Iranian rape victim Reyhaneh Jabbari is awaiting imminent execution after stabbing her rapist in self-defense back in 2007.
The 19-year-old Jabbari, an interior designer, was sitting at a coffee shop when she was approached by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Having overheard her telephone conversation with a client, Sarbandi asked Reyhaneh for professional advice about his office renovation project and then consequently hired her for the job.
Having set a date to meet, Sarbandi picked Jabbari up in his car. On the way to the office, he stopped at a local pharmacy, an act that would later prove prophetic to Jabbari.
When they arrived at the intended location, it turned out to be a rundown house. Inside, where two drinks were set up on a table, Sarbandi immediately locked the doors and attacked Reyhaneh. The 19-year-old, in an attempt to escape her rapist, stabbed him in the shoulder and ran out. Sarbandi died from loss of blood.
Although lab analyses showed that the drinks were laced with sedatives, probably picked up on the way from the pharmacy, Jabbari was nonetheless arrested and charged with the murder of a government official.
During her questioning, Jabbari was told that the murder was set up by the authorities and was “politically motivated.” Nevertheless, she was tortured until she confessed to the murder, after which she was given the death penalty (upheld by the Supreme Court).
Jabbari has been in prison for 8 years now. Recently, she sparked new headlines after she penned a letter to the mayor of Tehran. Written several days before the Persian New Year, Nowruz (March 20, 2014), Jabbari begs for better living conditions in the notorious Evin House of Detention, calling the place “the house of regrets.”
Starting off the letter with the heart wrenching words, “There are wounds in life that can eat away at a person like leprosy and one cannot display them,” Jabbari goes on to argue for cleaner living quarters, stating:
“Two hundred and thirty seven people are crammed in a ten meter by nineteen meter hovel. They sleep, eat and just endure there. Forget about the fact that the regulations of the department of prisons, whose article thirteen, item one, clearly states that each person must have at the very least a seven square meter ‘roofed’ physical space.” (You can read the rest of the translated letter here.)
Reyhaneh Jabbari is not the only woman awaiting execution on such horrendous terms. Iran sentences its citizens to death for such minor offenses as theft, adultery and peaceful protest. The 2009-2010 Green Movement in Iran, a revolutionary movement against the 2009 Presidential Election, slackened tragically after mass executions which, according to Iranian media reports, averaged 3 per day.
In fact, as Amnesty International reports, Iran was the second country with the highest number of executions in 2013, following China.
In a country where women are still stoned to death for allegations of infidelity or “inappropriate behavior,” Jabbari stands as one of many within the system.
A further indignation to these women, Iran was recently reelected to the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a commission that deals with gender equality and the advancement of women. Iran’s reelection means another four-year run.
Although the Obama administration criticized the move, the U.S. did not object during the reelection. In fact, the entire process took 103 seconds, as shown by this video of the session.
Several figures took to Twitter later on to voice their objections, such as Ambassador Samantha Power, who tweeted, “Yet again Iran unopposed & was ‘elected’ to Commission on Status of Women. Given record on women’s & human rights, this is an outrage.”
However, none of these tweets undermine the silence of the U.S. government and the other so-called democratic nations in the face of the reelection. Ambassador Power could have voiced her objection at the meeting rather than resorting to the safety of her Twitter feed to show her 140-character-long disapproval.
Meanwhile, Reyhaneh Jabbari awaits execution, which can take place as soon as this week. Iran does not issue set execution dates and has been known to conduct secret mass executions.
You can join the the Save Reyhaneh Jabbari Facebook Page to show support and stay up to date on the latest information on her case.