A powerful letter written by Reyhaneh Jabbari ahead of her execution last Saturday has come to light, in which the 26-year-old emotionally implores her mother to put aside her grief and arrange for her organs to be donated to those in need.
Reyhaneh, an interior designer, was hanged in Iran at the weekend after seven years in prison and five years on death row for stabbing a 47-year-old man to death, in what she said was self-defence after he tried to rape her. The case garnered international attention, with human rights groups calling for a reprieve and claiming that it was never properly investigated.
The letter, written in April to her mother, Sholeh Pakravan, recounts life lessons Sholeh had taught her, "that one comes to this world to gain an experience and learn a lesson and with each birth a responsibility is put on one’s shoulder. I learned that sometimes one has to fight... You told me that for creating a value one should persevere even if one dies."
Reyhaneh heartbreakingly goes on to say how she'd put her hope in the legal system to save her, but that she felt her stoicism in court ultimately worked against her, writing: "You taught us that as we go to school one should be a lady in face of the quarrels and complaints... When this incident happened, my teachings did not help me. Being presented in court made me appear as a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless criminal. I shed no tears. I did not beg. I did not cry my head off since I trusted the law.
"But I was charged with being indifferent in face of a crime."
Knowing that her execution was drawing near, she then pleads with her mother to try "in any way that you can" to enable her body to be used for organ donation after her death, describing it as "the only thing I want from this world, this country and you."
"Please don’t cry and listen... It is the only thing that if even you beg for it I would not become upset although I have told you many times not to beg to save me from being executed.
"My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don’t want to rot under the soil. I don’t want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don’t want the recipient know my name, buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me.
"I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don’t want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don’t want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away."
Reyhaneh was arrested in 2007 at the age of 19, and said she had stabbed Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a surgeon and former intelligence agent, in the back after he tried to rape her, but that another man was responsible for the fatal injury. She was found guilty in 2009 of premeditated murder. After the execution, the Tehran state prosecutor’s office issued a statement saying: “Jabbari had repeatedly confessed to premeditated murder, then tried to divert the case from its course by inventing the rape charge... She had informed a friend through text message of her intention to kill. It was ascertained that she had purchased the murder weapon, a kitchen knife, two days before committing murder."
The victim's family could have averted the execution by accepting payment or pardoning Reyhaneh, but refused, and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ignored international condemnation and did not intervene. According to the UN, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran this year.
Earlier this month, Sholeh gave an emotional interview in which she said: "I wish they would come tie a rope around my neck and kill me instead, but to allow Rayhaneh to come back home."
In one part of the letter, in full here, she discusses how different the outcome could have been. "That ominous night it was I that should have been killed. My body would have been thrown in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner’s office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don’t have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.
"However, with that cursed blow the story changed... But give in to the fate and don’t complain. You know better that death is not the end of life."
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