Can I save him?

Ali Mahin Torabi’s story should shock and awaken


Can I save him?
by Azarin Sadegh

I wrote this essay about Ali Mahin Torabi, who is going to be executed for a crime that he has allegedly committed when he was only 16 years old. 


Last month I wrote about Sina, an 18-year-old boy in Iran who was going to be executed. Sina’s story had a happy ending. His last wish was to play his beloved instrument, Nay, for the last time. When he did, the magical sound of his music softened the heart of the victim’s family, and they forgave him.

When I heard Sina’s story for the first time, I wondered about another innocent condemned to death who lacks Sina’s talents in music. Was he going to die? What does it mean if an accused person cannot rely on the justice system, if instead, as lonely as it sounds, his only hope is the extent of his own limited abilities? What if the accused is sixteen years old and doesn’t play Nay?

This is the true story of this man:

Today my friend in Iran called me. She told me about the imminent execution of Ali Mahin Torabi, her nephew. He’s 21 years old, and he has been declared guilty of a murder he hasn’t committed. He has spent the last five years of his life—since he was 16 years old--in a prison, waiting for his execution. After his arrest, if Ali hadn’t protected his friends by taking the blame, or if he had a rich family, or if his father had better connections, and if there was a true justice system in Iran based on the Justice and the Truth, maybe he wouldn’t have been where he is now. Still during these five years in prison, Ali studied hard to get his high school diploma and now he has also the responsibility of their library’s computer systems.

He is still full of life and hope but my friend sounded so desperate.

She asked me to help Ali.

I write this with that task weighing heavily upon my shoulders. Where to begin?

I searched the Internet and was stunned to learn there are at least another 80 children in the same situation as Ali—young people waiting to be executed for crimes they allegedly committed when they were minors. One on this sinister list is a 13-year-old girl.

I stare in horror at the images on the internet of countless public hangings. In the crowds watching this vision of horror, stand children, and all I can think about is what lessons they are learning. They stare at the soulless eyes of an alleged criminal, the one who will, in just one second, become a victim. Then I find another image: a hanged woman in black chador dancing in the air; the figure is imposing and sinister, and isolated. It’s as if this picture belongs to another place, another race, another dimension. It’s as if time has stopped, and all humanity is linked through one hanged woman’s despair.

My mind drifts.

No, I think. I don’t need to look at this image. I don’t need to write this nightmare. Why should I write such a story? This is a vision I don’t want to see. These are words I don’t want to read. There is this crushing silence I don’t want to break.

I think: There is this truth I don’t dare defy.

The weight on my shoulders grows heavier....still more.

Should I contact humanitarian organizations? Should I send letters and emails? Should I make phone calls?

What can I actually achieve?

I am not in Iran. I am not a lawyer. I have no important connections. I am nobody. What can I do other than write about Ali who sits awaiting execution for a crime he did not commit, who has sat there, among so many others, for so many years?

How am I supposed to tell his story?

This story should stab, Kafka wrote.

That means Ali’s story should shock and awaken. That means I should dream about it, over and over and over again. That means I should change and change again my wording to hone the piece until it is pure perfection. That means I should fall asleep every night repeating this same story, to find the exact place of each word in the flow of my narration. Each word has to be where it should be. My story must reveal the randomness of this cruelty, and I must mention hope, and yes, even love. I know I have to please all those who read it and move those who have never cared—not for innocents hanged, not for young men and women in Iran, not for others. I know I must convey impossible empathy, and I must do this only with my words and even through the blank gaps between words. I must push you, my reader, to read on and at the same time make the reading of Ali’s fate harder and harder to bear. So you will suffer alongside Ali who sits alone in his cell, imagining a rope, imagining a hand, imagining the void beneath his feet - for the one millionth time.

It is how, all of us, we will never leave this moment, this moment of a man’s tangible sorrow.

It is how we will share his futureless existence; we will believe his beliefs and we will sink in the pool of his despair. We are going to belong to that place, to that hanging place, where we will turn into Ali.

But maybe for once, only this time, we will not shut our mouths out of fright. For once, we will be united - no matter where we come from, and we will shout and scream: “Stop it. Stop the execution of Ali. Stop the execution of children in Iran.”

But? How? How do I begin to tell this story?

How is it going to end?

How will my writing save Ali?

Please visit to read more about children facing execution and to sign a petition.


Recently by Azarin SadeghCommentsDate
Life Across The Sun
Jun 11, 2012
The Enemies Of Happiness
Oct 03, 2011
Final Blast At the Hammer
Jul 18, 2011
more from Azarin Sadegh

Too much attention to style and not enough on the subject

by Mersedeh on

I commend you for shedding light on this devastating story, but I think you really have spent all these words on "how do I...?" instead of "..Just tell the kid's story". I think there is a time and place for this type of writing, but in the case of someone waiting for execution, the most compelling thing to write about is the cold truth, instead of run on sentences of how this is all making you feel. You definitely caught my attention, but you also lost it because I searched and searched for a point that never came as strongly as it should and sounded more like an overwhelmed confused complaint. The focus should have been less on how you feel and more about what is going on with this kid, minute by minute, day by day. That ALONE is emotionally charged enough that we can all feel it, without someone describing how they are "feeling" to give us a guide of what we should be feeling. This piece was really awkward!

SCE Campaign

Violation of UN articles by Islamic Republic

by SCE Campaign on

Dear Mehdi

UN article 37 DOES apply. Please read again.

"[No] capital punishment... shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" 

Executing after they turn 18 is still against UN article as it say capital punishment (AT ANY AGE) can not be applied FOR offences COMMITTED below eighteen years of age.

If the child (under 18) commits a crime, s/he can not be executed even if the government waits till s/he is 50. What matters is s/he was a child when this happend.

Additionally Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) declares: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age” 

Also as it has been recorded again and again , some on the execution row are/were innocent such as Nazanin Fatehi (freed), or Atefeh Salehi (executed)  

Stop Child Executions Campaign  (

Sheila K

Irani haa khailie baa aftefan!

by Sheila K on

Why do you suppose children are executed, tortured, and used as beggers or prostitutes in Iran (or countries alike)? Why do women suffer so much pain and treated as second class citizens? I think it's all about the collective consciousness of people. We would not have had such degree of empathy toward human rights violation in Iran, if we never traveled or lived abroad. Many fellow Iranians claim we are so "baa aatefeh." That's a joke! WE are collectively harsh and apathetic toward each other. How could people tolerate a law that considers woman to be half of a man? Cause they collectively and consciously believe in it. We are not exactly kind people are we?


To Sohbel - Despite my pressed time for Eftaree

by Ayatollah Mehdi Ghomi (not verified) on

Thousands of Iranians with enthusiasm, cheers and energy pack their cell phones, take their cameras, dress up, put cologne on and take the family to watch kids being hung.

You think it is just the government that is bad? A nation is swimming in cultural sweage.

Think about all those kids that did not kill or steal but they were excecuted because they listend to Parviz Rajavi, I feel sorry for them.

Shooting from the heap is easy, At least I suggest to create a fund for him in case he lost the backgammon, what did you offer?

Alla masale al mohammad va aleh mohamaad, takbir

Have you heard: Az maast keh bar maast. We did not listen to our parents and here is the result...


The state-run newspaper Qods

by Anonymous@ (not verified) on

The state-run newspaper Qods reported that a mother of three is sentenced to stoning. Reportedly, the evidence is video tapes of her having sex with another person [Persian].

We have to stop this! Spread the news and send the link in the comment section. We have to stop this.

Do we want this to happen again (Very Graphic)?



re: "Correct me if I'm Wrong" and Mehdi Ghomi

by Sohbell (not verified) on

Anonymous, regarding your concern about Ms. Ebade's lack of involvement and action with this case: I think we need to realize that she is one person and putting an entire nation's voice in the hands of a single Iranian is at the core of these problems, allowing them to slip under the radar. It's solidarity that will help save Ali. Exploring every possible avenue and bringing a community together can abolish this injustice, as Ms. Sadegh has begun to do. Ebade does have a responsibility, but why wait for someone else to speak up, when you have the power of words and knowledge!

Regarding Mehdi Ghomi's comment: Having to "impress a crowd" for freedom is despicable - I hope this is a mockery of the system and not your inability to feel emotion and understand the corruption that infects the Iranian judicial system and its bureaucrats.


Poor Children

by Ahamadi (not verified) on

Poor defenless children of Iran!

Azarin Sadegh

The 13 years old girl in death row is freed

by Azarin Sadegh on

Through SCE blog page, I just found out that this 13 years old girl is finally free after 18 years. These lines just broke my heart:

"...17 years later, she has lost her teeth, takes strong antidepressant medications, been under surgery a few times and her hand shakes at the age of 30. She talks about her childhood that how her poor parents in return for a sack of rice sent her to serve at the "Doctor's" home and how at the age of 13 she was sentenced to death for the murder that she did not commit..." 


Please read this paragraph again if you don't feel outraged.




There should be no place

by An Iran watcher in Tokyo (not verified) on

There should be no place anywhere in the world for judicial killing, and particularly not for crimes committed by children.

Unfortunately, however, Japan cannot be counted among the enlightened countries that have banned capital punishment.


Executions are barbaric and have no place in the modern world

by The Fair Judge (not verified) on

No matter what crime has been committed, in today's modern world all executions should be banned. Exections are a measure of civility in societies and banning them will encourage greater respect for human rights throughout the world. And all those who still believe in taking a human life, because they have judged the actions of the criminal to necessitate it, should ask themselves soul searchimg questions. It is not for us humans to take human lives and if you think that the death penalty reduces crime, .....well then think of the US and Iran for that matter. The crime rates in those countries are far higher than those of Japan and the European countries where the death penalty is banned. People don't commit crimes thinking that if they are caught they will die, or get life imprisonment. They just don't think they will get caught in the first place.
The causes of crimes should be dealt with and the death penalty has proven to be an ineffective deterent.
It is high time to make a concerted and organised attempt to persuade others that the death penalty is wrong and it should be banned worldwide. Especially in our beloved home land of Iran which has the dubious honour of being one of the worst offenders in the world.
Am I the only one who feels so strongly about this issue?? And how can we convince others in the world, including the gov. in Iran to ban executions??
Does anyone have a radical idea??
I would like to hear from you.
The Fair Judge


The more we know the better we can defend the case

by Ayatollah Temsaheh Yazdi (not verified) on

Khanom Sadgeh,
I can understand your point. however, there are lots of influential Iranians speread all over the world. We are trained not to judge things by one article, one picture and one piece of information.

Iran's judicial system functions under the Islamic law (Sharia) that completely disregards tenets of the UN as well as Western law let alone the jokeers at the Amnesty International who are nothing more than part of rightist establishments. In Shaira, You are suspected as guilty until you prove otherwise. Witnesses play more important part than circumistantial evidences. Based on the Jezieh law perhaps by knowing more about the case we can establish a fund for the family of the deceased to accept it for leniancy in his sentence.

If we want to help this poor juvenile we need to have complete hackground information. He might be bipolar patient or a person suffering from many ailments. The more we know the better we can approach the problem.

There are criminals in other countries that are put in solitary juvenile prisons because they are extremely dangerous. Ali needs to spread his case wide open to all people around the world. So that the right persons give advice. Shirin Ebade is too busy with Palestenian cause and she is also taking Italian Culinary Art classes in the evening so she has no time left for Ali.

You don't need to disclose anymore but to defend his rights against the IRI one would need a very strong defensse team as well as publicity.

Best Regards,
Ghom, Iran


Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

by Mehdi (not verified) on

Doesn't matter what the earticle says. It does not count and won't apply. They keep them in jail until their are 18+ and then they execute them as adults. This way they avoid the shit hitting the fan. In reality, they don't care unless they get international focus and pressure on the case!


Are you kidding?

by Parsua (not verified) on

I really don't believe in her. I think she is one of them!

Darius Kadivar

Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

by Darius Kadivar on

Child executions violate international law

"[No] capital punishment... shall be imposed for offences committed bypersons below eighteen years of age"

Article 37(a) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Azarin Sadegh

to Ayatollah Mehdi Ghomi

by Azarin Sadegh on


I am not sure if knowing the details of the case is going to change anyone’s mind. Does it really matter as long as it happened when Ali was only 16 years old?

Actually I didn't give more details about the crime on purpose and by the request of Ali's family. I really don't want to mess up his case. My main goal is to inform other Iranians about Ali and his ordeal.  I have already contacted Amnesty International, Human rights Watch and Stop Children executions organizations to help him through their attorneys. I think Ali has been also contacted by Shirin Ebadi’s Law firm.

I wrote this essay because it was all I could do. But I hope we could feel uncomfortable enough as a community and we could brainstorm together to find a better way to help Ali and saving him from this unfair death.

That’s all.



Correct me if i am wrong,

by Anonymous34343 (not verified) on

Correct me if i am wrong, because i do not follow every lawyer's case load, but don't we have a famous lawyer living in Iran? I think she won a NOBEL prize.

I would contact khanume Shirin Ebadi. I would make a big stink about how she needs to pay attention to this case. There was a man who was sangsared in Ghazvin some time ago too. I would've expected more from our Shirin Ebadi.

Can she change things? probably not. But her name is internationally recognized. I would expect her to give a voice to those who don't have one. Such as the kid in this article!

Didn't our IRI president visit the USA resently? Why didn't she show up? She could've flown to New York. I am sure she could've arranged some interviews and speeches for the international community. While Ahmadinejad was being ridiculed instead of quetionned, she could've shed some light on the injustices in Iran!


we need more background on the actual crime not your feelings

by Ayatollah Mehdi Ghomi (not verified) on

you should give us the detail of the cirme, the reason for conviction, his defense and etc. you put too much emphais on your own emotion, we are not saving you from your anguish we want in "bacheh" to be freed.

Please give a link or detail on the crime itself.

Plus, if he doesn't play flute perhaps he can play a good set of backgammon or perhaps do a magic act with a deck of card or something to impress the see what I mean?