“Beauty and the Barbarians”

Nazanin Afshin-Jam is president and co-founder of Stop Child Executions. She is shown here holding photographs of youths who could be executed.

“Beauty and the barbarians”

Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun, published: Saturday, October 25, 2008.

Ahmad Nourzehi is on death row in an Iranian jail. He was 12 when he was sentenced to death for carrying and supplying heroin. Soghra Najafpour spent 17 years on death row, having been convicted at 13 of murdering an eight-year-old boy — the son of the family who she had been working for as a maid since she was nine. Najafpour denied the charges, but was only released from prison a year ago after her family managed to raise $66,000 US to compensate the boy’s family for its loss. Five days after her release, she was ordered to return to jail and face execution.
These are only two of the 139 juvenile offenders scheduled for public execution in Iran. These are the children for whom Nazanin Afshin-Jam weeps, loses sleep over and has gone into debt as she tries to save them from stonings, hangings or being dropped from a crane often after coerced confessions, inconclusive or rigged trials or no trial at all. (In Iran, there’s something called the ‘divine knowledge of judges,’ which allows them to rule on a case without ever hearing the facts and arguments.)

Afshin-Jam is haunted by her conviction that there are many others, and the fact that last year Iran executed 17 juvenile offenders.

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