Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stop. Look. ACT.

Reyhaneh Jabbari (Image Source)
Last week, my sister and yours, was hung.
Reyhaneh Jabbari. In Iran.

Reyhaneh spent five years on death row. What had she done? She stabbed a 47-year-old surgeon who once worked with the Iranian intelligence ministry. The killing, as the UN and several international human rights bodies came to learn after fact-finding efforts, was an act of self-defense – where the surgeon had claimed to offer Reyhaneh the assignment of redesigning his office space. She was an interior designer. But instead, he took her to an apartment where he tried to sexually abuse Reyhaneh.
The surgeon, Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi had his family backing him posthumously, claiming that the 2012 killing was premeditated murder.

Here’s what followed the killing. Reyhaneh was interrogated and evidence was taken under coercion. She was on death row for five years, and at every level – right up to the Supreme Court of Iran, her plea of self-defense was not accepted. Her last shot at a reprieve was before the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomenei – but he did not intervene either. Even after her hanging, the State Prosecutor and many others claimed that the sexual assault charge was a “diversion”. But her contentions, her claim and her evidence was never investigated properly.

She was hung, for trying to ask for justice.

She was hung, because we sacrificed her at the altar of rationality, at the altar of humanity, and at the altar of justice.

She was hung, because people like you and me continue to allow patriarchy to thrive, because we live in a world where justice is the prerogative of some to “give” to some others, in a manner, direction and time of the former’s choosing.

We live in a world where such things as equality, justice and fairness are no longer the prerogative of every human being – but the entitlement of a few. We live in a world where we believe we can “give” another equality. We live in a world where we think we can “give” another respect, where we think we can “tolerate” another human being. This is the mindset that thinks that indigenous people should be “mainstreamed”, that women should be “policed”, that children should be “spanked”, that widows are “weak”, that homosexuality is not “normal”. This is the mindset that thinks that the environment can be brazenly eroded while the blind pursuit for development goes unabashed.

How wrong of us.

The real deal is that none of this is ours to give – but it certainly is ours to take. By simply being born human, we have a bunch of rights inherent in us. We have a bunch of duties inherent in us. Equality is not yours or mine to give. Justice is not yours or mine to give. Fairness – not yours or mine to give, either. No human being is above the other – and with that, clearly, there is no business depriving another human being of what he already has.

Until we realise the magnitude of depredation our false notions of power have caused, there will be many, many Reyhanehs.

It’s no longer just about sharing, liking and writing. It is about standing up for the truth and calling out every wrong.

It is about making the choice to stand up for the truth.  It is about following that decision through until fruition. It is about making that choice because truth is actionable.