2010: Four Kurdish political prisoners

Add comment May 9th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 2010, Iran hanged five political prisoners — four of them Kurdish — in Evin Prison.

The non-Kurd was Mehdi Eslamian, condemned a terrorist for complicity in a notorious 2008 terrorist bombing in Shiraz, an incident for which his younger brother had already been hanged a year previous.

With him died Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, and Shirin Alam Holi, all of them Kurdish dissidents of various descriptions.

Farzad Kamangar was a popular 32-year-old teacher, who might have been the most publicly visible member of this quintet to judge by media hits and tributary pop music.

Shirin Alam Holi, a woman from the area of “Kurdistan” reaching into western Iran’s Azerbaijan province, was condemned for affiliation with the PKK front Kurdistan Free Life Party. A letter allegedly written by her a few months before execution detailed the abuse she endured in custody:

I was arrested in April 2008 in Tehran. The arrest was made by uniformed and plain clothed members of Sepah who started beating me as soon as we arrived at their headquarters without even asking one question. In total I spent twenty five days at Sepah. I was on hunger strike for twenty two of those days during which time I endured all forms of physical and psychological torture. My interrogators were men and I was tied to the bed with handcuffs. They would hit and kick my face and head, my body and the soles of my feet and use electric batons and cables in their beatings. At the time I didn’t even speak or understand Farsi properly. When their questions were left unanswered they would hit me until I pass out. They would stop as soon as they would hear the call for prayers and would give me time until their return for as they said to come to my senses only to start their beatings as soon as they returned – again beatings, passing out, iced water …

When they realised I was insistent on my hunger strike, they tried to break it by inserting tubes through my nose to my stomach and intravenous feeding; they tried to break my [hunger] strike by force. I would resist and pull out the tubes which resulted in bleeding and a great deal of pain and now after two years I’m still suffering the consequences and am in pain.

One day while interrogating me they kicked me so hard in the stomach that it resulted in immediate haemorrhaging. Another day, one of the interrogators came to me – the only one whose face I saw, I was blindfolded all other times – and asked irrelevant questions. When he heard no reply he slapped me and took out his pistol from his belt and put it to my head, “You will answer the questions I ask of you. I already know you are a member of PJAK, that you are a terrorist. See girl, talking or not talking makes no difference. We’re happy to have a member of PJAK in our captivity”.

On one of the occasions that the doctor was brought to see to my injuries I was only half conscious because of all the beatings. The doctor asked my interrogator to transfer me to the hospital. The interrogator asked, “why should she be treated in hospital, can’t she be treated here?” The doctor said, “I don’t mean for treatment. In hospital I will do something for you to make her sing like a canary.” The next day they took me to hospital in handcuffs and blindfold. The doctor put me on a bed and injected me. I lost my will and answered everything they asked in the manner they wanted and they filmed the whole thing. When I came to I asked them where I was and realised I was still on a hospital bed and then they transferred me back to my cell.

But it was as if this was not enough for my interrogators and they wanted me to suffer more. They kept me standing up on my injured feet until they would swell completely and then they would give me ice. From night till morning I would hear screams, moans, people crying out loud and these voices upset me and me nervous. Later, I realised these were recordings played to make me suffer. Or for hours on end cold water would be dripped slowly on my head and they would return me to the cell at night.

One day I was sitting blindfold and was being interrogated. The interrogator put out his cigarette on my hand; or one day he pressed and stood on my toes for so long that my nails turned black and fell off; or they would make me stand all day in the interrogation room without asking me any questions while they filled in crossword puzzles. In short they did everything possible.

When they returned me from hospital they decided I should be transferred to 209. But because of my physical condition and that I couldn’t even walk 209 refused to accept me. They kept me for a whole day in that condition by the door of 209 until I was transferred to the clinic.

What else? I couldn’t tell night from day anymore. I don’t know how many days I was kept at Evin Clinic until my wounds were a little improved and was transferred to 209 and interrogations started. The interrogators at 209 had their own methods and techniques – what they called hot and cold policy. First of all, the brutal interrogator would come in. He would intimidate me threaten and torture me. he would tell me that he cared for no law and that he would do what he wanted with me and … then the kind interrogator would come in and ask him to stop treating me in this way. He would offer me a cigarette and then the questions would be repeated and the futile cycle would start all over again.

While I was at 209 especially at the beginning when I was interrogated, when I wasn’t well or had a nose bleed they would inject me with a pain killer and keep me in the cell. I would sleep the whole day. They wouldn’t take me out of the cell or take me to the clinic…

Shirin Alam Hoolo?Nesvan Wing, Evin?28/10/88 (18 January 2010)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities

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1975: Nine Iranian communists

Add comment April 18th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1975,* Iran extrajudicially executed nine political prisoners.


This photo is a dramatic re-staging — evocative of a famous photo of executions in revolutionary Iran a few years later, or perhaps in the white-clad central prisoner’s raised arms, the Goya painting that forms this very blog‘s frontispiece. (Contrary to the reconstruction, the executioners had just one Uzi and took turns spraying it at their victims.) It’s part of a fascinating project by Azadeh Akhlaghi to portray 17 pivotal deaths in Iran’s history.
We took the prisoners to the high hills above Evin. They were blind-folded and their hands were tied. We got them off the minibus and had them sit on the ground. Then, [SAVAK agent Reza] Attarpour told them that, just as your friends have killed our comrades, we have decided to execute you — he was the brain behind those executions. Jazani and the others began protesting. I do not know whether it was Attarpour or Colonel Vaziri who first pulled out a machine gun and started shooting them. I do not remember whether I was the 4th or 5th person to whom they gave the machine gun. I had never done that before. At the end, Sa’di Jalil Esfahani [another SAVAK agent, known as Babak] shot them in their heads [to make sure that they were dead].

Account of a former Savak agent, Bahman Naderipour, who was executed after the Iranian Revolution. The New York Times report of Naderipour’s public trial has him recounting:

“We took them out of the jail and put them in a minibus and drove them to the hills. We had only one submachine gun, an Uzi, among us, so we took turns shooting them … we didn’t give them a chance to make a last declaration. We blindfolded them and handcuffed them and then shot them. I think was the fourth to shoot. We took the bodies back to the prison. and we had the newspapers print that they were killed during a jailbreak. We had the coroner confirm this version.”

The victims were Ahmad Jalil-Afshar, Mohammad Choupanzadeh, Bijan Jazani, Mash’oof (Saeed) Kalantari (Jazani’s maternal uncle), Aziz Sarmadi, Abbas Sourki, Hassan Zia Zarifi, Mostafa Javan Khoshdel and Kazem Zolanvar.\
The last two named were members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, the still-extant MEK back when it was still a standard Marxist revolutionary movement and not a cult.

The first seven named were members of the Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas, a proscribed Communist guerrilla organization.

One of those seven, Bijan Jazani, was a co-founder of that organ and one of the greatest Communist intellectuals Iran ever produced. (For a flavor of his thought kick back with the Jazani collection in Capitalism and Revolution in Iran.) With him was Hassan Zia-Zarifi, long a collaborator in leftist circles.

The proceedings that had landed them in prison in the first place had already put them in the global spotlight especially given the horrific torture applied to the defendants. (Among other things, these seven were adopted by Amnesty International as watchlist political prisoners.) International pressure had staved off juridical death sentences … so the matter was handled extra-juridically instead, with the standard insulting cover story, “shot trying to escape.”

Iran reaped a considerable diplomatic fallout from these murders. Its embassies around the world were rocked by protests of emigres and human rights campaigners in the ensuing weeks; that May, a team of communist assassins gunned down two American Air Force officers stationed in Tehran to train the Shah’s security forces — claiming responsibility “in retaliation for the murder of nine of our members.” (UPI dispatch from Boston (US) Globe, May 21, 1975)

There’s a lengthy lecture on Jazani et al by Communist historian Doug Greene.

* Some sources give April 19 instead. I have not been able to resolve the discrepancy to my satisfaction.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Intellectuals,Iran,Martyrs,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Summary Executions,Terrorists,Torture

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1982: Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, revolutionary foreign minister

Add comment September 15th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1982, Iranian revolutionary politician Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was shot in Tehran’s Evin Prison for supposedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

Ghotbzadeh had come by his revolutionary aspirations back in the 1950s and 1960s, after radicalizing as a teenager with the ouster of nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh; he’d be kicked out of Georgetown University for neglecting his studies in favor of protesting the U.S.-backed Shah and enter a twilight world of professional revolutionary exiles.


In Paris with the Ayatollah Khomeini.

He eventually joined the circle orbiting the Ayatollah Khomenei, returning to Iran with him on the famous Air France flight of February 1, 1979. Ghotbzadeh would serve as the frequent translator and spokesman of Khomeini, eventually becoming Foreign Minister amid the tumult of the Iranian students’ seizure of U.S. embassy hostages in late 1979.

In those fraught months, the urbane Ghotbzadeh became a familiar face on American televisions. He was notable advocate within Iran for quickly ending the hostage standoff, and spoke openly about Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ronald Reagan‘s ongoing behind-the-scenes project to prevent a hostage deal that might redound to his opponent’s electoral advantage.* His distaste for the hostage confrontation, as well as his westernized accoutrements, quickly set him at loggerheads with the revolution’s growing fundamentalist faction, and he was forced out of the foreign ministry in August 1980.

He was destined for the tragedy of revolutions devouring their own: arrested in April of 1982, his former associations with Khomeini availed him nothing in the face of a revolutionary tribunal that condemned him for “masterminding a plot to overthrow the Islamic Republic” and to assassinate Khomeini himself. Under torture, Ghotbzadeh confessed to planning a coup in a script right out of show trial central casting: “I am shamed before the nation. Free me or execute me.”

* This project succeeded so spectacularly that it’s still officially a kooky conspiracy theory in American political culture.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Iran,Politicians,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Treason

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2009: Soheila Ghadiri

Add comment October 21st, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 2009, Soheila Ghadiri (or Qadiri) was one of five prisoners hanged at Tehran’s Evin Prison.

The homeless 28-year-old killed her newborn child in a possible bout of post-partum depression — telling the court (according to this German anti-death penalty site),

I ran away from my home at age 16 and married the boy I loved. He died in an accident and after that I commenced prostitution and became addicted to drugs. I contracted HIV and hepatitis. When my baby was born, I killed her because I did not want to have the same fate as me.

It’s been reported that the prosecution against her advanced in spite of the forgiveness extended her by the victim’s family; one supposes in this case that means the family of her late husband; ordinarily, under Iran’s sharia law, the victim’s family has the right to pardon an offender any time up to or even during the execution.

You’ll need Persian to understand this video blog about Soheila Ghadiri by Iranian opposition figure Azar Majedi:

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2009: Behnoud Shojaee, Mohammad Mostafaei client

Add comment October 11th, 2013 Headsman

At dawn this date in 2009, Iran hanged Behnoud Shojaee in Tehran’s Evan Prison for a murder committed while he was still a juvenile.

His attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, later had to flee Iran in the face of persecution over his own activism against the death penalty, and the juvenile death penalty in particular.

Mostafaei wrote a Farsi post detailing the harrowing moments leading up to the Shojaee’s hanging, complete with the young offender kneeling in front of the parents of his victim imploring them to exercise their power to spare his life. That post, excerpted below, was translated to English by the site Persian2English.com.

The plan was to get the parents of the victim to drop the case so he would be spared from execution. We could hear the prayers of the activists from outside the prison. After a few minutes we were admitted into another salon. Behnoud was there along with a few of the prison guards. When the parents of the victim entered the room, Behnoud kneeled in front of them and begged them to not execute him. The head of convictions prepared the conviction papers. A few of the prison guards, Mr. Oliyaifard, and I went to the parents of the victim and begged them to not go through with the execution. The mother of the victim replied, “I cannot think right now. I have to put the rope around his neck.” After a few minutes we heard the Call for Prayer. Behnoud walked to another room to say his last prayers. He went to ask God for forgiveness.

After the prayer we all went to the prison grounds. My entire body was shaking and I didn’t know what would become of this boy without a mother. When Behnoud kneeled in front of the parents of the victim, he told the mother, “I don’t have a mother. Please act as a mother and tell them to not execute me.” We all went to another room. In that room there was a metal stool and a blue plastic hanging rope suspended above it. The parents of the victim entered that room. Then they brought Behnoud into that horrible room where they carried out the executions. I had never heard of sole executions in Evin prison. I thought it strange that only Behnoud was being executed that night.

Maybe this was his unfortunate fate that took him to die all alone. The people present in the room asked the parents to forgive and to stop the execution. The mother said you have to put the rope around his neck. Behnoud stood on top of the stool and they put the rope around his neck. After only a few seconds the mother and father of the victim ran toward the stool and pulled it away.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines

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2001: An adult actress stoned to death in Evin prison

Add comment May 20th, 2013 Headsman


(From the May 22, 2001 Eugene Register-Guard, which is also the source of the quoted text below.)

Sex workers face a struggle worldwide for labor rights and human rights. At the extreme end of the criminalization spectrum was the fate of the unidentified 35-year-old woman who, according to the Iranian newspaper Entekhab, “was partially buried in a hole at Tehran’s Evin prison and stoned to death Sunday.”

She had been arrested eight years before for acting in “obscene sex films,” which of course are as prevalent in Iran as everywhere else.

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2010: Two Iranian political prisoners

Add comment December 28th, 2011 Headsman

Two politically sensitive cases, otherwise unrelated to one another, were joined in hanging at Iran’s Evin Prison on this day last year, possibly in a tit for tat following the November assassination of a nuclear physicist.

Ali Saremi

Ali Saremi cut the highest profile of the two, a 63-year-old member of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, aka MEK or MKO).

The PMOI/MEK/MKO, originally a Marxist revolutionary group opposing the dictatorship of the Shah, split with the theocratic Iranian Revolution.

It’s led an interesting life since then.

After creating the still-extant National Council of Resistance of Iran, the PMOI set up camp in Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, which readily deployed it in the Iran-Iraq War.

Camp Ashraf was still there when the U.S. invasion rolled into Baghdad in 2003. (As of this writing, it’s only just now being closed.) While MEK has long been considered a terrorist organization, including by the U.S. State Department,* Iraq’s new occupiers also found this nest of exiles a convenient ally for its own campaign against Iran’s mullahs.

The organization has been much in the news of late both as a bargaining chip in regional diplomacy, and for lavishly bankrolling a lobbying campaign to get off everybody’s official terrorism lists — positioning itself as simply an Iranian opposition group. (It claims to have renounced violence.)

From Tehran, of course, there’s much less gray shading: the MEK is an enemy.

Saremi, a longtime member, was arrested four times for his association with the group.

The first time was in 1976; the last, and ultimately fatal, in 2007. He had just returned from Camp Ashraf to visit his son and commemorate the anniversary of Iran’s late-1980s mass execution of prisoners, an atrocity that claimed a large share of MEK sympathizers in apparent retaliation for the organization’s aforementioned wartime aid to Baghdad.

Saremi got the all-purpose mohareb death sentence — roughly, “waging war against God,” which can potentially compass any resistance to the Islamic Republic — basically for having a going association with PMOI. According to NCRI, Saremi’s prosecutor alleged that

[h]e visited Ashraf and during that he received necessary trainings and returned to the country … and eventually he was arrested in August 2007 for his repeated activities and participation in counter revolutionary ceremonies and gatherings in support of PMOI and dispatching reports to this grouplet (PMOI). During a search in his house some CDs, films, pictures from PMOI and hand written organizational documents linked to the grouplet were found and confiscated.

Iran carried out the execution without notice.**

Ali Saremi’s portrait and memory are now powerful props for the MEK terrorism de-listing campaign.

Ali Akbar Siadati

Also hanged this day was a man named Ali Akbar Siadati, about whom only sketchy information appears to be available.

Siadati was condemned for spying for Israel from 2004 until his arrest in 2008, allegedly supplying Iran’s foe a wide range of sensitive military information — a crime to which Siadati confessed, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Who Siadati was, how he had access to military intelligence, and why (apart from money) he might have betrayed it seems to be publicly obscure.

* In fact, the charge of sheltering MEK — guilty of “terrorist violence against Iran” — even appears on the Bush administration’s justification for war with Iraq.

** Iranian law requires 48 hours’ notice of an imminent execution be given to a defendant’s lawyer. This rule is routinely ignored.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,Famous,God,Hanged,History,Iran,Martyrs,Politicians,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Spies,Treason

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2010: Shahla Jahed, the footballer’s lover

Add comment December 1st, 2011 Headsman

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.

Shahroudi’s ordering a new investigation provided fodder for critics like Amnesty International who considered the trial unfair.

Iranian journalist Fereshteh Ghazi, who as a political prisoner in 2004 briefly shared a cell with our principal, made an even stronger critique.

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..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Notable for their Victims,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Sex,Torture,Women,Wrongful Executions

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