commentary by Patrick H. Moore
The word sexist is a dirty word and I would rather be called many other pejorative terms rather than it. Of course, as an American male who flailed through early childhood in the 1950s and came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, there is little doubt that somewhere in my compromised soul I carry a bit of the sexist, not a lot, I trust, but I’m certain there is some there.
Why do I bring this up? Very simple. A story that comes to us out of Iran got me thinking about sexism in general and the fact that like most human foibles, it tends to be relative in nature.
In 2007, Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian interior designer was reportedly lured to the flat of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, an Iranian intelligence agent, under the guise that he wanted to hire her to help him re-design his apartment.
Reyhaneh Jabbari is now 26 years old and has been in Tehran’s dreaded Evin prison since 2007.
In July 2007 she was alone inside a coffee shop and was speaking on her phone about architecture and design. Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a physician and a former employee of the feared Iranian Intelligence Services, overheard the conversation, approached her and asked for her expertise in order to renovate his office. The afternoon of 7th of July 2007, Morteza made an appointment with Reyhaneh for business purposes.
Reportedly, Morteza stopped his car at a pharmacy on the way to the appointment. It was later discovered he bought condoms. Then they went into the apartment and Morteza closed the door. Morteza approached her and demanded to have sex with her; he had already made some drinks for her. Forensics analysis found that the drink he intended to serve to Rayhaneh contained sleeping aids and sedatives. Reyhaneh did not allow him to rape her, therefore he asked her several times to have sex with him but Reyhaneh resisted. During this time she felt threatened and scared.
Fearing imminent rape, she took a knife out of her bag and stabbed Morteza at the back of his right shoulder. Morteza died due to heavy bleeding.
An interrogator went to the apartment and made a report. At that time Reyhaneh clearly stated to the investigator that she was innocent, that she had met Morteza a week earlier, and that said she killed him only in self defence.
“The evening I was there, I knew that he wanted to rape me, so because of self defence I stabbed him and escaped,” she said.
Her date with doom is rapidly approaching and according to her lawyer, the hanging is likely to be carried out within the next few weeks.
As we’ve all heard ad nauseum, every culture is different. Iran happens to have a peculiar law, which is imbued with a peculiar type of compassion, that is probably foreign to most Americans. In Iran’s Islamic-based legal system, the families of victims have the right to grant clemency in capital punishment sentences should they so desire.
In fact, it was reported in the media that just a few days ago in Iran, a young man convicted of murder escaped the hangman’s noose when the victim’s mother intervened, slapping him in the face and declaring forgiveness.
According to the UN, more than 170 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014 and if Ms. Jabbari does not receive clemency, she will become just another number added to the already long and grisly list.
In Ms. Jabbari’s case, Agent Sarbandi’s son Jalal has stated that he is offering her the option of avoiding the gallows but only under certain circumstances that if followed, would exonerate his father of the sexual assault/rape charges. Here is what Jalal demands in return for clemency:
“Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy.”
Jalal insists that Ms. Jabbari, who is now 26 years of age, conceded at some point in the proceedings that a third party, a man, was present in the apartment where his father was stabbed to death, “but she refuses to reveal his identity”.
Thus, it appears that Jalal may be insisting that Ms. Jabbari must confess that she and her accomplice went to Agent Sarbandi’s flat with the intention of attacking and killing him, if she wants to avoid the gallows.
Demian McElroy of The Telegraph writes:
Jabbari’s case has triggered domestic and international condemnation.
Iranian actors and other prominent figures have launched an appeal against her execution.
The United Nations and several international rights groups say Jabbari’s confession was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors.
According to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s human rights Iranian watchdog, Ms. Jabbari’s trial was deeply flawed and he believes that she acted in self-defense.
“The Iranian authorities should review her case and refer it back to court for a re-trial, ensuring the defendant’s right to due process which is guaranteed under both Iranian law and international law,” said Shaheed.
Shaheed quoted “reliable sources” as saying that the victim, Sarbandi, had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office, but then took her to an apartment where he sexually abused her, which apparently led to her stabbing him which resulted in his death.
Jalal Sarbandi, however, is having none of it. He insists that his father’s “murder” was premeditated, and insists that Jabbari confessed to having bought a knife two days earlier.
Jalal also claims that Ms. Jabbari “sent a text message to her boyfriend saying she would kill him (Agent Sarbandi)”.
Shaheed has stated that Jabbari only stabbed Sarbandi in the shoulder and had called for an ambulance before fleeing the scene.
* * * * *
As most alert readers will have noted, there are troubling holes in this story. First and foremost, what happens if Ms. Jabbari goes along with Jalal’s program and confesses to having planned to murder Agent Sarbandi with the help of an accomplice? If she does confess, won’t she then be condemning herself to life in prison (she has already been incarcerated since 2007)?
Or will she once again be a “free” woman based on clemency being granted by Jalal? These are questions I would like to see answered.
And, of course, if Ms. Jabbari refuses to change her story, and if international and local pressure does not result in a re-trial, she will apparently be hanged within a few weeks. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In the case of Jalal, this appears to be about family honor plain and simple. He wants his father exonerated of the rape accusation. The son must have at least an iota of conscience or he would not have offered to commute the death sentence in the event Ms. Jabbari changes her story.
* * * * *
So although I confess to carrying some taint of the sexist, however slight, I think I can accurately say that although it is clearly a character flaw, it does not begin to compare to the level and degree of sexism that poor Ms. Jabbari, and presumably other Iranian women, face on a daily basis. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if anyone has more knowledge of this case, I would appreciate them checking in and enlightening us.
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