Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah


Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: May 9, 2010
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Sympathizing with anti-regime guerilla groups

About this Case

Born to a Kurdish family, she knew carpet weaving by early in her childhood.  Speaking and writing Persian came only much later.  Those she met in the capital noticed her cheerful spirit and resilience.

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), Orumieh.com (16 January 2010), and 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, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah, who didn’t speak any 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. Alamhuli-Atashgah was arrested on 26 May 2008 by the [Islamic] Revolutionary 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. Alamhuli-Atashgah was transferred from the IRGC headquarters 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 Public and Revolutionary and Ordinary Court Prosecutor’s communiqué, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was charged with bombing in the IRGC headquarters parking lot 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)

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. 

Evidence of guilt

The evidence submitted against the defendant was comprised of her own "confessions" and 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. Alamhuli-Atashgah 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. Alamhuli-Atashgah 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. Alamhuli-Atashgah 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."

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Ms. Shirin Alam Huli’s Case

According to available information, the sentence in Ms. Shirin Alam Huli’s case was issued based on the confession she made in the interrogation phase. Ms. Alam Huli wrote and published a letter in which she said the confession was forced, obtained under duress, and as a result of undergoing the most severe torture.  Pursuant to Iranian law, torture and duress of the defendant is illegal and considered to be a crime. Furthermore, confessions obtained in this manner are without legal credence. Principle 38 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as other Iranian laws expressly state the same (1) and even consider the extraction of an admission through torture to be a crime and those who commit such an act, criminals. (2) Therefore, the court’s reliance on a confession made under duress and torture was completely contrary to the law. The Court should have conducted further investigations in that regard before basing its ruling on the confession. Furthermore, pursuant to Iranian law, including the Islamic Penal Code and the Law on General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, admissions and confessions are legally valid only when made before the trial judge (3). In other words, although confessions made before a person who is not a judge is considered to constitute circumstantial evidence, it is necessary, however, that it be made before the trial judge and for the judge to hear it for himself in the event that the court cites it as the basis for its ruling. Therefore, confessions made before the investigating judge or law enforcement officials cannot be cited as evidence in the trial judge’s ruling. According to available information, Ms. Alam Huli did not make any confessions whatsoever at trial to the effect that she partook in terrorist activities or that she was a member of a terrorist group.

Ms. Shirin Alam Huli was executed without the knowledge of her family and her attorney, whereas relevant laws and regulations require that the defendant’s family and attorney be informed [of a pending execution]. Further, judicial and security officials buried Shirin Alam Huli themselves, and did not inform her family of the burial site. This was an inhuman act that was contrary to legal standards, and one that raises doubts [as to the reasons therefor and the intentions of said officials]. 

According to available information, Ms. Alam Huli did not speak Persian. In spite of that fact, however, all interrogations as well as the various stages of the proceedings were conducted in Persian. Article 202 of the Law on General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a court must appoint two interpreters [and/or translators] in the event that the defendant does not speak Persian. Violation of her right under this provision certainly adversely affected Ms. Alam Huli’s right to a defense.


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 provide a confession and to take part in a televised interview.

Ms. 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 (21:50), 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 Kordestan, and 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.”


* Farzad Kamangar, Mehdi Eslamian, Ali Heidarian, and Farhad Vakili
**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.
1. Principle 38 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution provides: “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violators of this article shall be punished in accordance with the law.”
Similar to the Constitution, the Law on Respecting Legitimate Freedoms and Protecting Citizens Rights of 2004, Paragraph 9, provides: “All forms of torture of the accused to obtain a confession or to force him/her to do any other act is prohibited. Any confessions thus obtained have no legal merit or legitimacy.” Article 169 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013 also provides: “A confession obtained by force, duress, torture, or physical or psychological harm and harassment is invalid and without legal value; the court shall conduct a new interrogation of the defendant.”
2. Article 578 of the Islamic Penal Code (Section on Ta’zirat) provides: “Any government employee and judicial or non-judicial official that engages in physical harm of a defendant in order to force him/her to make a confession, shall, in addition to Qesas or payment of Diah (“blood money”), be sentenced to six months to three years in prison, as the case may require. In the event that someone has issued an order to that effect, only the one who has issued the order shall be sentenced to prison time. In the event that the defendant dies due to the harm, the one who has committed the act shall be sentenced to the punishment reserved for a murderer, and the one who has ordered the act shall be sentenced to the punishment reserved for murder.”
3. The Note to Article 59 of the Law on General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure provides: “In cases where the court issues a ruling based on the defendant’s confession, or a witness’ testimony, or a testimony about a witness’ testimony, it is mandatory that such confession and/or testimony be made before the court.” Furthermore, Article 218, Note 2, of the Islamic Penal Code provides: “A confession is valid from the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence only if made at trial before the trial judge.”

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