Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for alleged adulterous relations, received a new reason to be hopeful this past Sunday. Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi said that Pope Benedict XVI is “following the case with attention and interest,” according to msnbc.com.
After global participation and voiced concern, Ashtiani’s punishment has been put on hold. The Vatican, which stands against the death penalty in general, wants to prevent Ashtiani from receiving this particularly brutal form of capital punishment.
Although the Vatican does not interfere in humanitarian issues in a public way, such as Ashtiani’s, it has been able to utilize its diplomatic ties. Ashtiani, a 43 year-old widow and mother of two, has already received 99 lashes after being convicted of having “illicit relationships” with two men and is now being held on death row in a northwest Iranian prison. Her sentence was without proof, confession, or name of a man she was alleged to have relations with.
Since her conviction in May 2006, Ashtiani has become a symbol of all Iranian women who are being victimized by their society and its discriminatory laws. Her case has been brought to attention around the world; her son Sajad believes the international campaigning for her release is the only reason she is still alive and begs for the support to continue. “That is the only way she might be spared from the death sentence,” Sajad said.
The threat to Ashtiani’s life is real. People have been executed by being stoned to death as recently as March 2009. Despite her sentence’s suspension, Ashtiani continues to live with the fear of being hanged at any moment for her supposed actions.
Along with outcries against Ashtani’s case, international uprising has grown to a critical mass regarding Reverend Terry Jones of Florida, and his church’s initial plan – now at a halt – to burn over 200 copies of the Quran this Saturday, the anniversary of September 11, 2001.
Middle-eastern rallies, such as the burning of an American flag Thursday by Afghan protestors, continues to strengthen worldwide concern for violence against Christians . Furthermore, the safety of American troops has been expressed. “…I hope [Rev. Jones] understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans,” President Obama states, fearing future actions against the United States.
Rev. Jones has presently put immediate plans on hold as he is scheduled to meet with Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, contractor of the controversial Islamic community center and mosque planned near ground zero.
In anticipation of the event, Interpol has issued an alert to be watchful for any retaliation incited by the act.