In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, an Iranian man convicted of blinding another man in an acid attack has been blinded in one eye, marking the first time Iran has carried out such a punishment.
The convicted acid attacker, who has not been identified, was rendered unconscious in Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday as medics gouged out his left eye, according to the state-owned Hamshahri newspaper.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, from Iran Human Rights (IHR), an independent NGO based in Norway, condemned the blinding as barbaric. “Medical staff who cooperate with the Iranian authorities in this act have broken the Hippocratic oath and cannot call themselves doctors,” he said.
The man had been found guilty of throwing acid in the face of his unnamed victim five years ago in the city of Qom, blinding and disfiguring him for life. He was subsequently sentenced to be blinded in both eyes, paying a fine and 10 years imprisonment.
Although the convict was sentenced to lose sight in both eyes on Tuesday, the victim – who, under Iranian law, has the final say in the punishment – decided at the last minute to postpone the blinding of his right eye for six months. The attacker will be able to plead with the plaintiff to spare him from being blinded fully.
Acid attacks have been rife in Iran in recent years, usually driven by family feuds. Hamshahri reported that the man in this case had been hired by the relatives of his victim’s wife to take revenge on their behalf. It was not clear if he had carried out the attack for financial gain or whether he was related to the wife’s family.
Iranian officials, worried about the increase in the rate of acid attacks, have endorsed retribution, but human rights activists condemn it as inhumane.
Islam’s Sharia law allows for qisas (retribution) but it also advises clemency. Under Iranian law, victims or their families have the final say in such cases and can halt the punishment at any time.
Other acid attackers have also been sentenced to be blinded in Iran, but this is the first known case where the punishment has been carried out. In most previous cases doctors had refused to cooperate with the officials.
Raha Bahreini, a researcher with Amnesty International’s Iran team, said that punishing someone by deliberately blinding them is “an unspeakably cruel and shocking act”.
She told the Guardian: “Blinding is totally prohibited under international law, along with stoning, flogging, amputation and other forms of corporal punishment provided in Iran’s Islamic penal code and must not be carried out under any circumstances.”
Instead of meting out such macabre punishments, Bahreini said Iranian authorities “should raise awareness about violence including root causes, ensure that perpetrators of acid attacks are punished with appropriate and proportionate penalties consistent with international human rights norms, and survivors are provided with effective remedies, including compensation and psychosocial and medical rehabilitation.”
Another man, identified only as Hamid, was also scheduled to be blinded in Karaj on Tuesday, but his punishment was postponed at the request of his victim, Davoud Roshanaei.
“Hamid was about to be rendered unconscious on the bed when his father entered the room and asked me for more time,” said Roshanaei, who has been disfigured and lost sight in one eye as the result of the assault. “I gave them two more months to provide me with compensation for my treatment.”