Update: Sakineh, German Journalists Not Free as Iran Ramps Up Propaganda

Pictures released yesterday of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 43-year-old mother of two sentenced to death for adultery in Iran, at home with her son sparked rumors she was free. But sadly, the photos were actually part of a state “documentary” in which she “confessed” to the crimes the Islamic Republic accuses her of.

Advocates like Mina Ahadi of the International Committee Against Stoning, who has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of this woman’s release, were so eager to believe she had been let go that they viewed the emergence of the tape as evidence of her release. This premature reaction speaks to the sincerity of  the human rights community in its enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, the tape was only propaganda. Accounts of the regime’s handling of its captives, such as independent journalist Roxana Saberi’s “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” have documented the regime’s coercive tactics. One is to parade detainees on tape, indicting themselves or others as  “spies” or as whatever the regime has accused them of being. Ashtiani has been paraded on Iranian TV twice this year, and this “documentary” would appear to be the latest regime ploy.

Two German journalists also remain in captivity in Iran.

Ashtiani’s son, a 22-year-old bus driver who has spoken up for his mother’s innocence in a country where doing so can carry the risk or incarceration or worse,  remains jailed as well, and has by some accounts been tortured.

The Islamic Republic can use threats of psychological or physical torture to make these people say whatever it wants on tape. But the regime cannot erase the image of this mother and son together or erase in the consciousness of viewers the truth that this young man has risked his life to save his mother from a “punishment” that would be barbaric and inappropriate even if the charges against her were true.

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