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Momentary chill
Public execution in Isfahan

By Reza Karimi
July 17, 2002
The Iranian

On Wednesday July 3rd, (12th of Teer) I sat in a cab in Isfahan's Azadi Square. The driver said he had heard on the radio that two men were going to be publicly executed in the afternoon and traffic in the area would be blocked. For a second, on that hot day, I felt a momentary chill.

At about 5:30 that afternoon, I took my camera and caught a cab to see the execution with my own eyes. I don't know why; perhaps I was searching for a dramatic subject for my next painting, by feeling the experience.

I got there too late. The two had already been hung from what looked like soccer poles by pulling a rope. Two young men, in their early 20s. Their crimes had been read to the crowd before they were executed.

There were many members of the police in riot gear and scary uniforms. I asked one of the spectators why the two had been executed. "Armed robbery and murder," he said. I was able to take several pictures, but only one came out ok. I did not want to attract any attention. My hands where shaking.

I saw the bodies of the men being lowered and put inside an ambulance. An announcer kept thanking the revolutionary guards for their cooperation.

When I asked people what they thought, almost all agreed that the two deserved it. They said people don't want to be shot at when they go into a bank and they should feel safe when carrying large amounts of cash.

I do know know whether the newspapers wrote about the execution the next day, but it was not mentioned on TV news.

During my childhood in Isfahan, I had heard about public hangings being carried out in Naqsh Jahan Square before dawn. When I asked why these two had been executed in the afternoon, some suggested that the authorities wanted to scare people: the following week was the anniversary of the student uprising.

I still think about that day and when I do, my body and my heart shiver.

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