Women and the death penalty in modern Iran
The comparison between modern British girls and modern Iranian girls living less than 3,000 miles apart could hardly be more stark.
In Britain, a young woman can wear pretty clothes and makeup in public, talk on her mobile, smoke, go for a drink and have a boyfriend. If she gets pregnant, the state will look after her. If she commits a crime, the worst that can happen to her is imprisonment in a humanely run prison.
Iran, she must cover her head at all times and may not wear makeup or do anything to display her femininity in public.  She may not drink alcohol or associate with boys and if she gets caught, she will be flogged.  If she gets caught having sex or gets pregnant outside marriage, she can be sentenced to death for adultery or moral crimes. If she commits murder or is involved in drug trafficking, she can expect to feel the hangman’s noose, perhaps in public.

It is claimed by feminist and human rights groups that Iran is one big prison for women.


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 2,000 women were executed between June 1981 and 1990. They have been able to prepare a list containing 1,428 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. Thirty two 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 forklift trucks. Each crane jib or forklift had a wooden or steel beam to which the noose was 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, the Borumand website lists 123 female hangings in Iran between 1980 and 1999, together with 171 executions by shooting and 8 by stoning. To search this website click here. The case of the 10 women hanged in Shiraz in 1983 is well documented, however.

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 9 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 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 10 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.

Click here for photos of these 10 brave women (large file).

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.


Hangings of women, mostly in their 20’s and 30’s, seemed to reach a peak in 1988, with no less than 95 traced by the Borumand Foundation.


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 4 women have been hanged, 3 in public. A further 2 women were hanged in private during 2005. 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 2006, 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, although it is unclear whether this is applied to wmen.


Here are the names the women who have been put to death in Iran in the 21st century. All executions were carried out by hanging unless otherwise specified.





Date of execution

Masoumeh Fathi




Alieh Moradi




Fariba Tajiani Emamqoli



19/03/2001 (in public)

Maryam Ayoubi


Murder & adultery

Stoned to death

Parvin Mirzaei




Jamileh Assadpour




Saeedeh Qassempour Malayeri




Nasrin C.








Zahra Baghshirin & Farahnaz Yuly



29/12/2002 (in public)

Zinat al-Sadat




Unnamed woman


Brothel keeping


Diba Zomorodian



29/06/2004 (in public)

Monireh Ghasempour



11/07/2004 (in public)

Atefeh Rajabi


Moral/sex crimes (having sex outside marriage)

15/08/2004 (in public)



Murder of former husband

06/07/2005 (hanged in Isfahan prison with her boyfriend)

Akram N.
(18 at time of crime)


Murder of older woman

08/12/05 (hanged in prison in Shirevan)



Robbery/murder of woman & duaghter

18/01/06 (Hanged with her husband, Babak in Evin prison, Tehran.)

Farzaneh Sadeqi



03/05/06 (hanged in public)



Murder of husband

20/05/06 (hanged in prison with her male co-defendant)


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 northwestern 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 4 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."

Click here for a series of photos of Fariba’s execution, in order 1 2 3 & 4.


35 year old Parvin Mirzaei suffered a similar fate in public in Kouhdasht in southwestern Iran on the 3rd of July 2001, having been convicted of killing a 65 year old woman in 1997. It said Mirzaei attacked the woman because she was afraid she had learned of her decision to run away from home. Mirzaei then fled to Nahavand, a city in western Iran, before she was arrested.


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, the 11th of 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.


37 year old Jamileh Assadpour, who had strangled to death an old woman before robbing her house, was hanged in Tehran's Qasr Prison on the 12th of September 2001.


On the 18th of September 2001, Saeedeh Qassempour Malayeri and her lover Amir-Hossein Fadaie were to be hanged in Qasr Prison for the murder of her husband. However, Fadaie won a last minute reprieve and only Saeedeh was hanged.

Nasrin C. was hanged at dawn inside the prison at Tabriz on the 8th of October 2002, having been convicted of the murder of her sister-in-law.

On the 29th of December 2002, Zahra Baghshirin and Farahnaz Yuly were hanged within the prison in Gachsaran in southwestern Iran. They were condemned for taking part in the murder of the husband of a friend, who escaped with a 3-year jail term as she was not present at the time of the crime.

34 year old Zinat al-Sadat, a nurse, was hanged in a Tehran prison on the 8th of October 2003, having been convicted of strangling a 70 year old man and his 11 year old grandson in 1999. She had been employed to look after him and had killed him in order to rob him.

On the 25th of January 2004, an unnamed woman who had been convicted of running a brothel, was hanged in the northern city of Qazvin. She was given 80 lashes prior to her execution. It was claimed that she had been luring young girls and women into prostitution, and that she also made pornographic films involving her staff and clients while a search of her brothel turned up alcohol.

An unnamed 27 year old woman was hanged in Ghazvin prison on Sunday, the 1st of July 2004 for the murder of her 78 year old father-in-law. In court, she had said she was constantly insulted by him. She was newly married and was living in her father-in-law’s house.

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 Rezaie, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption and 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. Click here for her prison photo.
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, 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 5 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 lawsuit 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.


On the 6th of July, Roya, 28, (female) and Mohammad, 30, (male) were hanged inside the prison in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
Apparently, Roya had agreed to a "temporary marriage," permitted under Iranian law, to Mohammad Kouhpayeh, her employer. When the marriage contract expired, she married another man, also called Mohammad. Roya demanded that her former husband return some photos but he refused, and she and her new husband murdered him in 1999.

Akram N., a 20 year old Iranian woman, was hanged in prison in the northeastern 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.


Women on death row.

There are thought to be at least 16 women currently under sentence of death in Iran as of January 2006:
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.
Mandana Nikkhou (no other details available)
Shahla Jahed, aged 28, condemned for the murder of her lover’s wife.
Iran’s State Supreme Court confirmed her death sentence on the 2nd of October 2005. Shahla had proclaimed her innocence throughout the trial, the newspaper Sharq reported. The State Supreme Court upheld the original court’s ruling, which blamed Shahla for the murder of the wife of Nasser Mohammad-Khani.
Faeze A. (no other details available)
Fatemeh Haghighat-Pajou, aged 33, who killed her husband who had raped their daughter.
Iran’s State Supreme Court confirmed her death sentence on the 14th of November 2005.
Leyla Mafi, aged 18, sentenced for moral offences.
Sara (no other details available)
Zahra (age unknown) condemned for murder.
Tayyebeh (no other details available)
Shahnaz, aged 35. (no other details available)

19 year old Hajar Vafi from the town of Lahijan who has a two year old child has been sentenced to death by a court in Langaroud in September 2005, after conviction for murdering her aunt in 2005 following a dispute over money.
October the 15th 2005, it was reported by the Etemaad newspaper that a woman known only as Soqra, who had been convicted of adultery and aiding an Afghan man, called Alireza in the murder of her husband, had been sentenced to stoning to death as well as 15 years in prison for adultery.

On December the 10th 2005, a court in Tehran sentenced a woman, only identified by her first name, Massoumeh, to stoning for adultery in the town of Varamin, near Tehran. She was also given a prison sentence for aiding her husband, Ismaeil, in the murder of a brother and sister.

It should be noted that all death sentences in Iran must be upheld by the Supreme Court before they can be carried out. A further death sentence was passed on October the 17th against a woman, only identified by her first name Raheleh, who had been found guilty of murdering her husband, whom she had accused of having an affair with a younger woman. Raheleh had said that she was threatened by her abusive husband each time she asked him to end his affair. She said that she had never meant to kill her husband but just “teach him a lesson.”

2006 developments.
Delaraa Daraabi, aged 19, who was condemned to hang for a murder committed when she was 17. She and her boyfriend stabbed to death one her female relatives during an attempted robbery. She denies murder.
A 22 year old woman, identified only by her first name Afsaneh, was sentenced to death by hanging along with two men in the city of Qazvin on Thursday, the 5th of January 2006. Afsaneh was accused of seducing the men to murder her husband. She was 18 at the time.
On the 6th of January 2006, an 18 year old girl, identified only as Nazanin, was sentenced to be hanged for the murder of a man who had tried to rape her when she was only 17.
On the 18th of January 2006, a young Iranian couple only identified as Babak, and his wife, Raheleh, were hanged in Tehran's Evin prison. They had been convicted of killing a 60 year old woman mother and her 13 year old daughter during a burglary in July 2003. They stole gold and jewelry and were caught after they made a getaway in the victim's car.
Farzaneh Sadeqi was publicly hanged on Wednesday the 3rd of May in western province of Lorestan for murder.

On Sunday the 21st of May, 2006 a woman only identified by the initials M.M. and the man was identified as A.H. were hanged in Iran’s north-eastern province of Khorassan-Razavi having been convicted of murdering the woman’s husband.

It is claimed that 4 women were hanged on the 12th of June, although I have not been able to confirm this. 3 are unidentified and were said to have been hanged in Chobindar Prison in the city of Qazvin, west of Tehran, having been convicted of drug offences. The fourth was identified as Farzaneh Youzan, who was hanged in a prison in southeastern town of Iranshahr, presumably for murder.


On July the 8th 2006 Malek Ghorbani was been sentenced to death by stoning by a court in Orumieh. She was convicted of adultery and is currently in a prison in the town of Orumieh. Please sign a petition to save her at
Another woman in this position is 37 year old Ashraf Kalhari who languishes in Tehran’s Evin prison and has been sentenced to stoning after serving 15 years having committed adultery with her boyfriend who was convicted of the murder of her husband. It is reported that her barbaric execution will be carried out at the end of July 2006, after only serving 5 years of her prison sentence.

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. There have been reports of death sentences passed on juveniles and of stoning sentences passed on women, despite assurances to the International Community that this horrific practice had ended in 2002.  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 head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, quashed a stoning sentence for a woman convicted of adultery on October the 18th, 2004. Seema had been sentenced to stoning and 100 lashes for adultery and 15 years in prison for being an accomplice in her husband's murder. Her husband had been murdered by her lover. Shahrudi also reprieved a woman convicted of murdering and chopping up her husband in the same month.

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 continue to monitor the situation and update this page with events as they happen.  Individual executions are reported monthly.

Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights
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