AFP: A Canadian beauty queens campaign to save the life of an Iranian teenager is drawing worldwide interest, with more than 7,000 people signing a petition. VANCOUVER, Canada, April 8, 2006 (AFP) – A Canadian beauty queens campaign to save the life of an Iranian teenager is drawing worldwide interest, with more than 7,000 people signing a petition.
The petition, addressed to the United Nations and the Islamic Republic of Iran, asks that the death sentence of a young woman named Nazanin be commuted.
Amnesty International has said the woman was 17 when she “reportedly admitted stabbing to death one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj in March 2005.”
Now 18, Nazanin was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.
Amnesty International and human rights workers in the case said they have been unable to contact her family or lawyers, and do not know if legal appeals are scheduled.
“It is a horrific story, and her name being Nazanin shocked me,” said Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who came as a baby with her refugee family to this western Canadian city, fleeing Irans revolution.
“I could have been in the same situation, she said, “but Im lucky I live in a country (Canada) that knows what justice is about.”
Afshin-Jam, an aspiring singer with a university degree in political science and international relations, represented Canada and was runner-up in the 2003 Miss World contest in China.
She said she hopes her Miss World profile will help save the Iranian girl.
The petition notes that when Iranian women like Nazanin are threatened with rape, they “are caught between two undesirable options. On one hand, Iranian Penal Code severely limits the possibility of using ‘self-defense’ as a legitimate defence to aggression.”
“On the other hand, if Nazanin had allowed the rape to take place, she could still be imprisoned, flogged or stoned for having sex outside of marriage unless four male witnesses to the actual rape would testify on her behalf.”
The petition notes that Iran has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which it agreed not to execute anyone under age 18.
“Iranian women are well educated, theyve been very resilient, and they’re at the foreground for a push for social change,” said Vancouver refugee lawyer Negar Azmudeh. “But the legal framework has always been very repressive.”
Signatories of the petition are mostly from Canada and the United States, with others from Iran, Denmark, Britain, Spain, New Zealand, Holland, Belgium, Australia, Germany, France and India.
“Imagine that this girl is your own child,” wrote a woman calling herself Sonia from the United Kingdom. The sentence “is not according to true Sharia,” wrote Samira S. of the United States.
One American man even offered to take in Nazanin if Iran spared her life, and pay for her housing, food and education.
Azmudeh said at least one previous death sentence of a child in Iran was overturned because of international pressure.
“Nazanin is not the first person and shes not going to be the last person, but awareness will go a long way,” said the lawyer.