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Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh
عاطفه رجبی سهاله
Born ca. 1988
Died August 15, 2004 (age 16)
Neka, Iran
Conviction(s) adultery and "crimes against chastity"
Penalty Death by hanging
Status Deceased

Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh (Template:Lang-fa; – 1988 - August 15, 2004) was a 16-year-old schoolgirl from the town of Neka, Iran who was executed a week after being sentenced to death by Haji Rezai, head of Neka's court on charges of adultery and "crimes against chastity". Rezai, who served as the prosecutor, judge and witness also carried out the execution of the teenager himself by placing the noose round Atefeh's neck before she was hoisted on a crane to her death telling her “This will teach you to disobey!”[1][2]

After the execution of Atefeh, Iranian media reported that Judge Rezai and several militia members including Captain Zabihi and Captain Molai were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry. Inside sources informed the media that in addition to the confession of his rape of Atefeh, Judge Rezai who served as judge, jury and executioner, also confessed to torturing her during interrogations to extract names of others she had relations with.[3] He also confessed to covering up what he and the militia members had done to Atefeh, by speeding up the verdict of execution. Judge Rezai insisted that the verdict and the execution were fully in compliance with the laws of Islam, permitted and sanctioned by the religious authorities [3]. No charges have been made against Rezai.

The execution is controversial because as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran promised not to execute anyone under the age of 18. Atefah's father had passed her birth certificate to the civil authorities, lawyers involved, journalists and Judge Rezai himself but according to a witness, "the judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique ... declared her as 22."[1] Pursuant to continual complaints filed by Atefeh's family, and very heavy international pressure about her execution and the way the judge mishandled the case, the Supreme Court of Iran issued an order to free Atefeh, but only after it already knew she was dead.[3]

Early life

Atefeh's mother died in a car accident when she was five, shortly after which her younger brother is said to have drowned in a river. Her father became a drug addict, and she was forced to care for her octogenarian grandparents. Despite her attending to their needs they are reported to have completely ignored her. She grew up in the town of Neka, Iran and was described as a "lively and intelligent girl," who everyone knew, and was often seen wandering free on streets. She was called "gypsy of Neka" by the locals, as she was not restrained in her behavior, having no parental guidance.[2]

She was arrested three times by the Moral Police and convicted for having sex with unmarried men.[4] On each occasion she was jailed and given 100 lashes, the punishment for single women who have sex with single or married men, according to the so-called "Islamic" penal code of Iran. (If a married woman has sex with single or married men, she will be punished by stoning, according to this code.) Atefah herself was not married.

Fourth and final arrest

On the day she was due to attend a wedding, the Moral Police arrested her as she was preparing dinner for her grandparents. As she had not committed an offense, a petition was presented declaring her a "bad influence". It was not signed.

She was convicted for ‘crimes against chastity’, based on her admission, obtained through torture, that she had repeatedly had sex with a 51-year-old ex-revolutionary guard turned taxi-driver Ali Darabi, a married man with children, who raped her several times[1]. She kept the relationship[5], which lasted over three years, a secret from both her family and the authorities. However she finally told her Grandmother the horrendous details whilst in prison, saying that afterwards she could only walk on all fours because of the pain[6]. In the court the judge was Haji Rezai. As Atefah realised she was losing her case, she removed her hijab, an act seen as a severe contempt of the court, and argued that Ali Darabi should be punished, not her. She even removed her shoes and hit the judge with them.[7] The judge later sentenced her to death.

Atefeh appealed her conviction. Her family could still not afford a lawyer, and none was provided, in contravention of Iranian law.[8] Although such appeals are usually not resolved within a year, her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. Haji Rezai, the religious judge, was reportedly so incensed with Atefeh’s "sharp tongue" during the trial that he travelled to Tehran personally to convince the mullahs of the Supreme Court to uphold the death sentence.[3] According to the BBC, the documents presented to the Supreme Court of Appeal described her as 22 years old, but her birth certificate and death certificate stated that she was 16. The issue of her age was not brought to proper attention before it was too late.

Amnesty International and a number of other organisations have reported that she suffered from psychological illness, both before and at the trial.


She was publicly hanged from a crane in Neka, Iran, on August 15, 2004. The judge in her case, Haji Rezai, also acted as executioner and applied the noose himself.[3] She was left hanging for 45 minutes. He later boasted that she had been "taught a lesson" for her "sharp tongue".[3] Her father was not notified of her execution. The next day her body was stolen from her grave.[3] It has never been recovered.

Amnesty International and many other human rights organizations from the international community declared her killing to be a crime against humanity and against children of the world.[9]

BBC Undercover - "Execution of a Teenage Girl"

The case of Atefeh Sahaaleh is the subject of a BBC documentary made by Wild Pictures. Director, Monica Garnsey and Associate Producer, Arash Sahami went undercover to document the case.[10] It is also the subject of an hour-long Discovery Times program called "Execution in Iran."

See also

External links


ceb:Atefeh Sahāleh da:Atefeh Sahaaleh de:Atefah Sahaaleh fa:عاطفه رجبی fr:Atefah Rajabi Sahaaleh pl:Atefah Sahaaleh tl:Atefeh Sahāleh

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