Last year, 2013, was an historic year for Iran. It signed a nuclear deal with the West heralding a thaw in diplomatic – and, Iran hopes, economic – ties between Tehran and powerful states from which it has been estranged for decades. But 2013 was also historic for another reason: it was the year in which Iran contributed significantly to a global rise in executions.
Citing Amnesty International’s annual report on the global implementation of the death penalty for 2013, various news outlets, among them CNN, The New York Times, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe, reported that while China topped the list of countries employing the death penalty last year in absolute numbers, Iran leads globally per capita. It was Iran and Iraq that contributed to the “sharp spike” in executions worldwide by indulging in “virtual killing sprees.”
As the humanitarian organization lambasted Iran for “shameful” behavior that put it “on the wrong side of history,” an internet campaign to save a 26-year-old Iranian woman from the risk of imminent hanging gained traction.
Rayhaneh Jabbari’s name could be seen featured prominently on the Avaaz petition site this week, with a four-year-old appeal on her behalf on GoPetition also getting publicity. The Gatestone policy institute even published a letter penned by Jabbari, jailed in the notorious Evin prison since 2007 for killing her would-be rapist, to the mayor of Tehran in March, describing the conditions in the overpopulated facility. Iranian websites such as Tavana and Rowzane also drew attention to the young woman’s case.
Jabbari was tortured into confessing to a “politically-motivated” murder after killing, in the midst of a struggle, a man who pretended to hire her as a designer, then put his arms around her waist and told her she had “no escape.” He happened to be a member of Iran’s intelligence service; she happened to be an Iranian woman who was brave enough to defend herself from him. In the wrong place, at the wrong time, but on the right side of history.