Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Shabnam Sohrabi


Age: 34
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: December 27, 2009
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Other arbitrary killing method
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

On Ashura Day, Ms. Sohrabi invited friends over to the house. She went out to collect provisions for the meal they would all share, maybe a lamb stew, some sweets.

News of the killing of Ms. Shabnam Sohrabi, 34, was published on the Raye Ma Kojast website on May 12, 2010. The same report was also published on various websites.

Ms. Sohrabi was run over by a security force vehicle during a street demonstration on Ashura Day, December 27, 2009. According to the Raye Ma Kojast report, an eyewitness was quoted as saying, “A police vehicle hit Shabnam at a high speed and ran over her stomach several times.” On December 27, 2009, Ms. Sohrabi and her friends were at her home on Shadman Street. According to a friend, Ms. Sohrabi went out around noon to buy the traditional food eaten on Ashura Day. Her friend left the house to go look for Ms. Sohrabi after she had not returned home by 5:00 p.m. After inquiring about Ms. Sohrabi, she found out that a woman with a similar build had been run over by a security force vehicle. When she went to the local police station, she confirmed that the victim was in fact Ms. Sohrabi. Ms. Sohrabi's friend, with the help of Ms. Sohrabi’s six-year-old daughter, found Ms. Sohrabi’s mother’s house to inform her of her daughter’s death.

Ms. Sohrabi’s mother was intimidated into silence by security forces for several months, but finally came out and stated: “I went everywhere, including hospitals, and found out that Shabnam was transferred to the Rasul Hospital. But I heard no news of her and nobody was responsive until – after twenty days – they [authorities] called us at home and told us that my daughter’s body was in the Kahrizak morgue.” Ms. Sohrabi’s body was then buried in Section 86 of the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery under tight security measures. The family was intimidated by security forces during the burial ceremony. According to her mother, “Police surrounded Section 86 during the burial ceremony and reminded me several times that I should not say a word about Shabnam’s killing. That was why I remained silent.”

According to the above report, Shabnam’s death certificate stated the cause of death as, “several injuries due to collision with a hard object and the subsequent side effects.” Efforts by Shabnam’s mother to identify this ‘hard substance’ produced no result for months. She said: “They ran over my daughter with a police vehicle but wrote the cause of death as ‘collision with a hard substance’. I want to know the name of this ‘hard substance.’” She continued: “They trampled over my daughter’s body and now only God will answer my demands for Shabnam’s rights.” All my efforts to identify my daughter’s murderer have had no result… I know well that some day my daughter’s killers will be identified and that day my pain and suffering might be assuaged.”

According to her mother, Ms. Sohrabi loved to travel and had travelled to many cities in Iran. Her mother remembers that, “Shabnam liked to live. She had just completed her carpet knitting courses and had plans for her life. But they did not let her live.” Shabnam had separated from her husband. She is survived by her six-year-old daughter, who lives with her grandmother now. Ms. Sohrabi’s mother spoke about her granddaughter, saying: “These days, she asks ‘When will Mommy return?’ What answer can I offer her except to say that she has gone to heaven? She looks back at me with her sad eyes and says: ‘Heaven is so far [away].’”

Officials’ Reaction

No official has confirmed or denied the beating and killing of Ms. Sohrabi by the anti-riot police.


Following the presidential election of June 2009 and the widespread protests against its result, the government tried to prevent demonstrations by labeling them “illegal” and by violently suppressing demonstrators. Despite the intimidating circumstances, protesters poured into the streets on various religious and official anniversaries – Qods Day, Ashura Day, the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution (February 11), and that of the occupation of the U.S. Embassy (November 14) – rallying and marching to show discontent with the regime.

On the Day of Ashura (December 27, 2009), protests in Tabriz and Tehran turned violent, and at least eight individuals were killed. State-run news agencies, such as Fars and Mehr, reported that banks and other public and private property were destroyed and burned. The Tehran Police Department issued a statement on the same day stating, “unfortunately a limited number of conspirators… disrupted public order through their presence in the streets during the religious ceremonies while chanting denigrating slogans.” In an interview with the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, an eyewitness who participated in the Ashura demonstration stated, “The night before, we contacted friends to see who would come to the demonstration the next day. We did not expect that anyone would be killed on that day because of its religious significance. Compared to the first days after the election, some people were afraid [on Ashura Day], having seen the victims and heard about torture in the prisons. People were more careful not to be arrested. At 10 a.m., we went to the streets, such as Hafez, Taleqani, and Enqelab streets, and stayed there until 1 p.m. Most of the clashes took place on these three streets.

“Police started the violence. At one point, we were walking along Taleqani Street, when a police vehicle passed by some protesters. We thought that they were going toward Vali’asr Square, but [the vehicle] stopped a hundred meters ahead of us. The police officers got out of the car and began shooting tear gas at people. In the past, the police would wait for people to form a crowd before shooting at them, but this time the police did not wait at all. Demonstrators were moving toward Vali’asr Street, but the police began shooting [tear gas] to prevent the crowd from reaching [Vali’asr Street].”

“However, people were prepared for violence this time. When the police began attacking, people at first fled but then started to throw stones at the police. The destruction on the Day of Ashura was greater [than during previous days]. Protesters did not damage buildings much, but garbage cans were set on fire in the middle of the streets. A police vehicle was also set on fire, which had happened before. Many people in the streets were religious people who were mourning, beating their chests, and chanting slogans against the government at the same time. Around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, my friend’s cousin informed us that a person had been thrown off the Hafez Bridge and that people heard the sound of shooting around Vali’asr Square. In the afternoon, when the number of protesters gradually diminished, the pro-government forces increased and controlled Hafez Street. Then, about fifty veiled women appeared and chanted slogans in support of the government.”

Several video clips posted on YouTube and to other websites showed victims being killed. In one of these clips, a police vehicle is shown running over a protester several times. The names of at least five individuals who were killed by being run over by vehicles have been reported.

High ranking police officers released several confusing statements about the number of casualties on Ashura Day. They denied that police vehicles ran over protestors. The Deputy Chief of Police confirmed, however, that 300 persons were arrested on that day. A Tehran Police Department statement emphasized that “police forces… will harshly counter any infringement of the religious dignity and principles, of the values of the Islamic Republic’s holy regime, and of the beliefs deeply rooted among the Muslim Iranian nation.” 

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