At 5:00 a.m. this date last year, Shahla Jahed was hanged at Iran’s Evin prison for murdering the wife of Iranian footballer Nasser Mohammadkhani.
An international human rights cause celebre from the time of her 2004 conviction in a sordid televised trial, Jahed was also Mohammadkhani’s wife under a “temporary marriage” arrangement that was secret from his “real” wife Laleh Saharkhizan. So you might say, his mistress.
Both these women’s last day of liberty was the one in 2002 that Saharkhizan turned up knifed to death while Mohammadkhani was in Europe on soccer business. Jahed was arrested immediately, beginning a “taboo-breaking” legal odyssey.
After months of refusing to talk, she confessed to the murder in prison, even re-enacting the crime.
But by the time of her trial — in which an emotional, combative Jahed conducted her own defense — she very plausibly claimed that the confession had been extracted by torture. Here’s a bit of it, from the documentary Red Card (banned in Iran) that can be enjoyed in full on YouTube:
While Jahed herself made for can’t-look-away TV, the appearance of a onetime champion athlete in a feet-of-clay turn has led this affair to be compared to the O.J. Simpson murder case.
Like the Juice, Mohammadkhani was temporarily in some danger of death penalty charges himself; he spent several months in prison. Ultimately, he avoided jeopardy to his neck as a potential accessory or instigator by Jahed’s repudiated I-did-it-myself confession — possibly another reason why Jahed confessed in the first place — but the former striker did endure 74 lashes for the revelation that he and his temporary wife enjoyed chilling out with opium. Strictly verboten in Iran, of course.
And Mohammadkhani’s brush with the law scarred his honor even more than his backside. Beyond the possibility that she took the heat for him, the celebrity athlete potentially in a position to use his pull to save a woman’s life clammed up as her case progressed and deferred to his late wife’s family’s decision whether or not to give Jahed mercy. Reportedly, Mohammadkhani even attended the hanging — where Jahed again sobbed and begged for mercy until one of Saharkhizan’s relatives personally kicked the chair out from under Jahed’s feet.
The case itself had an unusually long lifespan in the judiciary; Jahed had been imprisoned well over eight years by the time she died. In 2008, the gears were even stopped by Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, a figure known in Iran for his support of de-escalating capital punishment generally.
Even if Shahla had committed the crime, which she didn’t, Shahla and the murdered wife are both victims of a male-dominated society, a system that gives all the rights to men. Shahla, Laleh [the murdered wife], and all other women like them are all victims of flaws in the Iranian judicial system and Iran’s unequal judicial system. Even the person who pulled away the chair today in her execution is a victim of the system.
Apropos of the women-in-the-judicial-system theme, Jahed’s case and even her execution were to some extent overshadowed by the simultaneous headline-grabbing matter of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Azeri woman who was at the time fighting a repugnant sentence of stoning for adultery. By December 2010, Iran had backed off the stoning bit without quite agreeing that Ashtiani wouldn’t be executed in some other way; in January 2011, it remitted Astiani’s death sentence altogether.
On this day..
- 1892: Jozef Lippens and Henri De Bruyne, Congo Free State hostages - 2019
- 1958: Istvan Angyal, Hungarian revolutionary - 2018
- 1671: Hans Erasmus, Count of Tattenbach - 2017
- 1944: Charlie Kerins, IRA Chief of Staff - 2016
- 1848: James Langford, violent drunk - 2015
- 1865: The Jacksonville Mutineers - 2014
- 1922: James Mahoney, Seattle spouse slayer - 2013
- 1868: Sam Dugan lynched in Denver - 2012
- 1327: Adso's lover in The Name of the Rose - 2010
- 1945: Anton Dostler, gone commando - 2009
- 1842: Philip Spencer, Samuel Cromwell and Elisha Small, on the ship yardarm - 2008
- 1581: Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant - 2007