Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Raheleh Zamani


Age: 27
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: January 2, 2008
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder

About this Case

Because of the physical and mental abuse by her husband, Ms. Zamani went to court and filed for divorce. The judge stated: “Go make do, my dear girl. He’s your husband, so he beat you up, [it’s not a big deal].”

News of Ms. Raheleh Zamani’s execution was published by numerous sources including Isca News Agency (January 2, 2008) and Hamvatan Salam (January 2, 2008), Entekhab, Etemad, and Iran newspapers (January 3, 2008). Additional information was obtained from other sources* including Ms. Hosseinkhah, a women’s rights activist who was in the same prison ward with Ms. Zamani.

Ms. Zamani’s prison mate describes her as a tall and beautiful woman who was calm, meek [and shy], and polite.

Ms. Zamani was 27 years old and was from Idly, a village of the town of Sarab, Ardebil Province. She never learned Farsi due to her family’s poverty and lack of school in her village. Until the time of her arrest, she only spoke Azeri. Ms. Zamani was forcibly married to one of their neighbors in 1995, when she was only 14. She said this regarding how she met and married her husband: “I was 14. We lived in a village in Ardebil [Province]. The boys went to school in another village that had a school, but my father didn’t allow me to go. One day when I came back from working on our farm, my mother told me that I had a suitor [who had asked for my hand in marriage] and that my father had accepted. They had agreed to have the marriage ceremony the following week. I had no idea what a husband even was. They said if you get married there will be one less mouth to feed…” (HRANA).

Ms. Zamani moved to Tehran with her husband a few years after they were married. According to her, she had always wanted to learn hairdressing but her husband never allowed her. In prison, however, she learned hairdressing and sewing in addition to Farsi. Ms. Zamani had a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son.

Ms. Zamani’s case revolved around the murder of her husband, Mohammad, in Eslamshahr on April 5, 2005.

The issuance and implementation of Ms. Zamani’s death sentence caused widespread reaction among human rights activists, as well as national and international institutions. Amnesty International (December 16 and 19, 2007, and January 8, 2008), the International Federation for the Defense of Human Rights, Mothers of Peace Committee, and the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, among others, objected to the sentence and demanded that it be revoked. (Radio Farda, January 4, 2008, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Website). In a letter to Ayatollah Shahrudi [then-Head of the Judiciary] a number of well-known individuals and university professors in the town of Sarab asked that the sentence not be implemented (Deutsche Welle). Reacting to the implementation of Ms. Zamani’s sentence, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister, Raymond Jansen, submitted an official objection to the Iranian Government, adding: “[The fact] that these two small children must grow up without a father and a mother is terrifying. We have contacted Iran’s ambassador [in Norway] and have objected to this savage act.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman considered the Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister’s statements as interfering [in Iran’s internal affairs] and responded: “We are sorry that, instead of being realistic and respectful of the laws of other countries, certain Norwegian statesmen try to promote and encourage crimes in [other] societies by imposing their personal preferences.” (Radio Farda January 6, 2008).

Arrest and Detention

Following her husband’s brother’s report to the police that his brother was missing, and subsequent to the discovery of his body in their home (Ms. Zamani’s home), Ms. Zamani was arrested in April 2005 and underwent questioning at Eslamshahr Public Prosecutor’s Office. There’s no information regarding the exact date and manner of her arrest. Ms Zamani spent her three-year sentence at Evin Prison. During that time, she asked to see her children four times but never did. After her arrest, her husband’s sister took charge of one of her children and her husband’s brother took charge of the other one. (Deutsche Welle).


On October 17, 2005, Tehran Province Criminal Court, Branch 74, tried Ms. Zamani. At trial, she was deprived of an attorney; furthermore, she was not able to speak Farsi. She had a court-appointed attorney in one trial session, to whom she had never spoken before, and who had left her alone to mount her own defense. After almost three years (subsequent to the Court of Appeals upholding Ms. Zamani’s death sentence and sending it to the Sentence Implementation [Section]), during which Ms. Zamani’s family had provided her absolutely no support at all, Mothers of Peace Committee was informed of her situation through two members of the campaign (the One Million Signatures Campaign) who were incarcerated in the same ward as Ms. Zamani, and retained Ms. Arzani as her attorney. Therefore, Ms. Zamani had a lawyer (of her choice) only three months prior to her execution.


The charge against Ms. Zamani was “[premeditated] intentional murder”.

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 against Ms. Zamani consisted of her own “confessions” and the discovery of “her husband’s mutilated body” in a barrel in the courtyard of their home (located in Eslamshahr).

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress.


Speaking in Azari, she had limited knowledge of Farsi language. She did not even know the meaning of the word “defense” at the court. 

According to a report by Ms. Maryam Hosseinkhah, journalist and women’s rights activist, Ms. Zamani had not been able to mount a defense at trial, due to her poor Farsi and to not having an attorney. At trial, Ms. Zamani did not know the meaning of the word “defense” and every time the judge had asked her to say something in her own defense, she had simply stated “I have killed a man.” According to Ms. Hosseinkhah, it was months after the trial that she understood what the word “defense” meant. (RAHANA, Deutsche Welle, Change for Equality).

It was three years after she had been arrested that Ms. Zamani was able to speak to her attorney, Ms. Arzani. The latter discovered discrepancies and ambiguities in the case and, along with three other lawyers, wrote a letter to Ayatollah Shahrudi, requesting a re-trial.

In interviews with the media (in prison and through several jailed journalists) and in talking to her prison mates, Ms. Zamani had repeatedly talked about domestic violence she had endured in 9 years of marriage: “My husband would start a fight over every little thing and would beat me. He would spin my hair around his hand and would throw me every which way… He had pushed me down the stairs in our home so many times that I would sometimes just draw a blank. I would be beaten because the tea was too light, I would be beaten because I had become pregnant, I would be beaten because my stomach had gotten big due to my pregnancy…” At one point, she had been hospitalized for three days because of the beatings she had suffered at the hands of her husband. (Change for Equality).

Mrs. Zamani obtained her elected lawyer only three months before her execution. The very first trial session was held in the abscence of even the public defender. 

According to women’s rights activists who had gone to her birthplace and investigated her, on one occasion Ms. Zamani had lost consciousness because of the severity of the blows, and, on another occasion, she had lost the baby she was carrying due to the injuries she suffered from beatings perpetrated by her husband. She had three medical files in Sarab hospitals, documenting the beatings suffered at the hands of her husband. Ms. Zamani was also repeatedly subjected to physical violence by her husband after moving to Tehran. While living in Tehran, she had been thrown down the stairs of their home numerous times, and therefore suffered from chronic headaches and from bouts of instant and temporary amnesia. (Deutsche Welle).

According to a RAHANA report, Ms. Zamani’s husband subjected her to mental abuse in addition to physical violence; he called her “ugly” and “useless.” He also had sexual relations with other women, and would sexually assault Ms. Zamani after watching pornographic movies.

Because of the physical and mental abuse, Ms. Zamani went to court and filed for divorce. The judge, however, stated: “Go make do, my dear girl. He’s your husband, so he beat you up, [it’s not a big deal].” He refused to grant her a divorce and gave her a trial date for four months later. Ms. Zamani’s husband refused to divorce her at the later adjudication time. As a result, she had to continue living with him. (Change for Equality).

Not only did the law not allow her to obtain a divorce, her own family did not deem divorce permissible. On one occasion she had taken refuge at her father’s home and said that she wanted a divorce. They had thrown her out at night saying “a girl must carry a man’s name.” (Change for Equality).

Ms. Zamani had stated at trial, as well as during interrogation sessions, that three days prior to the night of the incident, her husband had brought home a woman with whom he had sexual relations, and they had had a fight and an argument: “Three days before the murder (my husband) had brought home a woman. I saw them myself. I protested. I said I didn’t want that kind of life anymore. I asked him why he had done that? He bothered me instead of apologizing. He threatened me and told me not to say anything about it to anyone, not to say that he had done that numerous times before. He said ‘I’ll kill you if you open your mouth’.” Ms. Zamani consulted with one of her neighbors about reporting the episode to the police but the neighbor told her: “It’s pointless; the police aren’t going to take your word for it. Also, what if your husband says he had made a Siqeh (temporary marriage in Shi’a Islam) with her? The police will say he has done nothing illegal. Then what will you have to say?” The neighbor had thus dissuaded her. (Change for Equality).

In a letter to the Supreme Court regarding the night of the incident, Ms. Zamani stated: “My children used to sleep with me at night, one on each side. That night, I opened my eyes for an instant and noticed that he had taken the kids to a corner in the room and that he was standing over me. He had brought his hands close to my throat and wanted to strangle me. As soon as I opened my eyes, he panicked and left. I was awake all night out of fear, and was praying. The next day, I asked him why he did those things to me. He gave me a pill and told me to take it, that it was a sedative. I took the pill and then I don’t know what happened. My head was spinning. All of a sudden, I felt like I had so much energy that I could lift a mountain. My entire being was filled with rage, with humiliation. I couldn’t stand him anymore. I took an iron rod and hit him in the head with it. I didn’t know what I was doing… I didn’t want to kill him. Everything happened in an instant. He had worn me out. He had made me hate him so much that I had had enough…” (Change for Equality, May 27, 2008).

In an interview with Ms. Maryam Hosseinkhah regarding the day of the incident, Ms Zamani stated: “In the morning, when he realized I wasn’t feeling well, he gave me another one of those pills. I didn’t sleep but I was going crazy. My feet were shaking when I went to hang up the clothes to dry. I put the basket of clothes down in the yard and I asked him again: ‘Why did you bring a woman to my house?’ He hit me in the mouth and said: ‘None of your business. I felt like it, and I’ll do it again.’ When he started beating me, I noticed the iron rod in a corner of the yard, the same one he had used to beat me with before. I lifted the rod over my head to scare him into not beating me. I don’t know what happened but I hit him in the head with it. He fell to the ground and didn’t get up no matter how much I called him. He wasn’t breathing. He was dead.” (RAHANA).

There is no precise information about the ambiguities in the case, to which Ms. Arzani had alluded, except for the pill (the pill that, according to Ms. Zamani, was given to her by her husband prior to the incident) and its possible effects, and whether the court has essentially examined the issue or not. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, one Mothers of Peace Committee member stated, quoting the victim’s relatives: “In their opinion, Ms. Zamani was not capable of such an act by herself and she probably either had an accomplice or was not in a normal state. Since she did this only a few months after giving birth, it was possible that she had become temporarily insane.” Ms. Nahid Keshavarz, a human rights activist, said in this regard: “She (Ms. Zamani) did this in a state of temporary insanity; the Medical Examiner had said two days after [the murder], however, that Raheleh did not suffer from mental illness. The problem here is that nobody can diagnose temporary insanity that has occurred two days earlier.” (Sarmayeh newspaper).

A Summary of the Defects of Ms. Raheleh Zamani’s Legal Proceedings

Analysis of the late Raheleh Zamani’s case is important in several respects, the most significant of which are the sociological and criminological ones. The late Ms. Zamani was married off by her father to an acquaintance at age 14, without having any notion of what marriage was. The first injustice she suffers occurs because a society’s laws and customs allow a father to marry his daughter to a man at the age of 14. Under Iranian laws, a girl is deemed to be mature (age of consent and of criminal responsibility) at the age of 9. This has been the cause for young girls, who have no understanding of marriage, to start living married lives. Being married at such a young age undoubtedly increases the chances of becoming a victim of violence and of violation of rights. The late Ms. Zamani was born in a small village and had no education or training. She did not even know how to read and write. This is the second injustice. Even though the government is obligated to provide citizens with the opportunities for an education, and parents are duty bound to provide the necessary facilities for their children’s education, Raheleh did not have the opportunity to become educated and literate because she was born in a small village and in a traditional family. That is why she had no idea what her rights were, even under the most basic laws. She could not oppose her father’s wishes and had no will of her own. As time went on, she was unable to defend herself when she became a victim of her husband’s violence, and free herself from that situation. There is no doubt that the government is at fault to start with. The existence of discriminatory laws against women, and the lack of mechanisms for protecting women against violence is the reason why individuals like Raheleh must endure violence. If Raheleh had had a minimum of education, if she had had a job and been financially independent, if the prospect for Raheleh obtaining a divorce had not been impossible or extremely difficult, if there were state mechanisms for protection of victims of domestic violence, and dozens of other ifs, Raheleh would not have had to take her husband’s violence. Which begs the question: Isn’t all of this the government’s responsibility and among its duties [to its citizens]? One must not forget, of course, the prevailing culture in society. Raheleh is, on the one hand, a victim of the country’s laws and system, and on the other, a victim of her own society.

Although it is necessary to have access to the case file in order to conduct a precise legal analysis, it is possible, however, to point to certain defects in the case from the available published information.

Ms. Zamani, who was arrested and tried for the murder of her husband, was deprived of the right to have access to an attorney up until a certain phase of the adjudication. According to published reports, Ms. Zamani did not have an attorney in the preliminary stage of the investigation. Furthermore, the first trial session at the Province Criminal Court was conducted without the presence of an attorney, whereas, pursuant to Iranian laws, the presence of an attorney is mandatory in criminal cases that carry the death penalty. If the accused does not retain an attorney, the court is obligated to appoint one for him/her. The General and Revolutionary Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 186, Note 1, in force at the time of Raheleh’s trial, provides: “In the event that, for crimes the punishment for which is, by law, Qesas-e-nafs (“retribution”), execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, the defendant does not personally [retain and] present an attorney, it is mandatory for the court to appoint one for him/her…” The absence of an attorney in the aforementioned cases will, therefore, make the court’s rulings void. Furthermore, it does not appear that what is meant by mandatory, is only the presence of an attorney at trial, but rather, that it is also mandatory in the preliminary investigations. Raheleh Zamani was able to have access to an attorney, three years after being arrested. During those three years, a case was initiated against her and many of the stages [of adjudication] had already been completed. It can therefore be said that Raheleh was illegally denied access to an attorney and that this constitutes a serious defect in the court’s ruling and her death sentence, especially since Raheleh was illiterate and incapable of defending herself. Although she had confessed to killing her husband right from the start, this by no means was a reason to deny her a fair trial.

According to various reports, Raheleh Zamani did not speak Farsi and did not even understand the judge’s and other people’s statements; so much so, that she did not even know what the word “defense” meant: When the judge had told her “Defend yourself”, she had said: “I have killed a man.” All of this begs the question: How can a defendant, who is illiterate and does not speak Farsi, be interrogated? In all probability, the interrogators and the judicial authorities had questioned Ms. Zamani without an interpreter and to the extent that they were capable of understanding her, wrote the documents themselves, and had her sign or put her fingerprint on them, whereas it was necessary to use an interpreter at all stages of adjudication. The General and Revolutionary Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 202 provides: “In the event that the plaintiff, the private complainant, the defendant, or the witnesses do not speak Farsi, the court shall appoint two persons as interpreters. The interpreter must be [one] that the court deems trustworthy, and must pledge that he/she will translate every statement accurately and without changing anything.” This Article has not been observed in Ms. Zamani’s case and has undoubtedly caused serious defect to [her right to a] fair trial.

Subsequent to the issuance and the upholding of Ms. Zamani’s death sentence, through the efforts of her attorney and a number of human rights activists, the then-Head of the Judiciary ordered that implementation of the sentence be postponed for one months, during which time, Raheleh Zamani was given the opportunity to obtain the next of kin’s forgiveness. Fifteen days after the Head of the Judiciary’s order, however, Raheleh was suddenly executed, while in the midst of her efforts to obtain forgiveness. This was also wrong from a judicial custom standpoint, and constituted an injustice to Raheleh Zamani: She, herself, or civil society activists, might have been able to obtain the victim’s family’s forgiveness in the remaining time.


Tehran Province Criminal Court, Branch 74, composed of four judges and a chief judge, sentenced Ms. Raheleh Zamani to Qesas. The sentence was upheld by Supreme Court Branch 28, in June 2006.

On December 19, 2007, Ms Zamani was taken to the gallows, but the sentence was delayed for one month, (due to efforts made by her attorney (Ms. Arzani) and those of a number of women’s rights activists, which resulted in a direct order by the Head of the Judiciary [postponing the execution]) with the objective of obtaining the victim’s family’s forgiveness. (Amir Kabir News Bulletin). Disobeying Ayatollah Shahrudi’s order, however, Ms. Zamani was hanged only fifteen days later, in the morning of January 2, 2008, at Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Ms. Zamani obtained a one-month delay from the head of Judiciary to be able to seek forgiveness from the family of her husband. Hoever, she was executed 15 days later without even having a chance to meet her children for the very last time. 

Prison officials did not allow Ms. Zamani to meet with her attorney and her children before execution. Ms. Zamani’s attorney and other human rights activists were informed by one of her prison mates of her having been transferred to solitary confinement to be executed, at 12 midnight.


*Other sources

Kayhan, Hamshahri, and Qods newspapers (ctober 18, 2005), Fars News Agency (June 7, 2006), Sarmayeh newspaper (December 18, 2007) Iran Emruz newspaper (December 19, 2007), Amir Kabir News Bulletin (December 20, 2007), Radio Farda (January 2, 4, and 6, 2008), ISNA (December 18 and 19, 2007), Iran newspaper (January 3, 2008), Deutsche Welle (January 3, 2008), Etemad newspaper (December 19, 2007), Change for Equality (May 28, 2008), Maznunan (December 12, 2007), HRANA (October 13, 2010), RAHANA (November 30, 2010), Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation Website.

**http://mothersofpeace-iran.com/ Mothers of Peace Committee 

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