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Eye for an Eye

[Photo: RedEye by lokiv7]


Everyday when I wake up in the morning, I flip through whatever little nuggets of news someone(?) in the world chooses to make available to my cellphone to read. Nothing earthshattering, but on occasion, there's articles like this one that get me thinking; thought I'd share this one today:

MADRID (AP) — An Iranian woman [Bahrami] living in Spain said Wednesday she welcomed a Tehran court ruling that awards her eye-for-an-eye justice against a suitor who blinded her with acid.
[...]
Late last year an Iranian court ruled that the man — identified only as Majid — who blinded Bahrami in 2004 after she spurned him, should also be blinded with acid based on the Islamic law system of "qisas," or eye-for-an-eye retribution, according to Iranian newspaper reports from November.

Just this idea alone raises questions for me over what justice truly is, and whether punishments like this are for simple revenge, or if they are truly preventing future repeats of the same crime. If someone steals my car, are things really square if I'm allowed to go steal theirs? Does 'eye for an eye' really work any better than our current system of fines/jailtime does now? One person is already blind, does it really square things if we purposely blind someone else?

Anyway, all that aside, there's more to this story, because..

Bahrami [...] said Wednesday that under Iranian law, she is entitled to blind him in only one eye, [...] because in Iran women are not considered equal to men.

"They have told us that my two eyes are equal to one of his because in my country each man is worth two women. [Men and women] are not the same,"

Now, I was already struggling to find actual justice in the punishment, and now I can't even find justice in the justice! If I steal a woman's car, is she only entitled to steal half of my car in return? Only entitled to steal it on every even day of the month?

The whole reason her blindness is so bad, is that she can't see .. anything! Where is the justice in him only losing a portion of his sight? (though, where is the justice in him being blind as well ... neither brings her sight back, so what's the point?)

So, .. go. What's the point? :)

How about this: The Role of Justice. :)

From your writing, I can't tell what you think, though :) You suggested a person convicted of murder should be sent to prison, rehabilitated, and released -- none of which I have any issue with, though the ones that come out only to kill again and again certainly don't seem to understand the point of the process :) You said you don't think a person that does harm should be harmed, but I'm not sure I believe that being removed from society can't be viewed as harmful, too.

What to do in this case though?

She spurned Majid, so he blinded her. The court finds that she was innocent (that they did surprises me, actually), and feels he should face what they legally/religiously feel is an appropriate rehabilitation - once he's been blinded as well, will he understand that it's wrong to blind someone again? Will he still learn the same lesson if he's only half-blind?

And is the point ultimately to simply ensure he won't do it again? What if he (genuinely) promises to never do it again? Can you then commit any crime without punishment if you can show it will never happen again?

I think that's my problem with the "remove from society until they're better" approach... What if they're better the very next day?

"...though the ones that come out only to kill again and again certainly don't seem to understand the point of the process :) You said you don't think a person that does harm should be harmed, but I'm not sure I believe that being removed from society can't be viewed as harmful, too."

You're right, the ones that are released and kill again were clearly NOT rehabilitated. Do I think that everyone has the 'ability' to be rehabilitated? Yes. Practically speaking, are there people who, no matter how much you work with them, will never actually rehabilitate in this lifetime? Yes. I agree with you that, from the perspective of the individual jailed (and maybe his family who is still free), being removed from society feels harmful. But it's a matter of degree. He is harmed because he doesn't have the freedom to go where he wants and do what he wants. His wife is harmed emotionally because she doesn't get to be with her husband. His kids are harmed because their dad is in prison. But if we release him when he's not rehabilitated, then other people might literally die at his hand. That harm trumps the harms that are done to him by locking him up.

The classic Buddhist story is of a monk walking in the woods, when a deer runs out of the underbrush and, upon seeing the monk, runs off to his right. A minute later, a hunter runs out of the same underbrush and asks the monk where the deer went. A monk is under vows not to lie (both for his own training and to avoid hurting others with invalid information). He is also under vows to not harm others. Well, the story continues with the monk telling the hunter that the deer ran to the left. Moral: The harm the hunter would have caused to the deer trumps the harm caused by the monk's lie. Even when you vow to "harm none," you might be placed in a situation where no matter what you do, someone will be harmed. In which case you try to minimize the total harm caused.

I agree with you, Loki; I'm surprised as well that the court found her innocent. What to do in this case? Well, as you said, the court feels that the legal/religious rehabilitation required is a half-eye-for-an-eye. That conclusion is contrary to both the Buddhist view and my personal view, that rehabilitation should cause the least harm possible. One could clearly argue that any other rehabilitation method that is less harmful would not have worked to actually rehab this man. Well, in that case, perhaps this *is* the best method. Though I think you have to start with a less harmful approach and work your way up.

"And is the point ultimately to simply ensure he won't do it again?"

Well that's a good question, and one that I think gets at the heart of punishment vs. rehab. The punishment camp, the group that thinks a person deserves to be punished for his actions, would answer no to your question. In that view, the goal is to inflict some kind of harm on the person that is, in some way, equivalent to the harm caused by the person. The rehab camp would probably answer yes to your question. I personally take the rehab view a step farther [and this extension considers your next point: "what if he genuinely promises to never do it again"]. I think that the purpose is not only to ensure that he doesn't do it again, but also to actually have him genuinely understand why his actions were so egregiously harmful, understand and feel genuinely sorry for his actions, and to find his actions so reprehensible that he would never even consider doing it again out of compassion for others. That is what I think the purpose is, and it has the wonderful side effect of ensuring he won't do it again.

Of course, how do you measure GENUINE understanding like I am proposing? I have no idea. All I am arguing is that this is the most compassionate approach.

"What if they're better the very next day?"

Are they really ever rehabbed the very next day? They might feel sorry for what they did the next day, but I'd argue that the chance that the person has reached the genuine understanding that I am talking about in one day is approximately zero.

I like this eye for an eye treatment. Though to be fair, it should be 2 eyes and not one.

As to rehab vs punishment (your words) I would also take the punishment route. But not for the sake of getting even or inflicting pain. Simply to ensure what they have done never happens again. I do not believe a person can be rehabbed. Therefore, if somebody kills or rapes another person for example. I believe the only true way to handle it is to end their life. As a side note, as a tax payer I do not want to pay for that piece of shit to live out their life in prison. That is a burden on me as an innocent by stander.

My only problem with an immediate death penalty, is the cases where someone ends up being released years later due to new evidence proving their innocence.. Had we lethally injected them right away, they'd have no chance at their eventual freedom later, no? And the costs-argument is a sticky one, because I've always read that we spend more on the actual execution process (legal fees, etc) than you would just keeping the person fed for their lifetime.

The cure for this ridiculous islamic fundamentalism is to educate and empower the women so that those misogynist bastards will be as henpecked as Western men!

Now that, my friends is what I call justice.

Hmm. So when that day comes, and a woman blinds a man with acid (both eyes), and she only has to lose one eye as penalty, we'll have finally found justice? :)

Please come back :)

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