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Iran mother recalls act of mercy for son's killer

Associated Press

ROYAN, Iran (AP) -- Her son's killer stood on a chair on the gallows, his hands shackled, the noose around his neck. Hundreds crowded outside the jailhouse in a northern Iranian town to see if the mother, Samereh Alinejad, would exercise her right to kick the chair out from under him to let him hang.

But after seven years of dreaming of revenge - up to the last moment she held the killer's life in her hands - Alinejad pardoned Bilal Gheisari. That act has made her a hero in her hometown, Royan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where banners in the streets commend her family's mercy. Two weeks after the dramatic scene at the gallows, well-wishers still pass by her home to praise her and her husband

Alinejad told The Associated Press during a visit to her home that retribution had been her only thought ever since her 17-year-old son Abdollah was killed seven years ago in a street brawl when Gheisari's knife sliced through his neck.

"My world collapsed the day I heard about my son's death," she said, dressed in a black with a black scarf covering her hair. "If I pardoned Bilal and saved him from death, how would I be able to live anymore?"

The thought of Gheisari's family's happiness at his eventually walking out of jail a free man ate her up inside. "I told my husband if he were spared death, I would die," she said.

Families of murder victims in Iran and some other Muslim countries are often faced with the final word choice over whether convicted killers live or die. The Islamic law concept of "qisas" - an "an eye for an eye" provision - gives them the chance to oversee the killer's execution.

They also have the option to have mercy - often in return for blood money payments of $35,000 or more. Forgoing qisas is seen as an act of charity and a chance to atone for one's sins. In standard murder cases in Iran, it is a choice left up to victim's family, not the government.

Alinejad's pardon was not the first time a family decided to forgo retribution at the last minute. But a series of photos by an Iranian photographer for the ISNA news agency at the gallows in the nearby town of Nour on April 15 offered a dramatic window into what would have been Gheisari's last moments.

Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, the murdered teen's father, was something of a local celebrity as a well-known former soccer player who now coaches children in the game. Both his son and his son's killer, who was a couple years older, trained at the Derakhshan Soccer School where he teaches.

Leading up to the day of execution, neighbors, activists and even a popular TV program had appealed to the couple to spare Gheisari.

Kamyar Salari, the manager of a local non-profit that provides support to prisoners, said he told the couple, "You have a right to retribution. However, when time passes, usually the level of anger drops."

"I asked them to give forgiveness some thought," he told the AP. "He is young and ... he just made a mistake."

None of the appeals seemed to work.

Further deepening the family's sense of loss, their other son, Amir, died years earlier in an accident when he was riding his bicycle and was hit by a motorcycle - and Gheisari was one of two boys on the motorcycle.

Iranian Mother Halts Execution Of Son's Killer

On April 15, Alinejad walked slowly toward the gallows, with Gheisari's family among the crowd of onlookers. A blindfolded Gheisari, weeping, begged her one last time.

"Forgive me, Aunt Maryam," he pleaded, addressing Alinejad by the nickname she is widely known by in the community. "Show your mercy."

Alinejad moved in close, face to face, with Gheisari.

"Did you have mercy on us? Did you show mercy to my son?" she demanded. "You have taken happiness away from us. Why should I have mercy toward you?"

Alinejad stared angrily him. Then she slapped him across the face. She and her husband slipped the noose off his neck, and with that move, Gheisari's death sentence had been commuted.

Some in the crowd applauded. Others stood silently shocked.

Alinejad's decision was widely publicized by the semi-official ISNA news agency, suggesting that Iranian authorities hope to encourage more victims' families to consider choosing mercy over retribution. In a report on the Iranian judiciary's website Tuesday, state prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi described accepting blood money for a stay of execution as a humane practice. He said it spared the lives of 358 convicts in the last Iranian calendar year, which ended in March.

Iran has come under sharp criticism by international rights groups for its high rate of executions. Amnesty International says 369 people were publicly put to death in the Islamic Republic last year. The majority of executions are for drug smuggling, which Iranian officials say reflects the large quantities of opium trafficked through Iran from Afghanistan to Europe.

Gheisari's sentence was changed to 12 years in prison, half of which he has served already.

Alinejad and her husband, who have a young daughter, have refused to accept blood money that benefactors had collected on Gheisari's behalf, proposing it go instead to charity and improving local soccer schools.

Alinejad said she feels relief.

"This slap made me feel as if all the blood that had accumulated in my heart over the years suddenly burst and poured out. I became peaceful," Alinejad said. "I do not think about revenge anymore."


Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
olwlm May 01 2014 at 5:58 PM

Of course not an easy choice under that circumstance; but she did it!

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1 reply
becksaffary olwlm May 01 2014 at 11:01 PM

Yes. And she is happier and blessed.

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Nancy May 01 2014 at 7:24 PM

The one thing we must remember there is only one "God" no matter what you call him there is only one and God had said if "we" want to be forgiven "our" sins then we MUST forgive our trespassers. So if we want to be forgiven then we must learn to forgive. She did the right thing. He will still be judged as we all will be one day by our creator. No matter if you call yourself a Christian or what you are we all have a inner voice that tells us what is right and One of the Ten Commandments is thou shall not kill. So killing someone to atone for the death of another does not make it right. He will have to live with what he has done for the rest of his life and with the thought of hanging, hanging over his head for seven years lets face it he probably has already died a thousand deaths.

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4 replies
DEBORAH May 01 2014 at 8:07 PM

Someone once wrote " Forgiveness cannot change the past but it can enlarge our future".
Apparently, this mother knows that.

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1 reply
thedukeantiques DEBORAH May 02 2014 at 12:29 AM

beautifully said

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riverhawks73 May 01 2014 at 6:57 PM

she was probably fearful of her own life.

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1 reply
becksaffary riverhawks73 May 01 2014 at 10:51 PM

Yes she sure was! She was fearful of a life of anger and emptiness.

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tipledan May 01 2014 at 6:45 PM

Now, it'll be his islamicidiot duty to kill more, especially the women.

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1 reply
becksaffary tipledan May 01 2014 at 10:53 PM

I thought Ray was crazy. Actually he is. You are just bigot and stupid.

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handsome devil ! May 01 2014 at 6:44 PM

texans could learn from her.

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1 reply
penstate79 handsome devil ! May 01 2014 at 9:00 PM

Totally useless bigoted comment

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ilenedan2 May 01 2014 at 6:35 PM

What a courageous woman. He was at least partially responsible for the deaths of BOTH her sons, and still she spared him. I don't know if I could have done it. She sounds like a wonderful person.

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kycowski May 01 2014 at 6:30 PM

It's funny how all the people baying for murderers to be put to death are strangely absent here. I wonder why that is? Maybe it's because they see how barbaric "eye for an eye justice" actually is when put into the context of another culture, or maybe the actual act of murdering another person isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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1 reply
rich kycowski May 01 2014 at 7:33 PM

think it is great that the victims Family has the final say. What if we called it abortion would you be ok with that? The biggest excuse I hear is what kind of life would the baby have? Same goes with an inmate what kind of life is that? Let's Abort the life long prisoners.

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1 reply
kycowski rich May 01 2014 at 10:30 PM

Justice is not legalized revenge, despite what many people seem to think. I'll assume you thought your abortion analogy was clever, but I don't care to address a red herring.

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dickn2000b May 01 2014 at 6:04 PM

And another golden opportunity was missed to get rid of another Islamic terrorist.

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4 replies
crazy ray May 01 2014 at 7:44 PM

Well, I guess she liked the murderer more than she liked her son.

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7 replies
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