Civil status Single
Education high school diploma
Affiliation revolutionary leftist
Date of execution January 6, 1982
Location Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution shooting
Charges Actively opposing the Islamic Republic; printing/distributing leaflets
About this Case
The information regarding Ms. Shohreh Modir Shanehchi, a sympathizer of the organization Rah-e Kargar, was sent to Omid via an electronic form by her cellmate, Monireh Baradaran. This execution was also reported in an addendum to the Mojahed magazine (No 261), published by Mojahedin Khalq Organization in 1985. The list includes 12028 individuals, affiliated with various opposition groups, who were executed or killed in clashes with the Islamic Republic security forces from June 1981 to the publication date of the magazine. Furthermore, Ms. Modir Shanehchi is one of the 1533 executed prisoners listed by the Association of Iranian Women of Köln (Germany). The list published in 1997 is entitled: “A partial list of names of women executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Ms. Modir Shanehchi’s family was involved in politics and opposed to the previous regime. Her father, Haj Modir Shanehchi, was an influential tradesman from the Bazar and a supporter of the national religious movement and was close to Ayatollah Taleqani. Her sister, Zohreh, a member of the Fedaiyan Khalq Organization was killed in clashes with the security forces before the 1979 Revolution. After June, 20, 1981, all her family members were wanted and became fugitives. Her brother, Mohsen, was killed in clashes with security forces in 1981. Her other brother, Hossein, was executed in 1981. Her cellmate remembers her as a very popular person. Even in prison, she was joyful, and would practice dancing after her interrogation.
“Rah-e Kargar” or the “Revolutionary Workers Organization of Iran” was established in the summer of 1979. The Organization was founded by individuals from various leftist groups who rejected the idea of armed struggle and believed in political action. They identified themselves as Marxist-Leninists, promoting a socialist revolution and the leadership of the proletariat. They differed with the pro-Soviet communist party, Tudeh, in that they opposed the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership.
The demonstration of June 20, 1981, took place in protest against the parliament’s impeachment of President Banisadr and the Islamic Republic’s systematic policy of excluding the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) from the country’s political scene, the refusal of Ayatollah Khomeini to meet with MKO leaders and his insistence for them to disarm. The MKO had until then supported the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and agreed to function within the framework of the new political system.
On June 20th, the Organization officially changed its policy and tried to overthrow the regime by organizing mass demonstrations, in which some of the demonstrators were armed, all over the country. These demonstrations, which were severely suppressed and resulted in the killing of dozens of demonstrators, were followed by a wave of mass arrests and executions by the Revolutionary Guards and para-military forces that targeted not only the MKO, but all other opposition groups. The massive repression, unprecedented in the history of the Islamic Republic, legitimized as official government policy the months-old state harassment and suppression of dissidents and resulted in the banning of all forms of independent political dissent.
Arrest and detention
Ms. Modir Shanehchi was arrested by the Baharestan Committee in Tehran on July 24, 1981 and was detained there for less than a month. She was then transferred to Evin Prison, where she was detained for 4 months prior to her execution. She was interrogated at Evin’s Prosecution Office, Section 6. Ms. Modir Shanehchi was not given access to legal representation or allowed visitation with her family. She was interrogated several times about her political activities and asked to reveal where her father and brothers were hiding.
Her cellmate states: “they had no evidence against her. She was taken as a hostage in order for her father to come forward and introduce himself to the authorities. Shohreh was an example of those who were detained and executed without a specific charge. She was tortured at Evin. They flogged her feet by a cable. She came back to the cell in pain. Her feet were so swollen that she could not even wear oversized slippers, and she limped. Another time, when she came from interrogation, she told us that they had hung her from her two arms. Usually people who were taken for interrogation were taken from the cell in the morning and returned in the evening. They had to wait blindfolded in the hallway behind the interrogation room and listen to other prisoners being tortured.”
Ms. Modir Shanehchi was tried in January 1982 at Evin Prison. Her trial reportedly lasted less than half an hour and she was not given access to her file and had no attorney present.
The defendant told her cellmate that she was charged with “membership in Rah-e Kargar and the Fedaiyan Khalq Organization, and distributing their publications”. Her cellmate notes the unusual character of these charges considering the fact that people belonged to only one political organization.
Evidence of guilt
No evidence or witnesses were presented during the trial. However, the defendant told her cellmate that the prosecutor in charge of her interrogation had made a short appearance in the courtroom and had quietly told the judge that she is “among those who are to be executed”
No information is available on Ms. Modir Shanehchi's defense.
The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Evin sentenced Ms. Modir Shanehchi to death. She was executed by a firing squad at Evin Prison on January 6, 1982. Her cellmate remembers the day of her execution:
“At the time, we were at Evin’s section 240 (which later became Section 4). This section was not far from the execution area and we could hear the firing squad and the finishing shots. On January 6, they came while we were having lunch and called her name. She became pale and got up quickly. She left the cell rapidly wearing her chador [long veil mandatory for female prisoners] and holding the headband to cover her eyes. As if she were in a hurry to leave. Some of us followed her to say goodbye. She turned back and waved at us. Later that night, around 8 or 9 pm, we heard the firing squad.” The location of her interment is not known.
Human rights violations in this case
The legal context
Read about the courts, the judges, and the procedure.
Special courts, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals, were set up after the February 1979 revolution. Their jurisdiction encompasses a wide array of offences ranging from association with or support of the former regime, promotion of foreign influence, and enmity with the revolution to possession, use or sales of narcotic drugs, murder, and profiteering. In the 1980s, a penal court, presided over by one judge, was created to handle some of the offenses punishable by death, such as theft or adultery. These tribunals’ decisions must be confirmed by a chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily jurists. By 1981, the judiciary was purged of judges trained in law schools. They were replaced by seminary graduates and students, as well as by political appointees (an estimated 2000 by 1989). Since by law judges are only required to have a high school diploma and must be faithful to the Islamic Republic’s tenets, new recruits often have little formal training in the law and are chosen because of their political affiliation.
The procedures of these ecclesiastical tribunals fail to meet the minimum guarantees for fair trial as established by international human rights instruments and by sha’ria (the Islamic system of law). In addition to executions ordered by revolutionary tribunals, extra-judicial executions are carried out, targeting dissidents and opposition leaders. In some cases, both inside and outside of Iran, these executions have been traced back to Iranian officials. It is, however, not known if in these particular cases trials are held in absentia.
Sources (Among others): Amnesty International, Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 1980; Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, The Justice System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1992; E/CN.4/1989/26 p.14; UNCHR, Resolution 1984/54 , Abolition of Torture - Iran - 1; 28 November 1984; Report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, 28 January 1987. Amnesty International, A SHOCKED WORLD WATCHES IN DISBELIEF, VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 1987-1990. Memoirs of Ayatollah Khalkhali, religious judge and former head of revolutionary tribunals (2001), and Ayatollah Montazeri, dismissed successor to Ayatollah Khomeini (2001). UNCH, E/CN.4/1994/50, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/62 of 10 March 1993 and Economic and Social Council decision 1993/273. E/CN.4/1994/50, 2 February 1994.
Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1981-1988
Read about the conditions in which individuals were detained, tried and sentenced.
The accused were held, sometimes without being charged, for months or years in overcrowded prisons. During their detention, prisoners of conscience, and in particular supporters of political opposition groups or members of religious or ethnic minorities, were routinely subject to physical and psychological torture. Interrogators used torture, authorized by the post-revolutionary law of Ta’zir (Discretionary Punishment Law), to obtain confessions of guilt or to induce repentance. The line between trial and interrogation was often blurred by the fact that the same individual would function as prosecutor, interrogator and judge.
Executed detainees may or may not have been tried formally. Prisoners of conscience were often tried through a summary process that might have lasted only a few minutes. When disclosed, charges facing the defendants were often vague or based on coerced confessions. Defendants had no access to attorneys, and they might not have been allowed to defend themselves.
Convicts could not appeal their sentence and were often executed shortly after their conviction. Their execution was not necessarily announced.
Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:
The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.
The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.
UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.
UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.
In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.
UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.
The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.
The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.
The right to due process
The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.
ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.
Pre-trial detention rights
The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.
UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a
The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.
The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.
The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.
The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.
The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.
ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to defense through an attorney or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.
The right to have the decision rendered in public.
ICCPR, Article 14.1.
The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.
The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.