Commemorating the valiant contributions of women imprisoned and tortured by the Shah’s regime
The 1979 Anti-Monarchy Revolution of February 11, 1979, was a defining moment in Iran’s history. It marked the end of decades of dictatorship under the Shah and the beginning of a new era of hope for freedom, democracy, and social justice. Women played a critical role in the revolution, influenced by the progressive ideals of the Mojahedin and Fedayeen movements.
Despite the brutal oppression of Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, these women fought tirelessly for a better future for themselves and their country. They endured torture, imprisonment, and even death in their pursuit of freedom. These brave women were symbols of resistance, inspiring generations to come.
Fatemeh Amini, Ashraf Rajavi, Asharf Ahmadi, Zahra Nowruzi, Massoumeh Shademani, and Jaleh Daii were among the many political prisoners under the Shah who suffered at the hands of SAVAK.
These women and their sacrifices serve as a reminder of the power of the human spirit and the importance of fighting for justice. Their legacy continues to inspire the women of Iran and the world today.
Jaleh Daii, a former political prisoner under the Shah
Jaleh Daii, now a member of the opposition MEK, was imprisoned by Shah’s secret police at age 15 and witnessed the horrific treatment of prisoners.
Jaleh was arrested in 1976. Her head was covered, and she was taken to one of the notorious detention centers of the secret police known as Komiteh Shahrbani.
She said, “I remember walking up the stairs and passing through the corridors. Although my head was covered, I could see the floor. I could see the legs of the prisoners who were sitting on the floor and waiting in the corridor. All of them had been flogged and their feet and legs were bloody and inflamed. Some of the legs had been infected up to the knee.”
Jaleh spent a few months in this dreadful place and was subsequently transferred to the women’s ward in Qasr Prison, where at least 100 female political prisoners of all ages were detained.
Jaleh says, “All prisoners without exception had been tortured and lashed. I saw many under-age students like myself.”
Fatemeh Amini became a symbol of women’s struggle for freedom and died under torture. Fatemeh Amini started her political activities as a freedom-loving intellectual in the School of Literature at the University of Mashhad and soon formed the Association of Progressive Women.
After graduating in 1964, she started teaching in girls’ high schools.
In 1970, she traveled to Tehran, where she was acquainted with the underground opposition MEK and soon became a member.
The Shah’s secret police arrested Fatemeh Amini in 1974 and took her under torture.
Fatemeh was flogged and tortured for months. Her back was burned with an electric broiler for long hours. Although she became paralyzed under torture but did not even give her name to the interrogators. She finally died under torture on August 16, 1975.
Her resistance to torture set an unforgettable role model for freedom-loving girls in Iran, and after the 1979 anti-monarchy revolution, dozens of high schools were named after her.
Ashraf Rajavi lost her hearing due to savage torture but continued to fight for freedom until the mullahs killed her in 1982.
Ashraf Rajavi received her Bachelor of Science in Physics from Tehran University. But her heart went out to the deprived people who suffered in a country sitting on a sea of oil.
Despite having the opportunity to lead a good life, she chose to help the underprivileged.
In this process, she got to know the People’s Mojahedin or the MEK, a newly formed underground anti-Shah organization and joined it in 1971.
She was arrested twice from 1972-1974 and in 1976 and endured savage tortures because she lost hearing in one ear.
Jaleh Daii explains that the first time she saw the scars of torture on the body of Ashraf Rajavi, she couldn’t bear watching and fainted.
The shah’s regime sentenced Ashraf to life in prison, but the Iranian people freed her with the last group of political prisoners on January 20, 1979.
Ashraf continued her struggle for freedom. For this reason, the mullahs finished the unfinished job of the Shah. They killed Ashraf Rajavi on February 8, 1982.
Thus Ashraf’s life and death became the tradition of a generation of PMOI women in Iran who lead the Iranian Resistance today.
Massoumeh Shademani, known as Mother Kabiri, was a high-spirited woman who inspired her fellow prisoners despite being subjected to brutal torture.
Massoumeh Shademani, or Mother Kabiri, was among the last political prisoners released from Shah’s jails some ten days before the 1979 anti-monarchy Revolution.
Massoumeh Shademani was 40 years old with five children when she joined the PMOI. She was arrested in 1974 and taken under brutal torture. Her interrogators knew everything about her activities, but she did not say a word under torture.
Jaleh says Mother Kabiri’s legs had been deformed under torture, and she could hardly walk.
But Mother Kabiri was always high-spirited and inspired her fellow inmates. The court of first instance sentenced her to death, a verdict that was later commuted to life in prison.
She had spent five years in prison when the Iranian people released her during the 1979 anti-monarchy Revolution.
Two years later, Mother Kabiri was executed by the Khomeini regime.
Another brave Iranian woman tortured by Shah’s secret police was Ashraf Ahmadi. She had four children and was detained for three years under Shah’s regime.
Ashraf Ahmadi began her activities with the MEK in 1971. Her elder brother was a political prisoner. The first time she was arrested in 1975, she was pregnant and suffered from a heart condition. However, the secret police, SAVAK, ruthlessly tortured her to extract her information.
Ashraf remained strong and resistant under torture and did not give any of her vast information about the MEK activities. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released three years later, just before Shah’s overthrow.
Ashraf Ahmadi was arrested again under the mullahs. She was among the 30,000 political prisoners massacred in 1988.
Another example of heroic resistance under torture in Shah’s prisons is Zahra Nowruzi or Mother Rezaii. She has lost eight children and in-laws under both dictatorships.
In 1975, she and her daughters were arrested by SAVAK, Shah’s secret police.
Mother Rezaii once explained: “Initially, they tortured me a lot like my children. They lashed the soles of my feet such that my flesh broke open. My left foot was worse than the right one. The last time they whipped me, I had no more energy left. They stopped, but one of the interrogators continued flogging me on the head and neck.
“Another night, they called me and started flogging me again. My feet started bleeding. I fell on the floor, and the interrogator pushed his foot against my back. Then they hung me from the window by my wrists and pulled the chair from under my feet.
“Then they untied one of my wrists and let me hang by one wrist. My arm and wrist had inflated, so they brought me down and threw me into my cell. My feet had been badly infected.
“I spent several months in a solitary cell and another year in Evin Prison without having any news on my young children. Then they tried me and handed me a three-year sentence.”
These were just a handful of examples out of many more injustices done by Shah’s regime. The bravery of these women serves as a testament to the impact of Iranian women on the 1979 Anti-Monarchy Revolution. They are symbols of resistance and continue to inspire generations to fight for freedom, democracy, and social justice.
In the mid-1970s, the mothers and families of political prisoners and those whose sons and daughters had been executed by the Shah formed the very early core of resistance groups.
The final months preceding the 1979 Anti-Monarchy Revolution saw vast participation of young women and girls in all cities across the country.
Women emerged as a serious new force in the 1979 Revolution, playing a remarkable role. They could not be stopped and were everywhere in step with men.
The scope of women’s participation in the 1979 Revolution that toppled the Shah was unprecedented in Iranian history. This was a major stride forward for Iranian women who continued their selfless struggle against a more brutal dictatorship under the mullahs.
Iranian women moved forward to the extent that they have been leading the main opposition force, the MEK, for more than three decades and inspiring women’s leadership of the Iran Revolution today.
Iranian women and the people of Iran generally say no to all forms of dictatorship. We have heard them chant at every opportunity in Iran and abroad, “No to the oppressor, be it the shah or the mullahs’ leader.”
Iran women look to the future, not to the past. They want a democratic, modern, free republic with the separation of religion and state, gender equality, no torture, no executions, no secret police, and no IRGC.