Iranian poets face lashes for shaking hands with opposite sex

Tehran, Oct 28 (IANS) Two Iranian poets are facing 99 lashes each for shaking hands with people of the opposite sex in one of the latest examples of harsh punishments meted out to writers and artists by Iran’s judiciary, the media reported on Wednesday.

The poets, Fatemeh Ekhtesari, a woman, and Mehdi Musavi, have also both been sentenced to jail terms for “insulting the sacred” in their writings, a decision slammed by freedom of expression activists, reports CNN.

“Ekhtesari and Musavi’s arrests and convictions are a travesty of justice, and send a chill over the already beleaguered creative community in Iran,” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Centre, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Ekhtesari and Musavi, who touched on social issues in their work, received prison sentences of 11-and-a-half and nine years respectively for convictions based on confessions extracted under duress, according to PEN.

The flogging sentences came after Ekhtesari admitted to shaking hands with male participants at a poetry event in Sweden, PEN said.

Shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex who is not an immediate relation is considered an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” in Iran, it said.

A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary has declined to comment on the poets’ cases, which have not been covered in the country’s state media.

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