05 April 2009

An eye for an eye?

In November 2004, Ameneh Bahrami was the victim of an acid attack. She had rejected a guy who was into her, kept harassing her, and proposed marriage to her multiple times. One afternoon, he followed her from her place of work to a train station and threw acid on her face. As a result, her face, hands, and arms are disfigured (the acid got on her hands and arms when she put them up to her face) and she is now blind in both eyes.

Rather than accepting money from attacker Majid Movahedi (a custom known as "accepting blood money"), she requested an eye for an eye. A court ruled that she would be allowed to drop 20 drops of acid into one of Movahedi's eyes (not both - the theory that one man is equivalent to two women apparently applies to their body parts, as well). He will be restrained on a table and his eyes will be forced open as she drops the acid into his eye.

He appealed the court's ruling and recently lost that appeal.

She says she isn't doing this out of revenge. She says she wants this to be a deterrent for future potential acid attackers. She says she won't change her mind.

A lot of human rights activists are up in arms about this. Some say that it violates Movahedi's human rights; the punishment is too barbaric. Some say that since Bahrami now lives in Spain, she should abide by Western humane mores and not participate in such a vengeful, barbaric act. I will admit that the second argument doesn't hold much interest for me. Note that I did not say that I disagree with it, it just doesn't interest me as much as the basic human rights issue does. And I see this as a victim's right issue, as well.

One of the first (and most difficult) lessons I learned in law school is that law and justice seldom go hand in hand. And truth and the justice RARELY coincide (one of my professor went to law school across the street from a church, and his professor often told them that if they wanted Truth, they should go across the street). And I could really do a blog post on the whole law/justice, truth/justice issue later (and I might).

I don't see justice here. I see the law, but no justice. I see the truth (the attack DID happen, Movahedi confessed but is apparently without remorse). I've tried very much since I first heard about this story to see justice. And I just can't find it.

It's tempting to blog about my own journey from a rape/incest victim to a survivor who has forgiven her rapist. But the truth is that that journey took many years, many evolutions, and had its own prices along the way. I can't expect that every victim will feel the same way I do. It's not fair to them (or to me). And I'm not arrogant enough to say that the way I did it was the right way. Survival looks different and takes different forms.

But I wonder if participating in physical barbarism is a necessary step for Bahrami in her journey from victim to survivor. There are things that happened during my transformation that I wish I could do again, do differently, or just altogether take back and erase. While my greatest hope is that she ultimately decides to not do this, my next hope for her is that if she does do this, it does not become a regret in her life.


  1. While I realize this woman and I do not share a common religious background, and therefore my viewpoint would fall on deaf ears, so to speak... I am glad that my faith teaches me forgiveness and grace. And I know that sometimes that forgiveness is difficult to do. But ultimately it has to happen -- not for the benefit of the person who wrongs you, but for you.

    Peace, my friend.

  2. I agree with that. Forgiveness IS powerful. I never thought I would reach the place I have with regard to forgiving my rapist. And I'm sure that ten years from now, I'll be in an even better place with respect to that.

    I feel bad for people who hold on to hate and anger and the need for vengeance. While it might be satisfying in the short term, the long term affects are far too damaging.

  3. I have to say I'm kind of impressed - everything I read about that part of the world would assume he'd get a slap on the wrist and keep going. obsessive stalkers are scary in any culture. I don't know if I'd want vengeance or forgiveness. I think I'd be leaning toward vengeance. I hope i never have to figure it out

  4. Huh, weird, I thought I posted another comment and it doesn't seem to have gone through.

    Anyway, I just now picked up the book I'm reading (_The Changeover_ by Margaret Mahy, a decent YA fantasy) and came across this bit that sums up how I feel about the dangers of vengeance really well:

    "There are always two people involved in cruelty, aren't there? One to be vicious and someone to suffer! And what's the use of getting rid of -- of wickedness, say -- in the outside world if you let it creep back into things from inside you?"