1979: Twenty-one by revolutionary courts of the Iranian Revolution

Add comment May 8th, 2013 Headsman

At 5 a.m. today, 21 people were shot in Tehran by sentence of the previous day’s revolutionary court — the largest mass-execution since the Iranian Revolution three months prior. “Revolutionary courts consolidate the gains of the revolution,” exulted an official newspaper.

While the bulk of this morning’s condemned were lower-ranking Savak personnel or former policemen, several distinct VIPs were also shot along with them.

Gholam Riza Kianpour

The names of all 21 people executed this date can be perused by date-searching the Iran Human Rights Memorial database.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Doctors,Execution,History,Intellectuals,Iran,Mass Executions,Murder,Politicians,Shot,Soldiers

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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.

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2007: Majid and Hossein Kavousifar

8 comments August 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2007, cousins Majid and Hossein Kavousifar (or Kavoosifar, or Kavoosi-far) were publicly hanged in Tehran for murdering a judge.

The judge in question had been noted for clapping some democracy activists in jail, but the authorities insisted that the case wasn’t political — that Majid admitted targeting Hassan Moghaddas (whose outsized portrait grotesquely decorated the scene) in a personal vendetta, as well as killing a couple of other people in a string of robberies.

The first public executions in the capital in five years, these hangings attracted an ample crowd, amply armed with the ubiquitous digital media equipment that characterizes our age.


Age-appropriate entertainment? A spectator at the hanging.

And while the 24-year-old Hossein died in fright, 28-year-old Majid played to those onlookers in the most insouciant execution pictures you’ll ever want to see.

Warning: Graphic images (and video) follow. (Many more can be searched up around the web.)

… and the inevitable video.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Iran,Mature Content,Murder,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines

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1987: Mehdi Hashemi, Iran-Contra whistleblower

3 comments September 28th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1987,* Iranian cleric and revolutionary official Mehdi Hashemi was secretly executed … seemingly, for leaking the Iran-Contra scandal.

Hashemi was an O.G. of the Iranian Revolution, imprisoned by the notorious secret police SAVAK** and freed when the Shah’s government collapsed in 1979.

Hashemi had a series of posts in the revolutionary state generally relating to exporting the revolution, and under the aegis of Ayatollah Montazeri, who in the late 1980s was the heir apparent of Ayatollah Khomeini for leadership in the Islamic Republic.

Montazeri was a rival of parliamentarian Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,† and further to that rivalry the Montazeri faction leaked embarrassing information about Rafsanjani’s dealings with the United States.

The Great Satan’s disreputable Middle East policy entailed playing both sides of the destructive Iran-Iraq War — arming Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, while also making secret weapons sales through Israel to Iran despite a supposed arms embargo, thereby obtaining the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

This is the “Iran” half of the Iran-Contra scandal … which became the Iran-Contra scandal when Hashemi publicly exposed the existence of secret Iranian-American contacts to the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa.

The immediate motivations appear murky even to specialists, of whom this writer is not one … but whatever they were, the leak backfired — as so often is the case — on the whistleblower himself.

While the authors of the covert policy in each country emerged stronger, Hashemi was arrested just before the story broke publicly and “persuaded” (with 75 lashes!) into one of those Soviet-style auto-denunciations, which was broadcast on Iranian TV.

Hashemi’s self-flagellation, as characterized here, runs thus:

Deviation is my ultimate sin. This is why I now stand before you. I began my career with minor infractions, gradually strayed from the correct path, continued with larger mistakes, then to major sins, and ultimately to the worst sin possible — that of heresy, apostasy, and treason against the Imam, the Community, Islam, and the Islamic Revolution. I have to ask myself what was the root cause of my downfall? …

(His answer: “carnal instincts”.)

I now realize that despicable sinners like myself had no business inside the heir-designate’s office. I thank God that I have been removed from that office …

I would like to plead with my former colleagues and friends who shared my deviant ideas to return to the correct path, relinquish their false notions, reform themselves, unite against imperialism, and overcome the carnal instincts that can lead them toward having relations with Satan and his representatives.

He was tried on a basket of nasty charges including “corruption on earth,” murder, kidnapping, plotting against the government … and, because state authority is not immune to irony, arms struggling.

Hashemi’s patron Ayatollah Montazeri worked unavailingly behind the scenes to save his man; Hashemi’s judge noted in his memoirs that the execution was carried out before the sentence went public, specifically to prevent Montazeri throwing his weight around to stop it.

But that weight would dwindle near to nothing in the months ahead, as the case opened a schism between Montazeri and the Iranian leadership.

After publicly calling for greater political openness, and criticizing a horrifying 1988 mass execution, Montazeri was officially demoted from the designated successor position in favor of Ayatollah Khamenei — who did indeed succeed to the Supreme Leader job, and holds it to this day.

Montazeri remained a frequent internal critic (and, for a time, political prisoner) of the Iranian government during the 1990s and 2000s; by the time of his December 2009 funeral, he was an emblem for the embattled Iranian reform movement.

* The execution was reported by Iranian radio as having taken place at dawn that same day, but opposition organizations immediately charged that it had actually been carried out some days before. (See New York Times, Sep. 29, 1987) If the matter has been definitively resolved, I have not been able to document it.

** For murdering a pro-regime theologian who dissed the Khomeini-backed book The Immortal Martyr, which recast Shi’a martyr Husayn Ali as a revolutionary inspiration for modern times.

† Rafsanjani also has a son named Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani — who is not to be confused with the subject of this post.

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2008: Nine hanged in Iran

Add comment December 24th, 2009 Headsman

Iran has been dinged for ramping up its execution pace in the wake of its mid-2009 crisis of political authority. (Like this, just yesterday.)

There might well be something to that, but Iran’s “baseline” starting point for any such escalation is already pretty high, and had already been trending up.

It was in that spirit at dawn this day last year that Tehran’s Evin Prison conducted a mass hanging of eight men and one woman, with a tenth potential victim spared at the last moment only due to the absence of his family.

All were executed for homicide, including the woman, one “Tayyabeh”, who insisted that she was tortured into confessing to burying her 8-year-old stepdaughter alive.

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1924: Ali Reshti and Sayyid Husain, to placate America

2 comments November 2nd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1924, diplomatic maneuvering, oil patch politics, and a dead American consul put two Iranian teenagers in front of a firing squad.

Largely forgotten today, the affair which prompted their execution helped Cossack commander Reza Khan‘s ongoing consolidation of power, culminating in another year’s time with his conquest of the Persian throne itself.

By the summer of 1924, he was by title Prime Minister and his domestic opponents could read the writing on the wall: he had made a premature bid for formal executive authority in 1923 only to be rebuffed.* At the same time, he was engaged in the perilous oil game with an attempt to use American companies to break a British oil monopoly.

On July 18, 1924, American Vice Consul Maj. Robert Imbrie and his civilian countryman Melvin Seymour were attacked by a Tehran mob while photographing a well which had become a Moslem devotional site for purported miraculous healings. Imbrie was beaten to death; Seymour was lucky to survive … and it soon emerged that soldiers from the nearby barracks had not only failed to protect the Americans but actually taken part in the assault.

Iran’s emerging strongman lost no time in making the most of it.

The event gave [Reza Khan] … the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the Press … Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly of political opponents of the Prime Minister. (British military attache Col. W.A.K. Fraser)

It’s like Lenin said, you look for the person who will benefit and, uh, you know, uh, you know, you’ll, uh, you know what I’m trying to say …

Assuming one discerns some measure of design in the Imbrie murder, and the convenient outburst of anti-Baha’i paranoia that sparked the fatal incident, one can go a couple of different directions at this point.

  1. That the Prime Minister’s foes, allied with British oil interests (the British angle was so widely believed in Iran at the time that press censorship forbade the incendiary charge), were firing up the rowdies in an attempt to shake his power. This 1924 American cable makes that case:

    “It had the earmarks from the beginning of an artificially inspired movement, of which the organized powers of evil were quick to take advantage in order to create disorder for the Government … Reza Khan found himself faced with a situation before which he was powerless. The fanaticism of the crowd was so incited by the continuous preaching of the Mullahs that any act on his part would have been interpreted as treason to Islam and prima facie evidence that he was a Bahai; hence his unfortunate orders to the military and the police not to intervene under any circumstances in religious demonstrations and under no circumstances to fire.”

  2. That Pahlavi’s own agents fomented the disorder. According to Michael Zirinsky‘s review of the case, another American official speculated that Reza Khan himself hoped a foreigner would die “so that he could declare martial law and check the power of the Mullahs.”

Which, in the event, is exactly what happened.

The U.S. made a great show of demanding exemplary justice, and it had the leverage to do so: Iran (how times change!) wanted American support and American oil exploitation.

Three were condemned to death for their parts in the riot, and after the first, a young soldier named Morteza said to have incited the mob, was shot on Oct. 2, the government announced leniency for the other two.

Not good enough.


“When you are dealing with a government like Persia … if you ask them to execute a Moslem for the death of a Christian … if they do it, you accomplish more for the prestige of your country than if they paid a million.” -a young Allen Dulles, in 1926 testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives.

At American insistence, those other two were recalled to death after all: 17-year-old mullah Sayyid Husain (various alternate transliterations – e.g., Seyid Hussein), who was supposed to have raised the riot-triggering “Baha’i well-poisoner” accusation in the first place, and 14-year-old camel driver Ali Reshti.

Zirinsky once again:

With the ending of the Iran-U.S. dispute by the execution of Ali and Husain on November 2, 1924, Reza was free to leave the capital city. He had support from the foreign legations, he had secured financing for the army, he had reestablished discipline in the Cossack Brigade, and by executing Sayyid Husain — a mullah — he had demonstrated his domination over the clergy … in the course of the next months’ campaign, he completed the unification of Iran and ensured that his government would get all the [Anglo-Persian Oil Company] royalties…

While the Imbrie affair was not the only critical event of Reza’s seizure of total power in Iran, it came at a critical moment in his rise … he used the murder to his best advantage.

And they all lived happily ever after.

* The future Shah’s future rival Mohammed Mossadegh was among the Iranian Majlis members who blocked Reza Khan’s attempt to rule Iran as a republic in 1923.

** “Blood, Power, and Hypocrisy: The Murder of Robert Imbrie and American Relations with Pahlavi Iran, 1924,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 18, no. 3 (Aug. 1986). Zirinsky quotes an American diplomat who believed Reza Khan was actually intentionally trying to create a situation where a foreigner would be killed, to give him a pretext for bringing his nation to heel with foreign support.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Iran,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Notable Jurisprudence,Political Expedience,Religious Figures,Rioting,Shot,USA

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1852: Fatimih Baraghani, Tahirih the pure

Add comment August 31st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1852, the Persian poet Fatimih Baraghani was strangled with her veil in a Tehran garden for her women’s rights advocacy.

She’s best known as* Tahirih, the title meaning “pure one” given her by the Bab.

The moniker denoted the latter’s support of her in the Babi community that would eventually develop into the Baha’i faith. Tahirih was notable even within that outlawed sect for her staunch advocacy of female emancipation; in 1848, she dramatically unveiled in public at a conference to underscore her rejection of Islamic gender law.

Known for her intelligence as well as her militancy, she came under increasing police pressure. She was killed along with about 30 of her faith in the Persian crackdown on Babism after an assassination attempt on the Shah.

Her reported last words were modern-sounding indeed:

You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.

Most readily available material about this inspirational character tends to the devotional, as with this video series; Executed Today does not necessarily endorse the position that at her apparent death she actually only escaped to trans-dimensional hiding.

* Fatimih Baraghani is also known as Qurratu’l-‘Ayn, or Qurrat al-‘Ayn — “consolation of the eyes.”

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2005: Mohammed Bijeh, the desert vampire

6 comments March 16th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2005, Iran “desert vampire” was flogged to the point of collapse and hanged before a bloodthirsty throng in Pakdasht.


Mohammed Bijeh collapses during his flogging (top); then, as he is hoisted by a crane — with what one would take to be the stab wound from a victim’s brother visible on his back. More frightful photos of this execution here.

Bijeh confessed to raping and murdering 16 boys age 8 to 15 over a yearlong spree.

His modus operandi? Lure them into the desert on the pretext of hunting animals.

Unsurprisingly a figure of intense public hatred, Bijeh stolidly endured his own death before a jeering mob.

Riot police held back the angry crowd, but at one point a brother of one of the victims managed to break through and stab Bijeh in the back.

After 100 lashes, the desert vampire was noosed to a crane arm by one of the victims’ mothers, and hoisted 10 meters into the air for public strangulation, to the cheers of onlookers who had to be restrained from savaging the body when it was finally brought down.

An accomplice, Ali Baghi, somehow avoided execution and got off with whipping and a prison term.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Infamous,Iran,Mature Content,Murder,Public Executions,Rape,Serial Killers,Sex,Torture

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