HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Stoning in the Middle East

Yes, it still happens today. Stoning is one of the world’s oldest forms of execution, and mentioned in the Bible frequently. It has been in use all over the world, and it continues in most Middle Eastern countries today. Stoning is a form of capital punishment, whereby a group throws stones at a person until they are dead. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject, yet everyone involved plainly bears some degree of moral culpability. It is not as widely known to most people since it typically occurs in rural cities that continue older traditions. In fact, today, stoning is a punishment that is included in the laws of 7 countries: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and some states in Nigeria. Stoning is primarily enforced by Islamic fundamentalist sharia law, most often for reasons of adultery and homosexuality, but also for other bizarre cases. Stoning is not mentioned in the Qur’an, nor is it mentioned in Islamic law, but the Qur’an specifically labels all sexual intercourse outside the marital bond as being sinful. Below is an example of a modern-day stoning in Somalia that recently occurred on March 15, 2013. The reason for this punishment was solely his homosexuality. He was only 18 years old.

Somalia Gay Teen Stoned To Death March 2013

In 2004, 13-year-old Zhila Izadyar was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for the “crime” of being raped by her older brother. Although the sentence was later overturned due to international outcry, equally horrific stoning sentences are quietly carried out throughout the developing world on a regular basis. Similarly, the stoning of Soraya M. in an Iranian village occurred and was documented by a French-Iranian journalist who let the world know what had happened. With the case of Soraya M., her husband conspired a plot to rid of her so that he could marry another woman even though she was innocent. And because of the limited rights for women in the Middle East, nothing could be done to prove her innocence. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you watch the movie, as it really portrays how women are treated in some parts of the world. Below is the movie trailer:

I bet you’re wondering, why aren’t there activist groups trying to stop this sort of punishment? Yes, there are, and with a quick Google search, you will see many women protesting to stop stoning, and for better rights for women. But on the other hand, there are still supporters of stoning. A survey conducted by a research center found relatively widespread popular support for stoning as a punishment for adultery in several countries including Egypt (82% of respondents in favor of the punishment), Jordan (70% in favor), Indonesia (42% in favor), Pakistan (82% favor) and Nigeria (56% in favor).

Why do you think this is still happening? Is it a way to show that they oppose westernization? Or is it just old-school traditions that stem back to Islamic roots?

-Chris Khosravi




  1. jkipp3 says:

    I am not at all surprised that stoning still exists in Islamic nations, nor do I think it will go away soon. One of the most important ideas I have learned this semester is that Islam is considered a universal community by its followers. Entire cities pray together several times a day, facing the same holy location on Earth. Groups around the world that adopt Sharia (theoretically) enforce the same social laws. It clearly follows that many Islamists should relish a collective enforcement of sharia, especially through a tradition that has passed along for generations.

  2. mjuren3 says:

    Stoning is a terrible way to die, and it is awful that this still occurs and is accepted as a legitimate form of punishment in certain areas of the world. Even though from the statistics shown it seems that a lot of predominantly Muslim countries do support this; I hope that more Muslims and people in general in the Middle East are not in favor of this and that it is eventually eradicated from those countries.

  3. tnatoli3 says:

    The example cases you mentioned were quite depressing. I can’t imagine any community I have been apart of joining in on a stoning if someone was condemned to it. We have debates in our country whether capital punishment should be allowed and this is on a whole different level.

  4. Stoning is absolutely unacceptable for me, because it must hurt a lot. However, what is more important is not the way they punish people to die, but the way they decide to punish people to die. It shows clearly that the law is not applied equally to people, especially to women and children. The act of carrying on law seems more like a irrational activity, in which people can have control of other people’s lives. It just make those people who stone other people to death feel superior. People can also accuse other people guilty for no reason, because the process of carrying on law is irrational. The whole stoning thing is so irrational and so ridicules, and I certainly oppose it.

  5. jdowling6 says:

    Stoning in 2013 is ridiculous. If it is being kept around since politicians see it as keeping tradition and defending tradition against Westernization, they are mistaken. Westernization should not be confused with development. But frankly I see it that parts of the Middle-East see it that way. In any case, I thought it interesting that the US still has hanging, death by firing squad, death by electrocution legal in some states. I won’t tell which ones, but usually this is rare to be seen because we usually only hear that capital punishment is executed by lethal injection. So yeah don’t think we don’t have any development to do on our own.

  6. tdkohlbeck says:

    I find it interesting that respondents to the survey mentioned in your 2nd-to-last paragraph don’t just support punishment for these crimes, but stoning in particular. I take it that other crimes punishable by death are handled in a different way? I wonder what the significance is of having this form of killing specifically reserved for sexual misconduct and other “bizarre” cases.

  7. nholdaway3 says:

    There seems to be two different discussions in this blog; the fairness of trials and capital punishment. I personally don’t know how often people are falsely accused and punished of crimes in the Middle East so I’m going to leave that one alone.
    Since the blog said most stonings occur in rural areas, I wonder what other means these communities have in capital punishment. Most people cannot shoot and kill a person whereas stonings allow deniability. I’m not condoning stoning, I think it is barbaric, but everyone doesn’t have a working judicial system.

  8. kolson23 says:

    It is interesting to think that such a horrific form of capital punishment is still used and widely accepted throughout the world, specifically the Middle East. I agree that the judicial systems in certain areas may be way underdeveloped and this is the only way that capital punishment can be enacted without holding one person accountable for enacting the punishment. Very brutal though.

  9. After a quick google search on methods of capital punishment this does seem to be one of the more gruesome ones, although I think it’s interesting to note that the electric chair is still legal today in the U.S., and also, is there really a humane method of execution? But yes, I believe that stoning is really unfortunate and since it’s tied in with sharia law will be here to stay unless these states choose to secularize more. And also, the stoning of the gay Soamli teen was the work of a terrorist group Al-Shabab, so it is a little different as this group is not institutionalized and is functioning because the government couldn’t stop them. I don’t know that much about the group but maybe this is more political opportunism than religious zealotry

  10. marymsherman says:

    Fun fact: often back in BC times, if women and men were caught in the act of adultery, the woman was dragged to her father’s house and stoned in his front yard while the man was buried waist deep in feces and pulled apart to death. Ouch. Its interesting the gender bias that seems to occur with stoning cases. At least in the cases you described, you’re either a woman or you’re gay if you get stoned. Thats mighty unfortunate. As they say, it takes two to tango…

  11. nathenj65 says:

    I very much agree with mary here. There is such a gender distinction in these trials and she is completely right there takes two people to have these situations come up in the first place. This also goes to one of the biggest problems that is occurring today and that is the lack of rights and protections for women in these countries. A lot of times even if something happens to have change there mind that what they thought had happened really happened women have so little rights and protection the sentence is usually carried out on a completely innocent party.

  12. sstephenson3 says:

    While I agree that this is a horrible practice that lowers mankind to the level of brutal animals, I can also see that this disgusting practice is not really going to go anywhere. The reason for this is that, after a year of study of the Islamic culture, I do not believe that they respect women as people. It seems to me that they respect women in the role that their society and religion have left for them, which is inescapably below men. Until that changes, until they start to view women as independent people with rights and the ability to decide their own destiny this aspect of Middle Eastern life, and ones similar to it, will never change.

  13. mitch7991 says:

    I’ve read about stoning in the Bible as well. I’m not sure if it was created by man or by God. But it definitely seems native to Islamic societies, now. As an acceptable form of punishment, I definitely think it’s inhumane. It was accepted in the Old Testament because it was supposed to be a way of purging evil from a society that is supposed to be righteous before God. Then when Jesus started ministering in the New Testament, there’s that famous quote by Him in the book of John 8:7 where He say’s whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. That’s implying that because none of us are perfect or righteous, we have no right to judge somebody else who acts sinfully. Also, cases such as with that 13-year old girl make me sick. I don’t know what Islamic law says about that stuff, but it definitely seems backwards.

  14. Its horrible that this barbaric form of punishment still exists today. In some rural areas, traditions can be hard to break, but one would think something as horrible as this would be gone by the 21st century. I guess its still only around due to its religious background. Otherwise, it could not be defended.

  15. mcharles6 says:

    Of course stoning is still around. We can try to sound self righteous here in the West, saying what a horrible way to die it must be, and how brutal and barbaric it is. However, do we not also have our own forms of equally brutal punishments and for equally pointless crimes? (Not to start a political debate, but honestly, abortion is not so different.)

    On a different note, I believe that stoning remains in practice due to religious background. It has been passed down for generations, and in a culture where the universal law holds so much weight, it would be no small thing for stoning to be done away with.

  16. phillipscheng says:

    While on a different scale entirely, I think stoning is similar to death by firing squad which is still in use in many countries worldwide, even the United States (2010 – Ronnie Lee Gardner, Utah)

    As of today, Oklahoma is the only remaining state in the US which allows a firing squad.

    I’m not for stoning, I’m very much against it – but I’m also against firing squads. I’m not sure capital punishment is wholly effective – but it does save state dollars. Then again – there are very few things which will effect the minds of someone set to commit a crime.

  17. ojanus3 says:

    I think one of the most interesting aspects with this topic of stoning lies in whether it is based on religion or culture. In the Middle East I believe that it is so hard to separate religion from the culture, so you can’t look at it in that way. Rather, it is something that is accepted by society because no one has questioned it yet. Look, for example, at the death sentence in the United States- it has been a part of our society for a long time and it isn’t until recent that it is being questioned. Will there be a time in the Middle East that sentences such as stoning will be morally questioned?

  18. akranc3 says:

    Very interesting. I had no idea that people nowadays would still support stoning, in such high percentages. In regards to this ever changing, I am incredibly doubtful. It has been a part of their culture for centuries, and people are slow to change.

  19. kledbetter6 says:

    I think that the practice of stoning, the way it seems a “less humane” type of death penalty is a sign of the autocratic governments that rule in these regions. As was stated, the Qur’an doesn’t say anything suggesting or even condoning stoning, and if had become in any way tied with religion, it is only because these governments bend the religion of Islam in a way that suits their purposes. Hopefully these countries will one day have governments where the government does not need to prove its power to the people by being oppressive.

  20. Jeffrey Lester says:

    Wow this is really terrible. How could such a brutal form of punishment be around today? It’s so barbaric! What gets me is that it isn’t mentioned in the Quran or any other religious texts for that matter so why is it even a thing? It would be interesting to look up the history of stoning to see when and where it originated. I bet that even though it does not show up in religious texts it probably has some religious context.

  21. ccostes says:

    I agree with nholdaway3, people seem to be discussing the crimes and judicial process that leads to these stonings as well as the stonings themselves. I won’t get into the judicial side of things, but I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about the punishment. It is undeniable that it is brutal and barbaric by today’s standards, but based on this article it seems that the places where this is taking place do not generally hold today’s standards. They are places where people live in much the same way as they have for a very long time. I would imagine that such an environment would desensitize the people to some extent to the violence that contributes to the shock factor of the situation to most outside observers. Despite the brutality, I think there is something to be said for the fact that this form of punishment seems like it would work very well to deter crime, the primary reason for punishment in the first place. The brutality alone would be a deterrent, but the fact that the punishment is carried out by the community would hopefully help to ensure that the punishment is only used in situations that warrant it.

  22. mnicholas6 says:

    I think the primary appeal (and I use this term loosely) to stoning, is that you make an example of the individual being punished. It’s effective in not only killing, but doing it in such a brutal and community driven way that should prevent other offenders from stepping outside of the law. Interesting that it never shows up in the Quran though.

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