Debate Over Child Executions Roils Iran’s Presidential Vote

Linked with Shadi Sadr – Iran.

Published on The Wall Street Journal online, by FARNAZ FASSIHI, May 29, 2009.

The clampdown began more recently. In March 2007, Rahi, the NGO where Mr. Mostafaei volunteered, was shuttered by Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which deals with national-security matters. Rahi’s founder, lawyer Shadi Sadr, was put in solitary confinement for two weeks and charged with conspiring to overthrow the Iranian leadership with foreign funds via a “velvet revolution.” Ms. Sadr is awaiting trial on bail.

Other NGOs also say they have come under pressure. The president of Mahak, a widely known Iranian NGO that helps children with cancer, said security forces last year conducted an unannounced audit of its financial records.  

“These are the darkest days for NGOs,” said Zahra Eshraghi, who runs a women’s organization that she says was instructed several years ago to avoid advocacy work by the Interior Ministry. Ms. Eshraghi is also the granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini.

As for Mr. Mostafaei, he is responding to the pressure with unconventional means of advocacy. He recruited Iranian movie stars to campaign for his cause, although in November the judiciary subpoenaed the stars and warned them to stay away from publicly campaigning against juvenile executions.

He also runs a blog that tracks human-rights cases. And this past summer, Mr. Mostafaei made a documentary about juveniles on death row. The film opens with the voice of Behnam Zareh, a former client of his, who was convicted of murder at age 15 after killing another boy in a fight over a bird.

“I want to stay alive. Please, please I want to stay alive,” the young man says. The recording is his final phone conversation with Mr. Mostafaei before being hanged last August.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi by e-mail.
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