NEWSFLASH: Reyhaneh Jabbari Hanged for Murder of Alleged Rapist

Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old Iranian woman, was executed on Oct. 25 after being convicted of murdering a man she claimed had tried to sexually abuse her. She spent five years on death row and was hanged on Saturday in Iran’s Evin Prison despite international outcry and her claim that a third person had killed her alleged rapist.

This case dates back to 2007 when then-19-year-old Jabbari was hired as an interior designer by Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Jabbari’s lawyers stated the she was lured to Sarbandi’s apartment with the promise of redesign work, but Sarbandi ended up assaulting her once inside.

Jabbari admitted to stabbing Sardbandi in the back with a knife, claiming she did so because Sardbandi had tried to sexually assault her. After her arrest, Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for two months and she reported that she was denied access to her family and lawyer during that time. In a letter from prison, Jabbari detailed the abuse and torture she suffered at the hands of her interrogators, including verbal abuse and whipping. She asserted that she has been blackmailed into confessing that she had bought the knife before going to Sardbandi’s house, which strengthened the argument that she had premeditated the murder. In the letter, she wrote,

The interrogator sat across from me and said that today or tomorrow they would go get my little sister… He referred to her by name: Badook… He began telling me in detail what he was going to do in front of me to my little sister … I started crying and begged him not to do such a thing. He said he had no alternative. I asked him what I could do to stop him from hurting my sister. He said: ‘It is very simple. Just confess that you bought the knife before the murder.’ … So I wrote that I had bought the knife beforehand, signed the paper and breathed a sigh of relief.

Since Islamic courts do not recognize self-defense, Jabbari was sentenced to death by a criminal court in 2009, even though she maintained that it had been a third person in the house—a man—who killed Sardbandi. She refused to identify the man.

A statement released by Amnesty International before the execution read, “These claims, if proven, could exonerate her but are believed never to have been properly investigated, raising many questions about the circumstances of the killing.”

The hanging has been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International, the European Union and Femen. Even U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress.”

Jabbari’s original execution date of Sept. 30 was postponed for 10 days, but failing to gain consent for reprieve from Sarbandi’s family, Jabbari’s sentence was carried out. During the postponement, organizations such as Amnesty International called for a re-trial for Jabbari, but these demands were not met.

Jabbari’s mother was allowed to visit the day before her execution, but only for an hour. In a heartfelt voice message to her mother, Jabbari expressed her feelings on being jailed and sentenced to death for defending herself. The message also included her will:

My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don’t want to rot under the soil. I don’t want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don’t want the recipient [to] know my name, buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me. I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don’t want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don’t want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away.

Read the message in full here.




Corinne Gaston is currently an editorial intern at Ms. and is working toward a B.A. in Creative Writing at USC. When not in the Ms. office, she is the Associate Opinion Editor at Neon Tommy. Follow her on Twitter @elysehamsa or go to her personal blog.