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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One Day’s Wages

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Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

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Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
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Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

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