Etemadeh-Meli – Iran: Behnam is an 18 year old teenager who was scheduled to be hanged on August 21st in Shiraz ’ Adelabad prison. He allegedly committed murder at the age of 15.
Now that Behnam’s parents have been able to postpone his hanging for 15 days, there is a glimmer of hope in his life after the three years of his imprisonment.
With the help of Mr Mohammad Mostafaie his defense attorney, we scheduled an interview to speak to him about this new-found hope.
Behnam was born on June 24th 1989. His father is a farm worker whose income is not enough to support a family even in a small village, that is why Behnam’s father also works as a shepherd.
Behnam was born in a village called Dastgerd Estehban, where his father and his grandfathers were born and lived and he went to school until the first year of high school when he was arrested and sent to Adelabad prison in Shiraz .
He told us about Mehrdad (the victim): “ Mehrdad lived in our neighborhood and he was 4 years older than me. We both were interested in doves*. We were sometimes friendly and sometimes we disagreed over petty and childish stuff. You could ask people about us, I am not trying to speak ill of him, but nobody would believe that I could have killed him, sometimes he would get me very angry with his behavior, may he rest in peace…”
The conflict and the murder
With a trembling voice, Behnam explained what happened that Thursday: “That day Mehrdad was playing soccer near our house. I flew my doves and one of them sat on top of the wall next to the soccer field. He hit the bird with a rock and when I objected, he pushed me and took a knife out of his pocket. I had an axe with me (his worktool) and I targeted his arm, but he turned around and it hit him in the neck. I really don’t know what I did.”
Behnam is certain that if he had not defended himself, Mehrdad would have killed him. Behnam and his family are not very familiar with the legal system; he didn’t even know that he was sentenced to death until two and a half years later. “I learned I was scheduled to be executed. We don’t understand the legal system, my family did not tell me anything either, once a public defender came and took my finger prints and I never saw him again.”
When we asked him to explain how he feels about hanging, he responded: “I have faith in God. I am feeling very uneasy about the hanging, it seems like when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a prison and was called a murderer.”
On August 21st when Behnam met with his family, he did not know that would be the last time they visited him. His parents were agitated and they were crying which was puzzling to the 18 year old.
Behnam learned about his imminent execution when it was postponed for 15 days and he took this time to ask the parents of the victim for forgiveness. “I am asking Mehrdad’s family to please forgive me. I was a kid and I was stupid. We were friends and I did not intend to take his life.”
Behnam’s Last Wish
Behnam has learned to weave in the prison. During the last two years, he’s been weaving and dreaming of leaving the prison, going back to live in the society and continue going to school.
He had no idea he was about to be hanged. The 18 year old boy was sobbing when he told us about his last wish: “I wish to meet with victim’s family, speak to them and ask their forgiveness”.
*(owning and training doves is a hobby of some Iranians)
translated by MG