Civil status Single
Occupation unspecified occupation
Affiliation armed group
Date of execution May 9, 2010
Location Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution hanging
Charges attempt to leave the country illegally; Sympathizing with anti-regime guerilla groups
About This Case
News of the execution of Ms. Shirin Alamhuli Atashgah, daughter of Khadar, and four others was announced by the public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolution Courts. The information regarding her arrest and detention was drawn from the following sources: Ms. Alamhuli's letters from prison, ISNA, Committee of Human Rights Reporters, The Wall Street Journal, Modafe' [personal website of [human rights defender Mohammad Mostafa'ie], (9 May), Kurdish Perspective (7 and 15 May) Fars news agency (17 May), Halt Execution of Ms. Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah (7 May), Bidaran website (19 May) 2010, Rahana (31 January, 3 February 2010), Iran-e Emruz (25 February 2010), [and] Orumieh.com (16 January 2010), Radio Farda (9 May 2011).
Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was born on 3 June 1981 in the village of Gheslagh, near the city of Maku [in the predominantly Azeri and Kurdish speaking West Azerbaijan Province], to an impoverished family. She was illiterate and skilled in carpet weaving. One of her cellmates, Ms. Haratounian, remembers her as: "a very generous girl with a perpetual smile. Even in the most appalling situations, she would smile and say, 'this will pass too.' I cannot get this catchphrase of hers out of my mind. She was a guardian angel with a free spirit. Shirin was a free spirit in the real sense of the word."
According to Mr Bahramian, one of her lawyers, : Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah, who didn’t speak and Persian at the time of her arrest, had briefly attended Literacy Movement classes: “she had merely learned to sign her name. But she is an intelligent girl and has recently managed to complete the fifth grade of primary school in prison. She has promised me to continue her education to university level."
Arrest and detention
Ms. Alam Alamhuli-Atashgah was arrested on 26 May 2008 by the [Islamic] Revolution Guards [Corps – IRGC]. After enduring 25 days of torture and detention, she was transferred to Evin Prison. Following six months' imprisonment, she was transferred to Evin's Women’s Ward. According to Fars News agency, she was arrested in connection with an explosion at the headquarters of the IRGC.
Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah reported that no arrest warrant was presented to her and that during her detention in the IRGC headquarters, she had no access to a lawyer. She also described the harsh prison conditions and the torture she was subjected to in several letters. On 18 January 2010, she wrote: "I was arrested in May 2008 by several military and plainclothes officers and taken directly to the IRGC headquarters. Upon arrival, they promptly proceeded to beat me. I spent a total of 25 days in IRGC custody, 22 days of which I was on hunger strike. During that period, I was constantly subjected to all kinds of physical and psychological pressure. The interrogators, who were male, handcuffed me to a bed. They repeatedly struck me on my face, body and soles of my feet with electric batons, cables, kicks and punches. At the time, I could barely speak or understand any Persian. So when their questions remained unanswered, they would beat me so hard that I would pass out. At Call to Prayers, they would go for their prayers, giving me time to, in their words, think about my conduct. Then it would start all over again: the beatings, passing out, ice water..."
"The tortures to which you have subjected me have become my nightmares. I spent every day in pain from the torture. Blows to my head during interrogation have given my severe head trauma. There are days when I am struck with the most agonizing headaches. My nose starts to bleed, and I lose awareness of my surroundings. It takes several hours before I gradually regain consciousness. Another 'gift' of their torture was the damage to my eyesight, which is worsening every day. My request for eyeglasses has remained unanswered."
"When they realized my resolve to continue with the hunger strike, they attempted to forcibly feed me by shoving serums and tubes into my stomach through my nose. I would resist by pulling out the tubes, which resulted in bleeding and tremendous pain. After some two years, the scars remain and bother me."
"One day during interrogations, they kicked me so hard in the stomach that I immediately started to bleed. One day one of the interrogators approached me, asking irrelevant questions. He was the only interrogator I saw, as at other times I was in blindfolds. When I failed to respond, he slapped me, drew a gun from his belt and put it to my head. He said: 'Answer my questions. I know you are a member of PJAK and a terrorist. Look girl! It makes no difference whether or not you talk. We are happy to have taken a PJAK member captive."
"They would make me stand on my injured feet until they would become totally swollen. Then they would bring me some ice. Every night I could hear screams and cries, which would continue until dawn, leaving me unnerved. I subsequently found out that they were recordings intended to intensify my suffering. Or I would be held in the interrogation room for hours with cold water dripping on my head, before being returned to my cell in the evening. One day, as I was being interrogated while sitting in a chair with blindfolds on, the interrogator put out his cigarette on my hand. On another day, he placed his shoes on my feet pressing so hard that my toenails turned black and fell off. Or they would make me stand on my feet the whole day without asking any questions, while the interrogators sat there, doing crossword puzzles."
Ms. Alam Huli was transferred from the IRGC headquarter to a hospital and then to section 209 of Evin Prison, which refused to take her in custody as she appeared very weak :"Ward 209 refused to accept me owing to my physical state and the fact that I could not even walk. They kept me in that state next to the ward for an entire day, until eventually they transferred me to the [prison] clinic. I could no longer differentiate between day and night. I don't know how long I was in Evin's general clinic before being taken back to Ward 209 once my wounds had healed. And the interrogations resumed."
"Interrogators at 209 had their own particular styles and techniques; or as they put it, a 'policy of [blowing] hot and cold'. First, a heavy-handed interrogator would come in and subject me to pressure, torture and threats. He would tell me that he did not give a damn about any laws and could do anything he wanted to me... And then, it would be the turn of the gentle interrogator, who would enter and ask him to stop treating me like that. He would then offer me a cigarette and repeat the same questions; and so the vicious circle would continue.”
There is no information concerning the court session or sessions. The case was heard at Branch 15 of Tehran Islamic Revolution Court, on 29 November 2009. The Supreme Court examined her case on 14 February 2010.
The charges leveled against Ms.Alamhuli-Atashgah were listed as “enmity with God” through "links and collaboration with, and membership in, PJAK mini group, and also illegal entry and departure through the border." According to the Tehran Pubic and Revolutionary and Ordinary Court Prosecutor’s communiqué, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was charged with bombing in the IRGC headquarter’s parking in the west of Tehran. According to the communiqué “she has admitted in her last defense to the fact that she had carried out the operation under the instructions of PJAK.” (ISNA, 9 May 2010)
Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) which is a leftist organization was established in January 2004 with the aim of creating an "an ecological-democratic society and gender equality" within the framework of a democratic and federal government in Iran where autonomy is granted to all ethnic minorities. It held its first congress on 25 April 2004. The party, led by Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmadi, has a very close relationship with the PKK Party in Turkey, and regards Apo "Abdullah Ocalan" as its spiritual leader. PJAK's influence is mainly over the northern parts of Iranian Kurdistan, where it is engaged in an armed struggle against the Islamic Republic. PJAK refers to Iranian Kurdistan as East Kurdistan.
Evidence of guilt
The evidence submitted against the defendant comprised of her own "confessions", discovery of several meters of electricity cable, four large batteries, thick glass tape, remote control for triggering explosives, and various other devices. According to the Tehran Prosecutor, the defendant had admitted in her last defense that she acted on PJAK’s orders. (Report by the public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolution Courts)
There is no information concerning the defendant's statements during her trial. According to her cellmate, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah had not accepted the charge of links to PJAK. The defendant, her lawyers, and human rights organizations underline several instances of violation of due process of law in her case, including the fact that her confession was extracted under torture.
Regarding the circumstances of her "confessions," Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah explains in her 18 January 2010 letter: "On one of the occasions a doctor came to treat my wounds and check my condition. I had fallen into a state of semi-consciousness as a result of the pain. The doctor asked the interrogator to transfer me to a hospital. The interrogator replied:"Why should she be treated in hospital. Can she not be treated here?" The doctor said: ‘I’m not talking about treatment; I will do something in the hospital that would make the girl sing like a nightingale." The following day they took me to hospital with blindfolds and in handcuffs. The doctor laid me on the bed and injected me with a needle. It was as if I had lost all control. I was telling them whatever they wanted to hear in answer to their questions. They were filming the process.
The defendant’s lawyers repeatedly stressed the fact that she did not speak Persian when she was arrested. Ms.Alamhuli-Atashgah also addresses the judge in her letter:
“When you were interrogating me, I could not even speak your language. I learned Persian in the past two years from my cellmates. Yet you interrogated, tried and sentenced me in your own language, even though I could not understand what was happening and was unable to defend myself... “
“Mr. Bahramian also points to the inadmissibility of any ill intention as Ms. Alam Huli was illiterate and proving her intention of joining an organization is difficult. “An illiterate person invariably knows nothing about politics and political activity because of his/her lack of proper knowledge of the social and political situation. Therefore, charging her with joining a political organization to overthrow the system or act against national security is more like a joke because this individual has no idea of what acting against national security or joining a political party means.”
Alamhuli-Atashgah’s defense lawyers also note the disproportionality of the sentence and the crime with the death sentence in particular since no one has been killed as a result of her actions. The fact that the authorities were not neutral in her case and that a few days before her execution, Ms. Alam Huli was taken to be interrogated again and was told by her interrogators that her sentence was not final and that they could change it.
Ms. Alam Huli reported on this last interrogation session in her final letter, entitled, "I am a hostage": "I have now entered my third year in prison. In other words, three years of an agonizing life behind bars in Evin, two years of which I spent in a state of uncertainty, without access to a lawyer and without any charges to legitimize my arrest.
In that state of uncertainty, I endured a bitter period in IRGC custody. Subsequently, I experienced the interrogations phase in Ward 209. After that I spent the remainder of the period in the general ward. My incessant requests for an explanation for my predicament were left unanswered. And finally they unjustly sentenced me to death.
Today is 2 May 2010. After a long period, they have again transferred me to Ward 209 of Evin for interrogation, repeating the same unfounded charges against me. They asked me to cooperate to be spared from the death penalty. I don't know what they mean by cooperation when I have nothing more to add to what I have already told them. So they asked me to repeat whatever they said. But I did not do so. The interrogator said: "We were going to release you last year but are here now because your family did not cooperate. The interrogator himself admitted that I was merely a hostage in their hands and that they would not let me go unless they achieved their goal; or else I would be executed. But I would never be freed."
The court sentenced Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah to a two-year prison term for illegally crossing the border and the death penalty on charges of moharebah [enmity with God] through links with PJAK. The Court of Appeal of Tehran Province upheld the verdict. The Supreme Court had not provided her family and lawyers with any communications regarding confirmation of the sentence.
Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah's family described her mood during their last visit as very good. That was despite the fact that in the preceding two weeks she had been subjected to extreme pressure to extract a confession and make her take part in a televised interview.
Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was hanged in Evin Prison on 9 May 2010 without the knowledge of her family or lawyers. Regarding the day of her execution, Bidaran website quoted one of Shirin's cellmates on the night she was executed. : "The Women’s Ward's telephones were disconnected from the evening of Saturday [8 May 2010], which had made us even more worried... Every second felt like an eternity as we waited for some news of Shirin. When 10 minutes before the lights-out time (2150), they took Shirin away, under the pretext that she had given the wrong name for her father, we did not presume for a second that we would have no more meetings [with her] after that separation. Shirin's zest for life and progress, and her dedication to study, resembled that of a person who has only spent a few days in custody and is expecting to be released soon."
Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was secretly buried in an unidentified location. The security forces arrested the mother and sister of Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah, at their home in Maku, on 15 May 2010. They were released after a few hours. Families of prisoners executed at the same time as Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah called on the Tehran Prosecutor, the Governor of Kurdistan, the Head of the Judiciary in order to get their bodies. . In an interview to a JARAS reporter in June 2010, Mr Bahramian expressed disappointment in the judicial authorities for refusing to respond to the families and lawyers of the executed political prisoners. He added: "For almost a month the families of the victims. have been searching for the bodies of their loved ones. They have received no response from the gentlemen [judicial authorities] to acknowledge their accountability.
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.
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 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 association with others, including the right to form and join trade union for the protection of one’s interests.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.
The right to due process
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 legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence
ICCPR, 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; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8%viol_bprl_8%..
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 or punishment.
UDHR, Article 5; 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 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.
ICCPR, 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 1Article 2%viol_ctcidp_2%.