454: Leyla Mafi

Child Prostitute Sentenced to Death and Flogged in Iran

Born: c.1991, Iran

Iran remains the last country that still allows children to be executed.When Leyla was sentenced in 2004 she was still a teenager under the age of eighteen.

Tehran reaffirmed their decision to execute her for having illegal sex—At the time Amnesty International stated she had the mental age of an eight-year-old—the same age her mother forced her to become a prostitute. Also according to Amnesty International, Leyla's parents sold her at the age of twelve to an Afghan man to be his "temporary wife". At the age of fourteen, her now mother-in-law forced her back into prostitution, and she gave birth to twins as a result. Her birth family sold her again to a fifty-five year old married man, and he turned her back into a prostitute.

Leyla reportedly gave birth to her first child when she was nine years old.

While Leyla was in prison awaiting her execution, now famous human rights activist and journalist Asieh Amini fought to hire Leyla a lawyer. Despite her being a teenager, Leyla could not sign the form that would allow Asieh to retain an attorney for her, so Asieh placed ink on Leyla’s finger and managed to get her to make a mark on the form. Despite a setback, Leyla was given an attorney soon afterward, and once Asieh wrote an article on Leyla’s plight, international attention refocused on her case.

Leyla was granted a new trial, and the judge reduced her sentence from death to ninety-nine lashes. in March of 2005. After receiving her punishment, Leyla was placed in a care home. While there, she was given an education and learned to read and write, eventually functioning on the level of a fifth grader.

Since 2005, no new news has been released into the whereabouts of Leyla. The majority of the information provided for this article was written in a piece about Asieh Amini from 2016 in The New Yorker. That article is linked below. Other information comes from Amnesty International; the article of which is also linked below.