Kathryn Lopez

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Irish statesman Edmund Burke's words still hold true three centuries later.

Right now, good men and women are doing something crucial: raising their voices in outrage, trying to save the lives of Nazanin Fateh, Malak Ghorbany and many other women just like them.

Fateh, as of this writing, awaits retrial for murder in Iran. Young Nazanin killed a man in self-defense as a group of men attacked and tried to rape her and her niece. During her first trial, she reportedly said: "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help." (Presumably, because this is Iran, where Islamic sharia law rules, had she allowed the men to rape her and/or her niece -- the victims -- could both be facing possible execution as adulterers anyway -- in the name of a perverse conception of honor.)

When I first heard about Nazanin's horrific case, though, I knew that her execution could be thwarted. In 2003, a Nigerian woman named Amina Lawal faced a death sentence after a court convicted her of adultery, but an international coalition fought for her life -- and succeeded. And in this new case, too, good people have stepped up. Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a Canadian model and pop singer (and former Miss World runner-up), refuses to let the issue die and has the attention of celebrities and diplomats. When she heard about her namesake's case, she had the flash that it could have been her, had her own family not fled Iran after her father's torture there at the hands of the same regime. (He was tortured, she tells me, because -- as general manager of a Sheraton -- he allowed "music and mingling between men and women": "He almost died due to his injuries but thank God he is with us today.")

A coalition of folks spanning from my conservative National Review to liberal human-rights groups like Amnesty International have spoken out about Nazanin Fateh's case of self-defense. Most recently, her devoted advocate, Afshin-Jam, has been honored by a group called Artists for Human Rights, with an award presented by actresses Anne Archer and Jenna Elfman.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.