Week 17: Hero – Samereh Alinejad

by Jackie_South on April 28, 2014

Iran_heroThis week, our regular hero award goes to Iranian Samereh Alinejad, for sparing the life of her son’s killer

The photographs in the paper were in turn first sickening and then heart-warming. The first image was of Balal, a young Iranian man, blindfolded with a noose around his neck. It appeared that a man and a bespectacled mother were attaching the rope, with him open mouthed in anguish. Another image showed the woman slapping Balal across the face as he waited to hang with the rope around his neck.

But the other images clarified the story: the woman, Samerah Alinejad, was removing the noose, not tightening it. The open mouthed Balal was crying with relief, not fear. This was an act of forgiveness by the woman whose son Balal had stabbed.

Under Iranian law, the victim’s next of kin is given the role of removing the chair beneath the feet of the condemned prisoner sentenced to hang. Seven years ago, Balal had an argument with Abdollah Hosseinzadeh: words turned to fisticuffs: Balal shoved Abdollah, Abdollah kicked Balal. Then Balal took a kitchen knife from out of his sock and stabbed Abdollah. It was a single blow, but a fatal one.

Alinejad had been thinking about the execution and her role, dreaming of what Abdollah would have wanted. Her husband had reached the view that the murder was not deliberate, but she went to the prison not sure what she would do. When the time came for her to kick the chair away, she instead slapped Balal across the face.

“After that, I felt as if rage vanished within my heart. I felt as if the blood in my veins began to flow again. I burst into tears and I called my husband and asked him to come up and remove the noose.” 

Balal’s mother profusely thanked Samereh.

Iran’s public executions are barbaric. But perhaps giving the victim’s family a role means that humanity can intervene in a way that is not possible under the US’s coldly clinical lethal injections. The barbarism is in capital punishment full stop.

Samereh Alinejad appears to have found some peace through her decision. “Losing a child is like losing a part of your body. All these years, I felt like a moving dead body. But now, I feel very calm, I feel I’m at peace. I feel that vengeance has left my heart.”

We salute her humanity in circumstances that would try us all.

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