An Iranian ‘rape victim’ is close to breathing her last breath

Iran has executed at least 170 people since January 2014 and comes second in the world in terms of executions

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

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It is a chilling scene; police take the convicted to the site of their soon-to-be execution before dawn. It has become a common scene in Iran.

Crowds gather to watch the executions. The convict’s family is usually in the crowd, sobbing and begging mercy of victim’s family until the last moment. Some members of the crowd are there out of sheer macabre curiosity! There is a mix of emotions in the Iranian public; those of supporters of the death penalty and those of people who are against it.

Iran’s judiciary system finds the easiest way to enforce justice: execution!

According to the United Nations, Iran has executed at least 170 people since January 2014 and comes second in the world, after China, in terms of executions.

The death penalty is handed down to those who are affiliated with drug trafficking, convicted of armed robbery, rape or murder.

Some minors who have committed crimes are imprisoned until they reach the legal age at which they can serve out their sentence. The horrifically large number of executions makes many Iranians upset and some have launched a campaign to urge for less capital punishment verdicts.

Some cases inadvertently attract public attention and reveal the fact the person sentenced to death has not had a fair trial.

The most recent such case involves 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari who has been awaiting public execution. There has been global outcry calling for her pardon. Reyhaneh killed a man when she was 19, saying it was self-defense after he had sexually assaulted her. Judges did not accept her claim due to the lack of a witness, and sentenced her to death.

Awaiting her execution

She has served seven years in prison so far and is awaiting her execution.

According to the murdered man’s elder son, who spoke to the Sharq Newspaper on April 20, the family still does not know the true story behind the ordeal but “since Reyhaneh confessed” to killing his father, the confession is good enough for the capital punishment.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. According to Reyhaneh’s former attorney, Morteza Sarbandi hired Reyhaneh, then 19-years-old, as interior designer to decorate his office.

Some minors who have committed crimes are imprisoned until they reach the legal age at which they can serve out their sentence

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Reyhaneh stabbed Sarbandi after he sexually assaulted her according her testimony.

There is a fear that Sarbandi’s affiliation with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security has influenced her trail, causing some secrets to be kept.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights alleges the killing was an act of self-defense against a rapist and says Reyhaneh Jabbari never received a fair trial.

Cyber space campaign

In cyber space, a huge campaign has been launched to pressure Iran’s judicial system to review her case and give her another trail with the presence of jury. A Facebook page was created last Monday (the eve of the day she was supposed to be executed) called Save Reyhaneh From Execution In Iran. It reached 10,000 supporters while a charity foundation, Jamieat Imam Ali, which aims to save her succeed in reaching 50,000 followers. Some well-known Iranians figures and celebrities also joined this campaign and called on the victim’s family to pardon Reyhaneh.

Still, the victim’s family hasn’t changed their mind, however, the activists increased pressure on the government.

Just a few days ago, the parents of a 16-year-old boy who was killed in street fight pardoned the killer in a very emotional public event.

But, in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, the public is not convinced that she is guilty because of her young age at the time- she could have been strong-armed into a confession. The public have questioned the judiciary, asking why a well brought up, university-educated, girl would kill a man for any reason other than self-defense. Has she some mental illness? Did she confess because of some secret that the public does not know about? If she is lying, and the judges are aware of that, how can an Islamic court sentence a young women to death call it justice?


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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