State Murder of a Young Artist

On the 1st of May the secret execution took place in Rasht Prison of a young Iranian woman who had been convicted of a murder carried out when she was 17. Twenty three year old Delara Darabi became the second judicial female execution victim of the Iranian theocracy this year. 140 such state killings have been carried out since the 1st of January. The execution went ahead without her legal representatives being informed. This was viewed as an attempt by the government to get her killed before another head of protest steam had time to build up. It was public concern, both Iranian and international, which lay behind an earlier decision to postpone her execution. Much attention had been drawn to her plight as a consequence of her name being the first viewers would see on the Stop Child Executions Campaign petition. While in prison she applied herself to artwork and two exhibitions of her paintwork were held in Iran and Sweden. This too helped draw attention to her plight.

Although she had initially admitted her role in the killing she later retracted her confession, instead saying it was the work of her boyfriend with whom she was in love. It was her contention that her boyfriend had asked her to take the blame in the mistaken belief that because she was 17 she could not be killed by the state whereas he, two years older, would be. He was later sentenced to ten years. Both were also sentenced to three years for robbery and 20 lashes for what was called an ‘illicit relationship.’ The victim of the knife attack for which Delara Darabi stood trial was reported to have been a 58 year old mother of three who died during a break-in at her home. She was also said to have been a relative of the executed woman.

Amnesty International which had protested vigorously on her behalf expressed outrage at her fate. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program stated:

Amnesty International is outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution, despite the legal requirement that he should receive 48 hours' notice. This appears to have been a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi's life.

Amnesty had earlier argued that her case was unfair given that the courts refused to consider later evidence that strongly suggested she was in fact not guilty. That evidence amounted to findings which purported to show that the killing could only have been carried out by a right handed person whereas Delara Darabi was left handed.

Since the US was reported to have ceased the vile practice Iran and Pakistan are among the globe’s few remaining countries which inflict execution on offenders for crimes carried out while they were not yet 18. Saudi Arabia and Yemen are also said to execute offenders for offences carried out while juveniles.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC ) and has given undertakings not to execute people for offences carried out when they were 17 or younger. Yet over an 18 year period the state has executed on average one person per year from this category of whom some according to Amnesty International ‘were under 18 at the time of their execution.’ In December 2005, hours short of the execution of a person convicted of an offence carried out while a child the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston stated:

At a time when virtually every other country in the world has firmly and clearly renounced the execution of people for crimes they committed as children, the Iranian approach is particularly unacceptable … It is all the more surprising because the obligation to refrain from such executions is not only clear and incontrovertible, but the Government of Iran has itself stated that it will cease this practice.

Said by her mother to be clinically depressed and weighing only 35 kilos, this young woman was put to death last Friday morning shortly after making a distressed call to her home telling her parents that she could see the gallows with accompanying noose being erected not far from her cell. She pleaded with her mother ‘they are going to execute me, please save me.’ At that point a prison official intervened, took the phone from her and merely commented to her mother, ‘we are going to execute your daughter and there's nothing you can do about it.’

Barbaric and unjust, the vile practice of state execution of prisoners, in particular the young, has no place in a world that would seek to describe itself as civilised.


  1. Opponents of the death penalty should check out this website. It documents a theocracy of a different type where the working class, racial minorities and mentally ill are the disproportionate victims of US State murder.

  2. Mick, good link. Thanks