Long before I embarked on this nutty journey, a friend sent me an email at work marked urgent.
The words that met my eyes were unmistakable.
“STOP THE EXECUTION OF HAJIEH ESMAILWAND.”
Her name tasted like a chili, stinging and alien. I didn’t even know the person was a “she” until I read further.
Hajieh had been in prison five years by the time I saw this petition. She was sentenced with committing adultery in Jolfa, Iran, forced to serve a prison term and then come to a climax with death – by stoning. Since the revolution, the Iranian women rights movement had to go underground, but little triumphs have bloomed, particularly the campaign to Stop Stoning Forever.
I admit to not remembering if I signed the petition, knowing me, a booming yes. What was more interesting is how removed I felt from it.
I nursed empathy, one thing I’m adept at is picturing how it might be to live in her skin for one day. It couldn’t have been posies and trotting through a golden field of wheat.
Yet, her association to me was a dimly lit bulb. We North Americans love to bring it back to how anything affects us. Truth be told, her predicament, while horrifying and unjust, was not part of my reality. I could easily get on with my life.
It’s not until you leave the comforts of your homeland do you understand.
In India, I was constantly faced with unfairness, double-standard behavior and shock. A co-volunteer confirmed that village girls in Bihar are forced to marry as young as 14. Why does my skin break out in goosebumps, the downy hair on the rear