Commentary Magazine


Delara Darabi and Our “False Choice”

Today, Iran’s regime has executed Delara Darabi, a young woman wrongly convicted of a murder she did not commit when she was just seventeen. The relevant international conventions prohibit the death penalty for people who were underage when they committed the crime for which they are being punished. In killing Darabi, Iran keeps its record as the country with the highest number of child executions in the world in sterling condition — and in clear contravention of its obligations under international law.

Now, “realists” will argue that though a terrible thing, there are tyrants everywhere and we must realize we can’t impose democracy and human rights all over the place. It’s an attitude that one could come to terms with and understand — sort of — if it came from people who did not get so offended by water-boarding and other such practices. But this convenient contradiction should not be allowed to overshadow a central tenet of what a U.S. president recently called “the false choice between our security and our ideals.”

If our ideals entail the defense of human rights — indeed, if we believe rights to be “human” and therefore, inherent attributes of the human condition — we should not be as sanctimonious about their defense at home as abroad. If on the other hand, all this brutal execution will get from Western leaders is a letter of condemnation, then we should admit that the choice is not so false, and the rights of an innocent child can never stand in the way of our nation’s supreme interests.

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