Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman who allegedly killed the man who attempted to assault her, may be executed as soon as tomorrow. According to Amnesty International, Iranian authorities confirmed that Jabbari “will be hanged tomorrow morning at a prison west of Tehran.” Jabbari was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. Sarbandi, who had worked for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, allegedly attempted to sexually abuse Jabbari, who admits to stabbing him once in the back, though says she was not the one who killed him. In 2009, Jabbari was sentenced to death under the qesas, or “retribution-in-kind” law, essentially a sharia-based law which demands a death for a death.
While in prison, Jabbari has written about how she was coerced into giving a false confession by means of mental and physical torture.
As soon as I arrived at the Police Headquarters three large men were waiting for me in a small room. As soon as I entered, they handcuffed me to a chair and made me sit on the floor… They took turns screaming, “You think you are smart? People more important than you have been broken here. You insect, who do you think you are? Answer every question loudly…
I could feel something on my back and my skin swelling getting ripped. I felt a burning sensation and screamed until my ears hurt from the sound of my own screams. I did not hear the lash of the whip. I do not know if they were beating me with a whip, a rope or a piece of wood. I never learned what those three monsters were burning me with. I could only hear myself screaming. With my hands tied higher than my body to the chair, the pain and burning made my arms numb…
Winter was cold this year; it coincided with the prison’s heating system breaking down. In our ward, all you could hear was chattering teeth, coughing, sneezing…. The chattering teeth reminded me of 2007, when I was 19, in solitary confinement, with wounds all over my body, and shaking from anxiety and fear … I was questioned mostly by two men whose names I never found out. They would dictate [my confession] and I would write. Once they took me somewhere for interrogation where I saw a 14 or 15 year old girl hanging from the ceiling from her wrists. The girl was pale, her lips were cracked. She was whimpering.
[In another room,] the interrogator sat across from me and said that today or tomorrow they would go get my little sister… He referred to her by name: Badook. “It is her turn,” he said. “She is frail, thin … How long do you think she will last hanging like that one?” He began telling me in detail what he was going to do in front of me to my little sister … I started crying and begged him not to do such a thing. He said he had no alternative. I asked him what I could do to stop him from hurting my sister. He said: “It is very simple. Just confess that you bought the knife before the murder”. … So I wrote that I had bought the knife beforehand, signed the paper and breathed a sigh of relief.
According to Islamic law, executions like this can be carried out or suspended at the behest of the dead person’s family. Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a spokesman for the judiciary, said “there was a lot of this type of guessing that suggested that the sentence may not be carried out if the people (next of kin of the man killed) agreed.” However, an agreement of this sort has not been reached.
This is a video made by the Universal Tolerance Organization about Jabbari’s arrest:
Iran has some of the harshest death penalty laws in the world. According to International Business Times, “The country’s penal code says minors can be subjected to a death sentence after they have reached puberty which, as stipulated by Sharia law and as specified in the 1991 Civil Code, is 15 lunar years for boys and 9 lunar years for girls (one lunar year can be between 354 to 365 days long). Crimes punishable with a death sentence include cursing the Prophet, drug offences, murder, adultery, incest, rape, fornication, drinking alcohol, sodomy, homosexual sex, ‘being at enmity with God’ (mohareb), and ‘corruption on earth’ (mofsed fil arz).”
Executions have actually increased under President Hassan Rouhani, who has been heralded as a moderate reformer. However, he has limited influence over the decisions of the Judiciary.
International appeals for Jabbari’s life have been effective in the past–she was originally set to be executed in April of this year, but petitions for her reprieve led authorities to postpone her execution. Hopefully, similar efforts will be effective again.
UPDATED: Sept. 30th, 2014
BBC News is reporting today that Jabbari’s execution has been postponed for ten days, perhaps due to a social media campaign on her behalf. This may give her family time to further appeal for a reprieve from Sarbandi’s family.