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Jul-04-2007 19:50printcommentsVideo

Teenage Artist on Death Row in Iran Asks World for Help (VIDEO)

The 20-year old Death Row female inmate weighs 75 pounds and has been banned from all artwork.

Iranian deah row inmate Delara Darabi
Delara Darabi's image inset into one of her paintings. Her advocates are asking everyone to sign a petition that will be delivered to the Iranian government in hopes of sparing her a death sentence. Advocates say she falsely confessed.

(TEHRAN, Iran) - Advocates are steaming over an Iran Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the death sentence of a young woman named Delara Darabi. It is the second time the court has heard the case, and the 20-year old faces death by public hanging for a murder that took place when she was 17 years old.

Newspaper articles and court reports indicate that Delara’s 19-year old boyfriend, Amir Hossein, convinced her to admit responsibility for the murder of a woman that he committed, to protect him from execution.

It was reasoned at the time that if Delara took the fall for the crime, she would not be sentenced to death because she was still 17.

It was a big risk, and a losing wager. The court parted from traditional ways and sentenced her to hang. They gave her boyfriend Amir Hossein a ten year prison sentence.

Lily Mazahery who is leading the fight to free the woman from the clutches of her death sentence, says that the struggle for the young woman has been anything but fair or honest.

"With complete disregard for its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and despite overwhelming evidence of Delara’s innocence, as well as the teenager’s repeated denials about having had any role in the commission of the crime, a court in the city of Rasht found the girl-child guilty of murder based solely on her initial claim of responsibility."

Since that ruling Mazahery says, the regime has repeatedly demonstrated patent disregard for its promises to the international community and to the rights of Iranian children, by upholding Delara’s death sentence.

One woman who was Delara Darabi's cell mate in the Rasht Women's Prison for a year. She says they became close friends, and says about that time, "We had both sweet and sour moments."

"We were sitting in the prison yard one day when we noticed a little ant going in a direction where it would have been crushed. Delara picked it up and put it in a safe place. The former cell mate says she knew then that Dalara, a person who literally wouldn't hurt an ant, could not be a murderer.

For a long time, Delara was able to deal with prison. In fact, Mazahery says that until recently, Delara had proven to be a remarkably poised young prisoner with an amazing talent for painting and drawing.

"She has used her gift to compile a diary of her pain as a child prisoner on death row. From the dark confines of her prison cell, Delara produced an impressive collection of paintings that speak of the horrors of prison, of torture, of beatings, of hopelessness, loneliness, and the loss of a child’s innocence. "

Her father weeps when he talks about a daughter who he says, does not belong in prison. "Delara is silence, I am her shriek, her cry for help. Even if I have to reach the heavens and do the impossible, I'll declare her innocence up there."

His grief is immense, and compounded by the fact that he initially doubted her and failed to protect her. Her mother says her husband, "gave her to the police." Their hearts grow heavier by the day.

They are haunting images; depictions of injustice and brutality. They are the stories of the innocent women and children of Iran, shackled by what many call the injustices of a brutal regime.

They are described as a teenager’s diary of crimes against humanity committed by the very government that should serve as her protector, but is, instead, her jailer and her executioner.

"In retaliation to exposing their horrifying crimes, officials took away the only remaining outlet of Delara’s pain: They confiscated her painting materials," Mazahery added.

"When Delara used coal and whatever else she could find to paint her pain on the walls of her prison, they subjected the young artist -- nicknamed 'prisoner of colors' -- to brutal forms of emotional and physical abuse."

She says officials banned her from painting altogether, "and they prevented her from having any visitors or contacting her lawyer except for twice a month briefly by phone. Their abuse proved too much for young Delara, who, true to her sensitive disposition as an artist, wears her pain woefully close to the surface of her skin."

Then on January 20th, 2007, Delara attempted suicide by cutting her wrists.

"Fortunately, her cell-mate noticed the incident and called for help" Lily Mazahery said. "Delara’s emaciated body was rushed to the hospital, where, by what can only be deemed a miracle, doctors were able to revive her and bring her back to life."

At this time, Delara remains in critical condition and reportedly only weighs only 75 pounds. Her family and those close to her case are extremely worried about her health, both physically and emotionally.

People waging a fight against the Iranian government over the death sentence of the young woman like Lily Mazahery, say the silent screams of innocent girls like Delara must be acknowledged by each and every one of us.

"We MUST express our outrage, voice our anger, and show our support to those who can not speak for themselves. Anything less would be less than human."

She is asking people to express their outrage and stand up for the rights of this girl-child who can not stand up for herself by signing the petition to save Delera's life. That petition can be found here:

Silence in this case Lily Mazahery says, will serve a bitter reinforcement of Delara's death sentence. Visit this site for more information:

Watch the 12-minute video below to learn more about Delara and how to help her


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Nick July 5, 2007 5:42 am (Pacific time)

Thanks so much for this great article. I have signed the petition and encourage everyone to do the same. Please keep us posted about the progress in Delara's case.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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