Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Letter to Senator Lugar

Dear Senator Lugar,

Today I would like to bring to your attention a grievous human rights violation that is occurring today in Iran. More than 24 minors have been executed since 1990, and, according to Amnesty International, at least 71 minor offenders are currently on death row. Despite the fact that the Iranian government denies such allegations, there have already been two executions of minors recorded this year, and Amnesty International believes that many more executions may go unreported. According to Iranian law, capital offenses include adultery by married people, incest, rape, four convictions of an unmarried person for fornication, three convictions for drinking alcohol, or four convictions for homosexual acts among men. While some of these “crimes” that are considered deserving of the death penalty are highly questionable by standards of our freedom, the execution of minors is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

In one example taken from, Sina Paymard was arrested as a sixteen year old and sentenced to death for knifing a man over a marijuana-related dispute. Two years later, just two weeks after he turned 18, he was taken to the gallows to be hanged. His last dying wish, to play a tune on a reed flute that his father had given him, so moved his accusers that they decided to accept a payment of $160,000 instead of capital punishment. However, after Sina’s family finally raised the money, the victim’s relatives refused to accept it, and Paymard was placed back on death row. Although he was finally released on December 24, 2007 after three and a half years in prison, this may have been due to the great deal of media attention which the case received.

Another example of this inhumane punishment can be witnessed in the story of Atefeh Rajabi. She was hanged in 2004 after being arrested at the age of 16 for her fourth conviction of crimes against her chastity. These “crimes” included being in a car with a boy, visiting a cafĂ© without a chaperon, and being arrested at home because of a petition signed by local residents who accused her of having an affair with a 51-year-old man. Although she was reported to be 22 in court documents at the time of her execution, her true age was actually 16.

Although Iran claims to have legislation pending in Parliament that will end execution of juvenile defenders, this legislation would actually only offer a reduced sentence in a small number of cases. Furthermore, this legislation has been pending in the Iranian parliament since July 2006. It appears that Iran is in no hurry to curtail their unjust execution of children. In fact, according to, as recently as February 2006, a judge in Tehran’s appellate court stated that Iran would continue to issue death sentences to juvenile delinquents, “without considering other available options.”

In order to illustrate the United States’ intolerance of these hideous human rights violations, I would like to propose that the government place a full trade embargo on Iran similar to that which has been placed on Cuba. According to the US Census bureau, the United States imported 160.2 million dollars worth of goods from Iran, and exported around 114.3 million dollars of goods to Iran. I believe that a complete trade embargo would show Iran how seriously we oppose their human rights violations. In addition, this action would make a bold statement by not allowing our own companies to do business with a people who have so little regard for humane treatment of criminals and the lives of young people.

Although the UN has apparently already censured Iran for its inhumane killing of youth, I feel as though the harshest economic penalties from the US would be the best possible way for us to help end these atrocities. I feel that no other method we could use would work particularly well, since Iran seems to have little respect for us or our culture. However, since money is the universal language, I believe that it will have the greatest impact on Iran. Even if it fails to stop the violence, it can at the very least show the rest of the world that we refuse to interact with such an unfair and cruel government.


Greg Slisz

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