Iranian regime U-turns on decision to execute 16-year-old girl

Sonia Sharifi gets heroes welcome after being released from jail

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A Kurdish teenager due to be executed by the clerical regime on Friday has been released after a series of outcries over her sentence. Sonia Sharifi, 16, was arrested in mid-November by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC), a security force tasked with cracking down on the regime, for “crimes against God” in relation to her participation in the nationwide Iranian protests. The young girl was released from Ilam prison in western Iran at around 3pm on Friday and was welcomed by crowds of people outside.

Videos on social media showed a huge crowd coming to meet Sonia in her native city of Abdanan after her release from prison. 

The young teenager could be seen standing on a plinth and holding her hands up to the sky. 

Iran’s youngest protesters, the colloquially known Generation Z, have been heralded for their boundless bravery in the face of a regime with a history of discriminating against women. 

Reports of her imminent execution had angered the Iranian population as well as others around the world. 

British comedian Omid Djalili, who was born to Iranian parents, had been bringing attention to the case using his social media presence. 

On Wednesday, two days before Ms Sharifi was due to be executed, he shared her picture on his Twitter page saying “We are your voice Sonia”. 

The 16-year-old, who has been detained for almost a month, alleged that she was being beaten and abused by her captors. 

Fellow Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, who died on September 16 after being detained by the regime’s morality police, has been the catalyst for the most recent wave of protests in Iran. 

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German politician Katja Leikert, who is the MP for Hanau in the Bundestag, revealed she had “politically adopted” Sonia’s case earlier this week as part of an initiative by the International Society for Human Rights.

The idea is that politicians around the world adopt cases of political prisoners facing persecution in other countries to campaign for their release,

Ms Leikert said: “The 16-year-old Sonia Sharifi was arrested a month ago by the Iranian regime. I have taken out a political adoption for her, and I’m campaigning for her release.” 

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi, who supports the project, said: “Even torture states like the Islamic Republic of Iran or the People’s Republic of China want to maintain a semblance of legality to the outside world. Politically and economically.

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“Germany is an extraordinarily important country for both countries. Experience shows that countries such as Iran are very tentative to requests from German MPs and events that affect Iran.

“In the past, the actions of politicians have resulted in very significant improvements for the vast majority of prisoners served: commutation of death sentences to prison terms, significant reductions in arbitrary prison sentences, an end to the ill-treatment and, in many cases, release.” 

In the case of Sonia Sharifi, the Iranian officials told the family she could be released on bail, but set the amount at $30,000 (£24,700), which the family were unable to raise.

A friend of the girl said at the time: “Her family is poor and her father is a construction worker. They cannot afford to pay the heavy bail.”

Since September 16, the regime’s security forces have killed at least 458 people, including 63 children,  according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group. At least 18,000 people have reportedly been arrested.

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