A picture of Behnam Zare is posted at the top of the website www.achildisachild.com. The Iranian boy looks into the distance, his hair slicked back, his eyes focused on something up ahead.
It’s a similar pose to the one leaders take when they want to look visionary – staring bravely into the future.
But for Zare, that future was short and dim. At the age of 15, he killed an acquaintance in a fight and was convicted of murder. He was held until he turned 18 – the age after which the United Nations convention against executing children no longer applies – and was hanged in August 2008 without so much as a call to his mother.
Now, his story has inspired high school students in St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Deer Lake to campaign to make sure youths are no longer sentenced to death and face the same fate as Zare.
High school students at Holy Heart of Mary, St. Bonaventure’s College, O’Donel, St. Kevin’s and Deer Lake’s Elmwood high schools have created the achildisachild.com website to raise awareness and gather signatures for a petition against youth executions.
They plan to present the petition to the United Nations in hopes of getting a stronger stance on the issue from the organization.
Jeremy Dyer, a Grade 11 student and president of Holy Heart of Mary’s Amnesty International group, said students were appalled to learn that people their age are being killed for crimes committed as children.
“I think it’s an incredibly important cause to be a part of because innocent children are essentially dying and in a lot of cases they aren’t given fair trials and they aren’t given basic human rights,” he said.
“I think it’s up to us to advocate and bring an end to it.”
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