In Iran, after spending seven years in prison, 26-year-old former interior designer Rayhaneh Jabbari is due to be hanged for defending herself against a rapist.
Rayhaneh stabbed Iranian physician Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi with a pocketknife, after she said he attempted to drug and rape her.
The head of the Iranian judiciary upheld Rayhaneh's sentence, and although the execution is temporarily postponed, he is neither moved by human rights opposition to the hanging nor influenced by the 126,700 online signatures submitted on a petition that aims to stop the execution.
According to the convicted woman's family and Iranian human rights activists Banafsheh Zand and Mina Ahadi, who are working on the case, there may be a third person involved who set Jabbari up to take the blame for Sarbandi's murder.
According to Sholeh Pakravan, the mother of the woman on death row, Iran continues to call Rayhaneh's supporters "a bunch of dirty terrorists who are atheists or scum members of the opposition to their Islamic revolution."
Under Iran's harsh judicial system, 500 people were executed in 2013 -- a record that is slated to be broken in 2014. Jabbari is likely to be part of that record. "You must realize that the laws in Iran are medieval laws of retribution, revenge and punishment and unfortunately for our broken hearts, Rayhaneh's life is in their hands," said Pakravan.
The young woman's nightmare began seven years ago when she was just 19 years-old. While visiting an Internet café, Iranian physician Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi overheard Rayhaneh discussing her career as an interior designer. Ms. Jabbari claims that Sarbandi approached her and asked her to meet with him at his office to discuss a renovation project. Jabbari made the fatal mistake of agreeing.
Rayhaneh said that on the day of the meeting, while taking her to his office Sarbandi stopped by a pharmacy to pick up what was later confirmed to be a date rape drug. According to forensics, after being driven to a rundown house the drug was put into juice and offered to Jabbari, who was told by her aggressor, "You have no way of escaping."
A physical confrontation took place, which is when Jabbari stabbed the physician twice in the shoulders with a small pocketknife. Prosecutors claim that as a result of those wounds Sarbandi bled out and died.
To complicate the situation further, it appears that in defense of a third person, the Iranian government may be interfering in the case by destroying evidence that could potentially save Rayhaneh's life.
Jabbari's defense attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, maintains that over the past seven years key evidence has mysteriously vanished. The lawyer and the woman's family believe that in an effort to uphold Jabbari's conviction, Iran's intelligence ministry "conducted its own [highly unusual] investigation" into the killing, after which they deliberately destroyed damning evidence that Mostafaei claims implicates one of their own.
"The real murderer was one of the regime's own officials," Mostafaei alleged. Rayhaneh's lawyer is calling on Iran's judiciary and Sarbandi's family to withdraw the execution order. Mostafaei is "certain that the content of the missing CD [containing official documents and audio] will exonerate Rayhaneh."
Despite fearing for the lives of her other children, Jabbari's mother insists, "In my opinion there is a gang within the Ministry of Intelligence and Surveillance which is fully and totally involved in this case and has in fact planned the whole thing. Rayhaneh was an innocent bystander who happened into the story."
According to Mostafaei and Pakravan, prior to the attempted rape, for some reason a third individual named Sheikhy was mentioned in the text messages sent by Sarbandi to Jabbari.
Mostafaei said that seconds after Rayhaneh stabbed Sarbandi, who Pakravan says could "never have died from the stab wound inflicted by Rayhaneh as Sarbandi was a rather heavy set guy," she ran past Sheikhy, who walked into the house as she ran out.
"There are very real allegations that, given the amount of time between Rayhaneh running out of the place and the EMS arriving, Sheikhy was there the entire time." Sheikhy was also present when Jabbari was arrested, but never testified or asked to explain his presence at the crime scene.
In addition, Rayhaneh stabbed Sarbandi once in each shoulder, but the coroner found other distinct wounds on Sarbandi's body, any of which could have caused his death. But fortunately for Sheikhy, unlike Rayhaneh, under the Iranian judicial system he is considered a complete person and given the benefit of the doubt.
"In any case," Pakravan added, "the Iranian regime has decided that it wants to make an example of yet another woman and they are bent on executing Rayhaneh and even though the rapist [and] victim's family is fully well aware of these ambiguities in the case, they still insist on seeing Rayhaneh hung."
Rayhaneh's mother, whose attempts to save her daughter's life have thus far been in vain, stated that "The courts have said that if a woman is raped it is their fault." As for Rayhaneh, for the crime of refusing to allow herself to be drugged and raped, she was told she is a "mean-spirited and selfish bitch."
According to Islamic law, the "killing of a virgin woman is prohibited." Therefore, "In prison, if a virgin woman is to be executed, she is first 'married' to (read: raped by) one of the guards before execution," which may very well be Rayhaneh's chilling fate.
So, on behalf of the "war on women," while Sandra Fluke was on Capitol Hill begging for free contraceptives, Iranian women defending themselves against rape were being found guilty of a crime. And while Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) was accusing Republicans of allowing women to "die on the floor" for lack of Obamacare abortion funding, in Iran, for their gender alone, Iranian rape victims were being sentenced to death, raped again, and swiftly hanged.