"[No] capital punishment... shall be imposed for offences committed by
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
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
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.
Fatehi is no longer living in
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
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
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.
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
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.
called Canadian Foreign Minster of Canada Peter MacKay, who had his offices
write an official statement urging
called the UN offices in
this was happening, coincidentally I was conducting interviews on BBC radio in
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.
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
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
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
- Artistic talents and abilities
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 …
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
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!
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
been at least 139 people executed in
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 ?
It is absolutely atrocious what is taking place in
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.
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
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?
reason we are focusing on CHILD executions initially, is because it is a battle
that CAN be won.
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 ?
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
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.
Green a talented musician and graphic designer from
Author Darius KADIVAR & Nazanin Afshin-Jam Paris Interview ©Darius KADIVAR
Vincent Maunoury, the gentleman from
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.
Willingham and her colleagues at Amnesty International Headquarters in the
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.
thousands and thousands more. Thank you!
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
If there is ever a time to take action on this issue it is NOW.
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
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 ?
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
the name of
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
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 !
Where Ever You Live, You
can All make a difference: LETS DO IT !
Link to Official Campaign Website:
(*) Reported by the Association of Iranian-Americans in New York
(***)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 ... --