When Razieh Ebrahimi was 14 years old, she was forced to marry a man who went on to subject her to continual physical and verbal abuse for the next three years. She had her first child when she was 15. One night, after suffering another severe beating, Razieh decided that the constant assault had to stop. She killed her husband, shooting him in the head while he was sleeping.
In 2010 she was sentenced to hang for her crime, even though international law prohibits the use of the death sentence for juveniles. After spending 4 years on death row, she was taken from her cell to be executed, but a series of appeals have extended her execution date from April.
Her husband's family has the right to pardon her, but so far they have refused.
The threat of Razieh’s execution calls attention to Iran’s horrifying world record as the "country with the world’s highest number of child executions," according to Human Rights Watch. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Hamas authorities in Gaza are the only other countries to execute child offenders in the last five years, the group says.
This month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay joined with Razieh’s lawyer in appealing for clemency. She released a UN statement saying that "The imminent execution of Razieh Ebrahimi has once again brought into stark focus the unacceptable use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran.” In 1994, Iran ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thus stating that they would not execute criminals for crimes committed while they were juveniles.
The issue also highlights the commonplace tragedy that is child marriage in Iran, where it is legal for girls to marry at 13 and boys at 15. "While (girls) should go to school at that age, they are instead experiencing a life full of violence with no legal support. They eventually kill themselves or their husbands to end this vicious circle," London-based Iranian lawyer Shadi Sadr told The Guardian.
Child marriage is a HUGE problem. The presence of so large an age gap within a couple creates a very skewed power dynamic, cultivating violence and abuse within the relationship. The last thing we need is more violence. As I mentioned earlier in a quote from Shadi Sadr, childhood marriage takes up time which children should be devoting to education. The lack of education for women not only further skews the power dynamic, it traps them in the home, making it difficult for them to get jobs. Without an education, women are ill equipped to make well-thought-out decisions in the world.
There are so many complicated issues going on right now in the Middle East. But if women can come to occupy a position as equal to men then we’ll have twice as many people working to resolve the situation!
Images courtesy of as-human-lu.blogspot.com, middleeasteye.net, and liquida.it, oppression of women bulletin.