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.



5 responses

25 05 2009
Delara Darabi’s Life - en|Gender

[…] It’s a heartbreaking story of a young woman who decided to take the rap for a murder for her older brother because they both thought she was young enough not to be executed for it. […]

31 05 2009
Charles RB

Actually, the mainstream media _had_ covered it, most of them reporting it on the 2nd of May, most of the rest on the 3rd – and this is a foreign news story about an execution that was last-minute and covered up, and any report will need to fact-check, be edited, and for print media there’s only specific times it’s able to go out. That’s not counting that some news services will have reporters on the ground already and others won’t. The delays are not that surprising. (The Racalicious article appears to have been written on the 2nd, yet published weeks later)

As for the coveraging, the Breaking Tweets story was (cutting out which tweets they got it from):

“Delara Darabi, a 22-year-old Iranian woman accused of killing a relative when she was 17, has been hanged in Iran on Friday morning, according to Iran Focus and Amnesty International… Darabi has long denied being guilty in this case, causing a surge in her support around the world. Amnesty International reported that her death was “imminent,” on April 19, before an agreement appeared to give her a two-month stay. Jerusalem Post reports today that Amnesty International is “outraged” by the execution.”

If you compare that to the BBC report on the next day, there’s more information – they explain the case, dirty tricks played by the Iranian courts, mention that this was done without warning, a longer quote by Amnesty, and quoting the last phone call Darabi made. LA Times, reporting on the 3rd, again has more information. In terms of actual coverage, old media actually wins out – Breaking Tweets is giving me a lot _less_ information, especially background information on the case and why it’s dodgy.

31 05 2009
Gravity’s Rainbow » Blog Archive » What I’ve Noticed

[…] Delara Darabi – if there had been more news coverage in the West, she may have lived. […]

1 06 2009

Thank you for your comments Charles RB,

The Racialicious post was originally published on May 2nd on another site (Politicoholic), so it was just posted on Racialicious late.

I think one of the points of that post was that Breaking Tweets, while the coverage may not have been that thorough, was the first source that reported it almost immediately, which speaks to new media’s efficiency at delivering news more quickly.

There is a lot of debate about the pros/cons of both old media and new media, which I am not going to delve into here, but it’s interesting to follow, and regardless of what people think/how people feel about new media, it definitely is changing the way we get our information.

2 06 2009
Charles RB

I realised later it’d been cross-posted later – some comments did give the impression they thought the media _still_ hadn’t reported, which I thought needing clarification.

Unarguably, new media certainly gets us the info _faster_. That said, with so many media organs setting up their own websites (if you’re on the BBC News website, you get to see when Breaking News is reported) and their reporters/commentators using blogs, the line gets a bit blurrred.

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