Atefeh Sahaaleh

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Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh
عاطفه رجبی سهاله
BornSeptember 21, 1987
DiedAugust 15, 2004 (aged 16)
Criminal statusPardoned after execution
Conviction(s)adultery and crimes against chastity
Criminal penaltyDeath by hanging

Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh (Persian: عاطفه رجبی سهاله‎; – September 21, 1987 – August 15, 2004) was an Iranian girl from the town of Neka who was executed a week after being sentenced to death by Haji Rezai, head of Neka's court, on charges of adultery and crimes against chastity.

Early life[edit]

Atefeh's mother died in a car accident when she was five. Shortly after, her younger brother is said to have drowned in a river. Her father became a drug addict, and she was forced to care for her octogenarian grandparents. Despite her attention to their needs they are reported to have completely ignored her. She grew up in the town of Neka, Iran and was described as a "lively and intelligent girl."


Atefeh was arrested after being raped by a 51-year-old man. According to Islamic Sharia law, she was convicted for crimes against chastity. During her alleged torture she admitted to having had sex repeatedly with the 51-year-old ex-revolutionary guard turned taxi-driver Ali Darabi. Darabi was a married man with children at the time.[1]

Atefeh had been raped by Ali Darabi over a period of 3 years without her family being aware.[2] While in prison she was further allegedly tortured and raped by prison guards. She told this to her grandmother who visited her saying that afterwards she could only walk on all fours because of the pain.[3] The judge in her case was Haji Rezai. When Atefah realized that she was losing her case, she removed her hijab, an act seen as a severe contempt of the court, and argued that Ali Darabi should be punished, not her. She even removed her shoes and threw them at the judge.[4] Rezai later sentenced her to death.

According to the BBC, the documents presented to the Supreme Court of Appeal described her as 22 years old, but her birth certificate and death certificate stated that she was 16. The issue of her age was not brought to proper attention before it was too late.

Amnesty International and other organisations claimed that she suffered from psychological illness, both before and at the trial.


She was publicly hanged from a crane in Neka, Iran, on August 15, 2004. The judge in her case, Haji Rezai, allegedly also applied the noose himself.[citation needed]

Amnesty International and other organizations declared her execution to be a crime against humanity and against children of the world.[5]


After the execution of Atefeh, Iranian media reported that Judge Rezai and several militia members, including Captain Zabihi and Captain Molai, were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry. The execution is considered controversial because as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran promised not to execute anyone under the age of 18. Atefeh's father had passed her birth certificate to the civil authorities, lawyers involved, journalists and Judge Rezai. Pursuant to continual complaints filed by Atefeh's family, and heavy international pressure about her execution and the way the judge mishandled the case, the Supreme Court of Iran issued an order to pardon Atefeh.


The case of Atefeh Sahaaleh is the subject of a BBC documentary made by Wild Pictures in 2006. Director, Monica Garnsey and Associate Producer, Arash Sahami went undercover to document the case.[6] It is also the subject of an hour-long Discovery Times program called Execution in Iran.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Programmes | Execution of a teenage girl". BBC News. July 27, 2006. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  2. ^ Garnsey, Monica (August 14, 2006), Execution of a Teenage Girl, BBC News, retrieved June 8, 2012
  3. ^ Garnsey, Monica (July 28, 2006). "Death of a teenager". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ Garnsey, Monica (August 14, 2006), Execution of a Teenage Girl, BBC News, retrieved June 8, 2012
  5. ^ "Document".
  6. ^ "Execution of a Teenage Girl". BBC News. June 27, 2006. Archived from the original on August 22, 2006. Retrieved July 27, 2006.

External links[edit]