Iranian teenager to be executed for self-defense against a rapist:

Amnesty International reports this case from Iran:

On 3 January, 18-year-old Nazanin was sentenced to death for murder by a criminal court, after she reportedly admitted stabbing to death one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj in March 2005. She was seventeen at the time. Her sentence is subject to review by the Court of Appeal, and if upheld, to confirmation by the Supreme Court.

According to reports in the Iranian newspaper, E'temaad, Nazanin told the court that three men had approached her and her niece, forced them to the ground and tried to rape them. Seeking to defend her niece and herself, Nazanin stabbed one man in the hand with a knife that she possessed and then, when the men continued to pursue them, stabbed another of the men in the chest. She reportedly told the court "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help", but was nevertheless sentenced to death.

Human rights activists have created an on-line petition to save Nazanin's life. I've signed the petition, and I urge all readers to do the same.

Amnesty International points out that the execution would violate Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

However, the AI argument appears to have a significant weakness. When ratifying the CRC, Iran also made the following reservation: "The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect." I have not found information indicating that Iran made any reservation when ratifying the ICCRR, which also bars executions for crimes committed when the perpetrator was under the age of 18.

According to a modern summary of Islamic law:

There is a natural right to self-defense. One may defend oneself from a criminal act that poses an imminent threat to person or property, but only necessary force may be used. An intruder who might be repelled with a stick may not be shot and killed; neither may one pursue an intruder who has retreated and is no longer a threat. Violation of the limits of self-defense is aggression and renders one criminally liable.

Matthew Lippman, Sean McConville & Mordechia Yerushalmi, Islamic Criminal Law and Procedure: An Introduction (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1988), p. 56.

The above-quoted scholars appear to be consistent with the view of the nineteenth century Islamic jurist Ulaysh, who "wrote that all jurists have always agreed that Muslims have the right to defend their life and their property." (Quoted from Khaled El Fadl, Rebellion & Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 2001), pp. 334-35.) El Fadl's quote is consistent with the practice of many Islamic nations of denying dhimmi (non-Muslims) any right to defend themselves against Muslims, or to possess arms. (See Bat Ye'or's books for details.) However, the dhimmi exception to self-defense does not appear to be relevant in the Nazanin case.

So I have two starting questions for commenters: For those of you who can read Persian, is there any evidence from the Iranian press, or other media, suggesting that Nazanin was not actually acting in self-defense, or that her use of deadly force was legally excessive?

Second, for readers familiar with Shari'a law, are there any legal precedents suggesting that a female teenager acted by stranger rapists would not possess the ordinary Muslim's right to self-defense?

Third--and this question is for everyone--are there international law arguments that the Iranian government cannot lawfully abrogate the right to self-defense? Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 213 U.N.T.S. 221, E.T.S. 5, 1955), art. 2 (2)), and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9, art. 31) both recognize a right of self-defense, but of course neither document is applicable to domestic Iranian law.

Are there other international treaties which recognize a right of personal (rather than national) self-defense? Are any of these applicable to Iran?

In addition to positive international law, a defender of Nazanin might also argue from customary international law. Below is a sketch of one such argument, based on my own research. I invite commenters with international law expertise to amplify, correct, and otherwise suggest improvements or flaws in the argument.

1. Even in the absence of positive enactments, humans have certain fundamental rights which no government can violate. (See, e.g, Grotius, Vittorio, Locke, Declaration of Independence).

2. In extreme cases, a government which violates those fundamental rights can be overthrown, and the perpetrators of the rights violation can be punished. A person who denies the previous sentence must necessarily conclude that the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials were illegal, since, for example, there was no positive law forbidding the genocide at the time the Germans and Japanese perpetrated genocide.

3. Even if ex post facto principles about positive law made it unjust to punish some of the Germans and Japanese, it was still lawful for the Allies (even putting aside issues of national self-defense and treaty obligations towards countries such as Poland) to attempt to interfere with on-going violations of fundamental human rights by the Japanese and Germans.

4. Even if there were no right to interfere or punish, a person in, say 1938, could correctly say "The German and Japanese governments are in violation of international law, because they are violating many fundamental human rights of their subjects, including rights which have always been regarded as fundamental by the vast majority of mankind throughout recorded history."

5. Self-defense is a fundamental human right, and has been so regarded by the vast majority of mankind throughout recorded history. For example, the right of self-defense is recognized by ancient and modern Jewish law, by the Catholic law which formed the basis of Western law (and which was predicated on the recognization of self-defense rights by ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the Byzantines), by the great Protestant religious philosophers who shaped the United Kingdom, by the American revolutionaries, and by all the major religions of Asia.

Note: Although some Christians and Buddhists have believed that a truly enlightened person should not engage in self-defense, non-resistance was always presented as a higher moral choice, and there was no suggestion (at least until quite recently in the West), that the government should forbid self-defense.

6. The above litany of sources recognizing a right of personal self-defense is illustrative, rather than exhaustive. (Commenters are invited to supply additional sources, of the type traditionally cited in international law.)

7. The right of self-defense has been recognized by the overwhelming majority of all legal systems throughout human history. The only known exceptions are those which obviously relate to very special circumstances (e.g., prisoners against guards; soldiers against superior officers), or which, by their very nature, are so odious as to shock the conscience (e.g., Japanese peasants forbidden to resist Samurai; tyrannies; slaves; persecuted religious or ethnic groups). The fact that no known legal system has (outside of special cases) ever denied self-defense rights except in circumstances which are self-evidently odious is further proof that customary law has, from time immemorial, recognized a right of self-defense.

8. The parameters of the right to self-defense have varied over time, but, at the very least, they have always included the right of a chaste woman to resist rape by strangers who have no relationship of any sort with the woman or her family. (The historical exceptions to a woman's right to resist rape are in themselves odious, but they appear to be irrelevant to the Nazanin case.)

9. Deadly force may be used to resist rape, if no lesser force will suffice.

10. The right to resist rape also includes the right to use force to protect a close relative from being raped.

The above statements represent my current understanding, but I welcome clarifications from commenters about circumstances in which the above statements might be untrue--such as legal codes which forbade self-defense, or forbade deadly force as a last resort against a rapist.

Cornellian (mail):
Isn't there an evidentiary issue as well? I seem to recall that under Islamic law, testimony from a man automatically gets more weight than testimony from a woman. If that's the case, she and her neice are going to have a hard time proving anything against three men.
3.30.2006 2:28am
Gullyborg (mail) (www):
Sharon Stone was unavailable for comment.
3.30.2006 2:58am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Cornellian, good catch. I was going to make the same point when I saw your point. Here are three translations of Quar'an Sura 2:282 from the USC Muslim Student Association Islamic server:

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (For evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is juster in the sight of Allah, More suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves but if it be a transaction which ye carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if ye reduce it not to writing. But take witness whenever ye make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If ye do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah; For it is Good that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things. If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, let the trustee (faithfully) discharge his trust, and let him Fear his Lord conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, - his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.

PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! When ye contract a debt for a fixed term, record it in writing. Let a scribe record it in writing between you in (terms of) equity. No scribe should refuse to write as Allah hath taught him, so let him write, and let him who incurreth the debt dictate, and let him observe his duty to Allah his Lord, and diminish naught thereof. But if he who oweth the debt is of low understanding, or weak, or unable himself to dictate, then let the guardian of his interests dictate in (terms of) equity. And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses, so that if the one erreth (through forgetfulness) the other will remember. And the witnesses must not refuse when they are summoned. Be not averse to writing down (the contract) whether it be small or great, with (record of) the term thereof. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah and more sure for testimony, and the best way of avoiding doubt between you; save only in the case when it is actual merchandise which ye transfer among yourselves from hand to hand. In that case it is no sin for you if ye write it not. And have witnesses when ye sell one to another, and let no harm be done to scribe or witness. If ye do (harm to them) lo! it is a sin in you. Observe your duty to Allah. Allah is teaching you. And Allah is knower of all things.

SHAKIR:O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.
I understand that the above is not directly on point in that it appears to apply to prospective commercial transactions. But it is my understanding (i.e., I can't find the references now) that this passage is the basis for the rule throughout Sharia criminal and civil law that it requires the testimony of two woment to equal that of one man.

Perhaps because of this, I've read about a number of instances of the following fact pattern, particularly in Northern Africa. Man rapes a woman. Case goes to trial. Result? Why, the woman is flogged or put to death of course. The obvious reason is that the man testifies the sex was consensual, the woman testifies it was not, and since a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man, the man wins. Because the sex was consensual, the woman had sex outside of wedlock, and therefore must be punished. Oddly, I never read about the man being punished for such "consensual" sex.

Although technically authority of only the "cf." variety, if that, I think the rules set forth in Qur'an Sura 4:11 regarding inheritance are also instructive regarding the relative value of men and women under Sharia:

YUSUFALI: Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases ('s) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Al-wise.

PICKTHAL: Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half. And to each of his parents a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a son; and if he have no son and his parents are his heirs, then to his mother appertaineth the third; and if he have brethren, then to his mother appertaineth the sixth, after any legacy he may have bequeathed, or debt (hath been paid). Your parents and your children: Ye know not which of them is nearer unto you in usefulness. It is an injunction from Allah. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise.

SHAKIR: Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; then if they are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased has left, and if there is one, she shall have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have the sixth of what he has left if he has a child, but if he has no child and (only) his two parents inherit him, then his mother shall have the third; but if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt; your parents and your children, you know not which of them is the nearer to you in usefulness; this is an ordinance from Allah: Surely Allah is Knowing, Wise.
In conclusion, what may have happened in the present case is that the testimony of the two young women were worth that of one man. Unfortuantely, two men were left living. Thus, the two women were out-voted by two men. The obvious conclusion is that none of them tried to rape either young woman, and the defendant was guilty of a vicious murder.
3.30.2006 3:07am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Sorry to follow-up to my own post, but for broad application of the "it requires the testimony of two women to equal that of one man" rule I would cite, again from the USC-MSA Islamic server, the Hadith found in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion."
3.30.2006 3:20am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Arghhh, I got the link wrong on the Sahih Bukhari Hadith. Let's try that again: Hadith found in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 301.

There, that link works.
3.30.2006 3:29am
Gary McGath (www):
While the online petition is doubtless well-intended, I consider such petitions worthless. There is no way to verify the signatures, and it's trivially easy to manufacture large numbers of signatures. Every online petition I've seen does have a significant number of joke signatures, rendering the whole petition dubious in the eyes of the recipient. I don't think anyone, either computer-savvy or computer-ignorant, is going to be swayed by the existence of a large number of names entered on a Web server. Certainly the kind of monsters who thinks that Allah grants the right to rape aren't going to be swayed.
3.30.2006 9:19am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I do think that this evidentiary problem, based apparently on the ritual uncleanliness of women during their periods, may be partly behind the backwards view many Moslems have of women. Because their word won't stand against a man's in a he says/she says rape case, men who care about their women, such as their husbands or male relatives, would logically not let them get into such a situation in the first place. And, thus, the men would have to protect their women by making sure that they were always escorted, etc.

Lest it appear that I think that Moslems are the only ones with this attitude about female ritual uncleanliness, I don't. It appears in other religions - and I wond if that is part of why the Roman Catholic Church still won't ordain women as priests. But here the effect seems a lot worse - with women's testimony being counted as half that of men's.

Finally, I see this as a fundamental clash between Sharia law and western law, and those areas in Europe that are apparently allowing effective Sharia law may not be taking this into consideration. This evidentiary disparity solely on the basis of sex is extremely at odds with western jurisprudence. (And what do they do about post-menopausal women?)
3.30.2006 9:59am
Bruce says: "based apparently on the ritual uncleanliness of women during their periods, may be partly behind the backwards view many Moslems have of women." That's the Orthodox Jewish view as well.

One question, Is this a time when it's appropriate to believe something Amnesty International says? I just get so confused. When AI comments on the US or Israel, it's not to be trusted. But it's ok when the criticism is pointed at Iran. Gotcha.
3.30.2006 10:22am
VFB (mail):
--- One question, Is this a time when it's appropriate to believe something Amnesty International says? I just get so confused. When AI comments on the US or Israel, it's not to be trusted. But it's ok when the criticism is pointed at Iran. ---


A lot right wingers have criticized the criticism of Israel and the United States done Amnesty International. However, it's quite rare that they stated they did not believe the facts that Amnesty International reported. Rather, the criticism was that while the facts are true, the United States or Israel was justified in acting as they did, given the circumstances.
3.30.2006 10:58am
Ralph (mail):
"When AI comments on the US or Israel, it's not to be trusted. But it's ok when the criticism is pointed at Iran. Gotcha."

The post does ask for verification of the story. I wouldn't be surprised if they did mischaracterize things. Further, don't you think their criticisms are likely more to be apt when pointed at Iran? If someone gets the death penalty here, we are at least somewhat familiar with the process and know some level of fairness was invovled. For Iran, who knows, thus the curiousity. If the reason she was convicted was because a female's testimony isn't given great weight as compare to a man, or because a teenager has no right to self-defense, isn't that noteworthy?
3.30.2006 11:00am
REL (mail):
To answer your question: Here is a new idea, instead of assigning all groups and peoples labels and treating them the same way in all situations (e.g., Bush = bad), the authors on this site and the intelligent commentators evaulate each situation differently. It is not logically inconsistent that AI may be right about this issue and wrong about others.

Otherwise, your comment provides absolutely no insight . . . are you saying that Orthodox Jews will not take the word of a woman with her period against a man in a rape case?
3.30.2006 11:03am
VFB (mail):
--- are you saying that Orthodox Jews will not take the word of a woman with her period against a man in a rape case? ---


Under Orthodox Jewish law, a woman cannot be a witness in a religious court (beth din), regardless of whether she is having her period or not.
3.30.2006 11:17am
Ray (mail):
Is the point to discuss the finer points of Islamic law, or to point out injustice (if the AI is to be believed)?

If the former is the case, then so be it. If the point is the latter though, all of the inspection of Islamic law is really a waste of time. Anyone who would execute this girl, if the story is true (another nod to the good question of why we believe AI only when it suits us) cannot be overly concerned with the rule of law - their own or otherwise - and they're certainly not concerned with any petitions.
3.30.2006 11:27am
REL (mail):
Thank you, I do not know very much about Orthodox Jewish law.
3.30.2006 11:43am
I think that this relates to a more general question of sharia law which has been very unclear to me. Which is that explanations which I have read in the popular press seem to give extraordinary weight to witness testimony when the witness is a man and ignore the testimony of female witnesses, but at the same time ignoring physical evidence almost completely when it contradicts male testimony and supports female testimony.

For example, in the African rape-resulting-in-pregnancy cases, the explanation given is that the man can only be punished on the sworn testimony of 4 male witnesses, but the woman's pregnancy is prima facie evidence that she had sex. In virtually every legal system other than sharia, the court would accept DNA evidence that the man fathered the child, and would come to this conclusion:
1) The man fathered the child, so he is surely guilty of rape, adultery or fornication. If the court cannot figure out which of the three, he receives the punishment which is least of the three.
2) Except in a vanishingly small number of cases, the sex act occurred with fewer than the requisite 4 male or 8 female witnesses (or some combination) so the court is unable to determine whether the woman consented to the sex or not. Likewise, she receives the lessor punishment, which means no punishment since being a victim is not punishable.

So in every other religious legal system the he-said-she-said case would be settled by the man receiving the punishment for fornication, while the woman would be let off for lack of evidence. Why not sharia?

cathy :-)
3.30.2006 12:02pm
So let me get this straight: if a woman is raped, she has disgraced her family, and family honor demands she be killed; if a woman manages to avoid being raped by killing her assailant, then you can't really take her word for it, and she should be executed for murder. Starting to sound a bit like the old test for a suspected witch. Throw her into a pond, and if she sinks and drowns, then she was innocent. However, if she floats, then she's a witch and must be burned. Where are Monty Python at times like these?
3.30.2006 12:05pm
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
Cathy - you are omitting one possibility.

"1) The man fathered the child, so he is surely guilty of rape, adultery or fornication."

The man could have been raped by the in a least possible punishment scenario, in all cases where the necessary witnesses were not present, both parties walk, and rape is virtually legal.
3.30.2006 12:24pm
Sigivald (mail):
Mr Kopel: There's an accidental paste that doubles most of the content of the post. Might want to edit that.

Ray: Those who made the sentence against this girl might well be concerned with the rule of law, if the law they're worried about (Iranian Islamic law) calls for them to do what they did, in their sincere interpretation. They're not concerned with anyone else's idea of law or justice, however.

Which leads me to reenforce your doubtless correct claim that they're simply not going to give a damn about the CRC or ICCPR (Hell, nobody cares about UN Conventions anyway. I mean, seriously, when was the last time one of those actually caused any nation to do anything it wasn't already inclined to do?) or any petition, or any argument Amnesty puts together, especially one that boils down to "the western first world countries think that's unjust and mean, and their legal and moral and ethical traditions are united on that".

Certainly, one may, as Mr. Kopel has done, make a fine argument from traditional international law and moral philosophy, that self defense is an inalienable right, and that the Iranian government should be overthrown for alienating that right in this case (an argument I'd agree with entirely in the first, and in conjunction with their other offenses in the second)... but that will also have exactly zero effect on the actions of the Iranian government and courts.

Given that the Iranian state doesn't seem to much care what its own citizens think, regarding law and politics, and demonstrably doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks about much of anything, I'm not sure what the point of even making the argument is, in practical terms, other than the noble but ineffectual task of pointing out wrong even when it won't be remedied. (And it is noble, moreso than the common practice of pointing out relatively minor wrongs in the West while ignoring ones that cry to heaven elsewhere. But a rant about how Amnesty is generally destroying itself is for another time.)
3.30.2006 12:31pm
Sam (mail):
One other (remote) possibility beyond, rape, adultery, fornication: the woman inseminated herself by scavanging sperm...
3.30.2006 1:28pm
I guess I allowed that particular tangent by a lack of clarity... What I was trying to point out is what I think I observe about sharia as it applies to men vs. women, at least as it is explained to infidels like me. What I seem to see is that the burden of proof is what is different. The sharia court must prove the man guilty, and sharia places significant barriers and demands strong evidence -- and apologists for Islam point to this with pride as being an example of Islam being enlightened and with a vigorous concern for justice. And for the non-Islamic world, which agrees that it is better to let 100 guilty men go than punish one innocent man, this is familiar and sound. But, it seems, sharia demands that an accused woman prove herself innocent, and puts the same significant barriers up, plus some extras. Leading me to the conclusion that in sharia, it is better to punish 100 clearly innocent women than to allow one guilty woman to go free.

Look, I only call 'em as I sees 'em. Perhaps there is some Islamic scholar who can show some other alternative explanation for the data. But so far I haven't seen one.

cathy :-)
3.30.2006 1:57pm
Ray (mail):

and that the Iranian government should be overthrown for alienating that right in this case

I was going to mention something along the lines of why are we focusing on Iran? Obviously they are a threat, obviously they are an oppressive dictatorship. But they're not the only ones, so why are we focusing on them?

The question, I suppose, is somewhat rhetorical. We all know the answer, but to listen to the Left, we should just ignore such places in certain circumstances, and in others, we should run in and do something about it.

That's not pointed at Sivigald in anyway, but I'm merely making the point that I think this, indirectly, shows how genuinely concerned the whole world really is with Iran. And how we can't take any action in our national interest without being imperialists, but we can contemplate all kinds of actions for the rights of foreign citizens. Especially if "women and children" can be shown to be in greater danger.
3.30.2006 2:01pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Consider that the victims would have been subjected to "honor" killings by their famiiles had the rapists succeeded.
3.30.2006 2:41pm
Just to play devil's advocate here, it's also possible that the girl really didn't act in self-defense, and that the court rightly disbelieved her testimony. Please suspend your outrage until I've finished.

It's always difficult to evaluate cases of alleged self-defense from afar, without having heard all the testimony that the judicial finder of fact heard. (In fact, I suspect that many such cases are quite hard to evaluate even after hearing all the evidence.) Someone is dead or injured at the hands of another, which is usually a pretty strong indicator that a crime has occurred, and the defendant typically — as in this case — admits that s/he intentionally (if perhaps unenthusiastically) inflicted the fatal injury. Liability turns — in the Anglo-American tradition, in any event — on questions of reasonableness and imminence. These are highly subjective and fact-sensitive inquiries, which I think makes it very hard to judge the results without having heard all the evidence that the finder of fact heard. All those subtle factors that make courts of appeal so reluctant to review the factual findings of trial courts apply with even greater force when, as here — and in contrast to an appellate court — we don't even have a trial transcript to rely on in forming our judgments about the case. A quick Google search seems to indicate that all we have to go on in this case is the girl's testimony that she acted in self-defense. Well, isn't it possible that she's lying? Isn't this the sort of thing that we typically expect criminal defendants to lie about? Is it really inconceivable that the finder of fact might have had legitimate reasons for disbelieving her account of the killing?

None of this undercuts the broader point that shari'a courts seem, based on the relatively little that I know about it, to treat women in an unconscionable fashion. And for the record, I'm strongly inclined to believe that this girl really was acting in self-defense. But my readiness to believe her is largely a function of my bias against shari'a courts when it comes to cases involving women, not a result of any evidence specific to her case that suggests she's telling the truth.

The problems of proof in self-defense cases, and in particular the difficulty of judging the outcomes of such cases based solely on popular media accounts, are issues that I've been wrestling with for a couple of years now. This case seems to illustrate them nicely. Sorry if my little detour has offended anyone.
3.30.2006 2:48pm
I haven't read the comments yet, so this might already be out there.

Let's say she allowed herself and her neice to be raped. Then she'd be killed by her loving family for have shamed them!

Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace...

The only way to believe a big lie is to keep repeating it.

Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace... Religion of Peace...
3.30.2006 3:06pm
Supermike (mail) (www):
It's interesting to see how closely the summary of what muslim law says about self defense corresponds to California law. (As opposed to Texas, Idaho, Florida)
3.30.2006 5:29pm
Jamesaust (mail):
This is not the only instance, including the case of one Afsaneh Noroozi found in this State Department report on human rights in Iran:
3.31.2006 12:57am
Nonzenze (mail):

and that the Iranian government should be overthrown for alienating that right in this case

I sympathize greatly with that girl and all other Iranians denied their proper rights at the hands of their government but with all due respect, the US already overthrew the government of Iran once (Operation Ajax) and that didn't work in our long term favor.

Nor did paying Saddam to attack the Iranians go our way either —- having chemical weapons dropped on your from an American helicopter probably doesn't make you hate America any less. Nor does having this guy visit on the day that the UN reports on those chemical weapons help much either.

Considering this less than stellar history, perhaps it's time for a strategy of leaving these poor people alone? Remember, no matter how bad it is, someone in Langely can always find a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
3.31.2006 3:58am
Nonzenze (mail):
Hmm, there was supposed to be a link on "this guy" going here:
3.31.2006 3:59am
"I sympathise greatly with that Amsterdam girl and all other Europeans denied their proper rights at the hands of the German government but with all due respect, the US already overthrew the government of Germany once (The Great War) and that didn't work in our long term favor.

Nor did paying Stalin to attack the Germans go our way either --- getting raped by Red Army soldiers brought to your door in Studebaker trucks probably doesn't make you hate America any less.

Considering this less than stellar history, perhaps it is time for a strategy to leave the Europeans alone to solve their own problems?"
3.31.2006 11:36am
Nonzenze (mail):
There's virtually no comparison between Operation Ajax, designed solely to bring chaos and carnage to what was a decently functioning country moving towards republican values and fighting against German aggression.

Then there's the fact that Operation Ajax was designed to oust a democratically elected leader in favor of a hated monarch. Oh, and the fact that Iran had not then, and has not since, engaged in any wars of aggression. In fact, if anything, the US was guilty of aggression against the Iranians and not the other way around, and now you say that the aggressor has some right to insist upon some legal standard?

US behavior towards Iran has been downright criminal for the last 50 years and for us now to pretend that we've switched gears from self-interested to some sort of international-good-guy smacks of hypocrisy and nobody in their right mind will beleive us.

Americans don't seem to understand the credibility gap that our country has created in the middle-east. Here's a big one: Kuwait. When we liberated Kuwait from Saddam and then turned it back over to a hereditary plutocracy left over from the 18th century. Likewise for our continued support for the downright criminal House of Saud and Generalissimo Musharef (sp?).

People aren't that dumb. They can see that the Americans support democracy out of the same expediency that they support monarchists. There is aboslutely zero consistency.
3.31.2006 4:00pm
urijah (mail):

That is not exactly true--female witnesses can be used for broad categories of topics in (Orthodox) Judaism, to testify if something (or someone) is permitted or forbidden, etc. and under exigent circumstances.
4.1.2006 11:51pm
a cornellian (mail):
to relgion of peace guy:

every major relgion is guilty of killing in the name of god at some point or another. An abuse of a relgion does not make the relgion evil, nor does calling your self of a certian religion mean you acctully are, take the modern american "christian" right for example.
4.2.2006 4:45am