By Alison Barnett
On Oct. 25, a woman was executed in Iran for killing a man who tried to rape her. Rayhaneh Jabbari was a 26-year-old former interior designer who was attacked by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former Iranian intelligence official, in 2007.
Sarbandi had told Jabbari that he was hiring her to redecorate his office, but instead took her to an abandoned house, locked her inside, and attacked her. Jabbari stabbed him with a knife. She confessed to premeditated murder, though her confession is suspected to have been obtained through threats by Iranian prosecutors. She was sentenced to death in 2009, though the execution was delayed twice due to international outcry.
Both the State Department and the British Foreign Ministry have condemned the execution, as well as the U.N. and Amnesty International.
Both the UN and Amnesty International had earlier called upon the Iranian judiciary to stop the execution. In a statement made after the execution, state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress.”
While the Tehran Prosecutor Office claimed that the murder was premeditated, the international community has doubts about the fairness and validity of the trial. Jabbari’s claims that there had been a second man in the house who actually killed Sarbandi, and that he had attempted to give her a drink containing sedatives, went uninvestigated by Iranian authorities.
Before she was executed, Jabbari left a voicemail message for her mother. In her message, she seems to have come to terms with her death, saying “But give in to the fate and don’t complain. You know better that death is not the end of life.”
Jabbari says that she should have died the night she was attacked by Sarbandi, and because her family didn’t have the resources and power of Sarbandi’s, no one would have been punished for it. Instead, she spent seven years in prison. Her mother had taught her that “one comes to this world to gain an experience and learn a lesson and with each birth a responsibility is put on one’s shoulder. I learned that sometimes one has to fight.”
She commented on the investigation and trial, and on the conditions she faced in prison.
“[U]nder the blows of the interrogator I was crying out and I was hearing the most vulgar terms.” The way she was taught to behave in the face of conflict “did not help me. Being presented in court made me appear as a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless criminal. I shed no tears. I did not beg. I did not cry my head off since I trusted the law.” The judge, and the justice system, saw her as a criminal.
Her last wish is to have her “heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift,” and for her mother not to mourn for her.