Have you heard of Delara Darabi?

21 05 2009

In 2006, Delara Darabi was 17 year old young woman living in Iran who was convicted of murdering a female relative. Her boyfriend, Amir Hossein, 19, was the one who murdered the relative but convinced Darabi to confess (she later retracted her confession) in order to save him from execution, because the two believed that since she was a minor she would not be sentenced to death. However, they were wrong.

Darabi was arrested shortly afterwards and detained in Rasht Prison in Tehran, northern Iran. And just a few weeks ago, on Friday, May 1st, Darabi was executed in Rasht Prison. This violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Despite Darabi’s retraction of her confession and repeated denial of responsibility for the murder, and significant evidence proving her innocence, a Rasht court still found her guilty based on her initial confession.

Darabi’s execution is the 140th execution in Iran so far this year. Since 1990, Iran has executed at least 42 juvenile offenders which completely violates international law.

While in prison, Darabi drew and painted a lot. Her impressive artwork depicts the loneliness, hopelessness and darkness of her prison confinement, and the severe brutality and injustice she suffered. It serves as a testimony of the countless innocent Iranian women and children who suffer in the hands of their government, which should be protecting them from harm rather than inflicting harm on them.

Amnesty International has been on this case since the beginning and is beyond outraged at Darabi’s unjust execution. According to Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, Darabi’s lawyer was not informed about the execution, in spite of a legal mandate that lawyers are supposed to receive 48 hours notice if their clients are sentenced to death. Furthermore, the Rasht court refused to consider new and telling evidence that would’ve proved her innocence and spared her life.

If you are wondering why you have not heard of this until now, it’s because the mainstream media did not deem it important or newsworthy enough to cover. (Because celebrities who’ve lost weight, gained weight, gotten plastic surgery, broken up, gotten together with someone, etc. are way more important.) It is shameful that the mainstream media always opts to go with what sells rather than educating the public about human rights issues across the globe.

From Racialicious:

What is perhaps the saddest part of her story, however, is that the mainstream, traditional news media did not report the story at all. A Google News search on Delara Darabi revealed, as of [May 2nd], a total of ZERO mainstream US news stories. The only stories about Delara as of last night were from Iranian and international sources, blogs, and human rights groups.

Today, the mainstream media started to pick up on it, with stories from the Los Angeles Times, BBC, United Press International, New York Times, and a few others. Still, at the time of writing this post there are only 206 news stories about Delara Darabi’s unjust execution. By comparison, there are currently 762 news stories about Matthew McConaughey, and 7,078 news stories about Arlen Specter.

Shameful, but not surprising. Apparently twitter was the first to cover Darabi’s execution and BreakingTweets, a news site founded by Craig Kanalley, a 20-something year old graduate student in journalism, trying to use new media to quicken and change the way we get our news.

Breaking Tweets was paying attention to the Delara Darabi story, and they reported it more than a full 24 hours before the mainstream media.

What does this tell us?

1. Mainstream media is very ethnocentric. Stories about Americans or westerners, or from an American/western perspective, gain prominence and are always at the forefront while stories about non-American persons largely tend to get ignored. Again, we have a hierarchy of bodies in which non-American or non-western ones are discounted.

2. New media is very valuable. The advent of online journalism, blogging, and twitter have all revolutionized the way we obtain our information, and despite the protests against new media, it certainly beat old media in covering a heartbreaking story about a severe human rights violation.

Steven Green gets lifetime imprisonment

21 05 2009

Steven Green (for the background story, see here and here), former US soldier guilty of gang raping 14 year old Iraqi girl Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi and then massacring her family in March 2006, was spared the death penalty but was given a life sentence after jurors couldn’t reach a consensus on a proper punishment.  Via The New York Times (on a side note, I love how the article title makes no mention of rape; it just mentions murder):

Former Pfc. Steven Dale Green of Midland, Texas, will be formally sentenced Sept. 4 by U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell. Jurors who convicted Green on May 7 told Russell they couldn’t agree on the appropriate sentence after deliberating more than 10 hours over two days.

Green’s attorneys did not deny that Green was guilty, but argued that Green did not deserve the death penalty because of emotional/mental problems that he suffered with.  Meanwhile, the other guilty soldiers who were involved in the brutal attack have received long sentences in military prison.

I am glad that Green was not given the death penalty because I am opposed to the death penalty and do not find it an appropriate form of punishment (for reasons, see here).  Life imprisonment is acceptable because not only does it cost less than capital punishment does, but it also guarantees that the criminal will be in jail and therefore unable to commit further harm to civilians.

Other appropriate action, in addition to life imprisonment, would include restitution (meaning that Green would be put to work, with the money made going to the victims’ family/relatives) or rehabilitation (not merely punishment, but also having some compassion – clearly Green was and is not in a proper state of mind or heart and needs guidance).