Afshin-Jam hopes to make difference with new book
Published Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:44AM EDT
Canadians may know her best as the former beauty queen who married Defence Minister Peter MacKay, but Nazanin Afshin-Jam hopes the world will see her as so much more after reading her new book, "The Tale of Two Nazanins: A Teenager on Death Row in Iran and the Canadian Who Vowed to Save Her."
"Music and modelling were platforms to be able to speak out on global issues," Afshin-Jam, 33, said on Tuesday on CTV's Canada AM.
Injustices against women have commanded Afshin-Jam's interest since 2006, the year when one fateful email changed the course of her life.
At that time Afshin-Jam's career was on a high.
The Iranian-born runner-up of the 2003 Miss World Pageant had just signed her first record deal. Afshin-Jam had also become a sought-after model and an icon within the Iranian dissident community.
Despite those accomplishments, her focus was pulled in a new direction after she opened her email one afternoon and saw a message marked "Urgent."
The subject of the email was Nazanin Fatehi, a Kurdish girl who was facing execution in Iran as a punishment for stabbing a man who had tried to rape her.
"I didn't know anything about her," Afshin-Jam said.
"No one else was trying to do anything to help her, so I thought why not me?" she said.
Through alternating chapters, the book documents Afshin-Jam's efforts to help the Iranian teen who fought off her attacker and his accomplices after they tried to assault her and another young woman.
After a two-year ordeal, in January of 2007 Fatehi was released from prison and returned to her family. However, according to Iranian law she was required to pay a fine of $45,000 to the family of the man that she had stabbed.
"I kept in touch with her for a few years," said Afshim-Jam, noting that after a few years she seemed to disappear.
"Since 2010 I have had no contact with her or her family" Afshim-Jam said.
Using the three contacts numbers in her possession, Afshim-Jam tried repeatedly to locate the woman but her efforts proved fruitless.
"I'm hoping with this book we'll be able to find a lead to find out where she is," said Afshin-Jam.
The experience, she said, opened her eyes to need to mobilize world support to fight injustices against women.
"I came to learn so much about human rights abuses," said Afshin-Jam.
"I want to do more on a global scale," she said.