Hypocritical outrage over Iran’s amputation device

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January 31, 2013 by Nash Riggins

The Iranian government has opted to continue honing its reputation as one of the world’s biggest human rights violators after the state’s official press agency published photos of a man getting his fingers chopped off using a crude amputation device.

According to the Iranian press agency, the man shown getting his fingers amputated was charged with robbery and adultery by a court in the southwestern city of Shiraz. In addition to losing 4 out of 5 fingers on one hand, he was also sentenced to three years in prison and 99 whip lashes. If anything, such instances of state-sponsored barbarism should only reaffirm the wisdom of the UK’s decision to cut off diplomatic ties with the Iranian government.

Yet while these photos are justifiably causing outrage across the political spectrum, it should be duly noted that Iran appears to catch a lot of flak for a mode of justice regularly pursued worldwide.

In fact, the UN recognises over 30 countries across the globe that take part in judicial corporal punishment. The world was painfully reminded of this in Saudi Arabia last week, where a newly wed bride who was paralysed in a car crash during her honeymoon refused 6m Riyals in compensation – and instead insisted that the driver who was found guilty of reckless driving have both his legs amputated on the grounds of retributive justice. This sort of request is unfortunately anything but rare in Saudi Arabia – where the amputation of hands or feet as a punishment is quite commonplace.

That being said, Westminster appears to have somewhat overlooked these questionable punishments. Although the UK says it “remains deeply concerned” about the Saudi government’s human rights record, Saudi Arabia continues to be the UK’s single-largest trading partner in the Middle East – and as the two nations share over 150 major corporate ventures together, the chances are this relationship will only continue to strengthen.

Even in nations where this sort of justice is not necessarily tolerated in the eyes of the state, retributive amputations still occur. On Saturday, in the Indian village of Sukhnadi, Aliar Razwar begged his employer – a shop owner peddling illegal alcohol – to clear his dues of Rs. 10,000 of the past year. How did the owner opt to settle the debt? By chopping off Razwar’s left hand. One man has since been arrested, but it cannot be ignored that this method of justice clearly exists amongst peoples throughout the developing world.

Accordingly, what sort of relationship does the UK have with the Indian people? Apparently, one so good that Prime Minister David Cameron declared it to be “the new special relationship” of 2010.

The Iranian government has an undeniably appalling track record with regards to human rights. Indeed, Iranian officials condemned 360 people to death in 2011 alone – including one man this month who should have been protected from execution under international law, as he was still a minor at the time of his alleged crime. Punishment by amputation is disgustingly cruel, but it’s also disgustingly commonplace. Subsequently, it is completely hypocritical to cite such appalling practices as a reason for ending diplomatic ties with one nation, whilst simultaneously pretending it’s not happening within the borders of the UK’s closest allies.

If Westminster and the UN truly wish to spark change within Iran, they must go further than merely tossing the Ayatollah a series of half-hearted human rights sanctions. Indeed, the West should not be permitted to wag a finger at Iran for committing such atrocities without wagging a finger at the other 30 countries across the globe that commit similar human rights violations on a daily basis. It’s either all or nothing – and if Britain is so disgusted by the emergence of Iran’s new amputation machine, its people should respond by putting pressure on every one of its allies in order to put a stop to this practice entirely.


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