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Iran Executed This 26 Year Old Woman For Allegedly Killing The Man Who Tried To Rape Her!

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By Itika Singh:

Iran has once again found itself at the receiving end of fierce criticism, from international organizations and individuals alike. The country’s controversial practice of executing convicts has come under the spotlight with the execution of a 26-year old interior designer who was convicted for murder. Reyhaneh Jabbari has been on trial for seven years for killing Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former worker of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, who, according to her, had allegedly tried to sexually assault her.

Reyhaneh Jabbari

The rising number of executions in Iran is controversy enough. According to human rights organization Amnesty International, Iran executed more than 369 people in 2013. Globally, this number is second only to China, which is also the most populated country in the world. Other sources suggest that the above may be a conservative estimate. “On average, more than 2 people are executed every day,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson of NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR), told IBTimes UK. “So far in 2014 at least 560 people have been executed”. Further, there are allegation that Iran exploits the death penalty to execute minorities and opponents of the government. Crimes such as drug offenses, cursing the Prophet, murder, adultery, incest, rape, fornication, drinking alcohol, homosexual sex, as well as “being at enmity with God” and “corruption on earth” are punishable with death. But there’s more to this case than the death penalty alone.

After the execution was carried out, the Tehran state prosecutor’s office issued a statement that said: “Jabbari had repeatedly confessed to premeditated murder, then tried to divert the case from its course by inventing the rape charge.” The statement also added, “But all her efforts to feign innocence were proven false in various phases of prosecution. Evidence was firm. She had informed a friend through text message of her intention to kill. It was ascertained that she had purchased the murder weapon, a kitchen knife, two days before committing murder.”

International agencies, however, have taken a different view of the case. United Nations believes that 19-year-old Jabbari was called by Sarbandi to his office on the pretext of an interior designing consultation, and that Jabbari stabbed him in self-defence when he sexually assaulted her. Jabbari had also claimed that there was a third person on scene at the time, who actually killed Sarbandi. This, coupled with reports that Jabbari’s confession had been made under duress, had raised questions about the fairness of the trial. Demands of a re-trial were made by Amnesty International and echoed by the European Union and UN, among others. The case sparked off a global campaign – a petition demanding clemency for Jabbari was signed by about 1,90,000 people. But Iran chose to overlook the protests and executed Jabbari in the early hours of Saturday.

In a statement made after the execution, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for US State Department, said, “There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress.” Amnesty International also condemned the execution and said “Amnesty International understands that, at the outset of the investigation, Reyhaneh Jabbari admitted to stabbing the man once in the back, but claimed she had done so after he had tried to sexually abuse her,” the rights group said. “She also maintained that a third person in the house had been involved in the killing. These claims, if proven, could exonerate her but are believed never to have been properly investigated, raising many questions about the circumstances of the killing.” The organization has also earlier said that Iran’s judicial authorities were reported to have pressured Jabbari to replace her lawyer, for a more inexperienced one, in an apparent attempt to prevent an investigation of her claims.

Jabbari’s is not the first case of death penalty in Iran that has been highlighted by the International media. Another execution, that of a psychotherapist Mohsen Amir-Aslami, also made headlines. Cases such as these have been followed by calls for abolition of the death penalty altogether. But if there is to be an ethical discussion over death penalty, one needs to first look at the varying levels of attention paid to executions in different countries. Saudi Arabia also follows the Sharia law like Iran, and holds public executions. But unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia is an ally of USA. So, even as individual cases of executions in Iran make it to public knowledge, similar cases in Saudi Arabia seldom do. In China too, the human rights violations have taken a back seat with its rising economic growth. What is needed now is to have an equal approach to the issue. The defaulter is not one, but many, and global activism for the issue too should not be just limited to one.

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  1. Babar

    On one had you support a woman killing a man in self-defense, but on the other you are against the death penalty. Please explain the contradiction. I personally support the death penalty. I believe all rapists should be hanged. As for killing someone, there has to be substantial evidence that it was indeed out of self defense, for obvious reasons.

    1. Itika

      Hello and thanks for reading the article. I want to clarify that the article does not support murder, instead it supports fair trials, because as you said, there should be substantial evidence, for proving both the guilt and innocence of a person.

    2. Babar

      I did not say murder, I said ‘killing in self-defence’. 🙂

  2. Templetwins

    Further, there are allegation that Iran exploits the death penalty to execute minorities.

    In 2013 there were 369 executions out of which only around 30 were women, the rest of them were men. So I am contemplating on the term ‘minorities’, perhaps you are claiming religious minorities, that still doesn’t add up.

    International agencies such as UN and US state department claimed the confessions were under duress and its valid because these propaganda spouting elites says so. The text messages were not confessions and she did bought the knife two days prior to the killing which makes it premeditated murder.

    It is not the first time (Jodi Arias) someone who planned and killed a man, claimed they were abuse victims of some kind.

    1. Fem

      Actually minority does not actually mean females. The statement in article states – “There are allegation that Iran exploits the death penalty to execute minorities and opponents of the government. Crimes such as drug offenses, cursing the Prophet, murder, adultery, incest, rape, fornication, drinking alcohol, homosexual sex, as well as “being at enmity with God” and “corruption on earth” are punishable with death.”

      Where is gender coming in this statement?

    2. Monistaf

      @Fem you are right, there is no mention of gender in the statement that you quote, but of the 339 men who were executed in Iran in 2013, based on the judicial procedures described, I am going to assume that at least one of them was wrongfully convicted and executed. There is no outpouring or unleashing of worldwide public sympathy for his case, but when it is a 19 year old woman that is victimized by the same judiciary, it is world headlines. That, is where the gender comes from.

    3. Fem

      Your sentiment is correct. Death is death. And no one deserves it unjustly irrespective of gender. Without getting into the above case, a fair trial and a fair and equal justice system should be a mandated for everyone; man or woman.

      And I would also like to point out that this is not one off case and this is not the first time a death penalty has garnered international attention. Iran (and some countries like that) have always been pulled up for the number of death sentences handed out like you hand candies on Halloween. Amnesty for example have always done that. Several other human rights organisations raise their voices against it too. Be it men or women on death-row. Case in point is Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni hanging in 2005. This case too has attracted a lot of media attention.

      Now we can debate endlessly on which gender gets more international attention but the fact remains that the problem here is not that a woman was executed. The problem is about the claims that the trial was not fair and the death sentences are quick and many. Which is a larger issue and I think that should raise our concerns.

      Frankly when I came across this my concern was not that a woman is executed. My concerns were (1) someone probably did not get a fair trial, if the claims of it are true, (2) the country has got a very high capital punishment rate and is growing steadily, (3) human rights seemed to be getting suppressed there and no one is able to do anything about it.

      Now why did she get more attention and other male counterparts who too got executed didn’t get same attention, I don’t know. But she is more of a torch bearer here. The larger issue is something on which the human rights organisations are fighting for long before this news came. Irrespective of gender. Maybe in the light of this big picture we can stop quibbing on gender and start respecting the fact that the fight is on long before we came in.

  3. Gautam

    Wish the ending piece of the conclusion was a bit longer and more clear. Rest a well informed article. Great job as always!

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