In Iran each year, hundreds are routinely flogged, often in public. In the most recent case, recorded by Amnesty International, a journalist was lashed 40 times on January 5, after a court found him guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city.  This occurred in Najaf Abad, Esfahan Province.

“The authorities’ prolific use of corporal punishment, including flogging, amputation and blinding, throughout 2016 highlights the inhumanity of a justice system that legalizes brutality. These cruel and inhuman punishments are a shocking assault on human dignity and violate the absolute international prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment,” said Randa Habib, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. He added, “The latest flogging of a journalist raises alarms that the authorities intend to continue the spree of cruel punishments we have witnessed over the past year into 2017.”

More than 100 “offences” are punishable by flogging, under Iranian law, covering a wide array of acts: theft, assault, vandalism, defamation and fraud, as well as acts that should not be criminalized, such as adultery, and intimate relationships between unmarried men and women, “breach of public morals”, and consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Many of these flogging victims are young people who have been arrested for peaceful activities, like publicly eating during Ramadan, or having relationships outside of marriage, or attending mixed-gender parties. 

Activities such as these are protected under the rights to freedom of belief, religion, expression and association and should never be criminalized.  Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Unfortunately, Iranian law continues to allow internationally banned corporal punishments, including amputation, stoning, and flogging justifying them in the name of protecting religious morals.

An unmarried couple were convicted of “having an illegitimate relationship” were sentenced to 100 lashes each, last April. Then, a month later, 35 young women and men were arrested in Qazvin Province for dancing, mingling and consuming alcohol at a party.  They were sentenced to 99 lashes each, and the sentences were carried out immediately.  17 miners who protested against their employment conditions and dismissals were also sentenced to lashings which were carried out in May 2016, in West Azerbaijan Province.

Journalists and bloggers have been sentenced to flogging in relation to their work. An appeal court sentenced a journalist, Mohammad Reza Fathi, to 459 lashes for “publishing lies” and “creating unease in the public mind” through his writing, last July.

The popular Iranian Facebook page “Azadihayeh Yavashaki” (My Stealthy Freedom),  administered by the journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, posted detailed accounts from several women who received lashings for consuming alcohol and attending mixed-gender parties which were raided by Iran’s morality police. The page displayed images of the severe injuries on women’s backs, resulting from these lashings. A 28-year-old woman who received 80 lashes for attending a birthday party described the day she was flogged as “the worst day of [her] life” in one of the posts. She said that after her arrest, her photograph and fingerprints were taken before she was led to a small room where a woman flogged her while her feet were in chains and her hands shackled. “With the impact of the first lash, I jumped out of my [seat] uncontrollably. I was so shocked that even my tears would not drop. I wanted to scream, but I could not even control my voice. Every time she hit me hard, she would ask me to repent so that God would forgive me,” she said.

Lashed for attending a mixed-gender party to celebrate her recent engagement in the city of Robat Karim, near Tehran, another woman who was also lashed, described how security forces stormed the villa where it was taking place, less than one hour after the party began, and confiscated bottles of alcohol. Several of the guests were questioned and were brutally beaten before being taken to a police station where they were insulted and interrogated. They spent three nights in jail before being sentenced to 74 lashes each. “I don’t remember how many lashes I had received, but I reached a stage where I was just moaning and had become numb with pain. When I finally arrived home, I was afflicted with a terrible pain on my body while my soul was aching due to the feelings of humiliation and fear that I had lived throughout the entire ordeal,” she said about her experience.

Apart from the floggings, Amnesty International also recorded an incident in November 2016, when a man was blinded in both eyes in Tehran as retribution for blinding a four-year-old girl in an acid attack in June 2009. Several other prisoners remain at risk of being forcibly blinded.

Seriously breaching medical ethics, doctors from the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran provide the Supreme Court with “expert” advice on whether a blinding sentence is medically feasible, and how it can be carried out.

“Medical professionals have a clear duty to avoid any involvement in acts of torture and other ill-treatment. Rather than aiding and abetting acts of torture by providing pre-blinding medical assessments, doctors in Iran should refuse to participate in such calculated cruelty,” said Randa Habib.

Also recorded by Amnesty International are at least four amputations carried out for robberies in Iran, including “cross amputations” of several fingers and toes on opposite sides of the victim’s body.

“Severing people’s limbs, taking away their eyesight and subjecting them to brutal lashings cannot be considered justice. The Iranian authorities should urgently abolish all forms of corporal punishment and take urgent steps to bring the country’s deeply flawed criminal justice system into line with international human rights law and standards,” said Randa Habib