A Jew Sentenced to Death Under Iranian Sharia Law


By Marziyeh Amirizadeh

Recently, the story of a Jewish Iranian man, Arvin Netanel, has been in the news around the world. Arvin is in his early 20s and was sentenced to death for killing a Muslim man, Amir Shokri, in a brawl two years ago. Apparently, Arvin loaned money to Amir who refused to pay it back. When Arvin confronted him, Amir attacked him with a knife. In self-defense, Arvin killed Amir.

According to the Islamic law if a non-Muslim kills a Muslim, Qisas, (retaliation) “an eye for an eye” can be applied. But if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, the law does not apply and there will be no death penalty.

Iran’s judicial system is systemically corrupt, and always favors Muslim men. It does not care about the lives of minorities, prioritizing the rights of Muslims over Jews, Christians, Baha’is and other religious and ethnic minorities. And men over women.

Unfortunately, I know more than I would ever want to know about the evil abuse of radical Islamic laws. I was born in Iran and, as a young woman, became a Christian.

Iranian Islamic law considers conversion to Christianity “apostacy,” a “crime” that carries the death penalty. I was arrested and sentenced to death and held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for nine months in 2009. During this period, other than suffering personally, I witnessed the execution of many friends and cellmates.

One case of “Islamic justice” was the execution of one of my cellmates, Zeynab Nazarzadeh, who was held in prison for three years because she killed her husband in self-defense.

In addition to persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, the lives of women under Islam are secondary to men, where misogyny is the rule. Women endure years of abuses and risk being beaten by any male in their family with no right of self-defense.

They also have no right to defend from or kill their rapists. This was the case of Ryhaneh Jabbari who was executed for killing her rapist in self-defense. I met her in prison too.

One of my closest friends, Shirin Alamhouli was hanged on May 9, 2010, after enduring years of unspeakable torture. She was a brave, beautiful Kurdish woman. Until the day she was executed, she was not aware of her official sentence because she never received an official letter notifying her. When they called her to go the prison office under a false pretense, nobody thought she had been summoned for execution.

Today, when I hear the Islamic call to prayer, Adhan, it triggers me to relive these dark days and often brings me to tears, as I am now in the case of Arvin Netanel, because following an execution this would be broadcast for all to hear, to instill fear in all the prisoners. They glorify Allah after executing prisoners.

Jews around the world have reportedly raised over $1.5 million to give to Amir’s family, basically as a legal bribe in Islam, to turn Arvin’s death sentence to life in prison. So far, it seems Amir’s family has not agreed. If they wanted to, the Islamic judiciary system could influence Amir’s family to change the verdict and spare Arvin’s life, albeit dooming him to an unbearable future in Iranian prison where he will be persecuted as a Jew.

In my case, two prosecutors issued indictments for my execution and petitioned the court for the final decision. For the duration of my imprisonment, the prosecutors offered that if I would just renounce my Christian faith, the death sentence would be waived.

Of course I refused, both because of my faith, and knowing that the Islamic judiciary could execute me at any time anyway. Even when I was released, they made it clear that my life was not safe. If not for international pressure, as high up as the Pope and other Christian ministries, I could have been executed on any date, without any warning. That’s how I lived as a Christian in prison. Arvin is no doubt suffering the same.

How effective international pressure will be on his case, at this time, with a transition politically, remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, Arvin does not have the ability to renounce anything and save his life. His first crime is that he is a Jew. They can execute Arvin without any warning. This is the system of the Islamic regime which thrives on executing citizens to instill fear in others.

Sadly, I suspect the evil Islamic regime would enjoy executing Arvin even more. The ayatollahs believe in the annihilation of Israel and extermination of all Jews. Therefore, killing one innocent Jew would only be a drop in the bucket to quench their thirst for the blood of all Jews.

Given the dire economic situation in Iran, even if Amir’s family wanted to spare Arvin’s life by accepting the money, I believe the regime would not allow it. It is very suspicious that Amir’s family refused that huge sum of money.

There is a possibility that they have been threatened by the regime not to spare Arvin’s life under any circumstances. That way the regime can kill Arvin without any international blame. They can tell the world that Amir’s family did not forgive Arvin and according to “Islamic law,” they could not do anything else, and instill fear in the Jewish community and among other minorities.

This is similar to “honor killings” that the Islamic regime encourages, enabling male relatives to kill women family members for disobeying strict Islamic laws. That way the regime escapes any international blame for executing or punishing women for disobeying men and their Islamic rules.

In my case, my brother was even told by an Imam that he should kill me for becoming a Christian, and that my brother would face no penalties.

I pray for a miracle in Arvin’s case, and hope that international pressure prevents him from being executed for the “crime” of self-defense and being a Jew. I hope and pray that God brings true justice against the ayatollahs, overthrowing this evil regime soon, and save the life of many innocent Iranians who have no voice.

Marziyeh Amirizadeh is an Iranian American author and activist who immigrated to the U.S. after being sentenced to death in Iran for the crime of converting to Christianity.

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