• Without giving me any painkillers or numbing agents, they cut off my fingers with an electric wire-cutter.

  • I now had a "sign" on me: my fingers were cut off. Not only would people refuse to give me a job, they would point me out everywhere [as a thief]. So I had no job and no income.

Mitra Pourshajari, the daughter of an imprisoned blogger, acquired this letter from Reza Safari. He was convicted of robbery and, as a result, had amputations performed, as Islamic law requires for theft.

The exact number of amputations performed by the Islamic Republic is unknown. The regime reports only a portion of them.

In 2008, Sayed Davoud Salehi, the Iranian ambassador to Spain at the time, defended to The Telegraph his country's use of amputation by comparing the chopping off of the thief's hand to "a surgeon amputating a limb to prevent the spread of gangrene."

There have been many letters written by political prisoners in Iran to human rights organizations; letters from common prisoners are rare.

The Boroumand Foundation has been documenting amputation cases for years.

Article 278 of the Islamic Republic's penal code based strictly on 7th century Islamic law is very specific about the punishment for theft:

(a) On the first occasion, amputation of the full length of four fingers of the right hand of the thief in such a manner that the thumb and palm of the hand remain.

(b) On the second occasion, amputation of the left foot from the end of the knob [on the foot] in such a manner that half of the sole and part of the place of anointing [during ablution] remain.

(c) On the third occasion, life imprisonment.

(d) On the fourth occasion, the death penalty even if the theft is committed in prison.


When the judge first gave me the verdict, I thought it was to scare me. But unfortunately ... at 10:30 in the morning, I was taken by the guards to the yard where many other prisoners, also convicted of theft, were gathered, so that I would set an example. Without giving any painkillers or numbing agents, they cut off my fingers with an electric wire-cutter. I could see bloodstains on the wire cutter: it had evidently been used for this purpose many times before.

Reza Safari.

After the amputation, they took me to the hospital. When the doctor saw my condition he was upset and started yelling and screaming at the guards... that the amputation should have been done jointly with the hospital. I was in shock. I had no idea what they had done to me. I was taken back to the prison the same night. ... How I wished that instead of cutting off my fingers they had executed me. At least I would have died only once. ... I was released in 2000, but a much worse situation awaited me outside prison. ...

I now had a "sign" on me: my fingers were cut off. I tried for six months but could not find a job. Not only would people refuse to give me a job, they would point me out everywhere [as a thief]. So I had no job and no income, and due to my family's devastating poverty and hunger, I had once again to resort to robbery. A year after my release I was rearrested and convicted in Branch 1 of the Judiciary, where Judge Ashurloo ordered the amputation of the toes of my left foot. ... After eight years in prison to anticipate this horrifying punishment, they amputated my toes with the same wire-cutter they had used to cut off my fingers. ... It took a year before I learned to walk on my leg again. As a result of the amputation I suffer from chronic pain ... physical and psychological.

I wish to put forth a complaint against the Islamic Republic of Iran, its leaders, officials and judiciary, for amputating body parts, rendering me disabled, causing me chronic pain and, as a result of the amputations, leaving me incapable of making a living. I ask all human rights organizations and international law societies to help me in any way possible.

Reza Safari

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