If you have been keeping up with my blogs then you are aware I have been following the story of Ameneh Bahrami. She is a young Iranian woman who was attacked by an ex-lover with acid permanently blinding her and disfiguring her face. He was sentenced to 10-12 years in prison and under the Islamic practice of quesas, Bahrami chose to exercise her right to blind him in return. You can visit my previous blogs, the first written May 16, 2011 to get the full story and my first update comprising of a letter written by Bahremi’s sister defending the right to exercise quesas amongst public outrage which I wrote on June 15, 2011.
May 14, 2011 was the original date Bahrami was to carry out the blinding sentence, however, the Irani government postponed it due to the large controversy the incident was creating both locally in Iran and worldwide. The sentencing was postponed to July 31, 2011. With an eye specialist and judiciary representative present, the acid eye blinding was set to proceed and Bahrami's attacker seemed fated to meet his doom. On that day as time stood still and the world watched, some in awe of a modern day eye for an eye punishment and some in disgust at the barbaric nature of the sentence, something in Bahrami changed. In a last minute decision as her attacker sat his knees crying, she pardoned the man who altered her life forever. There would be no blinding.
Majid Movahedi - Bahremi's Attacker
Bahrami said she decided to pardon him for multiple reasons. Mainly that the Quran gives quesas as an option and a right of the victim, yet also explicitly states that pardoning ones enemy is a greater more righteous resolution . Bahrami also believes that as much as it was her personal right to carry out the sentence it is also her personal right to choose not to. She also cites the publicity she has gained throughout the entire ordeal as a deciding factor in the pardon. Many civil rights groups worldwide have openly condemned Iran for allowing the punishment and have called the quesas cruel and inhumane.
After almost a decade long battle against her ex-lover, her country, her own happiness, her moral values, her religion and her community I can’t help but smile a little for Bahrami. The power to forgive is an amazing instrument and no doubt not an easy decision to arrive at. Her very public struggle with her appearance, her family and her own inner battle between good and evil must have taken her on an emotional rollercoaster unlike any the majority of the world’s population could understand. I’ve read numerous articles about this case and I know Bahrami was most concerned with making a public statement. A statement against the male dominated attitudes in Iran and other nations and she wanted to make her attacker an example. She believed it would protect women. Even though the acid blinding did not and will not take place, I don’t think she failed in setting a poignant example. Had it not been for her decision this blinding would have happened. After all of her struggles, she, a middle aged, Iranian, female, held all the power literally in her hands. That has not and will not go unnoticed by the male dominated population of Iran or the world for that matter.
I’ve often thought of this case and wondered what I would do given the same options. If you had the power to inflict revenge on someone would you do it? If you had the power to inflict revenge on someone who hurt your child would you do it? Even if your religion allowed it, would revenge set free your mind, body, spirit and soul? Or is there a greater power in mercy and forgiveness? Imagine if you will the relief of fighting a 7-year long legal battle and emerging on top, you now have your attacker strapped on a table below you, you’re holding an acid filled dropper in your hands 3 inches from their face, their body trembles and you feel the fear in them. A familiar fear. It is the fear you yourself felt the day they attacked you all those years ago. In that moment is it revenge that will release the inner turmoil you’ve felt for so long? Are you enraged or do you pity them? What a strong and merciful person that can look them in the eyes as they tremble in fear and be able…..to turn around….and walk away. Perhaps that is a greater way to be truly set free.