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Shirin Ebadi’s Message On Haleh Sahabi’s Tragic Death

Monday 6 June 2011


Change for Equality: Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has sent a message in honor of Haleh Sahabi, women’s rights activist, Islamic Scholar and a member of Mothers for Peace, who died after her father’s funeral procession was violently disrupted by security agents.

The funeral procession of Ezzatollah Sahabi, a well-respected Iranian political activist, was disrupted by plain clothes security officials on June 1. Ezzatollah Sahabi had died two days earlier due to natural causes. Security agents who had taken over the home of the Sahabi family prior to the burial services, disrupted the funeral procession, and violently ripped a poster of Ezzatollah Sahabi from the hands of Haleh Sahabi, who was leading the procession of her father’s mourners. According to eye witness reports, Haleh fell to the ground after she was beaten by security forces. The cause of Haleh’s death is unclear. Some reports indicate that she died of a heart attack, while others suggest that the beatings caused her death. Medical examiners were not allowed to examine her body, but it is clear that the stress and violence caused by security forces who tried to prevent the funeral procession from taking place and who eventually hijacked the body of Ezzatollah Sahabi, contributed significantly to the death of Haleh Sahabi.

Ezzatollah Sahabi’s body was hijacked by security agents, who proceeded to bury him themselves, with family members and other mourners kept out of the cemetery. Haleh too was buried in similar fashion, in the middle of the night a few hours after her death, under severe security measures. Funeral and memorial services for both father and daughter which take place on the 3rd day following death and which are customary traditions have been prevented from taking place by security forces, who have shown up outside of the Mosques, stripping veiled women of their veils forcibly and beating and arresting mourners, even elderly women and men.

The following is a note that Shirin Ebadi, who knew the family personally and professionally issued in honor of Haleh Sahabi and her tragic death.

Dear Haleh,

You are finally free. I congratulate you on your freedom.

Dearest Haleh, when the Revolutionary Courts sentenced you to serve two years in prison, we as women’s rights activists, worried for you. But with a smile, you said that the Sahabi family has grown accustomed to these hardships. When your respected father fell ill, all your friends were anxious for your arrival, so that you could hear his last words. But you, who had fallen captive to the prisons of the brutal, refused with great bravery, to offer any concessions or to accept any conditions for your temporary release.

You decried the adoption of discriminatory laws, claiming that they were a result of poor understandings by the rulers and that Islam would never treat anyone unkindly or with cruelty.

Dearest Haleh, a silent passing on a death-bed was not befitting for you. With your martyrdom, you have put to shame all those who rule through force. How painful it is to know that your lifeless body was buried secretly in the silence of the night—a burial like that of the prophet’s daughter, Fatimah Zahra (S.A.). May god unite you with Fatimah (S.A.) till the day of judgment.

Shirin Ebadi

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