There Was Definitely A Point During That Stoning Where We All Thought, 'Is This Weird?'
BY DANUSH ZANJANI
EXECUTIONER, IRANIAN SUPREME COURT
SEPTEMBER 28, 2010 | ISSUE 46•39
Well, that settles that! It was hard work, but we have righteously meted out the punishment this woman brought upon herself, and her days of disgracing the republic are over. Another adulteress has learned, stone by stone, that crimes against God will not go unanswered.
Yes, sir, another job well done.
Funny thing, though: There was actually this one point, after we'd been pelting her in the head with stones for a few minutes, when I could almost swear we all sort of paused, considered the whole situation for a moment, and thought, "Wait—is this a little weird?"
You know, what we were doing to this woman. Kind of odd?
It started out routinely enough. We bound her hands, swaddled her in white sackcloth, buried her in a pit up to her breasts, the usual deal. I picked out a stone about the size of a kiwi, which was perfect, because Iranian law duly requires us to hurl stones that are large enough to inflict damage, but not so large they kill the condemned too quickly.
But then, all of a sudden—and I can't exactly put my finger on why—I wondered if it wasn't maybe a teensy bit strange to be throwing a rock with all my might at the head of a woman who couldn't defend herself, even if she clearly deserved it.
It wasn't just me, either. Javed, who's always one of the most gung-ho guys out there, made eye contact with me for a second, as if to say, "Are we actually doing this? Like, to a person?"
Come to think of it, quite a few of the guys were acting just a little, I don't know, weirded out or something. Behrouz seemed to be stalling—he mumbled something about needing another minute and bent down to pantomime retying his boots, which were clearly already laced up. And at the same moment, Farzad was patting the pockets of his uniform, pretending to search for his keys or whatever, but you could tell he was thinking the same thing the rest of us were.
I'd actually be willing to bet that if we all could have stepped outside our bodies and watched ourselves, we would have said something like, "So, why are these people using blunt-force trauma to slowly kill a woman accused of adultery? I wonder what that's all about!"
It's almost as if, for those few seconds, we all believed that if we distracted ourselves long enough, they'd have to cancel the execution, and maybe that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world? Does that make sense?
Don't get me wrong, the case was solid: Four male witnesses attested to having viewed the woman's heinous infidelity. While she claimed the four witnesses were actually her rapists, it was certain, either way, that she had engaged in sexual contact outside her marriage.
Still, I have to admit, the whole thing felt a bit off. It had to be done, unquestionably, but it just felt…off.
In accordance with Iranian law, the four witnesses to the crime threw the first stones. The adulteress had been quite stoic up until that point, but when the first stone hit her in the shoulder, she started to scream, and as blood seeped into the white cloth around her, I began to suspect all this might actually be sort of—well, I'm not sure how to put this, but, backward?
Which is weird because we've had civilization here for thousands of years. Iran today is a modern, educated country, I'm a member of an elite security force, and here I am holding a rock—a rock—in my hand. Like, that's just sort of peculiar in a way when you think about it, right?
I mean, right?
So anyway, after a stone hit the woman squarely on the bridge of her nose, I suddenly, out of nowhere—and this is the oddest thing—I actually found myself imagining how that would feel. What would it feel like to know other stones were coming but never know from where, and to realize the impact of one of those stones would be the last thing you felt before you finally slumped to the dirt in your sackcloth cocoon?
She still had a pulse after 45 minutes of stoning, and we had to pelt her for another 20 before she was dead. I looked around at the other men, but now we were all avoiding eye contact. It was almost as if we had done something wrong and didn't want to acknowledge it. Everyone seemed kind of dazed. Like maybe we had all just died a little, too.
Anyway, it was just one of those weird things! Pretty crazy, huh?