|Courtesy of ABF|
Yesterday, I read a great article in the Guardian about the power of forgiveness: "Iranian killer's execution halted at last minute by victim's parents" by Saeed Kamali Dehghan, a Guardian journalist based in Tehran.
Balal, a convict in his 20s was going to be publicly executed in Iran as so many are in this country. Seven years ago, he had stabbed 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a street brawl in the small town of Royan, in the northern province of Mazandaran.
The mother of the victim approached, slapped him in the face, but she didn’t push the chair on which he stood as she was expected to, to participate in the punishment, according to Iran's Islamic penal code.
“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…