Today is the 30th anniversary of the execution of Mona Mahudnizhad and nine other Baha’i women in Shiraz. These ten women, ranging in age from 17 to 54, were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and, finally, hanged. Here is a little about each of them –
Mrs Nusrat Yalda’i, was 54 years old when she was hanged. She was a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Shiraz and was known for her kindness and hospitality. She was one of the women who were tortured and was twice given severe beatings of as many as 200 lashes. Her wounds, it was said, were visible when she was hanged. She was arrested with her husband and son, Bahram, who was hanged two days before her.
Mrs. ‘Izzat Janami Ishraqi was 50 years old when she died. Her husband was executed just a few days before her. Izzat and her family had already been arrested but had decided to stay in Shiraz in spite of the danger. During one of Mrs. Ishraqi’s interrogations, during which she was blindfolded and having a difficult time walking, the interrogator taunted her, saying, “Are you so blind that you cannot walk.” She replied, “I am outwardly blind, but you are inwardly blind.”
Roya Ishraqi, was the daughter of Izzat. Before her arrest she had been studying veterinary medicine. Roya was very active and loved sports such as mountain climbing. She was 23 years old when she was killed.
Zarrin Muqimi, 28 years old, was reputed to have a ringing, melodious voice. One of her interrogators said that rather than having a degree in language she should have had one in public speaking. At one point, after her interrogators could not convince her with arguments, they began abusing the Faith with foul language. She started to cry and told them, “Whether you accept it or not, I am a Baha’i. You cannot take it away from me. I am a Baha’i with my whole being and my whole heart.”
Tahirih Siyavushi also served on the Local Spiritual Assembly in Shiraz. Both she and her husband, Jamshid, were arrested and subsequently martyred. Tahirih was a nurse and was used by prison authorities to care for other prisoners. She was 32 years old when she died.
Shirin Dalvand held a graduate degree in sociology from the University of Shiraz and was such an exceptional student that some of the professors would quote from her thesis even though they knew she was a Baha’i. Shirin’s family were in England but she chose to stay in Shiraz with her grandparents. She was 25 years old when she was executed.
Akhtar Sabit was a student nurse with a very kindly disposition. In her early 20’s when she was hanged, she was the second youngest of the group. She also taught Baha’i classes. When she was asked about her sentence, she said, “Never mind, I am not worried. Whatever happens, I am content with the Will of God.”
Mahshid Nirumand was 28 years old when she died. She had a degree in physics from the University of Shiraz. Mahshid would often share her food with the other prisoners. Before being imprisoned, she had been a youth advisor and had been a member of a number of Baha’i service committees.
Simin Sabiri, though still only in her early twenties when she was arrested and executed, Simin Sabiri was known as one of the most fearless of this group. She had been a member of the Baha’i Study Committee in Shiraz, responsible for the continuing education of Baha’is about the Faith and its writings. During her interrogations, she would constantly try to refute the accusations and misinformation of her interrogators.
Mona Mahmudnizhad was 17 when she was hanged. The official charges against her ranged from “misleading children and youth” -because she was teaching children who had been expelled from school for their beliefs – and serving in an orphanage. She was also charged with being a Zionist because the Baha’i World Centre is located in Israel. Her father had been executed three months earlier.
…in the most excellent spirits…
These were the ten women who were hanged in a polo field close to Adelebad Prison in Shiraz, on the eve of June 18th, 1983. The man who drove the bus that carried the women to their death later told the grandmother of one of the women – “They were all in the most excellent spirits and were singing many songs on the way. I could not believe that they knew they were going to be executed. I have never seen people in such high spirits.”
In spite of calls for their release these ten women were all hanged. Their only crime was that they were Baha’is.
In an account entitled, The Story of Mona, a young man describes what he saw in the morgue after the 10 women were executed –
“When I found myself in the morgue, I felt as if I would explode. I could not stop crying all during the time I was there… when I entered, the first sight was of Mona’s innocent face, lying with her head resting on Mahshid’s shoulder. Mahshid looked as if she were in a deep, peaceful sleep.
“To Mona’s right was Shirin, so beautiful, a witness to injustice, her eyes covered by a blindfold – why, we never knew.”
“Roya, her eyes wide open, seemed to be gazing at the crippled human beings wandering about her. With a face full of faithfulness, she tried to make me understand and let the world know that they killed them in order to destroy their love. But what they could not understand was that love never dies and that a person who loves is always alive.
“Then there was Mrs. Yalda’i, with her familiar, loving smile. In spite of the black marks on her face, she was still easily recognizable. Her white hair spread about her face. I held her head in my hands and kissed her forehead. It seemed to me that she was still alive, full of life and love.
“And Simin, who was always full of life and ringing laughter, lay there silently. Next to her was Mrs. Ishraqi, the model of sincerity, love and friendship.
“And, finally, in a little room set apart from the others, was Zarrin, the example of strength and faithfulness.
“I could not believe that I would never see them again. I paused for a moment on the threshold and promised them all that I would continue their work by serving humanity.”
The hangings of the women shocked the entire city. One person wrote that, “Shiraz smelled of blood, of love and devotion… The families were all in astonishment and awe. They were all expectantly waiting to hear of more executions every day. A memorial service was held for the women who were martyred two or three days later. People would come in groups with bouquets of flowers. They had no thought of any personal danger to themselves. You cannot imagine the commotion in Shiraz. We could not find flowers anywhere in the whole city. Wherever we went to buy them, people would ask if we wanted them for the “Brides of the City”! Their families were strong and told us stories of the devotion of those who had died. Their high spirits truly bewildered those who came in contact with them.” (The Story of Mona)