SPIEGEL Interview with Iran's Foreign Minister 'The West Lacks Political Maturity'
In a SPIEGEL interview, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, 57, discusses the stoning of adulterers, the consequences of Western sanctions against Iran and the risk of a military strike against his country.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, you are the senior diplomat of the Islamic Republic of Iran. You represent a nation that prides itself on a cultural history stretching back more than 2,500 years. Don't you find it shameful that people are stoned to death in your country?
Manouchehr Mottaki: You come from a country that murdered millions of people during a tyrannical war, and you want to talk to me about human rights? OK, we can certainly discuss the laws in various countries and naturally we can, in a friendly atmosphere, debate the different legal principles.
SPIEGEL: It isn't a matter of legal subtleties. Stoning is a glaring violation of universal human rights. It's barbaric.
Mottaki: There is a certain framework for punishments in Islam. In Iran, we treat crimes that are punished with the death penalty with special sensitivity, because Islam assigns special value to human life. The Koran reads: "Anyone who murders any person ( ), it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people."
SPIEGEL: We are not talking about murder, for which the death penalty by hanging is imposed in Iran, but about the stoning of adulterers. International human rights organizations report that there have been seven cases in the last five years alone.
Mottaki: I cannot confirm your number. But it shows that this sentence is in fact carried out very rarely.
SPIEGEL: The names of 14 other potential stoning victims are also known. This places Iran on the same level as countries like Somalia and Afghanistan when it was under Taliban rule.
Mottaki: Certain groups are making these accusations, and the West must be careful not to allow itself to be misled by people who seek to harm our reputation. Many of the things that were reported on the most recent case
SPIEGEL: the impending stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
Mottaki: are either completely incorrect or contradictory. This file has existed for several years, and nothing was done about the case, deliberately so. The campaign is now backed by people who, with the help of a few European politicians and the media, are playing a rigged game. We will soon announce further information about what is behind this game. And when you speak of Afghanistan, why don't you mention the victims of the foreign troops? Countless people have died as a result of their military campaigns. But you challenge me on this one case and then compare us to Afghanistan.
SPIEGEL: Will you lobby for Ashtiani not to be stoned?
Mottaki: I am not a judge. Besides, this case requires further legal review. A final decision has not yet been made.
SPIEGEL: This case is only one example of Iran's contempt for human rights. Iran, which executed 400 people last year, is second from the top of the list of countries that still impose the death penalty -- behind China, with a population 20 times as large.
Mottaki: You have to understand our situation. Iran is in a region in which a lot of money is made in the drug trade. Most crimes are related to the trade. We have to take a firm stance against these crimes. Some 4,000 police officers and soldiers have died fighting dealers in our country. We sentence criminals on the basis of our laws. Criminals are treated fairly. Don't forget that we are the first line of defense against drugs. Iran also protects the young people and the population of your country. Germany is a target of the drug trade.
SPIEGEL: But it isn't just criminals who are executed. Death sentences are also passed against political prisoners.
Mottaki: No one is executed in Iran for political reasons. You have no evidence to prove the opposite.
SPIEGEL: The large wave of arrests after the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June shows that your legal system is political. Thousands have been arrested since then. The revolutionary courts have imposed long prison sentences on people whose only offence was to oppose the president.
Mottaki: This election was a triumph. We had the highest turnout for a presidential election since the 1979 revolution. Of 40 million voters, a turnout of 85 percent, 25 million voted for Mr. Ahmadinejad. But as was already the case during Mr. Ahmadinejad's first election in 2005, the West apparently expected a different election result. We think the Western countries lack political maturity.
SPIEGEL: For the West, but also for millions of people in Iran, the most recent election was a huge fraud.
Mottaki: Manipulation is an issue in elections everywhere. Just think of the differences of opinion that elections have triggered in the United States, where a court had to step in to end a dispute over the validity of ballots. The accusations were also investigated in our country, at the urging of the opposition and our leadership. The votes were recounted. Since then, the result has been legally binding.
- Part 1: 'The West Lacks Political Maturity'
- Part 2: 'We Don't Want More than What Is Our Right'
- Part 3: 'Anyone Who Attacks Iran Will Regret It'