Friday, 18 April 2014

Iran parents halt killer's execution - the power of forgiveness

Courtesy of ABF

Instead, what happened next marked a rarity in public executions in Iran, which puts more people to death than any other country apart from China, wrote Dehghan. She decided to forgive her son's killer. The victim's father removed the noose and Balal's life was spared.

“Balal's mother hugged the grieving mother of the man her son had killed. The two women sobbed in each other's arms – one because she had lost her son, the other because hers had been saved," Dehghan wrote.

This is significant because Iran is known for its high rate of executions and human rights abuses. The new president Hassan Rouhani has disappointed human rights activists for doing too little to improve Iran's human rights and not curbing its staggering use of capital punishment.

As of last week, 199 executions are believed to have been carried out in Iran this year, according to Amnesty International - a rate of almost two a day. Last year, Iran and Iraq were responsible for two-thirds of the world's executions, excluding China.

At least 369 executions were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities in 2013, but Amnesty International said hundreds more people were put to death in secret, taking the actual number close to 700.  I wrote a blog post in July 2013 about the 97 executions carried out just in that month, according to a report by from The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF), a non-governmental independent organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran.

Iran is particularly criticised for its public executions, which have attracted children among the crowds in the past. Iranian photographers are often allowed to document them.  Studies have shown that the death penalty doesn’t provide any special deterrent. The public displays of killing, however, perpetuate a culture of acceptance of violence.

I wonder what would happen if more victims’ relatives could do like the Hosseinzadehs and pardon the convicts, if the crowds would stop gathering to watch the executions, if people would publicly object to them…

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