7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dad

My son Clint wrote this piece about me on the occasion of my 67th birthday. I was touched and moved by it and am so proud to have a son who is loving and successful.

Michael Watson

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My dad, Mike Watson, turns 67 this week.  Seems like a good occasion to look back and reflect upon some of the “life lessons” my dad taught me.  These are qualities where he is the master and I am his padawan.   If you’re reading this in FineArtViews, the actual birthday has already happened, but no matter, the lessons are timeless.  And if you’re reading this, Dad, Happy Birthday!

1.  Devotion

In my whole life, I’ve never seen two people more devoted to each other than my parents.  You can tell by the way they look at each other that the spark always has been, and always will be there.  They truly are the all-American love story:  My parents were high school sweethearts who lived in (what used to be) a small town.  Dad was a football player.  Mom was a cheerleader. They got married right after college and have lived happily ever after to this day.  They just celebrated 45 years of marriage.  I take inspiration from them in my own marriage, and PJ and I just celebrated our 16th.

2.  Passion

The day my father dropped me off at college he told me to “find something you’re passionate about and do it.”  I think he was trying to tell me that life is about more than school and work, and that it’s really about living.  He was trying to instill a sense of joi de vivre in me, you know La Dolce Vida.  It’s something you can see in his own life when he smiles at my mom, or when he recounts “tall tales” about his escapades while flying airplanes.  Or, if you talk photography with him, I hope you really dig photography because, I assure you, he does.

I’ve never forgotten that one little, but inspirational, moment that we shared while we sat in his car in front of my first apartment. “find something you’re passionate about and do it.”  That’s had a big impact on me.   I have become quite passionate about many things:  my marriage, time with friends, playing guitar, travel, wine, computer programming and tech, art.  In fact, I combined my love of fine art with my passion for computer programming to create FASO.

Turns out “find something you’re passionate about and do it” was pretty great advice.  Thanks Dad.

3.  Fitness

Dad ran triathlons, Mom taught aerobics [1].  On any given weekend, Jennifer (my sister) and I hung out in the back of our Chevy Blazer on Saturday mornings while Mom and/or Dad did a 5K, 10K, triathlon, whatever.  Inevitably, we both started running as well.   I still recall the year we “ran into the new year.”  Which means, you start running at 11:45 and keep going till past the stroke of midnight.  We did a 5K or so that night.  It was probably a tad more fun for the adults though, since, for them (although I didn’t think about it at the time), it really meant “run a 5K while drinking.”  Hmmmm, may have to revisit that idea……

Anyway, I can tell you, now that I’m 43, being fit (and healthy) is extremely important to your quality of life.  It doesn’t seem like it when you’re younger, but since I’ve always worked out and (mostly) eaten well, it’s been a habit for decades.  Now, in my 40s, when I get together with friends who were not ingrained with a sense of fitness, I’m starting to see dramatic differences in our health [2].   Having your health allows you to retain that joi de vivre.  Thanks again, Dad.

4.  Creativity

Creativity was celebrated in our household.  It shocked me to learn from friends that it’s not only not celebrated in some households, but even sometimes discouraged.  My father is the world’s best writer.  Anything he’s ever given me to read has kept me riveted, and often even brought me to tears and, I basically, don’t cry, so that is saying something.  Don’t believe me?  Then go read this.  You will be moved.

Some of my friends were told growing up “it’s not work if you like it” and taught that, in life, everyone has to go to work and nobody likes their jobs, so just deal with it.  I was taught “it’s not work if you like it” with a different twist:  if you can creatively marry your passions into something that finds demand in the market, you’re never actually “working.” because you like your “work.”  That’s worked out pretty well.

That’s great news for artists too!  Even if you sell your art, remember “it’s not work if you like it.”

5.  Love of Science and Technology

My dad and I have both been fascinated with sci-fi/science and technology as long as I can remember.  He might have been a football player in high school, but there’s no doubt that he’s a tech geek like me in his heart.

I recall Dad taking me to Star Trek movies, Star Wars movies, Alien, you name it.  He bought me all kinds of science related toys: a microscope set, a chemistry set, some sort of early circuit making kit, early video games.

But the thing that literally changed everything is this:  In 1981, dad bought me an Atari 800 PC.

That first night, we stayed up for hours typing in programs.  Those early programs were little more than print and if-then statements, but I didn’t care, because it made me realize that I could make the computer do anything.  I just had to learn the commands.  And learn I did.  Most of my friends had the Atari you all remember – the game console.  But my Atari 800, as most early 80’s PCs, booted directly to BASIC….directly to a programming environment.   While my friends were playing PAC-MAN, I was learning to program.  Because, if I wanted that computer to do anything, I had to write the program [3].  On that Atari 800 I wrote the fitness assessment test mentioned in footnote 1, a text adventure game based on greek mythology, basic graphics creation programs.  My algebra teacher assigned us a 4×4 matrix problem which takes tons of time and work to solve by hand, I’m lazy and didn’t want to do all the work by hand, so I wrote a computer program to solve it instead.  I was lucky he gave me good marks because he realized that to write the program, I had to actually understand the manual steps so well that I could translate them into computer code.

I cannot thank my Dad enough for somehow getting a real computer into my house in 1981.  Obviously, looking back in 2012, anyone can now see the value of learning to program, but my dad had the vision to instill that in me 32 years ago.

6.   Humor

Growing up with my dad, was like growing up with Clark Griswold (the Chevy Chase character from the Vacation movies).  No joke:  our family really did go on a driving trip across the country…..in a station wagon……just like the Griswolds, with similar disastrous results.   When we went out to eat, Jennifer and I had to learn not to even look at Dad.  Looking at Dad with food in your mouth was a guaranteed way to spray food all over the table.  He would make funny faces, stick food up his nose, act goofy when the waiter showed up…well you know….think of Clark Griswold.  I remember after one of his triathlons, dad crossed the finished line and looked at me and said “Gee, my legs sure do feel funny!” and then collapsed.  I’m not sure why I thought that was funny but it was.  It was like the biggest understatement of the year.  When we were little kids he would use his creativity (see above) to make up funny stories for us.  I remember, for example, “Oogle” and “Toogle” who lived under my parents bed and apparently ate “Coogle” (some kind of 70’s era peanut butter).

The point is, Dad taught me that there is humor in the small experiences in life and learning to enjoy those moments makes life better!  In fact, I’ve come to believe it’s one of the most important things to appreciate.  That’s why on the rare occasions I share personal experiences on this blog, I don’t share stories of how “awesome Notre Dame was”, but instead, I look for quieter, funnier moment to share, like the time our French innkeeper brought me the “wheefee” or the time our cruise ship butler told me, since I was from Texas, that he expected me to be a large man wearing “orange with horns.”

Thanks Clark…I mean Dad, for making growing up fun.  And teaching us the value of humor!

7.  Reading

I don’t think I can recall a time when my dad was not reading a book.  Of course being a writer and being a reader go together.  At any given time I’d see him reading Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, you name it.  On any given Sunday morning, he’d announce that we were “going to the bookstore.”  Oh my God.  When we were little, it seemed like we would stay there forever.  Jennifer and I would get so bored, but, if you have nothing to do for hours, in a room full of thousands of books, guess what?  You’ll start picking them up and reading them!  And soon we discovered that “going to the bookstore” wasn’t a bad thing, but rather a wonderful thing!

Dad instilled a love of reading in me that persists to this day.  Fiction, non-fiction, business books, sci-fi, fantasy, blogs.  PJ and I love reading so much that we don’t even turn the TV on anymore.  Not because of some moral stance about TV, but because in 2012 the TV programs are much less interesting and the books are more interesting.  The Kindle is a magical device that brings the entire world to you.

Being a reader isn’t just about reading for reading’s sake, however.  It’s really about developing a lifelong yearning to learn.  And one of the easiest ways to learn is to read [4].

8.  Learning

I saved this one for last because it’s really the meta-theme that applies to most of the others:  creativity, science, technology, humor, reading – these qualities sharpened my love of learning.  And that’s what my dad instilled in me: a passion for life, devotion to those I love and a lifelong love of learning.

His life “lessons” have given me an insatiable thirst for knowledge and experiences that make my  life interesting, funny, wonderful and meaningful.  That’s the gift my dad gave to me.  He gave me my life and the tools to make it wonderful.  For that, I am eternally grateful and will always remain his padawan.  Strive for “mastery” in these seven areas in your own life, and you’ll be amazed at the richness life has to offer you.

I love you, Dad.  Happy  Birthday!

Love, Clint

Aging and Raging

. . .put some Willie in my ear that I might hear, yet again, Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

Today the federal government certified me as officially “old”. My medicare card arrived. And, as if that were not enough, my new AARP membership turned up as well. Lucky me…a double dose of “the end is near”. Little wonder then that I have spent this gloomy day considering options.

On the one hand, I have this strange desire to go to the JC Penny’s store and buy plaid Bermuda shorts and long black knee-high socks to wear with my new sandals. Accessories will include a golf hat, new clubs and one of those little electric carts that glide silently up and down long grassy fairways in pursuit of a tiny white ball. And after the golfing, while the shadows grow long, I will eat very early…at a cafeteria somewhere…and go to bed at 8:00 pm…right after the news and weather on cable.

On the other hand, I cannot quit thinking about the poet Dylan Thomas and his now famous exhortations to his aging father:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Thomas’ poem (read all of it below) has become an enduring metaphor for transcending infirmities, resisting death, and milking life for all we can get out of it. That sure as hell sounds better to me than golf and mashed potatoes. Besides, I have always been good at raging—against or for all kinds of causes and things. I’m a good rager (not a word, but you get it) and a good milker too. So I lean naturally toward the Dylan Thomas approach

But there’s another factor that comes into play. You see I don’t really feel old. OK, that’s a white lie. Let me just say I don’t feel old in my mind. But any number of niggling things on or in my body hurt most of the time now. Some joints are stiff. I don’t sleep well. And I take pills for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Moreover, my short term memory is…what was I going to say here? I had it just moment ago.

Well never mind. Just consider this: The body ages, but the intellect and the spirit can remain young, curious, and adventurous. It is just a matter of personal will, mental exercise and deep resolve. Dig for it.

For all of us who are crossing the threshold into what is universally and euphemistically called the “autumn of our years”, there are choices. What will yours be? Mine will be, in the words of the poet, to “burn and rave at the close of day”until the “dying light” fades to black. I will not dwell on the aches, pains and infirmities sure to besiege me, but will stoically ignore them that I might do the following until my last breath is breathed:

Savor and drink in the amazing majesty of the earth and all its teaming, vibrant life. My God, the beauty.

Fight to restore our republic and protect liberty, justice, and the rule of law.

Love family and friends with unfaltering commitment.

Help others in need.

Pursue adventures, music, art, knowledge.

Indulge my boundless epicurean appetite for good food and drink, the good life.

Sing, dance and make music.

And what if that moment comes when I am bedridden with only a finger to wag, one ear that hears, and a still working nose. I will rage on by wagging the one working finger as if to say come here. And someone’s job will be to let me smell a rose with my nose and put some Willie in my ear that I might hear, yet again, “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”

Parting shot. We’re not really old at all; we’re just getting ready to move on to what’s next…if you get my drift.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Old and Dead Warriors

Memorial Day 2007: Are we still a grateful nation?

This Memorial Day the living, as well as the dead, have weighted my soul and torn at my heart. Those who fell in past wars–that the rest of us could live free–and those who now fight in distant, dangerous Iraq, for the same reason, were on my mind constantly and in my prayers every moment of this solemn day. And never more so than during a quietly poignant ceremony held this morning in a small park in the center of a Texas retirement community called Sun City.

I am certain passersby would have noticed only a small gathering of elderly men and women clustered near a white stone wall formally inscribed to remind us of those who paid the ultimate price. As for me, I saw them as old warriors, soft now with paunches and besieged with aches, pains, and bad eyes. But eyes filled with tears as a moment of prayer gave way to the plaintiff notes of Taps played on a lone bugle. “Go to sleep, Go to sleep”.

The sad refrain echoed across the Texas hills and faded quickly to leave only a murmuring breeze and a light drizzle as the few who had gathered stood silent and straight, eyes gazing back to another time, another era. The moment was about remembering. And I found myself wondering who or what they saw; what they heard reaching through the long past years to touch them so profoundly and freeze them in place like so many brittle statues. Oh the stories they must have lived and the tales of valor and selflessness they can tell.

It must be the self-oriented times we live in now that so many Americans will causally ignore a day honoring those extraordinary men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation. It’s hardly on the people’s minds, if it’s given a thought at all between grilling in the backyard, the lake, or the mall. Unless of course, you were there in places like Iwo Jima (WWII), The Chosin Reservoir (Korea), Khe Sanh (South Vietnam), and most recently, the deserts of Iraq and the terror of Baghdad. Then you know. You know because you walked the walk as well as talked the talk. You went, you did your duty, and you came back burdened with memories almost sacred in that they were so good and at once so bad.

But the rest of us? We can only guess at the nature of war, our conceptions (or misconceptions) shaped and amplified by movies like “Band of Brothers”, “A Bridge to Far”, or “Twelve O clock High”. Or maybe we gained a sense of it from our own fathers who never liked to talk about it, but did so on rare occasions. Still, we will never come close to knowing and understanding the nature of the glue that deeply and irrevocably binds men of arms.

Author William Manchester (best known for his three volumes on President John F. Kennedy) fully understood it. He served with the Marine Corps during WWII and participated in the battle for Okinawa in one of the most pivotal battles of the war: the 10 day non-stop fighting to wrest control of Sugar Loaf Hill from an entrenched Japanese force of thousands.

Much later in life he would characterize those fierce days of battle as the “central experience of my youth” and the singular moment that defined the balance of his life. Here is how Manchester described the battlefield experience of a lifetime. It is a graphic, account, but comes as close as anything I have read that may help the rest of us comprehend what warriors do that we may live free. In his own words….

All greenery had vanished; as far as one could see, heavy shell fire had denuded the scene of shrubbery. What was left resembled a cratered moonscape. But the craters were vanishing, because the rain had transformed the earth into a thin porridge—too thin even to dig foxholes. At night you lay on a poncho as a precaution against drowning during the barrages.

All night, every night, shells erupted close to shake the mud beneath you at the rate of five or six a minute. You could hear the cries of the dying but could do nothing. Japanese infiltration was always imminent, so the order of the day was to stay put. Any man who stood up was cut in half by machine guns manned by fellow marines.

By day the mud was hip deep; no vehicles could reach us. As you moved up the slope of the hill, artillery and mortar shells were bursting all around you, and if you were fortunate enough to reach the top, you encountered Japanese defenders, almost face to face, a few feet away. To me, they looked like badly wrapped brown paper parcels someone had soaked in a tub. Their eyes seemed glazed. So, I suppose did ours.

Japanese bayonets were fixed, ours weren’t. We used the knives, or, in my case, a .45 caliber revolver and M1 carbine. The mud beneath our feet was deeply veined with blood. I was slippery. Blood is very slippery. So you skidded around, in deep shock, fighting as best you could until one side outnumbered the other. The outnumbered side would withdraw for reinforcements and then counter attack.

During those ten days I ate half a candy bar. I couldn’t keep anything down. Everyone had dysentery, and this brings up an aspect of war even Robert Graves, Siegfried Sasson, Edmund Blunden, and Ernest Hemingway avoided. If you put more than a quarter million men in a line for three weeks, with no facilities for the disposal of human waste, you are going to confront a disgusting problem. We were fighting and sleeping in one vast cesspool. Mingled with that stench was another—the corrupt and corrupting odor of rotting human flesh.

Manchester left the war a few weeks after Sugar Loaf due to wounds received when a Japanese six inch rocket dropped on his position. A Marine buddy blocked the explosion with his body saving Manchester and leaving him with the indelible image of his friend’s viscera coating his own wounded body with slime and blood. He carried that image along with his friend’s bone slivers and Japanese shrapnel embedded near his heart until his death in 2004. It was the battlefield surgeon’s decision to leave in the bone and steel. Those bone fragments meant more to William Manchester than his medals.

From now on, I may have fun during the first two days of the Memorial Day weekend, but on Memorial Day itself I will always make time to participate in ceremonies remembering the men and women who fought and died in the service of our nation for each and every one of us. I will honor and remember, with somber appreciation, their gallantry while keeping in my torn heart those they left behind. Shouldn’t we all do that?

The Donna Lisa

Donna Lisa, Donna Lisa…you’re so like the Lady with the mystic smile.

By now many of you have seen the famous (infamous) photo I took of my wife Donna. The look on her face as she glares at me not only says, “don’t you dare take a picture of me like this”; it also expresses her style of dealing with me for 40 years…namely, “I will brook no nonsense from you buddy…or you will pay”. She has her ways…believe me.

So, being me, I took the picture.

Now, I have taken it one step further and created a painting based on the photo. The look on her face is anything but enigmatic, but I still could not help thinking of Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa as I worked on it. So for your viewing pleasure (and to further torment the woman I love more than anything), I present “The Donna Lisa” by Michael Watson.

By the way, if something bad happens to me…well just remember the expression on the face of the subject below.

the-donna-lisa-2-web.jpg

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Winter: Berry Creek Springs, Texas

Berry Creek in WinterThis is my latest photograph in my “Texas as I See It” series to be published later this year. These springs were sacred ground for early native Americans in this part of central Texas. Providing a rich and constant source of precious water, they flowed crystal clear and strong from deep within a limestone aquifer to feed Berry Creek near Georgetown. High bluffs to the west, bordering the creek, afforded any encampments protection from the elements–and offered a vantage point from which to spot potential enemies at a great distance. To the south of the springs, Texas salt grass plains, rich with game and grass, stretched all the way to the Gulf of Mexico . To the north and east—endless prairies teaming with buffalo reached all the way to Canada. But it was the water that made Berry Creek Springs such a special place. Water meant life.

Much later, in 1846, the springs would spawn a gristmill, their waters powering the mill wheel. John Berry, a veteran of the War of 1812 settled the fertile land around the springs. Settlers as well as native Americans bought the meal he ground. Traces of his homestead are still visible today close to the mill lake formed by a small dam over a Century ago.

 

A cold and dreary winter day in February drew me to Berry Creek Springs. I was the only soul there that day. The stillness, the gray, the emptiness weighed heavily on me to create a profound sense of loneliness. Only a faint breeze stirred cold now and again to give smooth-as-glass water an almost imperceptible texture–vaguely ripple like. The sweep of the Pecan trees’ branches, bare and empty and mirrored in that dark water, made the moment magic. It was a photograph I had to take. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Saving Nazanin

If Iran will callously disregard it’s internationally binding commitments not to kill, maim, and brutalize its own young women and children, how can other nations, by any sane reasoning, believe it can trusted on any matter.

Ateqeh Rajabi, a 16 year old girl, was publicly executed by hanging, August 2004, in the town square at Neka, Mazandaran Province, Republic of Iran. Her crime? “Acts deemed incompatible with chastity”.

The “incompatibility” in this case was sexual intercourse with an older man. During her trial (Ateqeh was not allowed a defense attorney and was left to defend herself), Judge Haji Rezail became outraged when the young girl removed her hijab (headscarf worn for modesty in Arabic cultures) He was further angered by her tendency to speak with a “sharp tongue”, presumably in her own defense.

Incensed by these unforgivable actions in his courtroom, Judge Rezail rushed to Tehran to urge the conservative mullahs comprising the Iranian Supreme Court to uphold, then and there, the death sentence he had pronounced on Ateqeh. They did; and upon his return to Neka, Judge Rezail personally carried out Ateqeh’s sentence by performing the execution himself.

Her corpse was left hanging for days as a deterent to other young girls who might stray. Though it was well known around Neka, the Iranian judge ignored the fact that 16 year old Ateqeh Rajabi was not only young, but mentally incompetent as well.

In an earlier Iranian case, May 2004, 19 year old Leyla Mafi was sentenced to 99 lashes to be followed by “stoning until dead”. Her story is a long and sad chronicle of abuse, lashes, cruelty and injustice. Layla had been forced into prostitution at the age of eight by her mother. At nine she conceived a child which led to her being whipped publicly on prostitution charges. At fourteen she had twins out of wedlock for which she was also brutally whipped under Iranian law

Leyla’s more recent infraction, the one earning her 99 lashes and a death by stoning sentence, involved her being charged with having another child out wedlock as well as being associated with a brothel. Amnesty International, which followed the case closely, reported that Leyla Mafa possessed the mental skills of an eight year old. Under pressure from several human rights organizations, the Iranian Supreme Court lifted the young girl’s death sentence in March of 2005, but upheld the 99 lashes which was duly meted out in February, 2006. After her punishment, Leyla was committed to an Iranian Institution for Women.

To our modern and civilized world these cases are extraordinarily crude, unjust, and excessive. But they occur all to often in the ancient, theocratic, male dominated culture of Iran. In fact, under current Iranian law, girls over the age of nine and boys aged 16 can face a death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder. Capital punishment is imposed in certain cases of illegal sexual relationships as well. At least 18 child offenders have been executed in Iran in recent years–eight of them in 2005.

If Iranian laws and judicial practices are heartless and unfeeling toward its women and children, the issue is made worse by a sick cultural bias in cases of rape. Observers of Iranian legal proceedings, many educated Iranian women among them, well know that victims of rape in Iran’s male dominated system can be and are, in a sordid twist of law, charged with the crime of having extra-marital sex. In an instant, the system that should assure them justice transforms them from victim to defendant. While their rapists are exonerated and go free, these women, some of them teenagers, face a penalty of 100 lashes–and even death.

This brings us to the case of 17 year old Nazanin Mahabad–uneducated and dirt poor–who, in a moment of profound courage during an attempted rape, took a bold stand for all of Iran’s women, children and young people. For her desperate action she earned a death by hanging sentence in 2006 at the hands of an Iranian court. Here is her story:

Nazanin and her niece, Samieh, had gone with their boyfriends to a park west of Tehran. It was to be a pleasant day in the sun and a needed respite from the poverty and endless menial labor that helped Nazanin and her five siblings subsist in a ruined home on the dusty outskirts of the city. It was a rare moment of girlish laughter and peace soon to be shattered. When three men approached the group they began harassing the girls and threatened the boys who fled in fear. It only took a moment then for the men to move on the girls throwing them to the ground and tearing at their cloths.

What stirred Nazanin to do what followed is a matter for speculation. Certainly it was a natural reaction rooted in a primal need to defend. But it may have been more. Nazanin had lived long enough in a society where rape was common and rapist were freed. Perhaps she saw the tragic irony in her situation. Be raped and face possible stoning or even death for extra-marital sex, or fight back for herself and her niece and face charges of attacking her male attackers. She chose to fight, pulling a knife she carried concealed because she knew well the dangers she and other girls routinely faced in around the poorer suburbs of Tehran.

Nazanin would take it no more. She stabbed one of her attackers in the hand, but when a second man suddenly attacked her with vicious and clear intent, she plunged the knife into his chest. He died from his wound. Charged with murder under the Iranian system, her story of rape called into question, Nazanin must have known that yet another Iranian court would leave her male attackers free and put another young girl to death by hanging. Her less than competent court appointed attorney seemed not to care, and Nazanin’s own simple plea had no influence in the court: “I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy…no one came to our help.”

As the trial continued, Nazanin also asserted that she was acting to defend her honor and chastity. The Judge in the case rejected that argument out of hand, however, because a court ordered medical exam had shown Nazanin not to be a virgin. It was true. Little more than a year earlier, Nazanin, then 15, had been raped. Forensic physicians verified the scarring from that brutal attack as consistent with rape and the loss of virginity. This, and the fact that she had reported that rape as well to local police who ignored it, had no bearing in her Iranian court. In the end, she found herself facing a death sentence.

At that time, all hope must have abandoned Nazanin Mahabad. Alone in a prison, facing death, her fear became all consuming. But not all was lost. Word began to spread among caring factions in and beyond Iran. Pressure began to mount. Letters were written, thousands of them. Bloggers weighed in. Media picked up on the case and flashed Nazanin’s story to the world community of activists and organizations who wasted no time weighing in with Iranian officials. Petitions were created and sent with hundreds of thousands of names. By May of 2006, when Nazanin’s case came before the Iranian Supreme Court, the world was watching. And the Court knew it. In a not-so-surprising ruling by that time, it turned over Nazanin’s death penalty and sent the case back to lower court for a new ruling.

Today (Jan 14, 2007), with the assistance of new lawyers and the under the watchful eyes of a deeply concerned world, Nazanin Mahabad was exonerated of murder by the local court, her death sentence lifted. Thousands of anxious followers of this case breathed a collective sigh of relief. The court could have sent her to prison or even awarded the death penalty again, but the prayers, pressure and intervention of caring people won the day.

But Nazanin will not be set free yet. The court held that her self defense during the incident was an act of disproportionate force. A girl of 17 (at the time) defending herself and her niece against three men trying to rape them. Still, the court ordered that she pay blood money to the family of her deceased attacker in order to receive a full pardon. Until then she will remain in prison. Her lawyers are appealing the blood money ruling and seeking bail to free Nazanin at last.

The caring world still has some work to do in order to finally free Nazanin. I have little doubt it will happen. In the meantime we are left with Iran and its crude and warped system of justice for women and children. Its barbaric practices are even more disturbing in that Iran is among the nations of the world signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As such they agreed with the rest of the world not to execute anyone for any offense committed when they were under the age of 18. These treaties also prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments.

If Iran will callously disregard it’s international commitments not to kill, mame, and brutalize its own young women and children, how can other nations, by any sane reasoning, believe it can trusted on any matter. I include in this line of thought their continuing assertion that they will only use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Authors Note: Want to help in Nazanin’s case? Go here: http://save.nazanin.googlepages.com/