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A Saudi Arabian executioner, showing off his sword, which he claims is a gift from the Saudi Royal family and worth over $2000. Saudi Arabia is in fact advertising for eight new executioners, to carry out an increasing number of public beheadings. The pay, I understand, is good and unlike the folks that you use that sword on, you get to have a generous pension plan. The only qualifications are having a strong wrist and knowing how to scream ‘allah-o-akbar’. Interested?

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For it’s sheer beauty and elegance, there are very few places of human habitation that can match Esfahan, the second largest city in Iran. If you throw in a gracious culture and beautiful people, a visit to Esfahan is one that you are not likely to forget easily.

Their women, with their flawless complexions and sweet demeanors, seem like angels. Farsi, the language they speak, is a huge turn-on. I should know. I am married to one. Their men are chiseled – not in that abstract Picasso style but more Greek Goddish, if you know what I mean. The taxi driver who drove me around Teheran on my first visit, was a Gregory Peck clone. Charles Bronson served me tea in a tourist shack on the Alborz hillside. Stewart Granger brought me my morning newspaper at the 5-Star Azadi and Gina Lollobrigida changed my bedsheets during the day. (This is an Islamic Republic, or else I woulda had Scarlett Johanssen givin’ me a massage, evenings, I swear).

But no matter how cultured and graceful are the Iranian populace or how ancient is their civilization, it is in stark contrast with Iran’s justice system, which enforces the same Sharia law, though Iran’s punishments are not as barbaric as others like the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the ISIS. Still, even the watered down Sharia in Iran is very scary according to western standards.

Now about the horror that is otherwise known as justice in the Middle-East, here are some indicators of just how much of a shit-creek you’ll find yourself in, in case you run afoul of the law –

Engage in apostasy or blasphemy and pretty soon you’ll be fertilizing the pistachio saplings from underneath. If you commit adultery, which in the west is no big deal, there are two alternative things that can happen to you, depending upon whether you were married when you shtupped the broad or you weren’t. And so it is with her too. If you were married, you had better be made of titanium, because it is going to be death by stoning.

If on the other hand you weren’t married, like suppose you were a bed-and-breakfast tenant and you engaged in some jigir-migir with your landlord’s wife, it is 100 lashes for you and death by stoning for her, the poor dear. If you are both unmarried, it will be 100 lashes, unless you agree to get married to each other. Makes weird sense, dunnit?

While I’m still on the subject of sex, sodomy will surely get you killed while with non-penetrative homosexuality, you might get off with 100 lashes, the first time. If you are a shmuck and get caught four times masturbating another guy, you’re dead. The one-100/four-death rule goes for lesbianism and prostitution as well.

Note that I keep referring to lashes. Otherwise known as flogging, this is an elaborate process. A young bamboo cane, around three quarters of an inch in diameter, is soaked in olive oil and tempered, till it swishes around lithely, like it has a life of it’s own. And those nodes that you see on bamboo, those joints, they are roughened up so they sting when they crack against your back. The convict is made to stretch out on his stomach in the middle of a crowded town square and a court clerk reads out loud, the crime for which he is going to be whipped. Immediately after, two, sometimes three floggers take turns in flogging him with the bamboo cane, with all the strength they can muster. A medic stands by, to check up on the poor sod and ensure he doesn’t pass out, which robs the flogging off all the fun. The crowd, all the while, keeps chanting ‘allah-o-akbar'(God is great).

More than 30 lashes usually cause extensive and permanent nerve damage, along with bleeding and possible infection, even death on occasion. In 2006, a 75-year old Saudi Arabian woman was sentenced to 40 lashes for being seen in the company of a young man who later turned out to be like a son to her. She didn’t survive the punishment, collapsing from a fatal cardiac arrest halfway through the flogging.

Now about the death  sentence. Don’t get misled by the word and go imagining that maybe the convict just get’s shot by a firing squad or executed by lethal injection. No, Sir. That would be un-Islamic. Sharia justice wants to make sure that your last breath is a tortured gasp. Islam must surely believe that the degree of cruelty and harshness employed in bringing about your demise will somehow reach out to you beyond death and deter you from keeping on doing bad things in your afterlife.

As capital punishment, Islamic justice has chosen some of the most unbelievably barbaric methods of killing, that would make Josef Mengele look like the Dalai Llama in comparison – stoning, beheading and/or crucifixion.

Particularly gruesome out of these is being stoned to death, for adultery. Death will be something that you will beg for, trust me. There is no way to use your hands to defend yourself, since you’ll be buried upright in the ground up to your upper chest, (above your breasts if you are a lady). Your head exposed, you will only be able to stare and scream, as stone after stone comes crashing into your skull from all directions.

Stoning is a public interactive punishment. Everybody simply joins in. Instead of a jury of your peers, there will be stoners of your peers, flinging rocks, large and small, jagged and blunt, at your head from all directions, some missing you, while others smash into your nose or gouge out your eyes. I’m estimating that it will be slow, very slow and you’ll be lucky if you are knocked unconscious by the first rock. The ISIL go a bit further – they crucify the dead body, after, it’s head has been turned into a bloody pulp.

As regards beheading, it is mercifully quick in comparison. Here is how a commentator once surmised that a Saudi beheading will go down – Your last morning on Earth will likely be spent in isolation. You will rise early and eat a last breakfast. If you are lucky, you might receive a sedative, like Valium, to calm your nerves.

Executions usually take place in the morning, before the oppressive heat of the desert takes hold, the location – a public square. Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Somalia are the only countries in the world that still execute people in public. Folks will gather to watch you die, in a macabre, festival-like atmosphere. In the periphery you might even see vendors pushing ice cream carts. Public beheadings are the only form of entertainment in Saudi Arabia.

If you are a prisoner in Riyadh, the capital, you might be taken to the Deera Square, which has acquired a macabre sobriquet – Chop Chop Square. Before you arrive, the cops will have prepared the area. It may be cordoned off to keep curious spectators at a distance, where they will congregate nonetheless, in hordes. It is a public event, remember?

Constantly mumbling ‘allah-o-akbar’, you will be half led and half carried to the center of the square, by the executioner and two cops who are there to see you don’t squirm too much. When you reach a small patch of bare ground that is covered with plastic sheeting to catch the squirting blood, you’ll know this is it.

Till now, all the way, you had been screaming ‘I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!’ but as soon as a black hood is placed over your head and tied at the neck, your world will go dark.You will fall silent, resigned to your fate. All that the executioner will hear from you, then on till you’re dead, will be soft, incoherent whimpers. While the crowd breaks into a roar of ‘allah-o-akbar’, you will be the only one who will not call out for God. It is simple, He has foresaken you.

The hood over your head is not because of any humanitarian reasons. There is nothing humanitarian about barbarians that populate the Saudi Arabian justice department. The hood is just to prevent you from flinching when the sword comes down – so you don’t twist your neck out of the line of trajectory of a clean cut. Instead of just ‘Chop!’ it might go ‘Chop! Chop! Chop!’ and make the whole thing messy. So, stay still and your head will be sliced off clean when the blade comes down.

The executioner, always a man, will read out the sentence loudly for everyone to hear, laying special stress on the exact requirements of the execution. Across the square there will be whole families, with little kids on their Dads’ shoulders, watching. If you had murdered somebody, his family will definitely be there, screaming ‘Allah-o’Akbar’ (God is Great) at the top of their lungs.

Yeah, they intone ‘allah-o-akbar’ at just about anything over there. If you’re walking out the door and you tell your Saudi wife you’re going to get a loaf of bread, she’ll say ‘allah-o’akbar’. If you’re going to work and you strike up a conversation with a gentleman sitting next to you in the bus and you happen to comment,’heck of a day, innit?’, I’ll bet you a million he’ll respond with an ‘allah-o-akbar’. Hey, who knows, maybe in the Middle-East, if they happen to play the word game ‘what’s the good word’, there will be three answers instead of two – yes, no and ‘allah-o-akbar’.

The executioner will not talk to you. Instead, he will recite certain verses from the Quran. Liberally interspersed in his intonation will be words glorifying ‘Allah, the most merciful’. Yeah, right. If this is mercy, you’ll wonder what Allah’s wrath is like.

Then, at a signal from a magistrate who is there to witness your sentence being carried out, the executioner will take a swing with a long curved scimitar and hopefully your head will get lopped clean off. Your torso might twitch for a minute, from muscular reflex, but you won’t feel it. Trust me, you’ll be fine. Think of the 72 virgins you’ll have up there, since after all, you’ve paid your dues to society, albeit a barbaric society.

Your execution gets a bit complicated if you are being offed because of murder while committing a robbery. You will then be crucified for three straight days under the desert sun, no kidding. Whether you are crucified first and then brought down half-dead and beheaded or beheaded first and then crucified, this knotty question is left to the magistrate’s discretion.

Yeah, you guessed right, usually the magistrate will go for the former.