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GUEST COLUMN – Triumph over barbarism

Rickey Singh

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IF ALL goes well, according to expectations in Brazil and Iran, an Iranian woman could today be spared from being stoned to death for a reported act of adultery.This would be a triumph for reason and civilised behaviour over a barbaric custom. It is also a resounding success for Brazilian-style diplomacy and commitment to justice by its outgoing and highly influential President – Luiz Ignacio Lula daSilva.While international human rights organisations, women’s groups and militant advocates for justice and peace (including nationals of the Caribbean region), have been adding their quota of solidarity via the worldwide web and otherwise, President Lula chose to bell the proverbial “cat” to save the life of the Iranian Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.Public appealAlone, among Heads of State and Governments of the Latin America/Caribbean region – if not the entire world – Lula went public this past weekend with an appeal he had earlier made to the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:“I want to make an appeal to my friend Ahmadinejad and the government of Iran to allow Brazil to take in the (Iranian) woman, Sakineh Ashtiani . . .” according to a report out of Brazil last Saturday (July 31), sourced to the state-run news agency EBC.In contrast to the unshifting arrogance of highly-placed political, religious and judicial elements, who had earlier appeared immune to international outcries to spare the life of Ashtiani, the language of relatively fledgling diplomatic friendship between Brazil and an Iran anxious to counter United States-led international led pressure, had an immediate positive effect.Lula, credited for having laid the foundation, with two special summits in Brazil, for a visionary new relationship between the Caribbean and his Latin American collosus, prompted a rapid official response in Tehran to his call at a rally in southern Brazil. As reported by the Guardian (Britain) on  Sunday, he pleaded:“If my friendship with the President of Iran and the regard I hold him in is worth something, if this woman is causing discomfort, then we will willingly receive her here (in Brazil) . . .“I find myself imagining”, said Lula, while other voices in the Greater Caribbean (including Venezuela and CARICOM) remained publicly silent, “what would happen if one day there was a country in the world that would stone a man because he was cheating. Nothing justifies the state taking someione’s life. Only God gives life and only He sould take it away . . . .”For this Caribbean journalist, who had much earlier added his signature to an international list pleading for Ashtiani’s life, the stand by Lula is the stuff of courageous, decent and principled leadership – a quality much needed in this region and across the world where intolerance, racism, religious and ideological bigotry account for so much suffering and degradation of humanity.Offer of asylumOnce Lula’s plea and offer of asylum for Ashtiani had been reported by state-run EBC and the international media, her family members were suddenly discovering civilised responses from officialdom in Tehran, including her lawyer, Houtan Kian, and son, Sajad.The lawyer has since been summoned to a meeting of Iran’s High Court, scheduled for today, when it is widely believed that there would be a resolution. We have to wait to find out if a freed Ashtiani will be allowed to take up Lula’s asylum offer.Missed opportunityCARICOM states with diplomatic relations with Iran may have missed a good opportunity to tell “friends” in Tehran how they feel about what we in this region view as a barbaric practice in snuffing out the life of a woman for a reported act of adultery.President Lula in his wisdom has raised the question that MEN the world over – including the power-wielders in Tehran – should ponder: “What would happen”, he asked, “if one day, there was a country in the world that would stone a man because he was (sexually) cheating . . . .”