Kurdish Prisoner Executed; Family Wasn’t Notified


Shirkoo Moarefi, a Kurdish civil rights activist incarcerated in Iran’s Saghez Prison, was executed on Monday. Neither his family nor his lawyers were given prior notice, as is demanded by the law, that his death sentence was to be carried out today. According to The International Campaign for Human Rights In Iran, Moarefi’s lawyer, Ahmad Saeed Sheikhi, only learned of his execution via the media.

“I learned about my client’s execution from news websites”, he said. “I tried to contact his family many times and I was finally able to talk to a family member at 4:00 p.m., who confirmed the news and told me that the family were on their way to collect the body.”

Like many Kurdish prisoners, Moarefi was charged with “moharebeh” or “enmity against God”. The law against “moharebeh” is ill-defined and arbitrarily applied; it is commonly invoked to persecute Iran’s political dissidents. The death penalty to often used to prosecute those convicted of moharebeh.

Moarefi was also accused of being a member of the Komalah Party, a Kurdish political organization in Iran; his lawyer says that Moarefi simply supported the Komalah Part, but did not have membership. He was arrested as he was returning from Iraqi Kurdistan and crossing into Iran in 2008. According to his family, his trial in April of 2009 lasted “five minutes” before a guilty verdict was reached and a death sentence was given; his sentence was upheld by the appeal court. His family alleges that Moarefi was tortured while in prison.

In 2009, Moarefi was transferred to solitary confinement, stoking fears that he was to be executed soon. Back then, his family released a letter pleading with the judiciary for clemency:

We, members of the Moarefi Family, believe that if Shirko has committed crimes that go against Islamic law, those same Islamic laws should be considered to give Shirko an opportunity to live.

Lastly, capital punishment, based on Islamic laws in Iran, is the most severe punishment by the Judiciary. But kindness is also one of the most prominent characteristics of all God’s religions, especially Islam. We expect the youth of this land to be judged by the same kindness. Is this too much to ask for by an old father and a heart-broken mother?

In 2011, assuming his execution was near, Moarefi went on a hunger strike. When his death sentence was finally delivered on Monday of this week, Moarefi was 33, and had spent the last of his five years of life in prison.