Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Please Donate to Save A Young Mother From Execution By Hanging

Akram Mahdavi is another victim of unjust and unequal laws in a country where, for the most part, the legal system considers females only half human, and where women's rights, as well as their cries for help are routinely and systematically ignored, trampled upon, and even ridiculed.
The now 32 year old mother of a girl in her early teens is facing imminent execution for conspiracy to murder. According to court and other reliable sources, including Mina Jafari, Akram's defense counsel, when Akram was 27 years old, she sought the assistance of a young male friend and conspired to murder her then 74 year old husband. Akram, who suffers from epilepsy among other ailments, had been forced to marry the substantially older man; her own father physically beat her into saying "I do" for a second time.

Akram's first marriage took place when she was only 13 years old (the legal age of marriage for girls in the Islamic Republic of Iran), when she was forced into marrying a man who was 40 years her senior and an abusive drug addict. The couple had a daughter, who Akram had to find a way to support financially and otherwise. Unfortunately, however, Akram's parents had prevented her from attending school after the 5th grade, thereby denying her not only her education, but also the chance to gain the skills necessary to find employment and obtain financial independence.

In fact, throughout her life, Akram's family has been anything but supportive – financially or otherwise. She has known little, if any, kindness, love, friendship, or generosity in her life. The very persons who should have served as her natural protectors, the ones who had the duty, the moral (if not legal!) obligation to provide Akram with the kind of love and kindness that is essential in every person's life – her own parents – subjected her to years of abuse, degradation, and humiliation instead. Forcing her to marry an abusive drug addict when she was barely a teenager was only the continuation of such acts of brutality – the kind that is perfectly acceptable under the Islamic Republic's Sharia-based legal system.

When she turned 18, Akram was successful in divorcing her addict husband, since one of the few legal grounds available to women living under Sharia law is if they can prove that their spouse is, in fact, seriously addicted to illegal drugs. (Under the Islamic Republic's legal system, a woman can not obtain a divorce without the express permission of the very husband she is attempting to divorce, unless such husband is a drug addict or impotent. Conversely, the same system permits men to divorce their wives without any reason or objection.) However, while Akram was free from the abuse and horrors of her now-former husband, she faced the impossible task of providing not only for herself, but for her young daughter as well. So she did what virtually any other person in her situation would do: She sought the assistance of her parents, and returned to them for shelter and support.

Yet, instead of opening their arms and hearts to their young daughter and infant grand-daughter -- both of whom had been subjected to unspeakable pains -- Akram's family viewed them as unwelcome burdens that had also disgraced their family. As such, they decided to rid themselves of such "burdens" and "stains on their family honor" as soon as possible. So, two years later, when Akram was only 20, her father used physical force to marry her off for a second time to the "highest bidder" – this time a 64 year old man whose financial offer to Akram's family in exchange for Akram exceeded those of other interested so-called suitors.

From the beginning of her new marriage, Akram expressed great dissatisfaction and unhappiness about the new life into which she was forced to exist, and sought ways to end the emotional, psychological, and physical torture to which she and her daughter were subjected in her new husband's home. Not only was the young bride abused by her own husband – a man who was as old, if not older, than her grandfather – but also by her new "stepchildren," who were also substantially older than Akram. In the eyes of her husband, as well as those of his adult children, Akram was nothing more than an illiterate, worthless servant, for whom their father had paid a handsome sum so that she, and her young daughter, could satisfy their every need, tend to their every whim, and perform all household chores without so much as uttering a single word of any kind. In effect, the young mother and her infant daughter were chattel. They were undeserving of even the slightest act of kindness, of any form of love, or any degree of personal support.

During a phone conversation with human rights lawyer, Lily Mazahery, Akram's former step-daughter (who is approximately the same age as Akram's own mother) insisted that Akram had been a terrible wife, who had failed to live up to the price that her father had paid to her family in exchange for Akram's hand in marriage. According to decedent's daughter, during the 7 years that Akram was married to her father, Akram and her child were nothing more than a burden. In her view, Akram had fallen woefully short of providing the medical and physical care that her 70+ year old husband required. In fact, the decedent's daughter went on to inform Ms. Mazahery that Akram was so "worthless" and "disgraceful" that her own parents had even refused to support her. According to the decedent's daughter, Akram's own mother had stated that she would actually prefer to see Akram executed (by hanging) than to live with the dishonor that her daughter has cast upon the family by becoming a single mother of a daughter after two marriages. In a separate conversation with Ms. Mazahery, Akram's own relatives confirmed Mrs. Mahdavi's assertions about Akram, and went on to say that Akram's parents have little interest in saving their daughter's life.

Regretably, Akram Mahdavi is among an increasing number of young women in the Islamic Republic of Iran, who, due to a combination of severe lack of legal rights, recourses, and misogynistic social realities, reach unspeakable levels of desperation and despair. These women, the majority of whom were born into poor, religious, and/or conservative families, are deprived of educational, social, and countless other opportunities by their own parents and family members. They are treated as mere bargaining instruments: As soon as they reach their 13th birthday – the legal age of marriage for girls under the Islamic Republic's legal system – their families begin their search for the highest bidder. The personal desires and individual concerns of these young children are of little significance; for they are, after all, considered "half" of a human even under the law. And eventually, after years of continuous abuse, unremitting degradation, and mounting pain, they reach an unspeakable level of despair and hopelessness that most, if none, of us can truly fathom. Increasingly, for such young women with deep psychological and emotional wounds, the only way to escape from abuse, torture, humiliation, and torture is to commit the ultimate crime of murder. As one such young female prisoner, also awaiting execution in Iran, told journalist Marjan Laghaee, killing her abusive husband – who had subjected her to years of brutal physical and psychological abuse – meant that she would have the chance to experience peace, taste freedom, and know what it meant to be "human" … if only for a few short hours before facing the consequences of her horrifying act.

The complainants in Akram's case have agreed to halt Akram's execution in exchange for roughly $60,000 (US). A group of dedicated human rights lawyers, activists, and journalists have initiated an international campaign to help raise this amount to prevent Akram from being hanged to death, and to return her to a new life with her young daughter, who desperately needs her mother in her life before she, too, becomes yet another victim of a forced marriage or worse. Please open your hearts and join us in saving Akram's life by donating to the "Save Akram" fund. Even the smallest donation can have an enormous impact on the lives of a young mother and a little girl, who have suffered from unspeakable abuse, indignity, and ugliness until now. By donating to save Akram's life, you are joining other caring individuals throughout the world in proving that love, kindness, and generosity can and do prevail over injustice, inhumanity, and oppression.

Please direct questions and inquiries to:

(In Farsi or English): Ms. Lily Mazahery, Attorney At Law -
(In Farsi): Ms. Mina Jafari, Attorney At Law --