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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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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