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On a winter day in Vancouver six years ago, Nazanin Afshin-Jam sat in front of her computer. The 24-year-old had recently competed for the title of Miss World; she came in second. Nazanin was inundated with email -- offers for modelling, requests from charities. But that day in February she came across an email that would change the course of her life. It was an urgent plea from a man helping a teenager on death row in Iran: "Dear Nazanin...Can you help?" It was an opportunity she couldn't turn down.
Born in Tehran just after the revolution, raised in Vancouver, Nazanin didn't know much about the situation in her parents' home country. The family came to Canada via Spain as refugees. They left Iran when Nazanin was a baby because -- the family says -- her father was tortured by regime enforcers. She grew up in the well-heeled community of West Vancouver.
After finishing university and working with the Red Cross as a youth educator, Nazanin decided to compete in the Miss World pageant. The competition's motto? "Beauty with a purpose." Nazanin decided her purpose would be to bring attention to human rights. She figured the platform that would come with a win would help spread her message...
And that's where the urgent email came in. It was a plea to help an 18-year-old -- also named Nazanin -- who was on death row in Tehran. She had stabbed a man who was trying to rape her. She was convicted of murder. Nazanin, working alongside others, embarked on a year-long campaign for the young woman's release. She set up a group called Stop Child Executions and gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition which she took to the United Nations. After two years in prison, young Nazanin was eventually released. Nazanin Afshin-Jam has put that story in a book -- 'The Tale of Two Nazanins'. It's a compelling look at how the lives of two very different women were brought together and how the relationship changed them both.