Following the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, a reign of terror swept the country. Tens of thousands of people were killed and there were – and still are – hundreds of legal executions for offences which in most other countries would not rate as crimes.

One of the most shocking was the hanging of 10 women whose religious faith was at odds with Islam. They were followers of the Baha’i religion, and believed in the equality of men and women. Such ideas were considered dangerous by the revolutionary regime, and the 10 women were arrested and tortured in an endeavour to convert them to Islam. Several of them were subjected to bastinado – beating on the soles of their feet.

On the night of Saturday, June 18th, 1983, they were driven to a polo field on the edge of Shiraz where gallows had been set up.

The youngest was Mona Mahmudnizhad, 17. Her father had been hanged some months earlier for his beliefs. At the execution site she asked to die last so that she could pray for the other women. Before she was hanged she kissed the noose and recited a prayer.

Roya Ishraqi, 23, a promising veterinary student, was hanged with her mother, Izzad Ishraqi, 50. Akhtar Sabit, 20, was a graduate nurse who had taught children’s religious classes. Mahshid Nirumand, 28, was a physics graduate. She had remained resolute in prison, sharing her food with other prisoners and encouraging them to remain steadfast.

Shirin Dalvand was a sociology graduate and an expert in the Baha’i faith. Under torture she was asked whether she would give up her religion. She replied: “I will hold to my faith until my death. I hope that divine mercy will enable me to remain firm until the last breath of my life.”

Tahirih Siyaushi, 32, a nurse, was a member of the local spiritual assembly of Shiraz. Her husband had been hanged two days earlier. She cared for the other prisoners while they were in custody.

Simin Sabiri, 20, and Zarrin Muqimi, 28, were both students of Baha’i. The oldest of the 10 women, Mrs. Nosrat Yalda’i, owned a house regarded as the headquarters of the Baha’i in Shiraz. She was viciously whipped while in prison and her wounds were still visible after her hanging. Her husband and her son had also been executed.

The spectators shouted “God is great!” at the hangings. Later some of the townspeople risked their lives by bringing flowers to the local mortuary to honour the victims’ bravery.