Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sex slave and adulteress face grisly death in Iran

URGENT APPEAL Human rights groups are asking people to help save two women from execution by hanging and stoning for `morality offenses'

THE OBSERVER , London

Two women convicted of crimes against morality in Iran are facing imminent execution, one by being buried up to her chest and stoned, Amnesty International said Saturday night.

One of the women, a 19-year-old with a mental age of eight who was forced into prostitution by her mother, is to be flogged and hanged for "morality-related" offences. The other was convicted of adultery and is due to be stoned to death this week in accordance with Iran's severe penal code.

Amnesty issued an urgent warning that time was running out for both women and urged the international community to tackle Iran over its executions of women and child offenders.

In August another mentally ill girl, 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi, was hanged in a street for having sex before marriage.

The 19-year-old, known as "Leyla M," was a prostitute by the age of eight and was raped repeatedly, according to a Tehran newspaper report. She gave birth when aged nine and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at about the same time. When she was 12 her family sold her to an Afghan to be his "temporary wife," while her mother became her new pimp, "selling her body without her consent," the report said.

At 14 she became pregnant again, receiving a further 100 lashes before going into a maternity ward to give birth to twins. When her temporary marriage ended, her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man who was married with two children and did not object to Leyla's clients coming to his house.

Last month Leyla, appearing at a court in the central city of Arak, was sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child.

The sentence has now been passed to Iran's Supreme Court for confirmation. She apparently "confessed" and faces being flogged before hanging.

Iran has executed at least three child offenders this year and 11 others are believed to have been sentenced to death, according to Amnesty. Under the penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be executed.

Interviewed by an Iranian journalist in her cell, Leyla was asked if she understood she was to be put to death.

"Yes, that's what they are saying," she replied. "But people in prison say this is a lie. They want to frighten you a bit."

"I haven't done anything. My mother told me to go to a man's house and I did. If she said don't, I wouldn't have. I listened to whatever she said. I was frightened. If I didn't listen to her, she would have harmed me. She beats me -- my father, too. They didn't treat me well."

Asked when she was first forced to have sex, Leyla said: "I was eight, the first time my mother took me to a man's house. It was a horrible night. I cried that night. Cried a lot. The day after she [my mother] came after me and took me home and bought chocolate and crisps [potato chips] for me."

She said of her father: "He is a very bad-tempered man. He frightens me. But I liked him when he bought me goodies."

Asked by the interviewer if her mother had visited her on death row, Leyla said: "No, she hasn't. If you see my mother, tell her that she promised to bring me crisps and chocolate. Also tell her not to forget my red dress."

Campaigners in Iran are compiling a petition against the execution, which they will present to the UN.

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