Haleh Sahabi, Women’s Rights and Peace Activist, Dies After Father’s Funeral Turns Violent

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Change for Equality: Haleh Sahabi, political activist, member of mothers for peace, and religious scholar passed away today during the burial of her father, Ezzatollah Sahabi. The burial ceremony of Ezzatollah Sahabi who was the head of the council of the Religious-Nationalist Party turned violent at the hands of security forces. According to several reports security forces, both uniformed and plain clothes, were present at the ceremony in large numbers.

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, security forces at the ceremony created tension at the funeral and used violence against the mourners. The crowd was moving along peacefully holding pictures of Ezzatollah Sahabi. Security forces attacked Haleh Sahabi and forcibly removed from her hand a picture of her father. When security forces tried to hijack the coffin, Haleh Sahabi suffered a heart attack. She was transferred to a nearby clinic, but passed away.
Conflicting reports of the developments at the funeral services have been issued. Some of the independent news sources have claimed that while the funeral procession was scheduled to start at 8:30 am, due to pressures by security forces the ceremony started at 6:30 am, with many of the mourners being left behind. Reports indicate that despite the last minute and forced change of time, over 500 mourners were present at the ceremony.

Other reports have indicated that Halah Sahabi was beaten by security forces and her death was a direct result of these beatings. Haleh Sahabi’s son Yahya Shamkhi, stated in an interview published by Mizan News that Haleh Sahabi suffered a heart attack after violent scuttles with security forces and after security forces hijacked the coffin holding Ezzatollah Sahabi.

In its statement, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, condemned the violence at the burial ceremony which resulted in the death of Haleh Sahabi and pointed to developments at the funeral as “an evident sign of the level of repression of political and social activists, who even during funeral services have to be witness to hostile takeovers [of coffins] by the security forces, who use systematic violence against the public with complete impunity.”

Haleh Sahabi was a 56 year women’s rights, peace and political activist. She was also a religious scholar who was working to provide progressive interpretations of religious texts which support women’s equality.

Haleh had been arrested during the protest outside the Iranian Parliament in June 2009 during the swearing in ceremony of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following the contested elections. She was later sentenced to serve a 2 year prison term. She was on furlough form prison to take part in the funeral of her father, who had been in a coma for the past month.

Her death is a tragedy indeed and Haleh will be sorely missed by her colleagues in the women’s movement. The team members at the site of Change for Equality offer their deepest condolences to Haleh’s family, friends and colleagues and wish them peace and strength in these very difficult times.


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