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A Tale of Two Beauties By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 15, 2007

It is a tale of two beauties named Nazanin and the beasts they slew.

The first beauty is Nazanin Fateh, a nineteen-year-old Iranian woman whose melodious-sounding first name means beautiful in Persian. The beast she slew was the man who tried to rape her, for which she was sentenced to death.


The second Nazanin is, literally, a true beauty. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-Canadian, was a 2003 Miss World Canada and runner-up at the Miss World competition. The beast this belle killed was Iran’s brutal sharia law that was responsible for her namesake’s death sentence. Afshin-Jam became the center of the largely women-driven movement that saved the Iranian Nazanin from execution, indicating a new force for change for oppressed Muslim women may be in the making.  


But first, the sad and disturbing facts of the case. According to the Iranian newspaper Etemaad, Fateh, seventeen at the time, was in a Tehran park with her fifteen-year-old niece and two boyfriends in March, 2005, when three men approached and pushed the two girls to the ground to rape them. The brave boyfriends, meanwhile, fled on their motorcycles, leaving the two females to fend for themselves.


In self-defense, Fateh pulled a knife and stabbed one of the assailants in the arm. The Iranian teenagers then tried to flee when Fateh stabbed another would-be rapist in the chest, killing the repulsive jackal. The young Iranian woman, it was reported, then waited for the police and gave them the knife.


But despite her honesty and rightful claim to have acted in self-defense to protect both her and her niece’s honor, a criminal court in the Islamic theocracy sentenced her to death in January, 2006. The fact she was out after dark and reported to be a runaway (which her parents denied) also worked against her. 


“I wanted to defend myself and my niece,” said Fateh, sobbing, at her trial. “I did not want to kill that boy. In the heat of the moment, I did not know what to do because no one came to help.”


Which says it all! In other countries the defendant would never have been convicted.


At a subsequent retrial Fateh even stymied the judge when, indicating her limited choices, she asked him what he would do if he was attacked by three men. The judge did not reply.


But Iranian sharia law did. It found her killing of a man too drastic for Iran’s male-dominated society. This is a country, by the way, in which a woman’s life is legally worth only half that of a man’s. If her attacker and potential rapist had killed her, Fateh’s family still would have had to pay a certain amount of money to the murderer to make her a full person. Only then would the killer receive the death penalty.


Ironically, even if Fateh had allowed herself to be raped, the legal result would probably have been the same. Damaged female honor is no laughing matter among the sexually puritan mullahs (whose sense of humor is probably questionable anyways). The hanging of a sixteen-year-old Iranian teenager in 2004 for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity” attests to this. Iran also does not hesitate to execute minors under eighteen, having put to death eight child offenders in 2005, the only country in the world to execute children that year, according to Amnesty International. 


But luckily for the Iranian teen, she had a friend she didn’t even know: a woman half a world away with the same beautiful name. When Afshin-Jam, an aspiring singer, heard of her namesake’s tragic plight, she told a Canadian newspaper she was outraged.


“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “She was only seventeen when this happened.”


Using her celebrity status, the Canadian woman, who arrived in Canada from Iran at age two, set out to right this horrible wrong, initiating a “Save Nazanin Campaign.” Among other things, Afshin-Jam started a petition to free Fateh, collecting 330,000 signatures by last month. The energetic former beauty queen also met with the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, a fellow Canadian woman, who took up the case with the Iranian government. In addition, the Canadian Nazanin made a documentary (called 'A Tale of Two Nazanins') as well as a video appeal to Iranian officials, and addressed Canadian federal politicians about the case last June.


And for pointing out to the world the travesty in Iran, Afshin-Jam received the usual threats.


“One was they were going to leave me with a scar,” she said.  


But disregarding her safety, Afshin-Jam persevered and was rewarded with seeing the court buckle under international pressure, sharia law thwarted and her namesake acquitted. Fateh, however, still has to pay the attempted rapist’s family blood money, which her lawyer is appealing. Meanwhile, the young Iranian female was released from prison last month after paying $43,000 in bail money. Another woman, Canadian federal politician Belinda Stronach, contributed substantially to the bail fund.


Afshin-Jam said she spoke to Fateh after her release, saying her Iranian counterpart is aware of the efforts made on her behalf. The Canadian Nazanin added, however, there are still six women in similar circumstances. But the struggle to free Nazanin Fateh proves that if women take matters into their own hands, even misogynistic mullahs and cruel Sharia law will yield.


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Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.

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