A French Teen Is Fighting To Save The Life Of A Woman Who Killed Her Rapist In Self-Defense

"I believe that we don't need to know a person to be able to save a life."

While scrolling through Instagram from her home in France, 16-year-old Zaynub Afinnih came across a post that horrified her, and compelled her to fight for the life of a teenager on death row half a world away. 


As reported by CNN, Noura Hussein was 15 when her family in Sudan forced her to marry an older man. She fled and stayed with her aunt until she was tricked into returning three years later. According to one of Hussein's lawyers, her husband's relatives then held her down and helped him rape the teen. When Hussein's husband tried to rape her again the next day, Hussein stabbed him in self-defense. She has since been sentenced to death for his murder.

Afinnih lives in Roen, France, thousands of miles from Hussein's trial in Omdurman, Sudan's second largest city. She's a regular teenager who believes fiercely in women's rights and hopes one day to be a professor of history or philosophy. And that day, scrolling through Instagram, she told A Plus that she felt like something had to be done.

"I believe that we don't need to know a person to be able to save a life," she said.

So the 16-year-old launched a petition on Change.org calling for #JusticeForNoura, asking the government of Sudan to intervene and prevent Hussein's execution.

"I am, too, a teenager and I could have faced the same thing as Noura if I was born in Sudan," Afinnih wrote on Change.org. "I'm really emotional and Noura's story touched me. I can't let her be executed, I can't. Please, help me save her!"

Since Afinnih created her petition, Hussein's lawyers have formally appealed the court's death sentence, per The Guardian, and over 1 million people have signed Afinnih's petition to stay her execution and set her free.

"I am pretty surprised that 1 million people signed the petition, because I was not expecting the response," Afinnih told A Plus, adding that she would like to thank everyone who signed and shared the petition. Mira Sorvino, Emma Watson,  and model Naomi Campbell count among those who helped get the word out about the petition in advance of Hussein's appeal.

Courtesy Change.org

Paula Peters, vice president at Change.org, however,  isn't surprised at the teen's success. In an emailed statement to A Plus, she cited a series of young people who had utilized the platform to make a difference, including two 11-year-olds from Canada who created a petition that led to a commitment from Starbucks to develop a fully recycled cup, and another teenage girl whose campaign against female genital mutilation led to global attention and compulsory education for public sector workers in the United Kingdom.

"What we see on Change.org is that young people are an unprecedented force in driving change. Not only are they are some of the most active people on our platform — almost 42 percent of our users are under the age of 34 — they are also behind some of the most impactful petitions globally," Peters told A Plus. "It's really incredible to see Zaynub mobilizing over 1 million people worldwide for her campaign."

Afinnih poses with the vice council of the Sudanese embassy in Paris. Courtesy Change.org.

Despite the support expressed by organizations and individuals across the world, Hussein's fate is still uncertain and currently remains in the hands of the Omdurman court. Nahid Gabralla, a Khartoum-based advocate for victims of gender-based violence, told CNN that if Hussein's appeal fails, they will "go for the supreme court."

Afinnih, who has pounded the pavement in support of the petition and the cause, is hopeful. She told A Plus that she is glad that her generation is speaking against "this crime and injustice, and the fact that is going to help the older generation to rise up and realize the mistakes they did in the past."

Cover image courtesy Change.org


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