Eugene Cho

the beautiful story of ameneh bahrami

Have you read the story of story of Ameneh Bahrami? If you haven’t, drop whatever you’re doing and read this…and share it.

Whatever word or words one uses, I’m reminded of the word –

beautiful.

Ameneh Bahrami is an Iranian woman who demonstrated to the world the power and beauty of Forgiveness and Grace over Retribution and Law.

She had every right (and law) to exact justice and retribution on a man who robbed her of her beauty by hurling acid on her face some years ago and she decided….not to.

An Iranian woman blinded and disfigured by a man who threw acid into her face stood above her attacker Sunday in a hospital operating room as a doctor was about to put several drops of acid in one of his eyes in court-ordered retribution.

The man waited on his knees and wept.

“What do you want to do now?” the doctor asked the 34-year-old woman, whose own face was severely disfigured in the 2004 attack.

“I forgave him, I forgave him,” she responded, asking the doctor to spare him at the last minute in a dramatic scene broadcast on Iran’s state television.

Who amongst us?

Who in the world would have blamed her for wanting retribution? Who amongst us?

I certainly wouldn’t have. As I’ve written before, the “throwing of acid” on the faces of women is an action of cruelty, sickness, and  cowardice. And it continues to happen. It contributes to the oldest injustice in human history: the way men treat women.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” story and photographs about the most dangerous countries for women.

In this case, this man, Majid Movahedi, robbed Ameneh of her physical beauty and altered her life forevermore by hurling acid on her face. But Ameneh has shown the world true beauty.

True beauty indeed. Forgiveness and grace > Hatred and Retribution.

Ameneh’s story reminds me of the quote from Gandhi who once shared:

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

May we all live with hope, beauty, and courage.

I’m thankful for Ameneh. I’m thankful for the stories of others like Curtis Jackson – a homeless man that rescued a down-and-out banker named Sandy (and her kid) from homelessness.

I’m thankful for these stories because they remind us that we are capable of living in the way of Shalom.

You are able. I am able.

Ameneh has shown us. Curtis has shown. Jesus has shown.

“Go and do likewise…”

————————–

Here’s the full story via USA Today:

An Iranian woman blinded and disfigured by a man who threw acid into her face stood above her attacker Sunday in a hospital operating room as a doctor was about to put several drops of acid in one of his eyes in court-ordered retribution.

The man waited on his knees and wept.

“What do you want to do now?” the doctor asked the 34-year-old woman, whose own face was severely disfigured in the 2004 attack.

“I forgave him, I forgave him,” she responded, asking the doctor to spare him at the last minute in a dramatic scene broadcast on Iran’s state television.

Ameneh Bahrami lost her sight and suffered horrific burns to her face, scalp and body in the attack, carried out by a man who was angered that she refused his marriage proposal.

“It is best to pardon when you are in a position of power,” Bahrami said in explaining her decision Sunday to spare him.

The sobbing man, Majid Movahedi, said Bahrami was “very generous.”

It was a change of heart from around the time when the court handed down the sentence in November 2008. A few months later, Bahrami told a radio station in Spain, where she traveled for medical treatment after the attack, that she was happy with the ruling.

“I am not doing this out of revenge, but rather so that the suffering I went through is not repeated,” she said in that March 2009 interview.

The court ruling had allowed Bahrami to have a doctor pour a few drops of the corrosive chemical in one of Movahedi’s eyes as retribution based on the Islamic law system of “qisas,” or eye-for-an-eye retribution.

Though she was blinded in both eyes, she said in the radio interview that the court ruled she was entitled to blind him in only one eye.

After undergoing treatment in Barcelona, Bahrami initially recovered 40% of the vision in one eye, but she later lost all her sight.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said Movahedi would remain in jail until a court decides on an alternative punishment, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency.

He said Bahrami has sought financial compensation from her attacker for the cost of treating her injuries.

There have been several other acid attacks on women in Iran. Last week, a young woman died after a man poured acid on her face for rejecting his marriage proposal. Her attacker remains at large.

Amnesty International criticized the Iranian law that allows victims of such attacks to deliberately blind the assailants under medical supervision.

In a statement Sunday, the rights group said the practice was a cruel punishment that amounts to torture.

“The Iranian authorities should review the penal code as a matter of urgency to ensure those who cause intentional serious physical harm, like acid attacks, receive an appropriate punishment — but that must never be a penalty which in itself constitutes torture,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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14 Responses

  1. Rebekah says:

    Thanks Eugene for sharing this.

    There’s so much to think about here.

  2. Debbie says:

    What an amazing story, I’m humbled just reading it. Thanks you. Go and do likewise… you’re right.

  3. g says:

    Pretty incredible story.

    If it were my daughter, I’d probably be the first one in line shouting for the doctor to dump the acid in his eye and all over his face… leaving one eye unharmed so he had to suffer the looks of horror from others for the rest of his life as payment for the horrific thing he dead. Terrible, I know…

    Thankfully, this strong woman has more grace and mercy than I. God bless her.

  4. Al Shaw says:

    I don’t want in any way to undermine the point you’re making – about the radical and powerful nature of genuine forgiveness, but….there is a back story here.

    It is not unusual in Iranian law for a severe sentence to be commuted at the last minute. This has happened several times, for instance, with Christians arrested and charged with apostacy, who have been sentenced to death but then spared at the last minute.

    Furthermore, the BBC today quotes the Tehran public prosecuter as saying that Ms Bahrami is currently seeking financial compensation for her injuries from the family of the offender, although it is claimed that this will only cover the medical bills incurred so far – about $216,000.

    We should perhaps also not ignore the role of broader geo-political factors, on the day that the trial of US citizens Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal concluded in Tehran, accused of spying and illegal entry into Iran. Their sentence will be communicated in seven days time.

    The timing of this announcement, at the start of Ramadhan, is also suggestive of a wider story and interpretation.

    The fact is that we do not know fully what has motivated the victim of this horrific attack, Ms Bahrami, to request a commuting of the sentence in this way. But, until genuine freedoms of the press and of speech are fully established in Iran, victims of such outrages will remain vulnerable to manipulation and coercian by the powers that be.

    Which is not to say that genuine forgiveness is not a beautiful thing, of course…..

  5. Thanks Eugene – intense story. Thanks also for the backstory Al, put it into perspective even more.

  6. Bill B says:

    Yes, I read this story and I couldn’t help but think that this woman was ‘Jesus’ to the man who harmed her. Though this woman may not call herself a christian, who can deny that she did what Jesus would have done?

  7. steve o says:

    Steve O says, All followers of Christ know that an -eye-for- an- eye law was done away with centuries ago. No true Christian ought to be surprised by Behrami’s action. Let us pray that the world will seek the Light and live in its glow… always. Thanks Eugene

  8. Maliha says:

    No. In Islam it is either forgiveness in the form of blood money or eye for eye.

    This is aLLAH’S injunction as per Quran and rightly so, no Amnesty is powerful to challenge the holy statutes.

    He should have been blinded in both the eyes.

    But Allah has chosen not to make him suffer in this life, so He would cast retribution in the next.

    I urge Iranians to make it incumbent to punish or penalize with a similar chastisement that the pain bearer suffers.

    The woman’s life is gone but the living process is still going on…

  9. sechung says:

    its really hard to take a such decision on the time…, but such impressive noble work she did… she gave a new life to the man who makes her life miserable.., i am dam sure that the man will die every day by his own guilty…, love u…,

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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

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PS: Also, it helps to get some Vitamin D especially if you live in the rainy Northwest Thank you, Brooklyn, for the reminder. Umm, @jlin7 is a Christian but he wasn't very Christlike with me on the basketball court. He muscled me into the paint, dunked on me, mentioned my momma, and then said, "Stick with preaching." Just kidding. Kind of.

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

This is not a misprint.
200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
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