Iran News ...


10/3/07

The Struggle Continues!

Report From Europe By Darius KADIVAR

Nazanin Afshin-Jam New Human Rights Campaign to Stop Child Executions in Iran and Beyond
 


©Nazanin Afshin Jam Bodog & stopchildexecutions.com

  

Child executions violate international law

"[No] capital punishment... shall be imposed for offences committed by

persons below eighteen years of age"

Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

 

In Late April of last year I had the privilege to interview Miss Nazanin Afshin-Jam a former Miss World Canada who has since become a household name for many around the world for her strenuous efforts in alerting international opinion and Human Rights Organizations on the plight of an 18 year old compatriot, Nazanin Fatehi, who risked imminent execution in Iran for a crime committed only in an act of self defense (Read: Taking a Stand ). According to the United Nations, a child is a person under the age of 18, which was indeed the case of Nazanin Fatehi when she fatally stabbed one of three men who tried to rape her and her niece in March 2005. The predicament of the young girl moved international public opinion thanks to the campaign launched by Afshin-Jam to halt the execution order which eventually led to a retrial of the case and ultimate pardoning and freedom of the young girl. The success of this campaign would have not been possible without the help of many of YOU readers, human rights activists, the International Press moved by this case, as well as many professional intermediaries whose intervention was determinant to the happy conclusion of this Human Rights operation. If this public international mobilization proved anything, it was that public pressure and individual initiatives rallied by personalities in the public eye, can indeed have an effect on the decision making of the Iranian Judiciary and ultimately on the country’s leadership in abiding to International Law. In the light of another recent operation of similar nature led by the French government that led to the liberation of Bulgarian nurses and their Palestinian colleague (accused of deliberately infecting 426 children under treatment with HIV) in Libya after an 8 year Ordeal, the Save Nazanin Campaign appears to have been much more efficient and independent of any particular boost from a given foreign power ( France’s newly elected President Nicholas Sarkozy and First Lady interfered directly in the liberation of the nurses) or interest groups other than Human Rights Organizations worldwide. Miss Afshin-Jam’s personal commitment to this particular case was immense and mobilized her time and energy entirely from the day she decided to take this cause to her heart. She is deeply grateful and honored by the trust she received from the majority of her compatriots both inside and outside Iran but also by all the international support from anonymous men, women and youngsters moved sincerely by the young Iranian girl’s plight.

 

This campaign also shed light on the dramatic situation of Iran’s Judiciary in regard to minors and the particularly barbaric way in which capital punishment is carried out In Iran but also in other countries ( including some neighboring nations of the Middle East) in total violation of Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ( As cited above). It should also be noted that the very public nature of carrying out the death sentence itself cannot be justified given the damaging psychological effects it has on young children who are brought to witness them as it has been the case in the Middle Ages or in the Wild American West of the 19th century.

 


In recent months there has been a frightful increase of public executions.
Children have been openly exposed to these atrocities. Nazanin Fatehi (insert) was lucky enough to be saved due to the International Support and petition spearheaded by her namesake: Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam. The Struggle to stop execution of minors in Iran remains a priority. ©dailymail & Nazanin Afshin Jam Bodog

The case of Nazanin Fatehi has also led to the awareness of alas many other similar cases that need to be URGENTLY seen to. This has led Miss Afshin-Jam to lead a 2nd campaign that follows and updates information on the recent cases but which ultimately aims to STOP CHILD EXECUTIONS once and for all. This cannot be achieved without YOUR HELP. Each signature counts and all public personalities of Iranian or non-Iranian heritage are most welcome to join in their voice and support for this Petition.

It should also be reminded for those who still have doubts that: This Campaign is NOT POLITICAL, but HUMANITARIAN. Although Nazanin Afshin-Jam has received solicitations from individuals and personalities that spread across the social and political spectrum of the Iranian Diaspora, she has refused to belong to any political l group, association or organization. She accepts however the support of all groups and individuals who are working towards Human Rights, Freedom and Gender Equality.   

Darius KADIVAR (DK): Dear Nazanin, I would first like to ask you about your feelings on the success of the first campaign that you spearheaded against all Odds and would like to know about the whereabouts of Nazanin Fatehi? How is she doing and is her return to a normal civil life been easy and is she being followed psychologically?

Nazanin Afshin-Jam (NAJ):

I was ecstatic when I found out that not only was Nazanin going to be spared from execution but that she was also going to be released from the agony she suffered from being in jail for over two years. I was particularly inspired by all the individuals around the world, young and old, who used their talents and blessings to help free Nazanin. There were 8 year olds holding assemblies in their schools for Nazanin, there were artists who had painted pictures for Nazanin, created sculptures, written poems and songs for her, everyone played a role.

Nazanin Fatehi is no longer living in Karaj but has moved to a different part of Iran, which I cannot mention for security reasons. She says that she is very happy to be reunited with her numerous siblings and parents. She is extremely grateful to everyone who helped secure her freedom. That being said, her family still struggles with financial problems and health issues.  She lives in very poor conditions and as a result her mother, father and grandmother suffer from medical ailments that require immediate medical attention that they cannot financially afford.

Nazanin still suffers from psychological problems herself due to the mistreatment she endured during her time in prison.  Every time she looks down at her arms, she is reminded of the emotional and physical torture she experienced in prison. The prison guards had placed Nazanin in solitary confinement, whipped the soles of her feet with electric chains, and verbally abused her with rude and humiliating comments. There was so much pressure on her in prison, she used glass chards from her teacup to try and take her own life by cutting her wrists. Delara Darabi another minor on death row, also tried to take her own life in prison.

In our last phone conversation Nazanin told me that she couldn’t properly sleep at night. She has nightmares and feels like someone is following her.

 


Speaking at the European Parliament and United Nations Human Rights
Committee, demonstrating peacefully and meeting Human Rights Activists and personalities such as Mrs. Shirin Ebadi Nobel Peace Laureate are amongst some concrete actions to alert public and international opinions. ©Nazanin Afshin Jam Bodog & stopchildexecutions.com

 

Despite these challenges, Nazanin Fatehi is determined to go to school and work hard, so that she can become a lawyer and help other women who have experienced injustice like her. 

DK: Readers may be interested to know that you also managed recently to save another young man, Sina Paymard from a similar fate, but it was not as widely publicized in the press. Could you tell us more?

NAJ : I wouldn’t say that I recently « managed to save Sina Paymard », but rather that I helped and did everything in my power to help this young boy. His story can be divided in two parts.

Over six months ago, I received a call from Mina Ahadi, the head of the International Committee Against Executions who was the key partner that helped me with the Save Nazanin campaign. She informing me that Sina Paymard could be executed within hours. I immediately informed my contacts at the United Nations about the urgency of this case. They immediately informed their delegates in Iran who talked to the victim’s family and just before sunrise when Sina was going to be executed he asked for one final request to play the  « ney » (flute). From diplomatic pressure and being moved by the music, the victim’s family agreed to accept « diyeh » (blood money) and not go through with the execution.

A few weeks ago, once again Amnesty International informed me that Sina Paymard could be executed within 8 hours.

I verified the news and received confirmation from Sina’s lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh about the case.

I called Canadian Foreign Minster of Canada Peter MacKay, who had his offices write an official statement urging Iran to stay Sina’s execution. He also said that he would contact some of his peers on the world stage like Condoleezza Rice.

I called the UN offices in New York and Geneva to make sure that they were aware of the situation and that they were taking action. I was happy to find out that the European Union had also sent a formal letter to Iran regarding Sina.

While this was happening, coincidentally I was conducting interviews on BBC radio in the UK, so I managed to inform the public of this imminent case. I had a press release written immediately regarding Sina’s desperate situation, which was sent worldwide.

 


Discussing Human Rights in Iran with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister Peter Makay and Senator Zimmer after Senate Speech. At the European Union in
Brussels and with UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Louise Arbour in Geneva. ©Nazanin Afshin Jam Bodog & stopchildexecutions.com

 

With anxious feelings and a knot in my stomach all night, I was happy to learn that Sina was not executed in the morning. The victim’s family was willing to extend the execution date until the full diyeh was paid.

The Paymard family had already raised 80, 000 dollars but still needed the remaining amount to fulfill the expected 150 000 dollars. A generous professor in Tehran ended up paying the rest of the diyeh and Sina was spared his life. I was happy that Sina was not executed but I still harbored feelings of anxiety worrying that the payment of such a large diyeh amount would create a bad precedents in the future for other on death row.

DK: According to your new campaign website ( http://www.stopchildexecutions.com/the_row.aspx) there are currently 70+ minors on the death row the most Urgent cases for which Amnesty International calls for Open Action are those of Delara Darabi ( whose photo illustrates the Campaign), Reza Alinejad, Soghra Najafpour, and Sina Paymard to name a few. Readers can refer to your website for further feedback but could you tell us what can be done concretely by anyone concerned to help their cause ?

NAJ: I would recommend for people to come to www.stopchildexecutions.com to learn more about these children on death row and to immediately sign the petition. We currently have close to 9000 signatures including hundreds of signatures from Members of Parliament from Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway and prominent women’s rights activists like Shirin Ebadi, Mehrangiz Kar, Fatemeh Haghighat Joo etc…

I recommend watching “Prisoner of Colours”, a documentary we created about Delara Darabi to understand the ordeal that not only the minor suffers but the entire family.

For those who have more time to spare, I recommend clicking on the “what you can do” section which encourages people to write direct letters to the Iranian Judiciary and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to abide by the treaties they have signed under International Human Rights law which forbids the execution of minors who have committed an offence before the age of 18.

We call on people who would like to volunteer with the campaign in all capacities…

- Web and technical aid
- Blogging/Journalism
- Research
- Translation
- Artistic talents and abilities
Etc…

We need to spread as much awareness as possible.

DK: Sorry to have to ask you to give us a detailed graphic description of the type of sentence they face if ever they cannot be saved, but I think it is important for the readers to fully understand the inhuman treatment they will be subject too regardless of the crimes ( justified or not ) for which they have been accused of … 

NAJ:

Executions in Iran are often carried out by hanging …

Most of the countries which in the last century have executed prisoners by hanging, used the long drop method, which, if applied correctly, break the neck of the condemned and result in instant loss of consciousness.

 


Lifting the anonymous faces on Very Urgent Cases Followed by stop children execution campaign: Delara Darabi, Reza Alinejad, Abbass Hosseini, Sina Paymard  and others face imminent execution. © stopchildexecutions.com

 
Iran, on the other hand, uses the suspension method, where the condemned is hoisted up via a winch turned by two executioners or guards, or made to stand on a simple crate which will be kicked from under him/her. Unlike the drop method, the prisoner suffers for several minutes before he/she die from asphyxiation.
The only reason for using suspension instead of long drop is to prolong the suffering of the condemned.
If the execution is public, the condemned prisoner is often hoisted into the air by a telescopic crane. Sometimes the body is left hanging for several hours.

In the case of adultery, Iran also still practices death by stoning where the accused is buried up to their neck or chest in sand (depending on their gender), while the executioners and public take turns throwing stones until the person is dead. The sizes of stones are even determined in the Iranian Penal code, which is based on Sharia law. Too big of a stone cannot be used because it could kill the person too quickly and too small cannot be used because it would not be considered a “stone”.

This barbarism must end immediately!

DK: Although your Campaign focuses on the Predicament of minors, I suppose one cannot entirely ignore the alarming figures released by Amnesty International ( ) regarding capital punishment in Iran:

There have been at least 139 people executed in Iran, and since the beginning of 2007, a total of 450 death sentences issued in the two years of Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency. (***)

 Also these sentences are most of the time carried out in Public the photos of which have circulated on the Internet and rallied in the International press (**) which leaves little doubt as to their authenticity. Beyond Adults, the alarming fact is that children are exposed to these horrific scenes. Has the Iranian Judiciary been admonished in this regard by Human Rights organizations and if so, what has been their response or argument to justify this behavior ?

NAJ: It is absolutely atrocious what is taking place in Iran at the moment…  pure disregard for human life. Bloggers and Journalists are even being executed simply for practicing their fundamental human right of “freedom of expression”.

There are way too many political prisoners being taken to jail or killed in fear from leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran of a power reversal.

Human Rights groups worldwide have been fighting against the death penalty for a long time.

It is very difficult rationalizing with the Judges ordering these death sentences. Often times they deny that such things are even taking place. The Judges justify their actions by claiming that they are following God’s will under Shari’ a Law.

I personally am opposed to the death penalty and do not believe that one can teach a lesson that something is wrong with another wrong. If you say, “murder is bad” then why are you doing the same?” How dare someone play the role of God and take another human life?

The reason we are focusing on CHILD executions initially, is because it is a battle that CAN be won. Iran has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Charter of the Rights of the Child, so why are these executions continuing? Why are there over 70 minors of death row??!!

DK: The Save Nazanin Campaign petition collected 353632 Total Signatures. How long did that take to become effective, and how many signatures do you need for the newly drafted  Stop Child Execution petition to start an effective campaign ? 

NAJ: It took about one year to collect over 350 000 signatures. There is no « magic number » in order for a petition to be effective. We are not worried so much in how many signatures we collect but more so how effective we will be in applying diplomatic pressure on Iran. We are starting to concentrate on gathering more signatures from leaders in the International community: Politicians in levels of power, artists with power to reach their fans in numbers, prominent human rights activists and Muslim leaders who can testify that killing children is not condoned by the religion.

DK: You are not alone on this operation, could you introduce us some of your colleagues ( lawyers, webmasters, volunteers) who are working with you ?

NAJ: Hundreds, if not thousands of people are taking part in this campaign and I would hate to forgot to mention anyone but there have been a few shining stars like David Etebari, the Campaign Coordinator of SCE who need to honoured.

David and I first got in touch when he created a myspace page for Nazanin Fatehi last year. He has been extremely committed, organized and has contributed a lions share of his time amount time on the campaign.

Kristian Hvesser from Norway is the rock of Gibraltar in the campaign. He created the Support Nazanin website and now gives himself fully to SCE.

Donna Green a talented musician and graphic designer from Australia created the web design and tirelessly worked on getting all the info loaded on the site.


Author Darius KADIVAR & Nazanin Afshin-Jam Paris Interview ©Darius KADIVAR


Vincent Maunoury, the gentleman from Paris that first informed me about the story of Nazanin Fatehi. He gives all his heart to SCE.

Attorneys in Law Mohammad Mostafaei, Shadi Sadr, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Abdolsamad Khoramshahi and fellow legal experts in Iran that risk their lives in Iran trying to improve the situation of their countrymen/women.

Kate Willingham and her colleagues at Amnesty International Headquarters in the UK who have been so quick to take action and mobilize when an imminent situation is present.

The International Committee Against Executions who are the first on the scene holding rallies and demonstrating outside of world parliaments.

New additions to the SCE team and highly dedicated to the cause, DW Duke, Nikki, Lucy, and Dave.

And thousands and thousands more. Thank you! 

DK: Nazanin, I would like to ask you about the reaction of our fellow compatriots in regard to this campaign to date but not just from people who have signed your petition. What conclusions have you come up with after the dozens of meetings, speeches and demonstrations you have participated to ? Have we lived up to this challenge ? Do we need to invest ourselves more and if so what are the risks for those who have families in Iran and may be hesitating to contribute, can they help anonymously without jeopardizing their privacy or security ?

NAJ: If there is ever a time to take action on this issue it is NOW. Iran is a hot topic in the media, so we must take advantage of this. Also, there are advancements being made as we speak in Iran regarding the question of child executions.

The Judiciary spokesperson Alireza Jamshidi proposed a bill in Parliament asking for an end to executions of those who have committed an offence before the age of 18, as well as an end to life imprisonment for minors. While this is being debated in the Majles, the civil society must get behind this bill in pressuring the government to pass this law. The next challenge is making sure the Council of Guardians which is made up of religious clerics do not veto this bill. A buzz is stirring in Iran, and the issue of child executions is becoming more rampant in the community. More newspapers are writing about the subject.

The Iranian Diaspora definitively needs to step it up and assume their share of responsibility for suffering of their brothers and sisters back home. I must admit that I am disappointed with the level of inactivity from the Iranian community when rallies are organized around Iranian human rights abuses.

Through my years of activism, from the time I started a Global issues club in my high school, to working with the Red Cross as a Global Youth Educator, until now, I have learned that people are compassionate and want to contribute but often feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the worlds problems.

I wish everyone would realize the power they have within themselves to make a difference. If you do not take the first step, you will not arrive at your destination. We have already come a mile, we simply need more people to continue the relay, and then we will be able win the race against injustice.

Turning a blind eye to these atrocities is in itself a crime against humanity.

DK: Since you started this Campaign, you have also been contacted in regard to similar cases in other Countries for which you are updating the database on your website. Is the execution of minors specific to Muslim countries ? 

NAJ: Iran is the only country in the world that continues to “officially” execute minors in Iran; however our SCE campaign has documented imminent cases of minors on death row in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

DK: What would you say to a reluctant Muslim who may think that this behavior is in accordance to Islam and its teachings ?  

NAJ:I would say that if Allah is the almighty God and most powerful, would He really want someone to make the decision of whether or not to take a human life away? Isn’t it up to Him to decide when someone should die?

Don’t Mullahs preach that Islam is a religion of compassion? What kind of compassion is there in killing a juvenile whose brain has not fully developed to be tried under adult law?

I am not very familiar with Islam, but no religion should be justified if it promotes or accepts torture and killing.

DK: In the 80’s I recall that the Arts community in the West was successful in mobilizing international awareness on major Humanitarian causes such as AIDS or poverty. Bob Geldorf also organized the Band Aid to help Ethiopia against Famine, similarily people got mobilized for Nelson Mandela’s liberation and the end of Apartheid in South Africa. More recently George Clooney is alerting governments on the dramatic situation in Darfur. Why is it more difficult to get the same help for what is going on in Iran ? Do you think the Iranian Artists be they singers like Googoosh, or Film Stars like Shohreh Aghdashloo , Anthony Azizi or talented artists like Marjane Satrapi and many others, too long a list to name here, could also give a helping hand in the months to come. Maybe even ALL the Iranian Diaspora Artists could join in with you and do their part not to say their DUTY in raising support for this URGENT cause ? What is your assessment ?

NAJ: Unfortunately the name of Iran has been tarnished in the media with associations to Ahmadinejad’s hate rhetoric, and the threat surrounding the whole nuclear question. Much of the west do not realize that the Iranian people’s voices are not being properly represented in wanting freedom, democracy, the separation of religion and the state, and human rights. With the 5 second clips news stations show of images of chador clad women and bearded Islamic men gathered by the thousands listening to Ahmadinejad speak and chanting “death to America”, it is no wonder that the American public for example, think that the country is steaming with religious fanatics who may potentially hurt them. What they don’t see is the fervent women leaders, students and labour union workers who despite the threat of being killed, stand up for human rights and represent the real Iranian citizens. They do not understand that the Iranian people are paralyzed under a police state that controls their every move and does not allow them to properly elect representatives under a democracy.

It is definitively time for the Iranian people to put aside their differences and unite in the name of freedom. I think it is a great idea for Iranian Artists to gather in publicizing a worldwide event that will galvanize the Iranian diaspora to put a permanent end to the human rights abuses that take place on a daily basis in Iran. I have been thinking of organizing such an event, Darius Kadivar do you want to help coordinate such action? Any artists reading this article, would you like to join in? Anyone else reading this, would you be willing to take part in such an event? Let’s get your feedback.

DK: ABOSOLUTELY, Although I am only a journalist, but I think that it would be essential for Everyone particularly those in the Public Eye to set aside personal EGO’s and seize this opportunity to do something constructive for those back home who are in desperate needs. I am willing to help in any capacity I can and can only encourage others to join in.

NAJ:Thank You Darius, Small drops do turn into Ocean’s and I do hope this message will be heard.

DK: Whatever the case, and future decisions of the Iranian Judiciary, I think many of our readers would agree that punishing and killing the youth of a nation is certainly not the answer to the problems of our country.  I truly want to thank you Nazanin for all the hard work and personal commitment you have invested in this noble cause. I hope that EVERY ONE OF US beyond political, religious or ideological preferences or convictions. We are talking about lives that CAN AND SHOULD be saved.  Please do keep us updated on your progress and talk to you soon.

 

NAJ: Thank you Darius for your continued commitment to raising awareness. We all have our own role to play, and you are certainly doing your part.

 

As I always say: “if you can you must”  “Si vous pouvez vous devez!”

 


Where Ever You Live, You can All make a difference: LETS DO IT !


START BY SIGNING THE
PETITION

 

Authors Notes:

 

Link to Official Campaign Website:

 

http://www.stopchildexecutions.com/

 

Recommended Viewing:

 

“Prisoner of Colours”, a documentary about Delara Darabi

 

Recommended Reading:

 

(*) Reported by the Association of Iranian-Americans in New York

 

(**) Report on Public Execution in front of Minors in The Daily Mail

 

(***)Very Latest Public Hangings but for Political Opposition: Iran Publicly hangs 30 over 'US plots' Robert Tait Reports from Tehran (guardian)

 

 


About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Columnist for OCPC Magazine in LA and Paris.

... Payvand News - 10/3/07 ... --



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