Excerpts from: Women and the death penalty in Iran*Emphasis added by me!
The 1979 Revolution and the 1980’s.
Under the rule of the former Shah a small number of women were hanged, mostly for murder, using the British style long drop method. The Shah was deposed in 1979 and replaced by a fundamentalist Muslim regime led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He won a huge democratic majority for the formation of an Islamic Republic on April the 1st 1979. Under the new government women were required to wear the veil, Western music and alcohol were banned, and the punishments prescribed by Sharia law came into force.
Male and female executions became frequent – often for refusing to convert/recognise Islam, or for being a member of an anti-regime political group.
There are no accurate records of just how many men, women and girls were executed in the first years of the Revolution. There is a credible list of 14,028 names available and some sources claim figures of several tens of thousands, although these are not substantiated with names. According to a report published by the Organisation of Women Against Execution in Iran, at least two thousand women were executed between June 1981 and 1990. They have been able to prepare a list containing 1428 names. 187 of these women were under the age of 18, with 9 girls under the age of 13 and 14 between the ages of 45 to 70. The youngest girl executed was just 10 years old.* 32 of these women were reported to have been pregnant at the time of their execution. Many of those executed were high school and college students. Hanging was the most common method of execution for women although some were shot. (Large numbers of men were shot during this period). Men and women were hanged in large groups in Tehran prisons from cranes and fork-lift trucks. Each crane jib or fork-lift had a wooden or steel beam to which the noose were attached and when the preparations were complete the prisoners were simply hoisted into the air.
Under Revolutionary law young girls who were sentenced to death could not be executed if they were still virgins. Thus they were "married off" to Revolutionary Guards and prison officials in temporary marriages and then raped before their execution, to prevent them going to heaven*. The Mullahs believed that these women were ungodly and did not deserve paradise in the next life, and that if they were deprived of their virginity it would ensure that they went to hell. Therefore on the night prior to execution, the condemned girl was injected with a tranquilliser and then raped by her guard(s). After the execution, the religious judge at the prison would write out a marriage certificate and send it to the victim's family along with a box of sweets.
Generally details of executions from the early years of the Revolution are hard to find but the case of the ten women hanged in Shiraz in 1983 is well documented.
The “crime” of these women was to believe in the Bahá'í religion instead of Islam, and to believe in the equality of men and women. These were considered to be very dangerous concepts by the Revolutionary regime who had them arrested and tortured in an effort to persuade them to convert into Islam. Several of them were subjected to the "bastinado" - beating on the soles of their feet. They were all given the opportunity to avoid execution by recanting their faith and converting to Islam but none of them chose to.
On the night of June the 18th 1983 they were driven in a bus to a polo field on the outskirts of Shiraz where a gallows had been set up. The bus driver who took them there reported that they seemed to be in good spirits, singing on the way and prepared to meet their fate.
The youngest prisoner was Mona Mahmudnizhad, who was just 17 years old. Her father had been hanged some months earlier for his beliefs. At the execution ground she asked to be hanged last so that she could pray for all the other women. Reportedly she kissed the noose and recited a prayer before she was suspended.
The other nine members of the group were :
23 year old Roya Ishraqi, a promising veterinary student, was executed with her 50 year old mother, Izzad Janami Ishraqi.
20 year old Akhtar Sabit, a graduate nurse, who had taught children’s religious classes.
28 year old Mahshid Nirumand was a physics graduate from the University of Shiraz. She is said to have remained resolute in prison and to have shared her food with the others and encouraged them to remain firm.
Shirin Dalvand who was 25 years old and held a degree in sociology from the University of Shiraz. Shirin was an expert in the Baha'i faith. Under interrogation she was asked whether she would ever give up her religion - she told her questioner that she would hold to her faith " Until my death, I hope that the divine mercy will enable me to remain firm to the last breath of my life ".
Tahirih Siyavushi was a 32 year old nurse, who had been a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Shiraz. Her husband, Jamshid, had been hanged two days earlier. As a nurse Tahirih helped to look after the other prisoners.
20 year old Simin Sabiri, who had been a member of the Committee of Studies Baha' ies of Shiraz.
Zarrin Muqimi was 28 years old and also very knowledgeable about her faith defending it vigorously under interrogation.
The oldest of the ten was 54 year old Mrs Nosrat Yalda' I who had belonged to the Spiritual Local Assembly of Shiraz and whose house was regarded as the "nerve centre" of the Community life Baha' ie in Shiraz. She had been viciously whipped during her time in prison and her wounds were still visible after her hanging. Both her husband and her son, Bahram had also been executed.
The town’s people of Shiraz groups brought flowers to the mortuary to honour the bravery of these women, despite the dangers of such a protest. The Bahá'í religion is still considered dangerous by the regime and is suppressed.
Dina Parnabi was an Iranian high school student, accused of smuggling forbidden literature and criticising the regime in her talks with her classmates. She was hanged on the 10th of July 1984 in a Teheran prison. The hanging was done in private and after the execution was over, her body was stripped, washed and delivered for dissection at medical school. In Iran, female bodies delivered for medical studies often show the rope or cable burns around their necks, indicating that they were all executed by hanging.
Modern day Iran.
Through the 1900’s reported female executions were rare but in the 21st century they have begun to rise.
In 2004 it is thought that four women have been hanged, 3 in public. Shooting is no longer used and short drop or suspension hanging in private or public is now the norm. At least 2 women are thought to be facing stoning at the time of writing in January 2005, although it is probable that their sentences will be commuted to hanging. It is notable that public execution is increasingly used for both sexes and most of the 95 executions that I recorded in Iran during 2004 were carried out in public. Flogging prior to execution is not unusual.
Iran is a signatory both to the International Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which explicitly forbid the execution of minors, however, Iranian law allows the death penalty for boys from age 15 and for girls from age 9. Girls and women can be sentenced to hanging either in private, or now more commonly in public, or to stoning to death. Under external pressure, minors now tend to be kept in prison until they are 18 and then have their death sentence carried out. Iman Farrokhi, who was hanged on the 19th of January 2005, was 17 when he was convicted of murder. Several other juveniles are under sentence of death.
Let us have a look at the individual cases of these women.
Everyone of them died a painful and humiliating death, there being no effort made to minimise their suffering or make their execution in any way humane. Pictures of Fariba Tajiani-Emamqoli’s hanging and those of male prisoners show that an American style coiled noose made from modern nylon rope is used and that the prisoner is either stood on a box which is pulled from under them or hoisted into the air by a crane jib as happened with Fariba and 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi.
The first execution took place on the 26th of January 2000 when Masoumeh Fathi was hanged in the north-western city of Tabriz for killing a prison warder during an escape attempt. On the same day Alieh Moradi and her male accomplice, Farhang Moradi, were hanged in Kermanshah in western Iran, for the murder of Alieh’s husband. Her children were present in the prison grounds to watch their mother die. Both executions took place within the prisons.
The first public hanging took place at dawn on the 19th of March 2001 when 30 year old Fariba Tajiani-Emamqoli and four men were put to death for drug trafficking in Tehran. Fariba was attended by a woman prison officer and was blindfolded and had her hands tied behind her back. Like most public hangings nowadays the hydraulic crane of a small recovery vehicle was used to hoist her into the air. The whole process took 25 minutes, with the bodies being left hanging for 10 minutes before being taken down A crowd of about 200 gathered to witness the event and chanted "Allah akbar" - God is great and "death to the traffickers, death to the traffickers."
A series of photos of Fariba’s execution:
Iran also uses stoning to death as punishment for women and this horrific fate was meted out to 32-year-old Maryam Ayoubi who was stoned on Wednesday 11th July 2001, within Tehran's Evin prison. Maryam had confessed to poisoning her husband with soup and then stabbing him to death with the assistance of her lover, who was hanged on the same day.
Women who are to be stoned are buried up to their shoulders in the ground and their head covered with a cloth. The law specifies the size of the stones that are then hurled at their heads until they die from their injuries.
Monireh Ghasempour was reportedly hanged in public in Tehran on the 11th of July 2004, but the details of her crime are unknown.
Diba Zomorodian, a microbiology student was hanged in Qazvin (western Iran) on the 29th of June 2004, again there being no details of her crime. It is thought that an unnamed woman was hanged in Qazvin on July 12th 2004.
A truly scandalous execution took place on Sunday, August the 15th 2004, when 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi was hanged in public in the town of Neka. Atefeh was executed for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity”.
Atefeh was not represented by a lawyer at her trial and efforts by her family to recruit a lawyer was to no avail. She had to defend herself and told the religious judge, Haji Rezaii, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption not the victims. She further enraged the judge by removing some of her clothing (probably just her headscarf) and he accused her of having a “sharp tongue”. It is claimed that he pursued her execution beyond all normal procedures and finally gained the approval of the Supreme Court and the chief of the nation’s “judiciary branch.” Her age was given in official court documents as 22 but her birth certificate has been viewed by reliable sources and shows she really was just 16.
At the place of execution in the town’s square the judge personally put the rope around the girl’s neck and gave the signal to the crane operator to begin her hanging.
Witnesses reported that she begged for mercy and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the execution truck. She repeatedly shouted "repentance" which, according to Islamic law, is supposed to grant the accused the right to an immediate stay of execution while an appeal is heard.
Judge Haji Rezaie said he was pleased to hang her and is quoted as saying. "Society has to be kept safe from acts against public morality." Her body was left dangling from the crane for some time so people could see what happened to teenagers who committed acts incompatible with chastity.
It should be noted that although according to the Islamic Republic’s penal code the presence of an attorney for the defense is mandatory, regardless of the defendant’s ability to afford one, nevertheless Atefeh did not get an attorney, despite the efforts of her father to raise money for one. Atefeh’s boyfriend, who had been arrested as well, received 100 lashes and was afterwards released.
So what was Atefeh’s “crime”? It would seem that it amounted to having sex with her boyfriend. According to judicial records, Atefeh had five previous convictions for having sex with unmarried men. For each offence she had been jailed and flogged. She confided in her friends that she had been abused by the guards in prison. A law suit is being brought by Shadi Sadr, a lawyer representing the Rajabi family, against the judiciary for wrongful execution. Sadr is also trying to bring a murder charge against the judge, Haji Rezaie.
Akram N., a 20 year old Iranian woman was hanged in prison in the north-eastern town of Shirevan, on the 7th of December 2005. She had been convicted of murdering an older woman, Maryam A., in December 2001. The death sentence was carried out at dawn in front of the religious prosecutor and judge.
There are thought to be 15 women currently under sentence of death in Iran as of December 2005:
Kobra Rahmanpour, aged 22, convicted of murdering her mother.
Najmeh Vosouq-Razavi, a law student from Mashhad, whose crime is not known.
Hajiyeh Esma’eilvand, 30, sentenced to stoning for adultery with an unnamed 17 year old boy.
Zhila Iazadi, aged 13 or 14,sentenced to stoning for incest with her 15 year old brother, by whom she became pregnant. It is reported that she has already received 50 lashes in prison and is in a poor state both mentally and physically.
It should be noted that all death sentences in Iran must be upheld by the Supreme Court before they can be carried out.
There seems to be considerable contradictions between the Iranian government’s “official line” and the allegations of human rights groups as to what is actually happening in the country in 2005. There have been reports of death sentences passed on juveniles and of stoning sentences passed on women, despite assurances to the International Community that these practices had ended. In January 2005, at a weekly briefing for journalists to which some foreign media correspondents were invited, judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad, dismissed the allegations saying that "in the Islamic Republic, we no longer face such verdicts and implementation of such verdicts." "I do not know how they get such baseless information and then make a fuss over it. The aim of such news is to harm Iran's image." There also seems to be a dichotomy between what senior ministers are saying for foreign consumption and what is going on at “ground level” with Islamic judges.
The United Nations condemned Iran's record on public executions, floggings, arbitrary sentences, torture and discrimination against women, in a resolution in December 2004. Many other bodies have done the same. You will find endless websites condemning Iran’s human rights record.
So what are we to believe? I will monitor the situation during 2005 and update this article in January 2006. Individual executions will be reported monthly.
THE HANGING OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN IRAN.
What follows is a first hand account of the atrocities committed against women and girls in the first few years after the 1979 Revolution. It was written by an Iranian doctor who served as a prison doctor's assistant before managing to escape from Iran in 1986, and is published with his consent.
Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Iranian females went to the gallows for various offences after the Islamic revolution in 1979. They were of various ages and occupations, school teachers, students, workers, young teenagers, writers and business owners. What united them in their final hour was the method of their death. For females, the noose became the standard and brutal method of execution after denial of their rights enjoyed during the reign of Shah Pahalav, who went into exile after his abdication. Initially peaceful, the Islamic revolution promised Iranian women and girls a better society. But what they got was theocratic government that took their rights away from them. During the reign of the Shah, few Iranian females went to the gallows. They died mostly for murder and their executions were rare in comparison with the male criminals. Although several young female university students were known to have been hanged by the Shah's secret police, they were executed for arson and terrorism and died on a British style gallows that guaranteed a quick death from a broken neck. Traditionally, Iran, (Persia) was the first country in history to introduce hanging as punishment in the Middle eastern region 2,500 years ago. Previously females were simply strangled with a rope to preserve modesty. Hanging was seen as a simple and efficient method of punishment for both males and females, but only during Khomeini's reign, was mass hanging of women and girls implemented as government policy. Khomeini decreed that females as young as 10 could be executed by hanging for various offences, although there is no record of someone that young ever being hanged. The youngest girls ever hanged were between 12 and 14 years old and were always hanged en masse with the adults. Traditionally, all women and girls were raped by the guards prior to their execution. This measure was to ensure that they lose their virginity and do not go to paradise. The day after the rape, the condemned were allowed to rest for one day and then brought to a room to be prepared for their execution. Their head-scarves would be removed if execution was not in public and their necks and a portion of the upper chest would be exposed by unbuttoning the top button of a blouse or a shirt. All sentenced to hang would have their hands bound behind them with a rope and escorted to the gallows. Very strong thin ropes or steel cables with simple slipknots would be placed around their necks and drawn fairly tight. After suspension, the hanged would kick violently thrashing and choking, defecating and urinating. Their agonies were designed to last long for the drop was very short, made to ensure a slow, painful and complete strangulation. After they stopped kicking and convulsing, their bodies would be examined by a prison doctor and left hanging for 10 to 20 minutes. They would then be taken down, brought to the morgue and washed with a fire-hose. Relatives would claim the bodies after signing the death certificate and paying for the rope used.
Preparation for hanging.
The day before execution, the condemned women or girls are given the last chance of confessing more of their sins or provide any useful information about their amoral or criminal activities to the religious court. Additional information is recorded and the condemned are returned to their cells. While women and girls await execution, the gallows room, if the hanging is in private, is prepared. Ropes as well as wire cables are used for the hanging and are no more than one inch in diameter. They are usually strong and thin, designed to dig into the neck, crush the larynx and inflict reasonable amount of pain after the moment of suspension. In the early 80's simple wooden or plastic crates would be used for the condemned to step on and be noosed. To expedite the volume of executions, the gallows room was designed to accommodate a special gallows designed for multiple hangings. An iron or wooden beam sometimes with attached metal hooks would be positioned opposite a single gallows. A female had to be someone of importance to be hanged alone. Most girls and women shared the gallows together, sometimes being hanged four to six at a time. The floor of the hanging room would have one or two drainage holes designed to clean the urine and faeces expelled during their agony in the noose. After the execution, when the bodies were cut down, examined and removed, a prison guard would clean the room with a fire-hose. Most of the females hanged in Iran in private died in wire or cable nooses. Cable nooses were more durable since they did not snap under the prisoner's weight after the drop. During early public hangings of females, telephone cords, vertical blind cords and parcel ropes were used for hanging.
At the appointed time one or two clerics accompanied by the soldiers would wait for the condemned women or a girl to enter the gallows room. Regardless of her age, she would be shown the gallows she would be hanging on and then a blindfold would be applied to her face to cover only her eyes. In private hanging, her headscarf would be removed to expose her head and neck and her shirt unbuttoned to expose the upper chest as a sign of humiliation. Her hands would already be tied with a rope or a cord behind her back. Ropes are used to bind the prisoners. Only high ranking prisoners are hanged wearing handcuffs. The woman or a girl would then be placed under the noose and the executioner would place the noose around her neck. The slipknot is usually positioned on the side under her chin so the hanged does not die too quickly as she would if the slipknot was at the back of her head. After suspension, her windpipe would still be open for several minutes but it will be slowly squeezed shut. During that time, the fully conscious girl would feel the pain of the noose or a wire digging into her neck. There are different ways used to hang the females in solo hanging. Sometimes she would be hoisted up via winch turned by two executioners or guards or made to stand on a simple crate which will be kicked from under her. Observers wait patiently until her convulsions stop and leave the gallows room after the prison doctor pronounces her dead. The body is not taken down immediately. Sometimes it would remain hanging for ten to forty five minutes and finally removed after the rigor mortis had passed.
During mass hanging of four or more females, all condemned mount a bench one by one and wait for their nooses to be put on. If children are hanged together with the adults, they are placed on top of a crate placed on the bench so executioner could place the noose around their necks without problems. Most observers of mass hangings of Iranian females note mixed expressions on the faces of the condemned. Shock, pain, fear and curiosity are four main reactions to the proceedings. During the adjustment of the nooses, the condemned are forbidden to talk and if they display any resistance to the executioner like putting their chins down on their chests, they are yanked by the hair and when noose is slipped around their neck, the executioner deliberately draws it fairly tight. When all females have been noosed, the religious judge reads a sentence of death after which the bench is kicked away. Since the drop is short, the hanged struggle hard and long before expiring. The prisoners would be swinging beside one another with only a meter's length between them. It is very possible that one hanged woman would be able to observe the strangulation process of a female to her left and right before she herself would finally lose her vision due to the lack of supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. In the present, public hangings are usually carried out by lifting the condemned by the use of a crane as in the cases Fariba Tajiani-Emamqoli, hanged in public for drug trafficking and 16 year old schoolgirl Atefeh Rajabi, who was hanged for "moral corruption." The youngest hanged female in Iran was reportedly 11 year old Nasrin Sakvar, daughter of a doctor who denounced Khomeini regime and was killed by the Revolutionary guards. Nasrin was arrested while hiding several letters that compromised her father and was sentenced to death by hanging. Due to her young age, Nasrin's execution was carried out inside the prison, but she was hanged in a same brutal manner as the others suspended by the neck on a thin rope slowly strangling to death before guards and clerics who showed little or no emotion.
Iranian girls' attitude toward hanging.
In private interviews, most Iranian girls when asked how they wanted to die if they were executed, responded mostly in favour of the noose. Older woman mostly preferred firing squads, but 90 percent of all condemned females die on the gallows. There were a few very rare cases when a girl or a woman would be offered a choice between a bullet and the noose. Death on the gallows in spite its age long tradition and simplicity remains a fascinating subject among Iranian girls. Hanging is also the most popular method of suicide among young Iranian females aged 12 to 30. (Female suicides are a frequent occurrence in Iran) Currently, Iran holds the record for executing more females per year than any other country. The religious forces governing Iran see no reason to abolish hanging for females. One of the mullahs actually said that he wanted to hang as many Iranian girls and women as possible. Sometimes clerics place the ropes around women's necks personally and observed with morbid curiosity as the victim strangled and choked until her convulsions stopped. As far as death penalty goes, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to execute females by hanging as long as they remain in power.
Copyright by Dr. Hamiz 2004 & Saleha Darani
Yes, that's right. That would be the same Iran Angelika Beer, German Greens MEP, called a 'fascinating country with a young well-educated society'. Of course, all this is not more than a quaint, folkloristic custom, which this 'young well-educated society' preserves with an admiring sense of tradition. We must not be judgemental here and who are we to judge with the Holocaust (top THAT!) under our belt and the Americans better shut up anyway because they are nasty to the Negroes!
I don't think I will sleep particularly well tonight.