Opinion, By Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – On the eve of his visit to Iran, President Lula has publicly requested President Ahmadinejad to allow a 43-year old Iranian woman convicted on two counts of adultery to seek asylum in Brazil, rather than being stoned to death, as called for by her sentence.
The good news is that the official response said her sentence is under review, and she may not be stoned to death, since a draft Islamic penal code being considered by Iran’s parliament does not include stoning. The bad news is, she’s still a criminal who has been tried and convicted, so she may well be executed, doubtless in some more “civilized” fashion.
Lula is praised by the Irani foreign minister for being a “humane and emotional” person who just didn’t have enough information about the criminal in question. In other words, sweetness and light should reign supreme at the summit, where Lula and Ahmadinejad can reminisce about the how they and Turkey tried to bring the UN Security Council to its senses on nuclear enrichment (see the Curmudgeon’s prior post on this topic).
The Curmudgeon agrees that, in general, Lula is a “humane and emotional” person. But what surprises him is how Lula has completely changed his position on intervening in other countries’ internal legal affairs. When he went to Cuba, there were dozens of prisoners on hunger strikes, which Lula claims to abhor, and thousands of people had been clamoring for Lula to intercede with President Raul to release a number of those imprisoned for speaking or writing against the régime. Lula subjugated his “humane and emotional” side and solemnly ignored all the pressure, afterwards claiming it would not have been appropriate on a State visit to poke about in the internal affairs of another country, much less to suggest its laws were unjust. In short, his attitude was “you must have mistaken me for somebody who gives a damn.”
We heard nothing from Dilma Roussef at that time. But the Curmudgeon suspects that this past weekend, when she and Lula were seeking votes, she said something to Lula to cause him to get his “humane” mojo back – something like “if you don’t say it, I will”. Lula couldn’t say that a law condemning women to death by stoning for adultery is barbaric—that would be criticizing another country’s laws. What he said was, “if she’s causing trouble over there, let her ask us for asylum, we’ll be happy to take her in.”
Asylum? Causing trouble? What about Zelaya, the Honduran troublemaker? The Dominican Republic offered him asylum, Brazil didn’t. What about the troublemaking hunger strikers in Cuba? Spain offered them asylum, Brazil didn’t. They were also convicted criminals (the Cubans) or about to be convicted (Zelaya). Why Sakineh Ashtiani?
Was it the kinder, gentler, Dilma who provoked him, or the Realpolitik Dilma seeking sympathy votes from women? Or memories of his childhood in dirt-poor rural Pernambuco where injustice was rampant? Or even a guilty conscience over Cuba? Or, has someone finally managed to make Lula realize that, even though he may trust Ahmadinejad, nobody else in the world does. The UN Security Council, including both China and Russia, who style themselves “friendly” to Iran, voted in favor of increased sanctions. Lula may just have decided that “what friends are for” is to let their friends know when what they’re doing isn’t right. Stonings are not right.