By Amil Imani
Never mind the mythical angels of religion and poetry. Meet a living angel in flesh, Nazanin Afshin-Jam. Many of you may not know that we have a hero in our midst. Many of you may not know that this individual, singlehandedly, has done more for her compatriots, as well as for other people of our planet, than most of us together. This dazzling beauty, both inside and outside, has dedicated her life to the good ofhumanity.
We are honoring Nazanin Afshin-Jam for her tireless efforts to shed light into the shadowy corners of conflict, to expose and end the abuses that ruin the lives of so many children in Iran. Her work exemplifies the ideals of the human rights movement: "courage, an unswerving commitment to justice and a genuine concern for the rights of all victims."
Unquestionably, this young talented Iranian born Canadian citizen has been a role model and has earned our respect, not only among most Iranians around the world, but in many other countries where she has visited and spoken about Human rights issues. She has the determination of unquestionable integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others and willingness to help wherever the help is needed. She is a courageous human rights activist, who is exposing horrific crimes about child executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She has helped several key cases of Iranian refugees who were going to be deported back to Iran and likely face severe persecution.
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, this dazzling gem of Iran, has a huge mission in life. As good a human being as she is and almost unnervingly nice, she is relentlessly positive, a one-person cheering section of smiles. She has elevated what it means to be an Iranian and what it means to be a child of Cyrus the Great.
Nazanin is an international human rights activist, singer/songwriter, actor, model and former Miss World Canada. After being crowned "Miss Canada." Nazanin went on to become the First Runner-Up for "Miss World 2003." She was runner-up to Miss Ireland, Rosanna Davison. She is also co-founder of the "Stop Child Executions" organization whose aim it is to try and put a permanent end to executions of minors in Iran and abroad who are currently on death row. She has produced short documentaries, connected lawyers working pro-bono to children on death row who do not have access to proper attorneys. She is constantly informing the UN, individual governments and NGOs including Amnesty International on urgent cases of children facing execution.
"Prosperity and progress can only flourish when our human rights are a priority, where democracy and freedom of choice take precedence," says Nazanin
Nazanin learned at an early age of the threat people face when their human rights are ignored and abused. This Persian star was born in Tehran in 1979 at the height of the so called Islamic revolution and a year later her family was forced to flee after her non-political father was arrested and tortured at the hands of the fundamentalists. Growing up in Canada after escaping an uncertain future in Iran, Nazanin knew not to take her freedom and good fortune for granted. Her conscience would not allow her to forget those who live in fear every day, in any country where people's basic human rights are violated.
Nazanin is also a pilot and is licensed to fly both powered aircraft and gliders and is a Squadron Commander Royal Canadian Air Cadets, holding the rank of Warrant Officer 1st class. She is fluent in three languages: Persian, English, French and also conversational Spanish.
However, her true passion is human rights. Nazanin was instrumental in saving another Nazanin (Nazanin Fatehi) in Iran. Nazanin Fatehi was sentenced to hanging for defending herself and her 15-year-old niece by stabbing one of three men who tried to rape her and her niece in Karaj in March 2005.
In the lawless jungle of the Islamic Republic, they rushed to condemn her to death rather than the assailants or the rapists. She initiated a yearlong campaign to save the life of a 17-year-old girl in Iran who faced execution by hanging for having stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her. The Save Nazanin petition collected 350, 000 signatures worldwide.
She went on tours around the globe, speaking in Stockholm, Brussels, Gothenburg and Frankfurt regarding Fatehi. She organized the creation of a documentary to raise awareness on Fatehi's plight and created a website http://www.helpnazanin.com/ informing the public with news and of how to help. She helped raise the required $43,000 bail to release Nazanin Fatehi from prison.
She spoke around the world, brought much needed attention in the United Nations and finally her arduous task bears fruit. After more than two years in jail, Nazanin Fatehi was eventually released on bail on January 31, 2007. That was a joyous moment for her and an astonishing victory for all people. Nazanin Afshin-Jam's efforts led her to create the "stop child executions" organization.
"Some people give up in pursuing their goal when they have almost reached their destiny while others, on the contrary, vigorously go after the victory by hook or by crook. I will never forget that moment when she was released from prison," says Nazanin.
Nazanin continues to address human rights abuses worldwide, in China, Burma, Darfur and other countries with tyrannical regimes and particular in relation to women and children in Iran and the Middle East. She has given speeches at the UN, EU, UK, Canadian Parliament, numerous universities and conferences with media features on CNN, BBC, CBC, FOX, Al Jazeera TV,Persian Voice of America and print stories in Glamour, Seventeen, Chatelaine, Flare, Vanity Fair magazine and newspapers worldwide.
She has received the Global Citizenship Award from the President of the University of British Columbia and the Alumni Association. She also received a "Hero Award for Human Rights" on Friday August 25, 2007 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on the case of Nazanin Fatehi. She appeared as a guest speaker at an Amnesty International conference in Berlin a couple of years ago regarding the executions of minors in Iran. She was the guest of Honor and speaker for OnCor ‘s 10-day charity fund-raising event benefiting the Dangriga HIV/Aids Society (Belize).
Nazanin's battle against child executions continues with the goal of halting the practice in Iran and in the handful of other countries where it still continues. Regarding "child execution" organization, she can use any help from any one who is concerned about the execution of children and minors. Thus far, she has managed to save many human lives.
On September 11, 2008, Nazanin sent out a press release stating, "The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will have to get past the Ahmadinejad Wall of Shame, a visual display and demonstration across the United Nations Headquarters- before entering the opening of the "General Assembly."
"While the UN legitimizes Ahmadinejad as the leader of Iran by having the door open to him at the General Assembly, the Iranian people feel betrayed by the false representation. In the face of the West's obsession with Iran's nuclear development, the voices of the Iranian people have been stifled and human rights abuses have been overshadowed. This Wall of Shame demonstration is hoping to give a voice to the voiceless and address the concerns of the vast majority of Iranian people who believe in a united, secular, democratic Iran based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and no military intervention on Iran," said Nazanin.
Nazanin is a person of conscience and integrity. Her tireless passion for saving human lives is a guide to all of us who aspire to better the world around us by our commitment to truth. Her professionalism and manners combined with her enormous humanity and cheerful eyes, on the camera and off the camera, are impeccable. She is the true daughter of Persia and represents all decent Iranian women.
"Life is precious. Life has ebbs and flows. Some days the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you feel like you are on top of the world. Other days, you feel like you are being dragged into a black hole and don't know if you will ever find your way out of the vortex. Thankfully, my faith is strong and I know we are never given more than we can handle," says Nazanin.
"Life's experiences have taught me that everything happens for a reason and thankfully, we as human beings are resilient. Not only does the sky crack open with sunshine after a thunderstorm, but often a rainbow graces the skies as well. It is often after the most challenging moments in our lives that we grow stronger and reach a higher level of consciousness, either at the personal level or at the universal level," says Nazanin.
Nazanin continues, "The experiences in life have taught me that things were bound to get better at some point. It won't be an uphill battle forever and that's important to know, because it's hard to go through life thinking that it's going to be year after year of uphill battles. Life flows and changes and nothing stays the same. Perhaps everything happens, for a reason and that we only have to pay attention to what comes to us."
As Nazanin is contemplating the new life upon which she has entered, she thinks of the past and how those dark roads she traveled have given her the strength needed to do more. She is on a mission to break all the boundaries. Our Human Rights Activist is very passionate, extremely optimistic, honest, and believes in what she says and does. "The past is the past. I'm only interested in looking into a brighter future," she says.
"I believe in the pursuit of peace, love, and a spiritual understanding of divinity which, in the end, will allow us to truly feel happy and in harmony. Once you have experienced true happiness, it is only natural to want to share that feeling with others so that they may feel the same. Our only responsibility on this earth is to extend all the love in our hearts to those around us. We are all human. Every single human and animal life is precious and has meaning and we must do everything in our capacity to preserve it."
Many people have been inspired by Nazanin's determination. Her work sends a powerful message that governments and armed groups should end their barbaric abuses and respect the rights of all human beings and especially the children.
"The Islamic Republic in Iran has long been no respecter of human rights, judging from their track records. For example, look at what is happening to members of the Baha'i faith in Iran. Just a few weeks ago the Islamic government publicly announced that if Baha'is are caught gathering together for the purpose of sharing their faith, they will be arrested. They have publicly called for the eradication of Baha'is in Iran. What do we call that? Isn't that genocide?" she says.
Nazanin left us with a beautiful quote: "The physical beauty of youth will someday fade. But, the beauty of the spirit within, when nurtured, can grow forever."