Sun Ra - Column for 8/13

Dead Horses and Persians

So, Sunday afternoon rolls around, and unlike last week where my column was locked and loaded days before my deadline, this week I have yet to write word one. It's not writer's block, it's just lack of inspiration. However - Hark! - the Internet once more comes to my rescue. I surf on over to and one of their article headings immediately grips my eye. I think I'll take the easy way out this week, and rather than come up with something from whole cloth I'm going to swipe a page from Harlock's book and make snide but witty comments about this other article. In fact, to compensate for my lack of wittiness I shall steal not just the highlights, but the entire article. The original article is in normal text, and my commentary is in italics.

Iran to step up public floggings

By Ali Akbar Dareini

Moving right on up the old "to be flogged list" by virtue of this article.

Aug. 12, 2001 | TEHRAN, Iran --

2001? You know, I could swear they were still in the nineteenth century.

Iran will step up public floggings to fight social vices, the head of the country's hard-line judiciary said in remarks published Saturday.

They are also going to start shipping more criminals to Australia.

The increase is part of a power struggle between reformists, led by President Mohammad Khatami, and hard-liners, who control key institutions such as the courts, state media and security forces.

President Khatami, in contrast, controls the Tehran ladies sewing circle, several influential chess clubs, and at least part of the undertakers' union.

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi said the floggings will be strictly applied in 10 provinces beginning Aug. 23.

As compared to those floggings which are not "strictly" applied, such as the sort popular in San Francisco and New York. Say, what happens if one of the guys doing the flogging doesn't flog strictly enough? Does he get flogged? And who determines if it was strict enough? The floggee? "Naw, that didn't hurt enough. I've still got some skin over there."

He did not say which of Iran's 28 provinces would be affected or why they had been chosen. He also did not comment on Interior Ministry objections that the floggings are hurting Iran's international image.

Um - duh? This is in reaction to Khatami's popularity. I'm thinking a map of the recent election results and a map of the provinces where flogging will be applied would be remarkably similar.
And Iran's concern about their international image ranks right up there with Iran's concern about its bowling score and its concern about getting a liquor license in Saskatchewan.

Public floggings are the prescribed punishment in Islamic law for a number of offenses. They had become rare in Iran in recent years but have increased sharply in recent weeks. Dozens of people have been flogged in Tehran for drinking alcohol, harassing women and having illegal sex.

I'd make a comment about "illegal sex", but I live in the United States, most of which still have laws against various sorts of sex. They should issue those of us not from Alabama wallet cards telling us where various positions, activities, etc. are or are not legal. "Arkansas - blowjob: 6 mo. community service. Mississippi - fisting: 2-5 years incarceration. New York - bestial necrophilia: legal."
On the other hand, it's interesting that "harassing women" is one of those offenses that can lead to flogging. That might get some wolf-whistle-phobes to move to Iran. Nothing like getting to watch some jerk lose half the skin on his back and shrieking like an infant hugging a porcupine to make all the ass-slapping worth it.

Shahroudi's comments were carried Saturday by the government-run Persian-language daily newspaper Iran.

Frankly, there is no Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. They just made the name up because they could. They get the article from the government, they print it. Kind of like 'U.S. News' during a Republican administration.

Tehran University professor and political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand said public floggings could undermine Khatami's policy of detente and the establishment of a civil society.

"Hey, Mahmoud - add this Bavand joker to that to-be-flogged list!"

"Hard-liners appear to be intensifying their efforts through the judiciary to thwart reforms at the beginning of Khatami's second four-year term," Bavand told The Associated Press in an interview.

To think about this, I thought about the US court system basically refusing to adjudicate based on US law, because they felt that Congress was too liberal. "Yes, we know that the law says that the speed limit is seventy, but we answer to a higher cause, and that cause tells me that you get to serve four years in Folsom." You know, given the behavior of juries around these parts, we've come pretty close to that already.

Iran imposes a strict interpretation of Islam that forbids alcohol and limits interaction between unrelated men and women.

Now, related men and women, that's a different story. Also, how do they pick their interpreters? I want to see a country with a "loose" interpretation of Islam that forbids line dancing and positively encourages interaction between unrelated men and women.

Khatami was sworn in on Wednesday after a tense political standoff between the reformist-oriented parliament and the hard-line judiciary over nominations for a powerful oversight panel, the Guardian Council.

You think it's tyrannical until you realize that it is the exact same setup that picks who gets to be a Green Lantern. Only the blue-skinned Guardian Council from Oa have enhanced brains, and the white-bearded Guardian Council from Tehran have enhanced holiness. Wherever in the body that resides. Frankly, they are both a bunch of conservative old guys.
It's also interesting that it's become a division between the courts and the elected officials, because that basically says that it's a generational divide. The guys who were appointed for life back when Khomeni was around are now trying to hold back the people for whom calling Clinton "The Great Satan" always seemed kind of weird. Maybe we should ship over some Republicans to help shift the demographics.

Khatami sees an "Islamic democracy," fewer social restrictions and better contacts with the West. Conservatives have reacted harshly against changes they fear could erode their enormous influence over nearly every aspect of life.

Well of course he does. He keeps getting elected, doesn't he? If the people weren't behind him, he wouldn't be so fired up to get democracy, I warrant! Unfortunately for him, the average lifespan in Iran is seventy or so, so all this human plaque in the arteries of the state will probably last as long as he.

The rest of us just need to wait a bit.

Columns by Sun Ra