Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch citizen, was executed in Tehran on Saturday Jan. 29. She had been arrested 13 months earlier, during massive protests against the presidential elections on the Day of Ashura, a Muslim Holy Day. That day — Dec. 27, 2009 — has became known as “Bloody Ashura” because so many protesters were killed, wounded and arrested. A leading Iranian human rights groups say this case, along with other recent executions, is provoking international activists to push back even harder against the Islamic Republic.
Bahrami’s execution was reported by the Fars news agency, which has connections to Iranian
security and military forces. Fars said Bahrami was a member of an international drug smuggling
gang with Dutch connections.
The Tehran prosecutor office confirmed in a statement that Bahrami was initially arrested on
security charges. Bahrami’s daughter, Banafsheh Nayebpour, told the International Campaign
for Human Rights in Iran that the drug charges against her mother were false. At her own trial,
Bahrami told Judge Salvati: “I was under extreme pressure and conditions and forced to accept
the charges. But I am telling you now that these charges are all unfounded and I completely deny
The Revolutionary Court was also processing a charge against Bahrami, accusing her of
membership in the Association of Iranian Monarchists (Anjoman-e Padeshahi Iran). Bahrami
denied this charge, as did the dissident group-in-exile itself.
A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters a few days ago that the charges against Bahrami
were being processed.
When a Dutch reporter raised Bahrami’s case in an interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
the Iranian President replied, “According to Iranian law, each person can only have a single
citizenship, Iranian or Dutch. Those who commit an offence will be dealt with by the judiciary.
If they are Dutch, the Dutch embassy should follow the matter through the judiciary. If they are
Iranian, the matter is pursued as with other Iranians, and there are legal procedures and so on…”
At the end of the interview, Ahmadinejad added, “But so far I have not heard of the name you
Bahrami’s lawyer told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that he is “in shock” from her
hasty and rushed execution. “I am surprised that they executed her before processing the security
charges against her. I was not even informed about it.”
The Campaign for Human Rights in Iran cited a knowledgeable source saying: “In prison, an
anti-espionage team was responsible for interrogating Bahrami rather than narcotics officers.”
The Dutch government has called on the Islamic Republic for further explanation of Bahrami’s
execution. Iranian authorities had denied Dutch diplomats any access to Barhami or her case
files, rejecting the validity of her dual citizenship.
The execution of Zahra Bahrami and a number of other Iranian political prisoners — including
Hossein Khezri, Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghai — roughly coincided
with international day of protest against executions in the Islamic Republic. A number of groups
were behind the movement to hold protests on Saturday January 29, including the International
Campaign against Execution in Iran, human rights organizations, civil activists and committees
outside Iran that call for the protection of political prisoners’ rights.
“After hearing this news, the international committees against execution and anti-capital
punishment activists are all in shock and want to express our rage at this act,” said Mina Ahmadi,
spokeswoman for the International Campaign against Executions in Iran. “This execution shows
that the Islamic Republic is ready to spill more blood and execute many more.”
Ahmadi described an international backlash against Iran’s treatment of such prisoners. She
recently visited the European Parliament, along with Shiva Maboubi of the Campaign to Free
Political Prisoners in Iran. The case of Zahra Bahrami was mentioned at a meeting attended by the head of the EU human rights commission.
“It was said the EU is passing a law that would make all the European Union member countries
responsible for defending a citizen who has been sentenced to death in another country,” said
Ahmadi. “For example, in the case of Zahra Bahrami, the Netherlands would not have to act
Ahmadi noted that the Islamic Republic publicized Bahrami’s execution on the very day that
protests were planned in 38 countries around the world, including four cities in Afghanistan
and two Kurdish cities in Iraq. This leads activists and others who oppose the death penalty
to conclude that street protests and mild diplomatic objections are not sufficient. Ahmadi says
she told the EU Parliament that diplomatic pressure must be increased, like shutting down
embassies and banning Islamic Republic officials from travel in EU countries. “I think with their
actions, the Islamic Republic is mocking the protests,” said Ahmadi. “We should give a response
Ahmadi, who resides in Germany, said calls to rally protesters have gone out in more than a half-
dozen German cities. She was on her way to Frankfurt, where the Islamic Republic consulate is
located. “We hope there will be many demonstrators and that people will be able to express their
rage and revolt toward these executions, especially the execution of Zahra Bahrami.”