She was born into poverty and an abusive family. As a young child she was forced by her family to marry an older man. According to the Islamic and Sharia law of Iran, this was a perfectly legal and moral arrangement. Islam encourages young girls to become child brides. Iranian authorities point out that the Prophet Muhammad’s life also demonstrates a similar model for his followers.
After being forced to marry, Zeinab Sekaanvand Lokran was repeatedly raped. But in Iran’s Islamist law, even if a husband beats and forces his wife into having sex with him, it is not considered rape or abuse of any kind, since they are married. According to the clerics, a wife’s duty is to please the man. The Quran in Sura (Chapter) 2:223 says: Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like.
Zeinab was also repeatedly beaten after her wedding day. Despite the risk she knew she faced, she attempted to leave her husband multiple times, but with no success. She begged the police to help her, but they ignored her complaints, and reprimanded her for leaving her tormentor. The Islamist law of the land does not provide any protection for girls like her. In addition, neither her family nor friends would accept her if she left her husband.
More tragedies were to unfold for Zeinab. Her husband’s brother began also repeatedly raping her.
She begged for a divorce, but her husband would not accept her request for one. She did not have any legal base according to Iran’s Islamist codes to get a divorce. Everything was against this brave, unyielding girl. Yet, the worst was still to come.
At the age of 17, her husband was found stabbed to death. Because Zeinab had tried to escape him so many times, her community accused her of perpetrating her husband’s death. She was arrested and tortured for the next few months. After endless abuse and torment, she was forced to confess that she was a murderer.
It did not take long for the judge to issue a death sentence for Zeinab. She was not allowed to have access to a lawyer at any point of her trial. Once more, men made the decisions about her life and her death.
Zeinab insisted that her brother-in-law was the one who killed her husband. He threatened her to be silent, and told her that if she pleaded guilty, he would pardon her, according to Islamic law, so she wouldn’t be executed.
Just as she was about to be executed by the medieval method of hanging, it was discovered that she was pregnant. Soon after, she gave birth to a stillborn child, most likely due to the stress and physical abuse that she endured at the hands of her captors. Not long after she gazed at her lifeless baby, she was told by the Iranian authorities to be ready for execution.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “This is an extremely disturbing case. Not only was Zeinab Sekaanvand under 18 years of age at the time of the crime, she was also denied access to a lawyer and says she was tortured after her arrest by male police officers through beatings all over her body.”
Mansoureh Mills, the Iran campaigner at Amnesty International, pointed out:
“I can only imagine how extremely difficult her life must have been. That is why this case is extremely shocking and disturbing, She was relying on adults to protect her and unfortunately no adults were able to do that. Not the authorities and not her family. She tried the police, but they wouldn’t help. She tried her family and they wouldn’t take her back. And she is just a teenager so she had nowhere to turn and so she was forced back to this allegedly abusive marriage until the day her husband was killed.“
The Islamic Republic has hypocritically signed on to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the death penalty for and execution of children. But Iran repeatedly uses the death penalty to execute people under 18.
Zeinab is one case of many female children who live such tragic lives and then get executed. Last year, Iran executed Fatemeh Salbehi for reportedly killing her abusive husband at the age of 17.
According to the Islamic penal code of Iran, girls are treated as adults when they reach the age of nine.
Zeinab can be executed any day. Instead of continuing with sanctions relief and appeasement policies, the Obama administration should bring attention to Iran’s crimes against humanity. Iran ranks as the world’s top executioner per capita. It is incumbent on human rights organizations, the UN, Amnesty International and the international community to stop this execution and many other similar child executions, which are occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran.