2009: Delara Darabi, “Oh mother, I can see the noose”

On this date last year, Delara Darabi placed a frantic phone call to her parents from Central Prison in Rasht.

Oh mother, I see the hangman’s noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me.

A guard snatched the phone away and hung up with a taunt — “We are going to execute your daughter and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

And they did just that, as Darabi’s parents raced in vain to the prison.

Darabi was condemned for killing (with her boyfriend) her father’s cousin, a crime to which she confessed allegedly because, as a 17-year-old, she thought she could protect said boyfriend without risk of execution herself.

That worked out much better for the boyfriend (who is serving a prison sentence) than for Delara.

And by the time she repudiated the confession, the Iranian judiciary wasn’t interested.

As a minor under sentence of death — Iran is virtually the last redoubt of juvenile executions in the world — Darabi’s case attracted global attention; she became a cause celebre with the international exhibition of her artwork under the branding “Prisoner of Color”.

Do you know what the prisoner of colors mean? It means that when I was four, I had broken down my life by colors; at 17, I lost them. I mistook deep Red for blue lapis. Instead of sky blue, I painted gray. I lost the colors and now the only silhouette I see everyday is the [prison] wall. I am Delara Darabi, 20 years of age, accused of murder, sentenced to death; it has been 3 years that I defend myself with colors, shapes and words … These paintings are an oath to an uncommitted crime … would that colors were to bring me back to life again. I send you who have come to see my paintings, greetings from behind these walls.

Some other Darabi works can be seen in this Flickr set or on this YouTube tribute.

Darabi’s execution had been reported as imminent earlier in April 2009, but she won a two-month stay from the Head of the Judiciary on April 19.

The hanging this date shocked her supporters; it was apparently conducted in defiance of that stay, and without any notice to her attorney or her family — other than that hopeless last-minute phone call. Amnesty International denounced the execution as “a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi’s life.”

This news broke first on Twitter at the now-dormant @DelaraDarabi account.

On this day..