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Who was Zahra Ismaili? Iranian woman's dead body hanged after heart attack death while awaiting execution

Ismaili suffered a fatal stroke after witnessing 16 men being hanged before her but authorities still hanged her dead body
UPDATED FEB 24, 2021
Zahra Ismaili suffered a fatal stroke after witnessing 16 men being hanged before her (Facebook/Omid Moradi)
Zahra Ismaili suffered a fatal stroke after witnessing 16 men being hanged before her (Facebook/Omid Moradi)

An Iranian woman who died of a heart attack while waiting to be executed for murder in Iran was hanged anyway so that the victim’s mother could watch, according to her lawyer.

The woman, named Zahra Ismaili, was convicted of killing her own husband, who is reportedly a senior agent in the Ministry of Intelligence. Her lawyer Omid Moradi said that he was an abusive partner and Ismaili acted to defend herself and her daughter. According to The Times of London, last Wednesday, she was waiting for her turn at the gallows.


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Moradi had insisted Ismaili acted in self-defense to save herself and her children when she killed her husband, Alireza Zamani, the UK Times said. Moradi took to Facebook to post the news, which was shared by the UK paper and Iran Human Rights Monitor (HRM) and later deleted. According to the post, Ismaili suffered a fatal stroke after witnessing 16 men being hanged before her and authorities hanged her dead body. "It states cardiac arrest as cause of death because yesterday 16 men were hanged before her eyes," he reportedly wrote in the post. "Zahra's heart stopped and she died before she was taken to the gallows".


According to reports, Ismaili was hanged at dawn at Rajai Shahr Prison, which is a notoriously harsh jail in Karaj, a suburb of capital Tehran. "They hanged her lifeless body, and the victim’s mother, Fatemeh Asal-Mahi, personally kicked the stool from under her feet so she could see her daughter-in-law's corpse on the gallows for even a few seconds," he wrote in the since-deleted post, according to the outlets.

This concession was reportedly granted under the sharia law of qisas ('eye for an eye'), a doctrine that reportedly grants the victim or victim's family the right to retributive justice.

Who is Zahra Ismaili?

The mother of two killed her husband, a senior agent in the Ministry of Intelligence, in self-defense. According to reports, he frequently battered her. 

On Monday, February 15, she was transferred to solitary confinement in a group of 10 death-row prisoners. According to Iran HRM, she had been serving her jail sentence in the Qarchak Prison.

Ismaili is one of three women killed last week in the prisons of Ardabil, Sanandaj and Karaj, making 114 women executed under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure, which began in 2013, according to Iran HRM. The Islamic Republic is second only to China in its use of capital punishment. Iran continues to hang people for non-violent crimes, including drug trafficking.

On Twitter, many are calling out the injustice. "Cruelty for her sentence, tragic that 21st Century still has govt's who rule through both tyranny AND flagrant misogyny, to the suffering and destruction of many undeserving people," a user tweeted. "Iran has gone 50 years back again," another added. "Grotesque, state execution is still murder," one called out the state.