Wednesday, January 10, 2007

i know i act like an idiot most of the time. but i have my moments.

The US recently installed its first female Speaker of the House. Regardless of how you feel about Madam Speaker’s politics this is a milestone. I have never claimed to be a feminist. Most of you know that I am rather conservative in my values and politics. Some might box me in because of those factors. Nonetheless, as God’s daughter I believe that He made each person, regardless of gender, race, or disability, in His image and that we are each full of worth through Him. I believe that my rights as a human being should never be diminished simply because of my gender. It saddens me when I hear of people, especially women, who do not exercise their freedom to be informed and VOTE. It was not that long ago that Suffragists stood hour upon hour and day after day at the gates of the White House asking for President Woodrow Wilson to recognize their right to equal representation and the right to vote. At the time women were taxed but were denied their voices through their votes. Each time I vote I remember and honor those Americans (not only women) who were at one time not given the freedom to express their voice at the polls. [I highly recommend the movie, Iron Jawed Angels, if you would like to learn more about the suffragist movement.]

But that is in this country.

Americans often take for granted or abuse our many rights and the regard for life that most citizens recognize is sacred. There are many places in our world in which men and women are denied basic human rights afforded to them by the One who made them. As a woman I am especially sensitive to plight of the women in our world who are treated as half of a human, at best. I would like to share with you the story of an Iranian woman named Nazanin. I then ask that you respond as you feel led. Perhaps you will sign the petition, write a letter, or share this story. And I ask that you take a moment to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy each day, often without second thought. And thank God for those who have gone before, fighting for the liberties that we often undervalue.

On January 3, 2006, Nazanin was sentenced to death for murder by a criminal court, for killing one of three men who tried to rape her and her niece.

According to the Iranian daily Etemaad, then 17-year-old Nazanin and her niece Samieh had been spending some time in a park west of Tehran with their boyfriends, when three men started harassing them. The girls` boyfriends fled from the scene, leaving them helpless behind. The men pushed Nazanin and her niece down on the ground and tried to rape them, and to protect herself, she took out a knife from her pocket and stabbed one of the men in the hand. The girls tried to escape, but the men overtook them, and at this point, Nazanin stabbed one of the other men in the chest, which eventually killed him.

According to the newspaper, she broke down in tears when she told the court: "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help." Nevertheless, the court sentenced her to death by hanging.

In May, the case was sent to the Supreme Court for consideration. When Nazanin learned that her file has been sent to Tehran, she made a phone-call to her family and asked them to visit her in prison. She said that by the end of the week the Supreme Court would decide her fate. Nazanin’s father left the next morning to visit her in prison. She would not let her father go. She cried and said “I’m scared Dad, don’t leave me here”.

The verdict was given at the end of May 2006. The death sentence was overturned after direction from the head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi. It was decided that the case would be sent back to a lower court for a new ruling. After the ruling Nazanin was held in solitary confinement for a couple of weeks, and denied visits from her family.

Nazanin's re-trial started August 30, 2006. She was represented by a lawyer specialized in these kinds of cases, and she did a very good job of defending herself. The trial only lasted for one day, and was then postponed until January 10, 2006. This is where it stands now.

In a western country Nazanin would probably be acquitted or at most receive a short prison sentence, as she obviously acted in self-defence. Furthermore, since she was only 17 years old, she would be treated as a minor. In Iran however, the minimum age for the death penalty is 15 years for males, and 9, yes nine years for females (Iranian civil code, Article 1210). Although there is no record of girls that young being executed, the fact that the law opens for this speaks clearly about what kind of regime Iran is.

Another point worth noticing is that if Nazanin had let the men rape her, she could in the worst case have been arrested for extra-martial sex, which carries a maximum penalty of 100 lashes.
Initially, Nazanin’s case did not get much attention from the media, as is usual with death sentences in Iran. Thanks to Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who created the petition to save Nazanin’s life and told about her in interviews, the media started to pick up, but it was not until the case came up for review by the Supreme Court that it finally got the attention it deserved in the media. In this period, the case also got substantial attention at blogs and private homepages, and a lot of people wrote the Iranian government and protested Nazanin’s death sentence. This was probably a significant reason for why the Ayatollah Shahroudi chose to overturned the death sentence, and it is therefore important to keep up this pressure.

Nazanin will have to go through a new trial, where she might get re-sentenced to death. But as long as we keep pressure on the Iranian authorities, they will hesitate to do so. By taking the actions below, you will help us save Nazanin.

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