Zahra Bahrami buried secretly

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

The Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami, who was executed in Iran last week, was buried at a secret location on Sunday afternoon. Her daughter, Banafsheh Najebpour, who lives in Tehran, was informed of this by the Iranian secret service.

[media:factfile]Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has recalled the Dutch ambassador from Iran but, before he leaves, he will deliver a sharply-worded protest to the Iranian authorities about their "disrespectful treatment of Ms Bahrami's family".

400 kilometres
Banafsheh Najebpour passed the news of the burial to Sadegh Nageshkar of the Iranian human rights organisation HRADI and he informed Radio Netherlands Worldwide. She also told him that the secret service barred her from informing the Dutch embassy in Tehran about the burial. This, she believes, is because the Dutch authorities were explicitly demanding that Ms Bahrami's body be handed over to her family.

"The daughter received a phone call from the secret service at 3.30 p.m. local time informing her that preparations for the burial had begun. She or one other relative was given permission to attend the funeral, which would take place in the town of Semnan" Sadegh Nageshkar told RNW, "but Semnan is more than 400 kilometres from Tehran so the family would never have been able to arrive on time."

Torture rumours
The Iranian human rights organisation says this strongly suggests that Zahra Bahrami was convicted for political reasons and not for possession of drugs, as the official verdict states. "The bodies of prisoners executed in Iran for drug offences are always returned to the families. That never happens with political prisoners because the regime is afraid their funeral will turn into a demonstration."

45-year-old Zahra Bahrami was hanged in Evin prison in Tehran on 29 January, after being sentenced to death for possession of cocaine and opium in early January. Following her execution, stories began to circulate that she had been tortured and her body showed signs of this. HRADI says this is another reason for the authorities not to release the body and to arrange a secret burial.

Memorial
The secret service also told Banafsheh Najebpour that she was not allowed to hold a memorial service for her mother in a mosque or in any other public place. "If she does, she runs the risk of being arrested" according to Nageshkar. He added that the family was thinking of holding a memorial for relatives and friends but that would probably be decided on Monday.

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