Many people may know Nazanin Afshin-Jam as a former Miss World Canada. She’s also an award-winning international human rights and democracy activist, a public speaker and the co-founder and president of the organization Stop Child Executions
I first heard about Nazanin and her book The Tale of Two Nazanins about a month ago while binding manuscripts to help the publicity department promote the book. Along the way, I got to see the final version of the book too, sending copies out to reviewers and media contacts. Since I was part of the process, Sonya, the publicist dedicated to this book, invited me to attend and help out with the Indigo event on May 22. I was eager to see another stage of book promotion.
At the flagship Toronto Indigo Manulife Centre store, a stage was set for Nazanin and Jonathan Kay, managing editor of the National Post. There were chairs set out for attendees, which quickly filled. Many people stood to listen in on the interview and waited to get their books signed.
The Tale of Two Nazanins is a story about two women who share the same name living two different lives—one of opportunity and one of poverty. In 2006, Nazanin Afshin-Jam had just signed her first record deal and, after placing first runner-up for Miss World, was a sought-after fashion model and icon within the Iranian dissident community.
But one afternoon, she received an email that would change the course of her life. The subject of that email—a Kurdish girl named Nazanin Fatehi—was facing execution in Iran, as punishment for stabbing a man who attempted to sexually assault her. Afshin-Jam quickly came to Fatehi’s defence, striding into the world of international diplomacy and confronting the dark side of the country of her birth, with its honour killings, violence against women and state-sanctioned executions of children. While Fatehi was in prison, experiencing conditions so deplorable she attempted to end her own life, Afshin-Jam worked desperately on the campaign to save her.
During Nanazin’s on-stage interview, she described her involvement in the efforts to free Nazanin Fatehi, and what the process was like She mentioned some days were good and promising while others were difficult, especially on an emotional level.
Nazanin reminded the audience that sometimes we may forget to realize how lucky and privileged we are to be living in Canada. We have opportunities that many people in other countries do not have, especially women. In Canada, we’re encouraged to graduate high school and get a college or university education. Meanwhile, she explains Nazanin Fatehi only has a grade two education and women in her country are considered to only have half the value of men.
There was something that Nazanin said that really stuck with me. She told the audience that sometimes we assume one person, a superhero, will descend from the clouds, save everyone and solve the problems of the world. In reality, it is impossible for one person to take it all on. Whether we believe or not, we are capable of making a change in the world or in someone’s life.
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