“I Endured Immense Suffering, but I Did Not Yield”: The Baha’i Woman Hanged for her Beliefs

, , Leave a comment

Source: iranwire.com

Kian Sabeti

“A girl wearing a black coat and scarf, along with her glasses, was brought to us. It was Simin Saberi. As soon as she entered, we all stood up and gathered around her. Despite the circumstances, she maintained a constant smile and updated us on the situation outside the prison. Simin appeared genuinely happy to be with us. She shared that one of her friends had a beautician’s exam that day and had asked her to be a model. Simin agreed, saying, ‘My friend curled my hair, and she did well on the exam. So, I came to prison with curly hair, all dressed up.'”

Simin Saberi was arrested in October 1982 and, eight months later, on June 18, 1983, she was executed alongside nine other Baha’i women in Shiraz due to their religious beliefs.

Who was Simin Saberi?

Simin, among the Baha’is of Shiraz, was renowned for her vibrant, joyful and dynamic personality. Her friends described her as witty and brave. She endured many of the persecutions inflicted upon the Baha’is in Shiraz, ranging from the confiscation of homes and belongings to job terminations, ultimately leading to her imprisonment and execution.

Simin was born in 1958, in Dehbid village near Abadeh. Being the youngest and eleventh child in the family, she experienced a childhood and adolescence marked by frequent relocations until, in 1977, she obtained a diploma from Reza Shah High School in Shiraz.

A year later, Simin secured a position as a secretary at the Fars Marvdasht Agricultural Company. However, shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, she fell victim to the “Purification Law,” resulting in her dismissal due to her affiliation with the Baha’i faith. With her father being elderly and unable to work, Simin resorted to sewing at home to support the family, and working as a salesperson at a shop owned by one of the Shiraz Baha’is.

In the book Flowers of Shiraz, Simin Saberi’s mother is quoted, recounting their experiences

“Simin, my daughter, displayed remarkable patience, resilience and energy. Before the Revolution, we lived in [a house in] a garden owned by a Baha’i individual, a few kilometres away from Marvdasht. During the Revolution, one night, some people came to our house. The electricity was cut, and stones rained down upon us. The room’s windows shattered … Fear gripped us deeply. I had two young daughters and a newlywed bride in the house. Finally, with the help of my son, we managed to reach his car and flee the area. When we were a significant distance from the city, we stopped … We were all in our pyjamas and barefoot, and it was cold. After finding some respite, we discovered that Simin’s legs were covered in shards of glass. We sat there, meticulously removing the glass from her feet, astounded by her endurance and patience. Eventually, we arrived in Tehran under the same circumstances and returned home after a month. Upon our return, we had to rebuild our lives from scratch as we didn’t even possess basic necessities. With Simin’s assistance, we sewed and knitted for others until late at night, earning meager wages.”

Simin Saberi’s Arrest

Simin’s brother is quoted in the book Seven Girls as saying: 

“The Revolutionary Guards had visited the home of a Baha’i in Shiraz, inquiring about a person named Simin Jaberi. We assumed that the Guards had mistakenly pronounced Saberi as Jaberi. Consequently, I immediately called Simin, who was in Isfahan at the time, and emphasized that upon her return, she should avoid going to our parents’ house and instead come straight to my place. Simin complied with our request and, upon her return, spent the last month of her freedom at our home.”

On October 23, 1982, by order of Ziauddin Mir Emadi, the Shiraz Revolutionary Prosecutor, 38 Baha’is from Shiraz were arrested. Among those detained were two of Simin’s uncles. On the second day, Simin and her brother decided to visit their parents, knowing that their mother must be missing her brothers.

Simin’s brother recalls, “When we arrived at our parents’ house by car, I noticed that the door was open. I thought our parents had forgotten to close it. As I parked the car and we prepared to exit, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by several armed plainclothes agents. One of them leaned into the car window and asked for the names of all the passengers. When Simin introduced herself, the agent nodded with a mocking smile and said, ‘Shouldn’t you be in Isfahan?’ We stepped out of the car and entered the house, encircled by officers.”

He continues, “Inside the house, we were escorted by the guards. One of them turned to my mother, whose eyes were red from crying and who was sobbing, and spoke harshly, saying, ‘You claimed your daughter wasn’t in Shiraz.’ My mother, amidst tears, responded, ‘She lives with her brother, and we thought she had gone to Isfahan.’ Simin, observing the agent’s behavior towards our mother, displayed an extraordinary sense of confidence and courage, saying to the agent, ‘Why are you troubling my mother? If you’re looking for me, I’m right here.'”

“At 9pm, the guards collected all the books. The leader of the group, one of the guards, said to Simin, ‘You must come with us.’ Simin, with her usual sweet smile, shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Let’s go.'”

Interrogation at the Shiraz Detention Center

The detained Baha’is were transferred to the Shiraz IRGC detention center. Due to space constraints, most Baha’i women were held in the same cell, with the exception of two individuals. Interrogations of the Baha’is began, accompanied by insults, humiliation, and in some instances, physical punishment.

One of Simin’s cellmates, as mentioned in the book Flowers of Shiraz, recounted her return to the cell after several days of interrogation:

“It was early in the night when Simin entered through the open front door. However, she appeared strikingly thin and pale. Initially, we assumed it was due to physical discipline, but her response indicated otherwise. We inquired if she was unwell, but the answer was negative once again. It became evident that she had endured tremendous suffering in those few days, leading to severe weakness. ‘You might find it hard to believe, but Simin’s weight had been halved,’ we remarked.”

Simin proceeded to share her experience with her friends, saying, “They took me to the basement, blindfolded me, and instructed me to wait there until it was my turn. From the corner, I could hear the sound of whipping and a woman’s anguished cries. Each strike felt as though it landed on my own back. After some time, they brought me back up from the basement and into the interrogation room. They exposed me to the sight of Mahboobeh’s [another Baha’i woman] injured back. My heart burned with fury, but I tried to maintain composure and display indifference. I endured immense suffering, yet I did not yield.”

Transfer to Adel Abad Prison

On November 29, Simin and several other Baha’is were transferred from the IRGC detention center to Adel Abad prison. Forty additional Baha’is were also arrested in Shiraz and taken to the detention center.

Tavoos Pompousian, Simin’s mother, wrote her observations about her daughter’s time in Adel Abad:

“Despite the circumstances, Simin maintained a cheerful demeanor and wore a constant smile in prison, never revealing her inner sadness. She would always reassure us, saying, ‘I am fine, I am doing very well, and I have no problems.’ She lived with three people in a room, with dimensions of 5 x 2 meters, sometimes able to stand close to one another. They were like a unified entity, souls intertwined in several bodies. Whenever one of them fell ill, the others cared for and nursed them back to health.

During one of my visits, I noticed Simin feeling a bit bored, which saddened me. However, she quickly shared, ‘You have no idea how caring my friends are. They would even offer me their blanket in the cold winter nights, despite my protests that they would catch a cold themselves.’ Simin dedicated herself to teaching sewing and knitting to non-Baha’i women every day, as Baha’is were not allowed to work within the prison. As described by one of the incarcerated women, Simin fearlessly and calmly answered every question posed to her.”

A Trial that Lasted Only Minutes

Once the interrogation of the Baha’i prisoners was completed, they were swiftly taken to court. The hearings were conducted behind closed doors, with no right to legal representation, and lasted only a few minutes. 

The proceedings followed a specific format: Hojjat al-Islam Ghazaei, the Sharia judge of Shiraz, would begin by stating the charges against the accused, all of which revolved around their religious activities within the Baha’i community. 

Then, the judge would pose the ultimate question to the prisoner: Islam or execution?

Typically, the Baha’is responded in a similar manner: “We embrace Islam, but we remain steadfast in our Baha’i beliefs.”

The judiciary would then remove the prisoner from the courtroom and pass a death sentence against them.

In Simin Saberi’s case, the charge sheet contained 16 charges. The initial two charges were being a Baha’i and an active member of the Baha’i community. The following 12 charges were related to Simin’s involvement in Baha’i community activities, such as attending nineteen-day gatherings, participating in educational classes and contributing to charitable funds.

The fifteenth charge was simply that she was single.

And final accusation was that, based on their own words, the accused showed no inclination to recant their beliefs, instead wishing to remain an active member of the Baha’i community and choosing the death sentence over renouncing their faith.

Announcing the Executions

On February 12, 1983, a local newspaper published an announcement from the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, declaring the death sentences of 22 Baha’is. On February 23, Hojjat al-Islam Ghazaei, the head of the Shiraz Revolutionary Courts, spoke to the newspaper, confirming the death sentences of the detained Baha’is. 

He also issued a warning to other Baha’is, urging them to convert to Islam before it was too late. In his statement, he said:

“I take this opportunity to caution all fair-minded and intellectual Baha’is to embrace dear Islam and rid themselves of the shame of adhering to Bahaism. Through this courageous act, they can escape the rational and logical condemnation of Bahaism before it becomes too late. They should seek guidance, for the day will come, not too far off, when the Islamic nation will fulfil its Sharia obligations concerning the Baha’is. The Baha’is will then realize that they are no stronger than the hypocrites, and the united community of Hezbollah [the party of God] will not be powerless in eradicating them.”

The Hangings

On June 12, 1983, Mir Emadi, the prosecutor of the Shiraz revolutionary court, issued what he called a final chance for the imprisoned Baha’is. He instructed a Mr Torabpour, the head of the prison, to ask each Baha’i to repent four times, and if they refused, to proceed with their execution. The next day, the meetings with the Baha’is began. On June 13, Simin was taken to repent, but she remained steadfast in her beliefs and did not waver.

Simin held a deep love for her family, particularly her mother. Despite being the youngest child in the large Saberi family, she always offered her support and companionship to everyone. Her letters from prison reflect her longing for her family and a sense of responsibility towards them. In one such letter, she wrote:

“I find solace in remembering you. Please bring the things I have mentioned in my letters, but as I mentioned before, they should be items we already have at home, considering your financial situation…”

In Simin’s biography, her mother writes:

“A few weeks before her execution, during one of our visits, she said to me, ‘Mother, don’t expect me to come out of here.’ The following week, when we went to see her, she advised us to accept God’s will and not to worry. She reassured us three times. I nodded in agreement. She wanted to prepare us…”

On June 16, six Baha’is held in the men’s ward of Adel Abad prison were executed. Reports indicate that these six individuals had also been asked to recant their beliefs in the days leading up to their execution, but none of them renounced their faith.

While meeting with their families, the imprisoned women learned about the execution of the six Baha’i men. After the meeting, as was customary, the Baha’i women formed a line and proceeded to the prison hall, where they encountered the head of the prison and some guards.

The head of the prison separated 10 of the Baha’i women, including Simin, and took them away. This would be the last meeting between these ten Baha’i women and their friends. The guards led them to Chowgan Square, where they were hanged at an unknown time later that night.

Simin Saberi was a young woman of only 24 years when she was executed. She, along with nine other Baha’i women, did not leave behind any wills.


Leave a Reply