Friday, September 26, 2008

Activist Spotlight: Nazanin Afshin-Jam

With the help of a global Internet campaign Nazanin was able to save a teenager from an unfair execution in Iran.

"Last year we were specifically working on one girl's case who was on death row and we managed to collect 350,000 signatures. How we managed that was a lot through MySpace supporters and just people forwarding on emails and such. Definitely the Internet helps in our rally," said Nazanin.

Not a lot of people can put Miss World runner up, international singer and human rights activist on their resume but for Nazanin Afshin-Jam that's only the beginning of her amazing bio.

If you listen to Nazanin's song "Someday" you'll get a quick story of how her family was forced out of Iran when she was a small child and how they ended up in Canada.

She's gracefully intertwined her love for social justice and her Christian faith to live out what seems like a great example of a purpose-driven life.

I got the chance to talk with Nazanin about her rally against President Ahmadinejad held earlier this week in New York City, her non-profit organization called Stop Child Executions and how she hopes Christians can be further involved in the cause.

"A few weeks ago I heard the news that President Ahmadinejad would be coming back to the US, well to the United Nations to the general assembly to speak. And close to that time I got the news that two more imminent cases of children who were facing the death penalty and I just came to the point where we have to stand up, we have to be the voice of the those who don't have one inside of Iran and this is a great opportunity to come to New York, to hold a demonstration and to spread to the rest of the world that Ahmadinejad does not represent the voices of the people inside Iran," said Nazanin.

"I think a lot of people on the outside don't know that distinction. They think that Ahmadinejad is the president so naturally he represents the thoughts and the wishes of the people. And the way the government is set up in Iran the electoral process is not a democratic system where you can just vote for whoever you want. The candidates are pre-screened and so you just end up with a handful of people who represent a very extreme side of the political spectrum so you really don't have a choice. And because Iran is a police-like state, the people they can't really rise up and speak against the government without facing harsh consequences like torture or it's a really difficult position for them. Our demonstration is also a symbolic way to just let the rest of the world know that Ahmadinejad does not represent our voices and we have Iranian voices speaking at the rally who will speak a wide range of views on issues going on in Iran. But more specifically on human rights abuses that are taking place in Iran."

When it comes to supporters in various Iranian communities around the world Nazanin reports that the overall tone is pretty positive and that only "a small percentage, maybe less than 1 percent that are part of the fundamentalism, the extremists" who oppose the critical work she's doing for women's' rights issues.

Later on I asked her how she would like to see Christians be more involved.

"We get support from all communities and all religions. Specifically I would call onto the Christian community because inside Iran a lot of the Christians are being persecuted. You can't really practice your faith openly especially if you are a convert. If you used to be Muslim and you converted to Christianity you could be charged with apostasy and be sentenced to death. A new bill just came out this month which condones this, that if you're an apostate you can be put to death. And it's a huge concern not just for Christians but for the Jewish population, the Bahá'í community, the Zoroastrians. A lot of the religious minorities in Iran are really scared about this new bill."

If you're interested in being part of Stop Child Executions you can sign the petition, start an activism group on your college campus, donate to the fund and mostly importantly help spread the word in your local community.

"It's a responsibility of Christians around the world to get active," said Nazanin, "and to put pressure on the Iranian government that if someone wants to practice their faith they have the right. It's part of our universal declaration of human rights."

For more information on Nazanin and Stop Child Executions you can visit:


serenity said...

What a beautiful person. Thanks for spotlighting her and this meaningful cause.

SolShine7 said...

Glad you enjoyed it.

Reub said...

This is really good..

Roger_TQ said...

That's the Christian worldview in action:

Proverbs 31:8-9
Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Thanks for sharing this.

SolShine7 said...

Roger, thanks for sharing that scripture. It says it perfectly!