This week marks the 26th anniversary of the day 10 Bahá’í women were hanged in Shiraz, Iran, for teaching religious classes to Bahá’í youth — the equivalent of being Sunday School teachers in the West.
One of the men attending the gallows on that day in 1983 confided to a Bahá’í: “We tried saving their lives up to the last moment, but one by one, first the older ladies, then the young girls, were hanged while the others were forced to watch, it being hoped that this might induce them to recant their belief. We even urged them to say they were not Bahá’ís, but not one of them agreed; they preferred the execution.”
According to eyewitness reports, the women, ranging in age from 17 to 57, went to their fate singing and chanting, as though they were enjoying a pleasant outing.
All of the women had been interrogated and tortured in the months leading up to their execution. Some still bore visible wounds.
The youngest of the martyrs was Muna Mahmudnizhad, known as Mona, a 17-year-old schoolgirl who, because of her youth and conspicuous innocence, became a symbol of the group. In prison, she was lashed on the soles of her feet with a cable and forced to walk on bleeding feet.
Yet she never wavered in her faith, even to the point of kissing the hands of her executioner, and then the rope, before putting it around her own throat.
Another young woman, Zarrin Muqimi-Abyanih, 28, told the interrogators, whose chief goal was to have her disavow her faith: “Whether you accept it or not, I am a Bahá’í. You cannot take it away from me. I am a Bahá’í with my whole being and my whole heart.”
The judge said, during the trial of another of the women, Ruya Ishraqi, 23, a veterinary student: “You put yourselves through this agony only for one word: Just say you are not a Bahá’í and I’ll see that…you are released…” Ms. Ishraqi responded, “I will not exchange my faith for the whole world.”
The names of the other women hanged on June 18, 1983 were: Shahin Dalvand, 25, a sociologist; Izzat Janami Ishraqi, 57, a homemaker; Mahshid Nirumand, 28, who had qualified for a degree in physics but had it denied her because she was a Bahá’í; Simin Sabiri, 25; Tahirih Arjumandi Siyavushi, 30, a nurse; Akhtar Thabit, 25, also a nurse; and Nusrat Ghufrani Yalda’i, 47, a mother and member of the local Bahá’í Spiritual Assembly.
All had considered their duty to teach Bahá’í religious classes — especially after the government had barred Bahá’í children from attending even regular school.
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