Dates can take on particular significance. The harrowing saga of Reyhaneh Jabbari under Iranian authority cuts to the unfortunate date 07/07/07. The 19 year old Reyhaneh Jabbari stabbed Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi in the back in self-defense. He attempted to rape her. She was put in prison for stabbing a man. He turned out to be a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Reyhaneh Jabbari was promptly imprisoned and all her pleas of protecting herself and of Sarbandi’s own crime were lost on the prison officers. Court proceedings ensued. There might have been hope in the beginning . Eventually Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed as the Iranian court proclaimed her guilty of pre-mediated murder. Even Sarbandi’s family refused her the pardon that would have saved her life. The hanging took place on 25th October 2014. Reyhaneh Jabbari was 26 years old then. Her case was met with huge hue and cry among Human Rights’ watchers around the world and Amnesty International declared that it was a “deeply flawed investigation and trial”.
Religious and authoritarian countries such as Iran have abused human rights systemically. Reyhaneh’s story stands out not only because she was a victim of her political system, but also because her own written accounts from her incarceration are testimony to this endemic brutality. They paint a poignant and vivid picture of a young girl’s turmoil, of her hopes, dreams and subsequent, stoic acceptance of her fate. It is a story that must be heard and must be shown.
The production relies on the voice and the movement of its actors. In successive scenes that build up the narrative, repetition plays a key role. The device is effective but only up to a point. In the initial stages, the repetitive words and the action significantly keep re-creating the episode when Reyhaneh Jabbari is betrayed by Sarbandi and he tries to rape her. As the scene of crime becomes a refrain, the terrible outcome of the episode on Reyhaneh’s condemned future assumes fateful proportions. At the beginning of the play Sarbandi’s son poses the question that will seal Reyhaneh’s fate. The scene when purposefully replayed at the end becomes piercing.
Yet these misgivings seem to diminish in the larger goodness of this humane endeavour that first and foremost pays tribute to Reyhaneh’s spirit .