Iran Blinds Acid-Attacker In 'Eye For an Eye' Justice

Eye for an eye
Davoud Roshanaei was blinded in the acid attack in 2005. Davoud Roshanaei / Facebook

An Iranian man convicted of blinding another man by throwing acid in his face has been punished by having one of his own eyes gouged out by medics, according to state media, an act which has prompted outrage from international human rights groups, and drawn comparisons between the Iranian authorities and Islamic State.

The punishment, carried out at Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj earlier this week, is thought to be the first of its kind in Iran.

The man, who reportedly fell unconscious after the punishment, was found guilty of throwing acid in his victim's face five years ago, an attack which left his victim blind and disfigured for life. The perpetrator was sentenced to be blinded in both eyes, a 10 year prison sentence and was ordered to pay a fine.

Yet his victim, who under Iranian law has the final say in the punishment and can prevent the punishment at any time, decided at the last minute to postpone the blinding of his right eye for six months.

It has not been made clear whether the doctors involved were coerced into performing the act, although in the past there have been instances of them refusing to carry out such punishments.

"This is horrific," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, of the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights groups. "It is a brutal and criminal act, and very similar to what Islamic State is doing, but Iran is doing this as a state in a very controlled manner, using trained doctors. This form of punishment doesn't belong to our time. What is happening in Iran at the moment is beyond alarming."

Although this form of punishment is enshrined in the Iranian penal code, this is reportedly the first instant where the punishment has been carried out, and is certainly the first time the crime has been announced by the Iranian media.

Amiry-Moghaddam says that the attack was made public by the authorities as a way of cracking down on the opposition, and serves as a signal to the Iranian public that although Iran is taking part in negotiations with the the West and the US, nothing inside Iran has changed.

Iran's foreign minister on Thursday suggested that a 10-year moratorium on some aspects of the country's nuclear program might be acceptable to Tehran, amid rumours that Iran is warming to U.S. demands.

"This is a demonstration of power, it is the most efficient way of spreading fear," says Amiry-Moghaddam. He is concerned that the international community is closing its eyes to human rights abuses in Iran because of the ongoing nuclear talks, and also finds it hypocritical that while Islamic State are roundly denounced for their brutal executions and punishments, condemnation of Iran has been less vocal.

While perceptions of Iran from the outside world may appear to be softening, Amiry-Moghaddam argues that the picture inside Iran is completely different. "The international community should not tolerate it or accept it, and these type of abuse should be met with the strongest condemnation," he says.

The brutal attack comes amid a week of more state-sponsored violence, with a shocking 31 men being executed at three different prisons between Monday to Wednesday this week, according to Iran Human Rights. A second man was also sentenced this week to the punishment of losing one eye and one ear, but the case has been postponed for two months.

There is also concern that acid attacks are on the rise across the country. Last October, thousands of Iranians took to the streets in Tehran and Isfahan City, after at least six women suffered acid attacks in just a few weeks.

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York based NGO, believes that the women were targeted for violating Islamic dress codes, and linked the surge in attacks to recent rhetoric from conservative leaders.

"This comes in the midst of a year-long verbal attack by conservative forces in Iran attacking women for their clothes," Ghaemi told Newsweek last year. "There have been verbal warnings and calls that blood must be shed. These are not isolated incidents", he added.

Iranian women are required by law to cover themselves in public with an enveloping head-to-toe veil. However many of them, especially younger women living in the larger cities, defy government regulations and societal convention by showing their hair or wearing supposedly "immodest" clothing.