It’s not unheard of for the mother of a murder victim to spare the life of her son’s killer, but it’s rare enough to be remarkable.
It happed a couple of weeks ago in Iran, a country that, at least to Americans, doesn’t have much of a tradition of mercy. The killer was named Bilal Gheisari. He was blindfolded with a noose around his neck waiting for the chair he was standing on to be kicked out from under him when he was the recipient of a miracle.
In a street fight seven years ago, he slashed the throat of Abdollah Alinejad, a 17-year-old. By coincidence, Gheisari was also involved in the death of Abdollah’s brother, Amir, who was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a motorcycle on which Gheisari and another youth were riding.
The two dead boys’ mother, Samereh Alinejad, had plenty of reason to want Gheisari dead. “My world collapsed the day I heard about my son’s death,” she told an Associated Press reporter. “If I pardoned Bilal and saved him from death, how would I be able to live anymore? I told my husband if he were spared death, I would die.”
Yet Gheisari was “spared death,” and she hasn’t died. He is alive because instead of kicking the chair out from under him, Alinejad, as was her right under the law, approached and spoke to him through his blindfold.
“Did you have mercy on us?” she asked him. “Did you show mercy to my son. You have taken happiness away from us. Why should I have mercy on you?”
Witnesses said she stared angrily at him and slapped his face. Then she and her husband removed the noose from around his neck and his death sentence was commuted. Instead, his sentence is 12 years in prison, half of which he has served.
Said Alinejad: “This slap made me feel as if all the blood that had accumulated in my heart over the years suddenly burst and poured out. I became peaceful. I do not think about revenge anymore.”
Nor does she think about the so-called “blood money” often offered in such situations in exchange for mercy. She and her husband have refused to accept it and have suggested that it go to charity or to support local soccer schools.
It’s unclear why this woman changed her mind. Perhaps the killer’s pleas touched her heart. Perhaps, coping with her own loss, she simply couldn’t take the life of another mother’s child, even if the law allowed it.
Why she performed such a beautiful act is less important than that she did it.