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Country files: IRAN

Iran public whipping

Judicial corporal punishment by flogging

With comments by C. Farrell

Iran flag IRAN: Judicial CP

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has been run largely by deeply conservative religious fundamentalists for whom the rule of law is at best an elastic concept. There have been regular reports of public floggings imposed by local courts or officials. Many more instances of JCP are said to be administered in prisons or institutions. Women as well as men are liable to this punishment, as in this Jan 2001 illustrated news report.

 Officially, the instrument to be used is a thin leather whip about 1 metre long.

 Often the whip is applied to the bare upper back, the culprit either lying face down flat on a bench or standing upright and tied to a post. See this Aug 2007 illustrated news item showing a 25-year-old man receiving a public flogging in the horizontal position, and this Feb 2001 illustrated report in which a youth is pictured being whipped while tied to a lamppost.

 Sometimes the whole body is whipped down to the ankles, as in this May 2007 illustrated report. Occasionally the buttocks are more specifically targeted, but this idea seems to come much less naturally to the Middle Eastern mentality than to the Western or Far Eastern. At any rate, the official regulations, for what they are worth, say only that the head, face and genitals must be avoided.

 See also two video clips of floggings under way, showing that sometimes the offender is allowed to keep all his clothes on. This depends on the nature of the crime. But when women are flogged they are to remain fully clothed.

 JCP is applied for ordinary crimes like murder, rape and theft as well as for "religious" offences to do with adultery and alcohol. In some cases corporal and capital punishment are combined, the offender being first flogged and then hanged, as in this March 2005 case where a serial murderer was executed in public after being given 100 lashes.

 In April 2008 it was reported that floggings would henceforth also be meted out for dangerous driving.

 Mass punishments are sometimes reported, as in this July 2015 news item about 480 people being flogged for eating during daytime in Ramadan, the Moslem fasting season.

 The head of the Judicial Authority was quoted in this June 2008 news item as believing that imprisonment is useless and that public flogging, especially when news and photographs of it are publicised, is the most effective deterrent. Surprisingly, he complained that judges were not imposing enough JCP sentences, accusing them of being too influenced by western propaganda about human rights.

 Public floggings were also carried out in earlier periods, when the country was called Persia. See for instance this c.1910 picture.

EXTERNAL LINKS: (these will open in a new window) New window

Flogging of women as a punishment for adultery
English translation of extracts from the Islamic Penal Code as at 2003. Chapter 3 describes the "Implementation of Flogging Punishment". Despite the title given to this web version of the document, it also covers JCP for other crimes, and concerns equally the flogging of men, for whom the provisions on clothes to be worn and stance adopted by the culprit during the punishment differ somewhat from those for women. The implement to be used is described as a "strap" but this seems to be a mistranslation: from the dimensions quoted, it is clearly what we would normally call a whip.

Flogging/legal concern
Iran: Justice denied to man who died after flogging
Two reports from Amnesty International about a 35-year-old man who died after being flogged in Iran in February 2004. Amnesty concedes that his death may not have been caused by the flogging.

Conservatives and Reformists Debate Public Flogging
An overview (Dec 2001) from the Middle East Media Research Institute of the then raging dispute over JCP in Iran.

Photo of the Day
Two photos on an anti-regime website showing the back and legs of a young man who has been flogged with a whip by the authorities.

US State Department Human Rights Practices Report 1998
Flogging is expressly prescribed by the Penal Code for adultery. Women may be flogged for inappropriate dress or behaviour. (The reports for 1999 and 2000 repeat the same information.)

Amnesty International Report 1998
Sentences of flogging continued to be imposed in 1997 for a wide range of offences.

Amnesty International Report 1999
Examples of flogging cases in 1998 are quoted.

Amnesty International Report 2001
At least 49 floggings were reported in 2000, but the true number may have been considerably higher.

US State Department Human Rights Report 2001
Floggings were "increasingly used for a wide range of social offences". The report cites a case in which eight men were given 70 to 80 lashes for drinking alcohol and causing a disturbance (and see also these 2001 news reports). Also, though, there had been clashes when protestors demonstrated against public floggings. (The 2002 report repeats the same information.)

US State Department Human Rights Report 2003
Notes the introduction of a new "morality force" to combat "un-Islamic behaviour" and "social corruption". Under this provision, 7 women were sentenced to 50 lashes for disrespectful behaviour during Ramadan. Two student protestors and some journalists were also flogged. 53 people were imprisoned and flogged for trafficking in young girls.

US State Department Human Rights Report 2004
Various flogging sentences for alcohol, adultery and political dissidence are briefly noted. (The 2005 report adds nothing new.) For more details of some 2005 cases, see these news reports.

US State Department Human Rights Report 2006
Briefly notes flogging sentences for political dissidents and female adulterers. (The 2007 and 2008 reports add nothing new.) Not mentioned are other JCP cases in 2006 for stealing and drug dealing -- see these news reports.

US State Department Human Rights Report 2009
Mentions flogging sentences on women and men for political activism. (The 2010 report adds nothing new.)

US State Department Human Rights Report 2011
Mentions the "Hadd" lashing (the most serious kind) of a journalist and activist.

US State Department Human Rights Report 2012
Some rare statistics: 3,766 flogging sentences had been implemented since 2002, 1,444 of them in 2009. One or two new cases are mentioned.

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Copyright © C. Farrell 2006-2019
Page updated January 2019