten shit that comes with it.

No one ever "gives up" their "right" to "be a human being." You may want it to work that way, but it simply does not.

Think more. Sputter less.

I'm not defending the creep, by the way. But talk like this, and the weird derail about shooting crack-addicted TV thieves, really doesn't help unmuddle the topic.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I would like to see some research backing this up. I think you're coming up with your own conclusions.

Let me expand on that. Your example doesn't exist in the real world, where crime rates are the same and punishments differ in a static state. The punishment will have an effect on the crime rate, but so do a lot of other factors. It's true enough to say that a criminal justice system which imprisons less will have less prisoners than one which uses imprisonment as sentencing more often. But all things aren't equal, and there are huge differences between the prison population of the US and Canada, which share a lot of similarities culturally. I don't think you can infer much from our prison population numbers and Iran's. But I think you agree with me, as you said, "the size of the prison population is meaningless. You cannot use that statistic to infer anything."
posted by krinklyfig at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2008


It's really disturbing to see how many people are endorsing this punishment, which is torture. Torture.

Yes, but they only want to torture the bad people. That's what makes them the good guys.

*eyes border warily*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2008


burnmp3s, the thought process, as I understand it, is that someone who so blatantly disregards the social contract as to break into your home is not someone who you can trust to regard it as regards your personal safety.

Precisely. And if you don't agree with this, perhaps you are planning to hire your next babysitter from that group of hoodlums who stand outside in front of the corner store with bottles in brown paper bags? I hear one of them used to be an elementary school teacher...perfectly safe!

Rumple, where do 'basic civics' come in when you're dealing with something like this? D'ya think that maybe a few lectures on Rousseau, or the U.S. system of checks and balances would, say, change someone's mind who's hell bent on raping you in a dark alley? Hey ladies, drop the pepper spray and get yourself a pocket Constitution! Problem solved!

My reading of Rousseau and the 'social contract' is that it imposes the same duties and responsibilities on everyone in exchange for the benefits derived from being in said contract. One can exit the contract if one likes, and this asshole certainly did. He abdicated his responsibility to act like a grown up human being in society, and he's no better than an animal. The argument can be made, if he is in fact mentally defective, that he does not have reason enough to make an informed decision re: the above, but barring proof of that: he made his bed, he gets to lie in it.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


cimbrog you can call it a rehabilitation center to make it sound nicer

This is like calling a bandit gang a "national army" to make it sound nicer. Or human dogfighting "boxing" to make it sound nicer. They are entirely different things, there is no "sounding nicer" about it. Your sneer is unjustified.

But it's still a jail, the place where we put criminals to get them away from everyone else.
Why?

The theory is, because they're harmful to others. But they're likely to be equally harmful, if not more so, after they're let out. So why set a period of time on it?

Furthermore, it's well established that people adopt the customs and assumptions of their surrounding peer group. So what do you think would happen if we put you with a violent, selfish, malicious peer group?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2008


Furthermore, it's well established that people adopt the customs and assumptions of their surrounding peer group. So what do you think would happen if we put you with a violent, selfish, malicious peer group?

Why would you do that?
posted by pianomover at 3:36 PM on December 29, 2008


it doesn't have to be the Oz, you can call it a rehabilitation center to make it sound nicer. But it's still a jail, the place where we put criminals to get them away from everyone else. Its time out for grown-ups. The question is how nice the chair in the corner is.

I think the days when we thought we could rehabilitate everyone are over, and it didn't end so well, with a lot of bad assumptions. But we approach the problem so backwardly in the US that we're not really even close to doing it right, unless the point is purely to punish and put it out of sight, out of mind. If it is, then we're doing a pretty good job, but it's not helping in the sense that it's not dealing with the issue of crime, and therefore doesn't affect it positively for society. If we're interested in having a positive effect, we really, truly need to look again at rehabilitation, more seriously than we do. It's not popular as a political subject, so we end up with a privatized prison system which emphasizes punishment, with almost no money allocated for rehabilitation anymore. The services are simply not available in many places, and what politician wants to advocate for helping criminals? But it's not really working, and not too far from here is the point where we start torturing our own prisoners, or we could go in a better direction. We spend way too much money on imprisoning way too many people, and the end result isn't great. Maybe reduced tax revenue will force some sort of change, but I'm afraid it won't be in the direction of rehab services.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2008


He abdicated his responsibility to act like a grown up human being in society, and he's no better than an animal.

The level of judgmental froth at work here is harrowing.
posted by lumensimus at 3:44 PM on December 29, 2008


Furthermore, it's well established that people adopt the customs and assumptions of their surrounding peer group. So what do you think would happen if we put you with a violent, selfish, malicious peer group?

Why would you do that?
posted by pianomover


High school is mandatory.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


My reading of Rousseau and the 'social contract' is that it imposes the same duties and responsibilities on everyone in exchange for the benefits derived from being in said contract. One can exit the contract if one likes, and this asshole certainly did. He abdicated his responsibility to act like a grown up human being in society, and he's no better than an animal.

That's true, and I think separating this case from the context of Iran's culture and history is dangerous. But, in the social contract, I think there is also implicit that we don't in turn act like animals, that we continue to act like grown up human beings and mete out justice based on what is appropriate for the system of justice and society as a whole, not what is desired to exact revenge in a particular case. But in the context of Iran's criminal justice system, this is the appropriate punishment, and a case can be made that they are at least recognizing in a formal fashion that a woman could be considered a victim of a crime, and that a man could perpetrate a crime against a woman and be punished for it. And it is a step forward in that sense. Still, I don't desire that we should become more like that, because if it's a step forward, there's a long way to go.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:48 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we're interested in having a positive effect, we really, truly need to look again at rehabilitation, more seriously than we do.

In the states at least, this has always waxed and waned with the political seasons. I wish I could find the study, but seem to remember that (basically) when the economy goes bad politicians suddenly get "tough on crime/criminals" as a slight of hand distracting from other problems, and the rest of us tend to follow their lead.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:48 PM on December 29, 2008


aeschenkarnos This is like calling a bandit gang a "national army" to make it sound nicer. Or human dogfighting "boxing" to make it sound nicer. They are entirely different things, there is no "sounding nicer" about it. Your sneer is unjustified.

I didn't mean it as a sneer. If you consider a rehabilitation center to be a completely different thing than a jail, then this part of the argument is about semantics and I'll withdraw.

The theory is, because they're harmful to others. But they're likely to be equally harmful, if not more so, after they're let out. So why set a period of time on it?

My snakry little list actually is kind of built on the despair that there isn't a perfect way to set a period of time on any sort of societal time-out, rehabilitation or otherwise. Ideally it would involve all sorts of psychological work, but its a very imperfect science and we would never truly know if someone was okay or not. In addition, it would involve a good deal more resources than most poorer countries could afford.

Of course, this is all based on my own understanding. If you have some radically different option here that I don't know about, please inform me. That's why I come to Metafilter, after all.
posted by cimbrog at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2008


The moralizing in this thread is just hilarious.

Is this really the same crowd that goes all stony, critical, and rational in religion threads? All that bullshit about empiricism and the scientific method goes right out the window when your heart tells you that something really, really must be so, huh?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:57 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not really, no.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2008


But, in the social contract, I think there is also implicit that we don't in turn act like animals, that we continue to act like grown up human beings and mete out justice based on what is appropriate for the system of justice and society as a whole, not what is desired to exact revenge in a particular case.

Mete and exact correctly used? You sure you're not one of those effete leftists?

Actually, while I joke, there does still seem to be this acceptable -- even on MeFi -- point where "It's time for a lynchin!" is used as some kind of litmus test, and if you're not out for blood in any form you're either morally or emotionally defective, or both. It's damned disturbing and I wish you people would wear a sign so I could ensure you never look after my pets or my kids. (or car. or yard. or pocket lint)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


This punishment just reinforces the idea that it's okay to toss acid into the face of someone who has done wrong. If we establish that, then we're just arguing over what behavior deserves acid to the face.

Reminds me of the classic Churchill anecdote:
At a dinner party one night, an inebriated Churchill asked an attractive woman whether she would sleep with him for a million pounds.
“Maybe,” the woman said coyly.
“Would you sleep with me for one pound?” Churchill then asked.
“Of course not, what kind of woman do you think I am?” the woman responded indignantly.
“Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are,” said Churchill, “now we’re just negotiating the price.”
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


In the states at least, this has always waxed and waned with the political seasons. I wish I could find the study, but seem to remember that (basically) when the economy goes bad politicians suddenly get "tough on crime/criminals" as a slight of hand distracting from other problems, and the rest of us tend to follow their lead.

Well, at least since Reagan, it's been in the tough on crime direction. Even during Clinton's tenure, and he promoted the Drug War as much as anyone. A lot of it these days is driven by the moneyed interests involved in privatization, so it's more of a constant movement in that direction. But it's still a political football in the same way a lot of the culture war issues are, and the "solutions" are often just a way to funnel money in a certain direction. But the money is drying up. I don't know if we're going to continue to see the prison system as much of a growth industry in the coming years, but not sure if it's going to improve. We're probably going to get more state-run facilities with less services, but we could at least get some front-loading of social services under Obama like higher education, which might improve the situation in the long run. In a few years, looking at other options for criminal rehab might not be such a toxic political subject.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:02 PM on December 29, 2008


Instead of prison or dipping his eyes in acid how about he has to wear acid washed jeans and walk around the Castro?
posted by pianomover at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2008


165 comments, and the word forgive is used only 3 times.

And those 3 times are all in a single comment.

Jesus.
posted by humannaire at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jesus

Not present.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:17 PM on December 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


My snakry little list actually is kind of built on the despair that there isn't a perfect way to set a period of time on any sort of societal time-out, rehabilitation or otherwise. Ideally it would involve all sorts of psychological work, but its a very imperfect science and we would never truly know if someone was okay or not. In addition, it would involve a good deal more resources than most poorer countries could afford.

Well, I guess it depends on the desired outcome. But it's unlikely in many poorer countries for human rights to take center stage. Egalitarian systems usually require some stability, and that's most easily obtained with money. But underlying Iran's problems with crime and punishment are cultural issues not easily overcome. The US has not done much to encourage the real progressive movement in Iran, unfortunately, as it hasn't served its interests to do so, at least seemingly from an economic and hegemonic standpoint. The Persian culture is not really barbaric, and we all have the propensity for barbarism under the right circumstances, but the country of Iran has been a pawn in some regional struggles and international interests, much like Afghanistan and Iraq. I want to see the progressive movement succeed, but my hopes for them while Bush was in power weren't very high. Funny how we claim to support such movements in other nations, even conservatives will say they support the Iranian progressives, but they have so much disdain for progressives in their own neighborhoods (and we tend to undermine such movements elsewhere when inconvenient). If real progress is to be made in the ME and Central Asia, I am almost certain it will be done completely independently of the US, and it probably should, but at least we could get out of the way. But that has to happen before outcomes of criminal trials will improve much from here.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:19 PM on December 29, 2008


Apparently.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:19 PM on December 29, 2008


Crazy laws made up from an equally crazy religion and your looking for forgiveness.
Jesus H Christ.
posted by pianomover at 4:22 PM on December 29, 2008


The "H" stands for "Hardass."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:23 PM on December 29, 2008


I thought it stood for "hippie"
Learn something new everyday.
Thanks
posted by pianomover at 4:26 PM on December 29, 2008


It stands for haploid.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:31 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


It stands for haploid.

Funny! Is that original?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on December 29, 2008


The original crime is awful, but I think disfigurement and/or blindness are horrible acts individuals or the government should not be allowed to do. The individuals can settle their differences in court or via arbitration, and the court, an extension of the government can determine an appropriate penalty. As this seems to have a cultural background, I think prison is most appropriate, coupled with a big fine and a case worker keeping tabs on the person. It's difficult to set these appropriately.

Granted, I'm basing this on the American justice system. I have no idea what an Iranian court or prison is like. However, I assume they have better options than intentionally disabling a fellow human being's arguably most important sense. He is, in no way, shape, or form innocent, but I believe society acting as a whole, as a government, should be above the barbaric acts of a deranged individual. Besides, I feel if the government uses the same tactics as torturers, murders, and sick people like this guy, it sends a mixed message, as a democratic or democratically republican government is meant to carry out policies agreed on by the citizens, and those policies are meant to show what state actions lead toward the common good. If a culture can decide that the government can murder or mutilate a person, if a court and/or jury deliberate and decide that it's the best course of action, an individual could get the idea that he is in the clear if he has put enough thought into those actions. There are many fallacies in that logic, but I could see a person following it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


In this case, an individual in a state of passion blinds a person. As punishment, the state cold-bloodedly blinds him. Doesn't this alone make the state not only no better than the criminal but worse? Because of its power, the state should never act like the worst of its citizens.
posted by binturong at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2008


In this case, I think they should just execute him instead. It would be less cruel.
posted by empath at 4:59 PM on December 29, 2008


Funny! Is that original?
Definitely not, I wish I could be that clever. I mercilessly stole it.

posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2008


If my sister was raped and killed, you can be damn sure I would have liked to see the perpetrator raped and killed. But I really don't want a legal system based on my feelings.

Over a decade ago, a close friend was raped and strangled to death. Her killer, a neighbor who had harbored an unrequited crush on her, was found not guilty and released from jail because police had wrongly obtained evidence against him without a warrant. In the newspaper, post-verdict, was a photo of this man, on the courthouse steps, grinning besides his attorney, hands raised high in victory.

I wanted to kill him. So did my friend's family, friends, and the community-at-large. My friend was one of the wisest, kindest, most gifted people I have met in this lifetime. Her daughter, six years old at the time, has grown up without a mother.

But my friend also was a very gentle soul. She never would have asked for this man to be killed, raped, or tortured. She would ask us to get on with our lives and, rather than seethe with hatred and vengeance, while attempting to condemn and punish one miscreant soul for a terrible crime, turn our attentions toward helping as many others as we can, in her memory.
posted by terranova at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


You know in some parts of the world they would cut off your hand for that.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2008


For starters, one of the reasons we have a higher percentage in prison is because the only thing we can do with people convicted of a crime is to imprison them. We don't have the option of pouring acid into their eyes and sending them home. -- pastabagel

Oh that's idiotic. Look at your list of countries by prison population again. There are countries that have much lower crime rates, like Japan, Sweeden, etc with much lower prison populations with lower incarceration rates then the US. And countries that have higher crime rates. Of course that's because every single country in the world has a lower prison population. In fact, that table is somewhat out of date and the U.S. actually has about 1000 out of every 100,000 people in prison. 1%. I know it's popular to claim that other countries somehow "cheat" by simply executing more people or doing shit like this acid thing, but the fact is the number of official executions in countries like china are much to low to affect the prisoner ratio. (and by the way, the U.S. has a higher absolute prisoner population then any country, not just per-capita. We have more prisoners then India and china combined)

Anyone who would defend the U.S. justice system knowing all the facts is warped. I certainly think the Iranian justice system is seriously flawed, but I happen to agree with them in this case. Fuck that guy.
posted by delmoi at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


In this case, I think they should just execute him instead. It would be less cruel.

Would you seriously choose death over blindness? I know I wouldn't. Although the thought of being blinded with acid provokes a more visceral emotional response than the abstract thought of dying, I think you'll find that most people would prefer the blinding over death. Being confronted with your mortality via a death sentence is fantastically cruel, more so than even (acute) extreme physical pain.
posted by Pyry at 5:13 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Something I think most people are missing here is that Iran usually imposes an alternative punishment, the "blood money" which makes the crime conveniently go away. The crime is probably as popular as it is because the acid-throwers know a fine is the worst they will face. In that regard they have de facto permission from the State to pursue throw their little acid tantrums and walk away, a little thinner in the wallet.

But this same system which is so heavily loaded against women in so many ways also contains this revenge provision, and Ameneh appears to be taking the attitude "fuck the money, this has to be discouraged." I'm suspect she might be equally satisfied with an offer of life without parole, but that's not what the system she's in offers. Maybe she wants vengeance, but maybe she just wants to be assured he will never throw acid in another woman's face ever again. This is her only chance to be assured of that.

As for the system itself it strongly encouraged her to take the money, in part because it would make Iran look bad. But when you build a cruelly atavistic system, you have to go with it when it bites you in the ass. She has already been the victim of its cruelty because her attacker assumed he would pay and go free. This is her way of sticking a shiv not just in the guy who blinded her, but the very system that made him feel empowered to do it.
posted by localroger at 5:19 PM on December 29, 2008 [11 favorites]


It is easy to protest that torturing an innocent person is wrong, but who will step up and defend the human rights of the bastard who poured acid on the innocent girl? In my worldview, he may be a horrible, horrible person, but he still is a human being, and he still should not have to fear torture.


This is very true and I don't feel I'm conceding anything by saying you're 100% correct that torture should be something that anyone should have to fear. I was very upfront and honest that my reaction was coming from a emotional and visceral place but I am also of the notion that this man, like many many others, took a very brutal unthinkable action to which he does deserve punishment. He is of course human and like previously stated, societal torture is also unfathomable - but he is no longer a man in possesion of his previous civil liberties - that isn't to say he's an animal, but no longer should have rights and liberties that were in his previous possession.

What is the answer then for a suitable punishment? If I was that girl's parent I know what my personal answer would be, as an aspiring thoughtful member of society I know what my answer should be and as a possible victim, I shudder to think what my answer would be. Clearly jail is the answer, and I find it rationally eloquent that the man should surrender his possessions, future efforts and earnings to benefit this poor woman though he should never have access to either her nor any future potentional victim in the future.

This punishment is a horror that any courts would consider, it seems however they do so to send a clear message that such horrific actions may likewise inflict similar retribution. I don't want to be the first one to advocate the rise of Thunderdome and Mad Max law across all lands. I'm definitely not one who is without fault and should never cast stones. As an educated westerner, I've the luxury of having a set of principles which I know should be aspired to, but we can't assume our laws and principles are always perfect. There's a definite cultural division here based upon a religious theology (that I am often at odds with). However within that culture that there is also a set of principles which others consider may be rationally tackled with. No system is ever perfect, being human we're prone to feck up in every culture and every possible way. It doesn't make any of this right but for all the horrors all nations including mine commit, let's just say that this registers a bit lower on the richter scale of my outrage considering the crime - and much much lower than my outrage at the original act of anger.

Perhaps it does make me a bad person, I'll have to mull it over ... please don't tase me bro.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:37 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


*torture should be something that anyone shouldn't have to fear.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:38 PM on December 29, 2008


I certainly think the Iranian justice system is seriously flawed, but I happen to agree with them in this case. Fuck that guy.

But that guy is a tiny part of the problem. That guy got very strong acid from someone, certainly in a quantity that was far too small from industrial use. He got the idea of splashing acid in her face from someplace - did his friends and family suggest it? How is this meme propagated?

There is clearly something very wrong with a culture in which acid is regularly thrown at anyone.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:40 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


No.

Are you seriously arguing that people don't like to get some payback? That's why we have the "eye for an eye" edict in the first place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2008


Yes. He should. He gave up being a human being on the day he reduced this poor woman to a shell of what she once was

Pretending he's not a human being now is not the answer. Calling him no better than an animal also doesn't help. For one, animals don't throw acid into the face of the mates who reject them.

Reducing him to not-human-being status probably makes it easier for your to be all judgmental, call for his torture, imprisonment or whatever punishment your brain comes up with while you contemplate his sickening crime. And yet, this is the very reason for a justice system - so that rational people (and perhaps a jury) can make a decision acceptable to the community, as opposed to the sort of vigilante-style revenge you are proposing.

The other problem with you reducing him to not-human-being is that his view of the woman he attacked must lie somewhere around not-human-being as well. Whatever cultural or personal belief has led him to that point of view, he decided that she had no right to reject him and that he had every right to exact revenge on her. Clearly he thinks of himself as superior and of her (and other women, most likely) as inferior.

Reducing people to less-than-human or not-at-all-human makes it much easier to rationalise crazy attacks and simplistic revenge fantasies.
posted by crossoverman at 5:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Solon and Thanks: This punishment just reinforces the idea that it's okay to toss acid into the face of someone who has done wrong. If we establish that, then we're just arguing over what behavior deserves acid to the face.

mccarty.tim: I feel if the government uses the same tactics as torturers, murders, and sick people like this guy, it sends a mixed message

I think these two arguments make a strong case, because they neatly account for the two halves of precedence - one set for the conduct of the courts, and the other for the conduct of citizens.

The first argument is the more direct one, because, if Islamic law observes a tradition of case law (and it seems to), a decision of the courts can cast a shadow over future rulings. The second argument is harder to evidence, but is a sentiment similar to that of Justice Brandeis' dissent in Olmstead:

Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.

A court decision is the creation not just of a single isolated effect, but also of a legal document with an afterlife. And if the state becomes the acid-thrower, or the executioner, doesn't it say to the people: these are methods of pursuing justice, and good enough for the highest power?

The solution to an under-prosecuted problem, such as acid attacks, is not to compensate for a general policy of lenience, non-enforcement, and bribery by occasionally making a circus out of the courts.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What amazes me is the tone of people, living in a western society which has its own bloody history of enlightenment before reaching their not unblinkered approach to crime, who can only see in shades of custody, deaf to or simply ignorant of the comprehensive influence and effectiveness of their own spectacular pre modern punishments (even whilst reviving them), imposing their own moral absolutism, bred on (immunised by?) a historical distance of two centuries, demanding that it's fair treatment for all or quits, that's it and anyone else is a fucking barbarian, stop it you're doing it wrong.

A peculiar act of state violence in favour of a woman, in a society that has traditionally discriminated against them, is generalised to suggest routinely peculiar (see the hysterical conflation there?) state barbarity - that is a progressive act working within the given framework for such acts is dismissed because the framework is untenable in the eyes of enlightened mefites. The alternatives are then given - it's fair treatment for all or a) you are a barbarian b) you are no better than mr acid thrower and c) what are you even doing taking up pixels on my screen if you disagree, please turn in your mouse and give yourself up. I could see this point of view if some sort of revolution was pending, if we could expect the complete overhaul of the Iranian justice system in the next couple of years - if the expectation of a new framework for justice was a realistic possibility. Not knowing the news in Iran I don't know if this is the case, but I doubt very much if the same voices of outrage would be able to guarantee it either. In such a situation, the tones of absolutist indignation smacks of comfortable, self righteous removal from the hard exigencies of development and progress in a traditional society.
posted by doobiedoo at 5:58 PM on December 29, 2008


in this way you can also see why the bush torture is completely the opposite of this, whereas the Iranian sentence is likely to be a politically unpopular act, both domestically and abroad, it nonetheless affirms progressive social values in the only way it can given the options in the Iranian justice system. the infrastructure and legislative buff for US torture on the other hand had to be specially created from scratch, and represents a regressive act within the framework of intelligence gathering which already had given routes and paths for obtaining said intelligence, furthermore it was meant to be a populist gesture of sovereign might. you have to be politically tone deaf and self obsessed to confuse the two.
posted by doobiedoo at 6:26 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


speaking of cycles of violence (revenge and self-righteousness) i'm wondering whether this can be framed in terms of feedback loops (positive or negative), which i think is the aim of balanced and restorative justice -- to dampen escalation -- within the context of 'society' (the system).
posted by kliuless at 6:48 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


There is no recompense that will make up for what he did.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:11 PM on December 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


So true - this one half of the problem - nothing we do to torture this man will make up for what he did. Will all be forgiven once his eyes are burned out? Will the girl who is disfigured and blinded be restored to her former life? Nothing will be different, except we will have tortured a man.

He abdicated his responsibility to act like a grown up human being in society, and he's no better than an animal.

I recognize that this is probably not something we will be able to change each others' minds about, but I strongly believe that it's not possible to give up your humanity. I think it's an example of the no true scotsman fallacy. This man was a human being before he destroyed that girl's life, and he is still a human being. His terrible act notwithstanding.

I think any social contract that he breached with his crime was not the source of his humanity or his human rights, but extra rights and responsibilities accorded to people by society. This is really humanism as an unfalsifiable belief - I am full aware that there are no physical laws from which human rights are derived, but I believe they exist anyways.

And BTW eatdonuts, I appreciate your comments - I still disagree with some of your conclusions, but I understand your point.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


But that guy is a tiny part of the problem. That guy got very strong acid from someone, certainly in a quantity that was far too small from industrial use. He got the idea of splashing acid in her face from someplace - did his friends and family suggest it? How is this meme propagated?

There is clearly something very wrong with a culture in which acid is regularly thrown at anyone.


I don't know if acid is thrown regularly in Iran. And I doubt it would be hard to buy a small amount of acid here in the US. You could extract it from a car battery. It doesn't make sense to ban acid sales unless acid-in-the face was very common. I've heard of it being a real problem in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It would be interesting to see if there were some statistics out there about the commonality of these attacks.

As far as the general principle goes, I certainly wouldn't want the government In the United States to start blinding people with acid, because I wouldn't want to live in a barbaric society. But that doesn't mean every specific act of barbarism is wrong, in some cases it could (in theory) be right. On the balance it would be better to get rid of all of it, but that doesn't mean we can't say, well, in this case it's good.
posted by delmoi at 7:09 PM on December 29, 2008


And I think most here would agree that the outrage at the original crime committed (and the many similar reactions of desire for vengence) is also fairly culture based.

I disagree. There are men like that everywhere- in the US they use guns instead of acid but it's a familiar tale in every country in the world. Probably the only thing stopping a lot of guys we all see in our everyday lives from doing something along these lines is fear of punishment and/or cultural and family norms so I, for one, can't fault them for making an example.

He started it, she's going to finish it and while it's not what I would do, I can't condemn her for her choice.
posted by fshgrl at 7:10 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the balance it would be better to get rid of all of it, but that doesn't mean we can't say, well, in this case it's good.

I think we should be careful about endorsing acts which constitute disfiguration, torture, maiming, etc., even if we can sympathize with the victim. I guess it's a sort of progress, but it's not exactly a great outcome. I would rather hear about the local culture coming around to shun such people who would hurt people for senseless reasons. I think the basis of any sort of system of justice has to be that even perpetrators of crimes have rights, but I do realize that's a very western sentiment. Still, in order for women to be respected legally, human rights have to become central to legal concepts of justice, not just equitable retribution. Around here, it's very common for a man to attempt to avenge a wrong done to a female family member. Even if they are successful and it's justified, it never really results in a more equitable life for a lot of the women here, however. It's just cycles of violence which rely on absence of forgiveness or mercy.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:28 PM on December 29, 2008


Acid survivors links Here & Here.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Retribution and revenge are built into Islamic law. And because your nation happens to structure its justice system along different lines, it's "immoral"? Regardless of the fact that if you'd been born in Iran you'd likely think the sentence entirely fair? If I were the victim, I'd like to stand in the room as they do it and hear the flesh burn.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:52 PM on December 29, 2008


I don't think I would agree with the mechanics of this dispensation of justice, but I think it is interesting and notable that Iran is giving the victim — a female in a fundamentalist Islamic state — the choice of punishments, instead of deciding for her.

The punishment may be harsh, but there's an aspect of the state asking her — the victim — to decide her attacker's fate that seems fairer than I'd otherwise think possible in a male-dominated theocracy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:54 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Retribution and revenge are built into Islamic law. And because your nation happens to structure its justice system along different lines, it's "immoral"? Regardless of the fact that if you'd been born in Iran you'd likely think the sentence entirely fair? If I were the victim, I'd like to stand in the room as they do it and hear the flesh burn.

If I were born male in Iran, there's a good chance I'd think the punishment was inappropriate, but not because of humanitarian reasons.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:07 PM on December 29, 2008


I am a horrible person.

Not because I have any particular position regarding this man's punishment (I don't), but because in spite of all the heavy and serious issues at hand, I'm about to discuss something as superficial as an acronym. That is, CSAAAW.

Maybe they were going for "see-saw" to allude, awkwardly, to the scales of justice; if that's the case, they'd probably be better off inserting a hyphen. There'd still be that weird juxtaposition though, of children's playground equipment and brutal assault resulting in permanent disfigurement--not to mention the subtle but important symbolic difference between the scales of justice (representing a responsible balance of crime and punishment) and a teeter-totter (representing the childish and futile pursuit of satisfaction via reciprocity). If Justice is to be evoked, mightn't it be more fitting in this case to play up the blind and female aspects of that particular allegorical figure?

But that's all for naught; CSAAAW's chief aim is not justice, but awareness and prevention. So now we get to the next bit. The bit where it works.

CSAAAW. Say it out loud: "Ksssaaaaaaugh." Now add some exclamation marks and try it again. It's probably unintentional, but that is absolutely the most effectively horrifying example of onomatopoeia I have ever encountered. If simple human compassion can't be relied upon for furthering awareness and prevention of acid attacks and restrictions on acid sales, an acronym that mimics the sound of burning flesh and screams of horror might just do the trick.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Retribution and revenge are built into Islamic law. And because your nation happens to structure its justice system along different lines, it's "immoral"?

So if the aforementioned "blood money" had been the result, as usual, that would have been ok, because hey it's a different system governed by different norms and values? Or would that suddenly not be ok? I see what amounts to a lot of convenient use of cultural relativity here -- talk of well of course this is the only option available to dissuade such acts given the culture, as if their hand is forced. What, from blood money to torture? You think a real possibility of 20 years in an Iranian prison wouldn't be a wake-up call?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2008


> It's very very disturbing to see the toxicity of thinking some are demonstrating here.

Disturbing! It must be--to suddenly be shown the thinness of the skin stretched over the skull beneath; and to think that, despite decades of meliorative prescriptions and finger-shaking, it doesn't seem to be getting any thicker. Just a little pressure and out He pops, all fangs and stink and revanchist savagery. The re-education, it does nothing.
posted by jfuller at 8:48 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


stavrogin: "What they need to do is close down all of the Bucket O' Acid franchises."

Buckets O' Acid don't horribly maim people, people with Buckets O' Acid horribly maim people.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:52 PM on December 29, 2008


He abdicated his humanity? Maybe not he'll always be human. He has abdicated his right to be treated as a human being despite the culture he lives in. I don't care who you are. You do something so heinous as this despite the culture (because clearly not ALL men participate in this) then you deserve whatever the system metes out for you.

In this case, the system let her choose to have an "eye for an eye" type of punishment. So be it. People can go through hard times in life. I sure as hell have friends who have gone through very freaking hard times in life. This doesn't entitle them at all to do anything as horrible as this. The crack argument that came up earlier is an idiotic one. I have friends who are friends of crackheads...in fact they grew up with them. Woops, are my friends crackheads stealing into houses? Nope, they're respectable human beings, and before anything else is said, so were their friends BEFORE getting into crack.

Let's not look for excuses here. He committed a heinous crime. He should be punished. Sadly for him, the punishment in his country allows the victim to ask for a revenge form of it. So be it. He chose his path when he threw acid in her face and was hoping for the "blood money" way out. Too bad, so sad. She chose this punishment well within her legal rights. I hope he takes it well and doesn't scream when each of the five drops goes into each of his eyes, because well as the article says she sure as hell did.

I take no moral stance above or below anyone. The idea that any punishment is better or worse than another except for death is absurd. It all depends on how each individual punishment would affect each individual person. Blinding may mean a lot worse to him, that it would to others. Imprisonment alone might mean a lot worse to me than being blinded. Who knows? You don't. Only the person knows. The only just form of punishment is none. We have no idea how each punishment affects each individual we can only assume that it does the same for the MAJORITY of individuals.

Either way, his system affords her this right. Let it be taken for this one moment where I think Iran has made the right choice.
posted by lizarrd at 9:15 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


165 comments, and the word forgive is used only 3 times.

And those 3 times are all in a single comment.

Jesus.


Forgiveness is an individual act by the transgressed, hence I'm not sure it merits discussion in the sense of social policy or legal justice. I cannot presume to forgive on behalf of this woman, or say that she should bring herself to forgive her attacker.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forgiveness is an individual act by the transgressed, hence I'm not sure it merits discussion in the sense of social policy or legal justice.

Couldn't the same hold for revenge?
posted by kid ichorous at 9:45 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


165 comments, and the word forgive is used only 3 times.

Yeah, what's up with that? What's so unforgivable about a bucket of acid thrown in a woman's face? She should turn the other cheek! Oh, it's melted off? Well, still, get over it, lady!

But failing to mention forgiveness on an internet message board, why that's totally unforgivable. We are so going to Hell.

Jesus. Indeed.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


165 comments, and the word forgive is used only 3 times.

And those 3 times are all in a single comment.

Forgiveness requires confession and repentance.
posted by Snyder at 10:11 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The punishment-as-deterrent theory is nice, but is it really going to have an immediate effect on how women are (mis)treated in Iran or [...] Bangladesh

Of possible interest: Bangladesh instituted the death penalty for acid attacks in 2000. From the BBC, 2006 (transcript):

In 2002 the death penalty was introduced for throwing acid after the number of victims rose to nearly 500 a year. There is also legislation to force businesses that use acid to store it safely. But 267 people were still attacked last year and campaigners say it is because the law is ignored. [here]
posted by kid ichorous at 10:16 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even if the whole world were blind, men would still find a way to kill each other.
posted by bwg at 10:29 PM on December 29, 2008


Buckets O' Acid don't horribly maim people, people with Buckets O' Acid horribly maim people.

So many senseless tragedies would be prevented with mandatory bucket locks.
posted by stavrogin at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2008


In the case of Tat Marina, the attacker was a jealous wife:
The most highly publicized attack was carried out in late 1999 by a woman named Khourn Sophal, the wife of Svay Sittha, under secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.

The victim, an 18-year-old actress and singer named Tat Marina, was horribly disfigured when the woman and several bodyguards poured about five quarts of acid over her.

Other cases of wives attacking mistresses with acid are in the story above. So it seems the acid-throwing meme extends beyond the jilted paramour. Beauty is the only asset these women have and I suppose it seems more cruel than death to strip them of it. Do most of the perpretrators come from high-caste groups and the victims come from low castes?

Can anyone with LexisNexis access or the asian equivalents verify if/when incidents of acid-throwing started in Asia? How much of this is copycat behavior and how much is culturally rooted?
posted by benzenedream at 12:04 AM on December 30, 2008


Well, it's certainly cheaper than paying the costs of sending the guy to prison.
posted by Pseudology at 12:05 AM on December 30, 2008


I've read most of the comments here but didn't get all the way down to the bottom. Frankly I'm pretty shocked by the number (a majority?) of people here calling this a suitable punishment. I guess medievalism is only ever two hungry weeks away. Anyway, a couple of quick thoughts:

1. It's a real shame that this happens to be an Iranian case, as I can't help but think that this is influencing some of the comments here. Sick, twisted and mentally ill people rape, murder and mutilate all over the world; I think people here have been very quick to describe Iran as "culturally broken".
2. I've always thought that the role of the criminal justice system should be about deterrence and rehabilitation; making sure the punishment is nasty enough to prevent people doing it, and then making sure they won't ever do it again. The one thing that the justice system shouldn't get involved in is vengeance. Obviously if someone did this to someone I loved I'd want to mash their face into a messy goo, but I shouldn't be given that option. Emotion cannot run a justice system. The law must be the sad, detached parent separating squabbling children. Not because this is fair, but because it's all that works.
posted by greytape at 3:37 AM on December 30, 2008


I slept on it and brought this back from the shadowlands:

In their eyes there's something lacking
What they need's a damn good whacking

posted by Restless Day at 4:18 AM on December 30, 2008


He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process.

This guy did something horrible, reprehensible, and barbaric. He is, clearly, what we might technically term "a nutter". If you do the same thing to him, with a full understanding that the act is horrible, reprehensible, and barbaric then what does that say about you? What does that make you?

And seriously, all this "eye for an eye" stuff. I always imagined that most of you in here were bright enough to take most of that crap as metaphor and yet on this issue an awful lot of you seem set on some literal creationist-lite interpretation.

I don't expect anyone to care, but I am disgusted and disappointed with so many of you on so many levels.
posted by mandal at 5:00 AM on December 30, 2008


That's sort of a strange way to put it. Human rights are not interchangeable like that.

Sure they are. Consider article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

part 1 says that "Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."

yet part 3 says that "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

In the US, we've seen what this means: if we value the right to work so much that we deny unions the power to bind all workers in a company to the same labor contract, those unions are powerless to engage in collective bargaining. Workers in 'right to work' states earn about 6.5% less than workers in states where collective bargaining is allowed. So: there are two human rights at stake, and when they're in tension there are good reasons to tip the balance in favor of one of them.

Now let's think about judicial torture. In Iran, corporal punishment is common: 'crimes against the state' meet with stonings, hangings, and firing squads, and crimes against persons are punished with retribution when monetary compensation cannot be negotiated. As in most lex talion cultures, the retribution is meant to serve as a prod to negotiation for just compensation, and the Qur'an actually charges people to accept compensation instead of demanding revenge when possible.

Here, again, we face two human rights which are in tension, or rather the same right held by two different people: the human right to be secure in one's person from violence. The Iranian state has done a poor job protecting women's bodies from attack, and it proposes to rectify this by subjecting a man's body to violence. If the punishment for everything else is physical, and yet we insist that, for acid attacks the punishment ought to incarceration, we're effectively saying that women in Muslim countries should count less than men, that their suffering is worth less than the suffering of Muslim men or even of Muslim property owners: thieves can lose their hands, but vitriol-throwers get a little time in jail?

This may be an inadequate remedy, but surely it's better than no remedy at all, or a symbolic move that signals that women's pain is less worthy of punishment than men's pain? To change the culture to outlaw this practice of acid attacks will require decades of work in jurisprudence, but surely this is a start? It's a strange time to suddenly retreat to principle, since in practice that principle is being enforced inequitably.

Now, if you want to fix the whole system of corporal punishment, that's fine. It may even be correct, though first let's look at the effects of lex talion and our reasons for moving towards incarceration: Foucault's Discipline and Punish would be helpful here, as would William Ian Miller's Eye for an Eye, and perhaps Phillip Pettit and John Braithwaite's Not Just Deserts. Then we've got to face the fact that we live in a society where inflicting pain is considered worse than loss of liberty, where torture is the worst thing that we can do, but utter domination of a human being's every movement is just business as usual.

At the end of the day perhaps we'll decide that incarceration really is the best punishment. Then what? Should we start with this case? Why not wait for the next one, a thief or a homosexual, to advocate against Shari'ah's harsh punishment system? Why jump in swinging on the one case where judicial torture actually has a chance of making progress for women?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:11 AM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea: Why jump in swinging on the one case where judicial torture actually has a chance of making progress for women?

Seriously? Because, in addition to being state-officiated torture, it's not making progress for women in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Reliable enforcement and prosecution of existing laws seems to be the universally lacking foundation where these crimes are common; and without it, the torture has no teeth. I'd recommend reading the BBC transcript in my previous comment on Bangladesh. Furthermore, let me bring India into the common pattern:

In Bangladesh this crime (acid throwing) is punishable with capital punishment. In Pakistan the religious law mandates a punishment as cruel as the crime -- pouring acid into the accused's eyes. In India, the Law Commission has recommended that the government impose punishment ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment for this crime.
It is elementary knowledge that it is not the gravity of the punishment that minimizes crime, but the certainty of it. This is what is lacking in India -- the certainty of punishment. It is common knowledge that in order to have a criminal case properly investigated, a complainant must be able to bribe the investigating agency. This ensures that the poor have the least chance of having their complaints investigated...
[Asian Legal Resource Center]

The lasting solution (rather than the moment's catharsis) is not purchased by the rare spectacle of a dark age punishment, but by accessible, impartial, and functional law enforcement.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:14 AM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


If the punishment for everything else is physical, and yet we insist that, for acid attacks the punishment ought to incarceration, we're effectively saying that women in Muslim countries should count less than men, that their suffering is worth less than the suffering of Muslim men or even of Muslim property owners: thieves can lose their hands, but vitriol-throwers get a little time in jail?

If you get the impression that most MeFites support amputation for thieves, then perhaps you're reading a different thread than I. Is that really what you think, or is this just a convenient resting point for your argument until someone comes along and knocks it down?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:18 AM on December 30, 2008


> The one thing that the justice system shouldn't get involved in is vengeance.... The law must be the sad,
> detached parent; separating squabbling children. Not because this is fair, but because it's all that works.
> posted by greytape at 6:37 AM on December 30 [+] [!]

Official systems of justice cannot avoid the question of vengeance for victims, because a primary function of officially constituted systems is to preempt--to take over for and act in place of--private and vigilante vengeance.

There's a reason justice is symbolized by a pair of scales. Fundamental fairness and balance is a basic human need, even in cases where barbarity would be balanced by further barbarity. As we've seen in this very thread--not just in the comments that support an eye-for-eye resolution for this woman but by others in which the commenter says "I don't support eye-for-eye justice as public policy but I acknowledge the impulse in myself."

Now then, "preempt" doesn't just mean "forbid." It has to mean both "forbid" and "offer a supportable alternative." If the courts say "We don't do payback," they haven't preempted anything. If they then proceed by fiat backed by force and say "We don't do payback and you don't do payback either," that's nothing else but justice denied.

We do agree, don't we, that government depends for its legitimacy on the consent of the governed? Enough justice denied, and the official justice system is left in the position of having one fist for violators and the other fist for victims and sympathizers, just to keep them in line and (illegitimately) maintain the power of the system.

"Vengeance" is just a loaded word for basic equity as applied in atrocious cases. If there are going to be official systems of justice at all, and these systems are to have the legitimacy of consent, they must include the human drive toward direct, simplistic, bare-metal basic equity among the things to which they give weight. In any given case they may choose to deny the drive its satisfaction, for overriding cause or to offer a resolution whose equity is not so basic. But formal systems of justice cannot simply close their eyes to this drive or refuse to consider it because it's supposedly atavistic and unworthy and should not be part of human interactions (so we'll pretend it isn't.) Many governments have felt (and acted) that way about sex, and we know how well that worked out.
posted by jfuller at 7:29 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kid ichorous: Iran is not Bangladesh. They're not even close together. The legal system in one has no relation to the system in another. Assuming otherwise is a sure recipe for failure of analysis, just as it would be a failure to judge the Supreme Court of the US by the Napoleonic code. (Louisiana notwithstanding.) That said, I agree wholeheartedly that consistency is more important than severity. The judge is only ever presented with one case at a time, and the consistent thing to do here was to enforce the law as it is understood in Iran.

Durn Bronzefist: I don't pretend that Mefites support physical punishment, but Iranians do. In order for it to support the goal of ending acid attacks, a state's response must be culturally appropriate. Otherwise, its lenience will signal indifference and tacit support for violence against women.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:07 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe there are some unexamined aspects of the crime and other crimes that we in the West hear coming from the Arab and African regions, namely women being assaulted. It seems to stem from the belief that the only thing a woman has is her body. Once you desecrate that, she is left with nothing.

Why is it that in many tribal cultures, a woman's family will abandon her if she is raped? This is a belief that, while abhorred in the West, is still begrudgingly accepted here. Why do we indoctrinate adolescent women to guard their bodies and turn their noses up at 'loose women.' It is because there is a latent preoccupation with the female flesh being a sacred chalice.

For this reason, it gives men and women great pleasure to hear about a victimizer of women being tortured, when there is nothing pleasurable about it. Also, it is taken as a matter of fact that the victim and her family will feel some resolution. I don't think so. I would argue that the victim will continue to be haunted by the trauma, and in fact, may be doubly haunted. I say this coming from a Buddhist philosophical perspective, where I maintain that suffering begets more suffering.

The only resolution can come when the woman who is attacked is treated physically and mentally to the extent to where she no longer feels the need or desire to carry with her the label of 'victimhood'. For the attacker, he is incarcerated so that he may weigh the gravity of his crime. It is hoped that, cut-off from society, isolated with only his recollections, he will try to atone with all of his energies. Very often this does not happen, but at the very least, he will not be able to hurt another woman while incarcerated.
posted by sswiller at 8:17 AM on December 30, 2008


Where can you even buy that much acid to pour over someone? Do stores in the Muslim world just sell the stuff next to their guns or something? Can you buy it at the drugstore in the US? Is it commonly used for something else? Is it just like bleach?

I don't think there should be drops put in his eyes. He seems sort of criminally insane to me, like he needs to be institutionalized, but that's probably my "western" cultural mores talking.
posted by bluefly at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2008


anotherpanacea: Ah, check. I completely agree.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2008


Some argue that we Westerners should laud the Iranian judiciary for this particular sentence (inflicting acid drops into the eyes of the accused), because it supposedly acknowledges the victim's suffering. They claim it's a small step towards a more egalitarian justice system.

But it's not. It's just another cruel, inhumane punishment in a country whose penal code permits stoning executions, hangings, and falls from great heights as punishments for adultery, as well as execution by hanging for juvenile offenders.

In Iran, girls are considered adults at nine years old, subject to adult penal code punishments; boys are considered adults at fifteen years old.

"We will never surrender Islam in the face of human rights concerns," Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the mullah's Judiciary Chief Advisory (2007).
posted by terranova at 9:16 AM on December 30, 2008


jfuller: Very interesting points, though I don't think that a justice system that swore off the idea of retribution would necessarily see mass vigilantism. It would still have to deliver punishments that were severe enough to deter criminals.

I've since thought about what I wrote earlier and have concluded that there's no real justification beyond my own feelings for what I wrote. The only reason that I don't support a justice system that is vengeful is that the idea repulses me. In the same way that people who wait outside death row chanting on exection night repulse me. These of course, are my own cultural values, and I shouldn't really be enforcing them on the good people of Iran if they don't want them.

I find myself thinking that all crimes are horribly sad, and that as far as is possible we should turn the other cheek, forgive, forget and move on. On this point, I heartily agree with Jesus, though it seems I'm in something of a minority.
posted by greytape at 10:01 AM on December 30, 2008


A little research shows that "forgive and forget" isn't actually in the bible, though there are some similar ideas. And there's this of course:

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

—Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

posted by greytape at 10:07 AM on December 30, 2008


Incidentally, are we to assume that this person deserves what's coming to him as well?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2008


let me reframe the question from the other side

for those who are saying more lenient punishments are necessary to save the Iranian justice system from barbarity, would you be able to recognise that this moment of civility would only reinforce the routine societal barbarism of throwing acid in women's faces? that 'turning the other cheek' has very different consequences and motivations in the Iranian context? that it is in effect a tacit approval of social inequality? that as you conclude this simply replaces one form of violence for another, your suggestion reproduces the same condition - it doesn't limit violence, it only reinforces the current pattern of violence and inequality.

even if we were to recognise the necessity of other institutions to peaceably change attitudes and behaviours regarding acid throwing - which seems to be the practical consequence of all these platitudes regarding justice, and something no one would object to - this still does not deal with the role of the justice system, which must exact proportional punishments in a context different from our own.

all those who are making comparisons with other examples of state corporal punishment or wishing that it wasn't Iran because then it would be obvious to everyone why this is barbaric are completely missing the point and putting the horse before the cart. the point isn't to prove your western conceptions of justice but to attend to the specificities of this situation, to do so demands that you recognise the vastly different consequences of your habitual values and beliefs in a foreign context. so whilst i agree that corporal punishments have no place in western societies, being ineffectual if not outright detrimental, i would wager that their use has a vastly different resonance in Iran, that it is a recognisable and effective symbol of the state acting in favour of grotesquely persecuted women.
posted by doobiedoo at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2008


for those who are saying more lenient punishments are necessary to save the Iranian justice system from barbarity, would you be able to recognise that this moment of civility would only reinforce the routine societal barbarism of throwing acid in women's faces? that 'turning the other cheek' has very different consequences and motivations in the Iranian context?

No one's asking anyone to turn the other cheek and let this nutcase go free. What the sane among us are saying is that torture is wrong even when you do it to a bad person. Do you understand this distinction? If not, can you explain why?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:39 AM on December 30, 2008


Agreed with OC above.

doobiedoo - are you saying that life imprisonment or even execution would not be a deterrent in Iran?

As Kid Ichorous pointed out in his link, the certainty of any reasonable severe punishment is likely a much better deterrent versus a 5% chance of being horribly maimed if your rich families' bribes don't work.
posted by benzenedream at 12:18 PM on December 30, 2008


for those who are saying more lenient punishments are necessary to save the Iranian justice system from barbarity, would you be able to recognise that this moment of civility would only reinforce the routine societal barbarism of throwing acid in women's faces? that 'turning the other cheek' has very different consequences and motivations in the Iranian context? that it is in effect a tacit approval of social inequality?

No, I think I can safely say that what people here want are more lenient punishments for a whole raft of offences in Iran, but that this crime is to be included, rather than excluded because "they so really deserve it this time".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2008


for those who are saying more lenient punishments are necessary to save the Iranian justice system from barbarity, would you be able to recognise that this moment of civility would only reinforce the routine societal barbarism of throwing acid in women's faces?

To put it another way, you're condoning dripping acid in someone's eyes to further a political agenda. For me there are very few things that would be worth melting another human being's eyes for, and making a political statement isn't one of them. I don't care what societal actions it reinforces, taking the option that doesn't involve directly maiming someone horribly is the one that I find the most ethically sound.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2008


Can't believe some are still siding with this madness OC Keep on it it is torture.

We need a T is for O is for R is for .... in the order of Nat King Cole's L-o-v-e.

I have to go back to work.

I love all of you.
posted by pianomover at 2:30 PM on December 30, 2008


as the article mentions, the usual punishment for throwing acid in some one's face is bloody money - monetary compensation - not only is this insufficient, it is, as i have said before, a tacit approval of social inequity and if not exactly freedom for the accused then not far from it. no one has mentioned other precedents for such cases in Iran, Kid Ichorous has made a good point about alternative punishments and the need for consistent enforcement of existing laws, but his examples were bangladeshi and indian. furthermore the Iranian case is just one example of a systematically under sentenced crime embodying an injustice that no amount of consistent enforcement will redeem - a consistently exacted fine is still no punishment for unprovoked, grotesque assault.

of course i'm pursuing a political agenda, who isn't?? what i want are contextually relevant punishments that support progressive values, this isn't rocket science, in the west it means community sentences that stress integration over custodial ones that effectively exile and in Iran it means re interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence that support social equality. in the absence of any examples of judicial measures pursuing gender equality all this talk about state torture strikes me as ideological tub thumping. only kid ichorous has bothered to find out the possibility of other suitable punishments whilst most others have seized the opportunity to hysterically accuse anyone with a hint of empathy as barbaric. all these accusations rest on the idea that the punishment is disproportionate to the crime, and yet the accused and his father have accepted the verdict and their culpability.

and it really is ideological tub thumping, because the thinking is once stricken by barbarism then forever fallen you are, and yet everyone who is on a computer is speaking from a perspective several centuries removed from the exact same barbarism, these people speak as if progress and universal fair treatment were created ex nihilio. someone wrote at the beginning of this discussion The... ah, colorfulness of Islamic law that tickles your vengeance bone here will please you less well when applied to a woman accused of adultery - or a teenager accused of being gay. Sorry, folks. You don't get one without the other. well let me say that you don't get the enlightenment without medievalism or the dark ages, sorry, you don't get that without the other either, and your offended sensibilities are the privilege of fortuitous birth.
posted by doobiedoo at 6:53 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


What the sane among us are saying is that torture is wrong even when you do it to a bad person.

It occurs to me that you probably know Voltaire's phrase: "the best is the enemy of the good." Torture is wrong, I agree. I can't think of a situation in which I would personally order or carry out torture. However, in an already inhumanly cruel world, it's better that men and women be tortured equally, just as it is better for rich and poor to suffer the inhumanity of their country's criminal prosecutions. Otherwise, how can the privileged be persuaded that the system is inhumane and impelled to change it?

Alternatively, we can simply conclude that Iran's criminal justice system is an abominable joke, and that we ought to nuke the place from orbit. That's the message I read from many in this thread: Shari'ah can't be saved, burn it with fire and replace it with some sensible Western liberal justice. I'm not sure that I agree with this perspective, but then, I'm not sure that I disagree, either. Let's just say that I think that both options are fraught with moral ambiguity, and that slow change from within has the advantage of leaving the maiming of Iranians in the hands of Iranians.

Ultimately, this is a political question for every nation where Shari'ah is practiced. And to quote another cliché: politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards. It requires passion as well as perspective.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:55 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


most others have seized the opportunity to hysterically accuse anyone with a hint of empathy as barbaric.

It sounds like you're saying that anyone who is opposed to this particular punishment is lacking in empathy for the victim. I'm pretty sure that most people here, no matter what they may think about Iranian justice, have a great deal of compassion for this woman.
posted by Evangeline at 7:08 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you're saying...

i know it's confusing, i meant anyone who agreed with the sentence
posted by doobiedoo at 7:22 PM on December 30, 2008


We need a T is for O is for R is for .... in the order of Nat King Cole's L-o-v-e.

Something like this?

T is for the torment that they'll bring to you,
O, the ordeal that they'll put you through,
R is rape, a tactic that they'll sometimes use,
T, a trial can legitimize the abuse
U, it's really very, unhelpful and unnecessary
R, repeat some more, its justified by crime and war
E, there really is no end in sight,
even liberals think that it is right,
TORTURE, was made for you and me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:37 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Forgiveness is the most powerful thing in the world. To forgive and not seek retribution, but instead purely focus on prevention of repeat crimes (jail), and rehabilitation, is what I believe makes up a honourable society.
posted by niccolo at 1:47 AM on December 31, 2008


only kid ichorous has bothered to find out the possibility of other suitable punishments whilst most others have seized the opportunity to hysterically accuse anyone with a hint of empathy as barbaric. all these accusations rest on the idea that the punishment is disproportionate to the crime, and yet the accused and his father have accepted the verdict and their culpability.

Explain to me again how state-sponsored blindings are anything *other* than barbaric? Because I must have missed that part. And I've not seen anybody make the case that the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. Rather, the dominant critique is that a civilized state has no business handing out this kind of corporal punishment, whether that be stoning for adultery, chopping off hands for theft, blinding for acid attacks or execution for murder.

Furthermore, it doesn't require any time spent researching alternative sentences to say that something is wrong. We're not producing policy recommendations for the Iranian parliament here.

Acid attacks aren't limited to Islamic countries -- they happen in many third world countries. In Jamaica, for example, there is no shortage of women attacking both men and other women with acid. They generally get sentenced to prison -- exactly as one would expect for any other serious crime. There's no need for any 'special' retributive sentence to send the message that society regards this as wrong.

well let me say that you don't get the enlightenment without medievalism or the dark ages, sorry, you don't get that without the other either, and your offended sensibilities are the privilege of fortuitous birth.

This sounds to me to be exactly the same kind of thinking that people used in the South to justify why African-Americans shouldn't have civil rights. These people have been running around in the jungle for the last thousand years or so, and they just aren't *ready* to behave in a civilized fashion. You people who don't live here have got no idea whatsoever what it's going to take to bring them up to the same standards as the rest of the world and allow them to vote, so why don't you all butt out of our business and leave us to get on with it in the way we know will work best?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:07 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, it's certainly cheaper than paying the costs of sending the guy to prison.
posted by Pseudology at 8:05 AM on December 30 [+] [!]


Fascinating and disturbing thread Mefites. There may be one or two more victims in this particular case. The woman or women who will have to look after this man for the rest of his life, probably his mother and sister(s). Iran is not exactly at the forefront of reintergrating the newly visually disabled into the workplace and he will be unlikely to contribute economically to his family or upkeep. While his father may bear the economic burden his mother and possibly sisters will have to pay the price too.
posted by Wilder at 2:34 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


horrific
posted by maltorrance at 7:31 AM on December 31, 2008


hey so maybe in addition to a systems approach to (restorative vs. retributive) justice, there might also be a biological one...
posted by kliuless at 8:17 AM on December 31, 2008


Four Decades After Milgram, We're Still Willing to Inflict Pain
posted by kliuless at 8:29 AM on December 31, 2008


Furthermore, it doesn't require any time spent researching alternative sentences to say that something is wrong. We're not producing policy recommendations for the Iranian parliament here.

No but dismissing something as barbaric whilst;

1. ignoring the context and particularities of the case (the inequality of regular corporal punishments exacted on women for little or no offence)

2. condemning from a distance on the basis of a foreign principle (universal humane treatment of offenders is a purely western enlightenment concept)

3. ignoring the absence of appropriate alternative sentences (last time I checked, neither Jamaica, Bangladesh or India are Iran)

and

4. ignoring the consequences of your condemnation (reinforcing social inequality and acid throwing as acceptable behaviour)

seems to me a luxury of someone who doesn't have to make these decisions in a difficult and sensitive climate.

Acid attacks aren't limited to Islamic countries...They generally get sentenced to prison...

there might be persuasive flaws in other judicial systems (i thought you weren't meant to researching alternative sentences anyway?) that suggest consistent enforcement and sentencing overrule corporal punishment, but none of those systems are Iranian which has typically under sentenced such a crime.

This sounds to me to be exactly the same kind of thinking that people used in the South to justify why African-Americans shouldn't have civil rights...

so a type of thinking can support racism and also equal women's rights and this is the problem? just as people can use scientific management to organise the holocaust but also to help produce enough food for the world many times over - depending on their motivations - this is your problem?
posted by doobiedoo at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2008


Meaning, the initial formulation of "an eye for an eye" wasn't as a warning to prevent such punishments, but to encourage them because the custom at the time was to respond with an even harsher punishment to a crime.

Ah, but the initial formulation of "an eye for an eye" is not from the Torah, but found in the Code of Hammurabi, from around 1760BC. The Wikipedia article is misleading because it implies that the Code was written afterwards.
posted by suedehead at 10:27 AM on December 31, 2008


...seems to me a luxury of someone who doesn't have to make these decisions in a difficult and sensitive climate

That's true. It's definitely a luxury to not live in Iran and have anything to do with their judicial system. Every court system has flaws but Iran's seems to be objectively worse than most in many areas, even among countries that have similar cultural values. I can understand why many people would still participate and make tough decisions in such a system even if it doesn't necessarily represent their own ideals perfectly, because they don't have the option of avoiding it entirely.

I honestly don't know how people can effectively improve the Iranian system, or what can be done in this particular case that will have the best overall outcome from a societal point of view. But I do know that to me whenever a women gets acid thrown on her, or a criminal gets his eyes burned out as a punishment, or a soldier gets blown up by a cluster bomb, or a drug dealer shoots another drug dealer, those are all tragic events. In my opinion, the fact that people can routinely kill and maim other people is one of the worst aspects of humanity, and I do what I can not to support or participate in those activities. You can call that kind of thinking naive, Western, or the luxury of someone privileged enough to avoid making those kinds of choices, but the bottom line is that I will condemn those kinds of acts no matter what the mitigating factors happen to be.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, this is a political question for every nation where Shari'ah is practiced. And to quote another cliché: politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards. It requires passion as well as perspective.

Just curious, but would you be willing to be the one to drip acid in the man's eyes?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2008


You know, Mental Wimp, I'm glad you asked. Because I answer that question at the very start of the comment you're quoting, and your reading comprehension failure confirms for me that there's not an actual conversation going on in this thread. There are some people who've thought a little bit about the issue trying to parse the difficulties of criminal justice in Iran, and some people with gut reactions and clichéd platitudes who are so disgusted by this story that they can't be bothered to attend to the nuances of the arguments of others.

I guess I should be pleased to live in a culture and contribute to a site where the thought of torture is so abominable that it shuts down rational thought and most people can't do anything but shout "NO NO NO NO NO." It means that judicial torture won't catch on domestically this generation, no matter how many times Jack Bauer makes the case for it. Sadly, I suspect that this failure of imagination on our part will likely lead to more imperial murder in the Middle East, as this compassionate objection is sublimated into righteous indignation and a misplaced meddlesomeness. Ah, well: that's the road to hell, for you.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because I answer that question at the very start of the comment you're quoting,

My bad. But your unwillingness to carry out what you advocate does emphasize the hypocrisy with which you advocate it. It don't think that is a hysterical position by any means. I am saddened that thoughtful people can rationalize what they cannot imagine actually carrying out, all in the name of a tortured (yes, I mean that) argument that somehow this will lead to a better world. I wouldn't characterize the position as silly, but it certainly doesn't follow any necessary logical path from premise to conclusion, and that rigor that you usually demand in argument from others is sorely lacking here. In defense of torture, no less.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:54 PM on January 1, 2009


There are some people who've thought a little bit about the issue trying to parse the difficulties of criminal justice in Iran, and some people with gut reactions and clichéd platitudes who are so disgusted by this story that they can't be bothered to attend to the nuances of the arguments of others.

I guess I should be pleased to live in a culture and contribute to a site where the thought of torture is so abominable that it shuts down rational thought and most people can't do anything but shout "NO NO NO NO NO."


I don't think it's fair to assume that the people on the "no torture under any circumstances" side of the argument are irrational or that a less extreme position is the natural outcome of intelligent thought about the issue. Intelligent and rational people can have differing opinions on the issue.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:31 PM on January 1, 2009


it certainly doesn't follow any necessary logical path from premise to conclusion, and that rigor that you usually demand in argument from others is sorely lacking here.

If I thought you had read and understood my argument, I might be troubled by your accusation. As it is, there is no evidence that you've made an effort to understand my reasons, while I understand and even agree with all of yours. I simply draw different conclusions on the basis of supplemental reasons. Let's try a test: you understand your own position. Do you understand mine? You obviously think my conclusions are wrong, but do you even know what led me to them? Can you explain my reasons to me? Have you bothered to follow the thread of my argument, or did you skip to the last line, as you did in responding to my last comment where you didn't even notice the beginning?

the hypocrisy with which you advocate it

Would you be willing to work as a prison guard? They're well-paid and the benefits are good. If not, does that make you a hypocrite for advocating imprisonment?

Insofar as it is in my power, I will not allow torture to be carried out in my name. So long as I live in a democratic society, I will always speak against and vote against torture. However, I am not Iranian, this ruling was not made in my name, and Iranians and all Muslims who live under Shari'ah have a host of problems that they must deal with and about which the progressive political agents on the ground must make difficult decisions if they are to achieve the goals of justice.

Intelligent and rational people can have differing opinions on the issue.

Of course they can! But the responses I've seen from the anti-cruelty side of the argument have not been intelligent and reasonable. They've been 'of course torture is always wrong, only a monster would defend this ruling' and 'you disgust me.' Reasonableness requires that one both offer one's interlocutor reasons of one's own and respond to his reasons. That's what it is to be 'reason-able,' to be able to give and respond to reasons. If you can give reasons but not respond to them, you're only half reason-able. Half a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:54 AM on January 2, 2009


But the responses I've seen from the anti-cruelty side of the argument have not been intelligent and reasonable.

Fuck that shit. People shouldn't be required to give nuanced and thoughtful reasons as to why pouring acid on someone's eye -- for 'punishment' -- is wrong. That's the sort of thing that is wrong by default. And there are plenty of comments here that aren't of the "you are a monster for defending this ruling" variety.

Half a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I use the other half of my mind to day dream about naked ladies.
posted by chunking express at 12:32 PM on January 2, 2009


I use the other half of my mind to day dream about naked ladies.

That's the deliciously ironic misogyny I've come to know and love on Metafilter. Did you also look at Bahrami's photo and ponder whether you'd "hit that"? Did you look at Bahrami's photo? It's here.

Added to having a guy aptly named "Mental Wimp" challenge the rigor of my arguments... well, let's just say we're on our way to the irony trifecta.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:04 PM on January 2, 2009


I saw her photograph. It doesn't make me want to pour acid on some horrible persons face. It must be all the misogyny.
posted by chunking express at 8:01 PM on January 2, 2009


Would you be willing to work as a prison guard? They're well-paid and the benefits are good.

Compared to what? My stepdad was a prison guard, and he made jack shit.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:22 PM on January 2, 2009


The Light Fantastic- they do okay here in California, and have a strong union (overly strong, some say).
posted by small_ruminant at 9:10 AM on January 3, 2009


Did you look at Bahrami's photo? It's here.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:04 PM on January 2


I've seen the photos. I still don't want to hold the culprit down and torture him. Our willingness to torture "bad people" and execute retarded people is still horrific. You want to put them away in a cell and throw out the key? Sure, fine. But deliberately blinding a man? Not even removing his eyes for donation, but just needless destruction? Christ have mercy.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2009


Not even removing his eyes for donation, but just needless destruction?

I know you didn't suggest it as a serious alternative, but the conflict of interest implicit in harvesting organs from convicts makes it somehow more horrifying than Old Testament contrapasso. It's a Gibsonian world where, I would expect, conviction rates chase the open market price of eyes.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:06 AM on January 6, 2009


It's an interesting perspective you offer here, Optimus Chyme: that the eye is a delicate and complicated organ, the product of evolutionary mechanisms so complex that we can still barely understand them, and destroying it is wasteful and unjustified by our absurd approximations of justice. Destroying an eye is like destroying a fine work of art: retribution could never justify such an act. At most, it might justify confiscation, though that opens up the set of concerns to which kid ichorous rightly points.

Of course, all this ignores the attribution of agency and responsibility to victim and perpetrator. Instead of treating human beings as ends in themselves, deserving dignity, respect, and the appropriate praise or blame for our actions, it instead treats us as museums: temporary holders of some of the finest works of stochastic design ever crafted by that great artistic genius, "natural selection." I'm not sure that quite captures my own self-image, but it may well be the truth.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2009


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