With eyes covered and a noose around his neck, a young man identified only as Balal was “screaming and praying loudly before he just went silent,” Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) photographer Arash Khamooshi, who was photographing a public execution in Iran told CNN.
What unfolded next was an extraordinary, unexpected act of forgiveness.
Saeed Kamali Dehghan of The Guardian reports Balal, who is in his 20s, was convicted of killing 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh with a knife during a street brawl in 2007. He was arrested by police after fleeing the crime scene and, after six years, was given a death sentence.
The crowd watched as Samereh Alinejad, Hosseinzadeh’s mother, approached. Time writes: “According to some interpretations of sharia law, the victim’s family participates in the punishment by pushing the chair from under the condemned man.”
But instead of pushing the chair from underneath him and execute him, Alinejad slapped him in the face.
Khamooshi told CNN that, after slapping Balal, the mother told the crowd that she had forgiven him, and helped Hosseinzadeh’s father take the noose off.
Hosseinzadeh‘s father told The Guardian why they had a change of heart:
Three days ago my wife saw my elder son in a dream telling her that they are in a good place, and for her not to retaliate … This calmed my wife and we decided to think more until the day of the execution.