In March 2005, in the hard-line Islamic State of Iran, a serial killer who hunted children was publicly executed in front of a large crowd. Known to the Iranian people as the "Tehran Desert Vampire", Mohammed Bijeh stalked the dusty streets of Pakdasht looking for his young victims who were lured away with the help of his accomplice, Ali Baghi. The children were then either poisoned or knocked out, sexually assaulted and then buried in shallow graves. He would claim the motivation for the murders was his own abuse at the hands of others and he showed little remorse for his crimes. Bijeh would confess to police that if he had not been captured, he would have killed 100 children.
Mohammed Bijeh was born on 7 February 1982, and grew up in the capital city of Khorasan province, which nears the borders with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. He was the oldest of seven children of the Basjee Family, also known as Bijeh, who lived in a squalid brick house with three rooms. At the age of four his mother, who had been suffering with cancer, passed away and this left the young boy in the sole care of his father, who was described by Bijeh himself as barbaric. Once his father had threatened to kill the young boy with a stick, and would often chain his legs and beat him with a cane, and when his father remarried, his stepmother would also beat him regularly.
After his arrest he told police that during these beatings the sight of blood made him feel "euphoric". Despite wanting to stay in school, he was pressured by his father to leave at the age of 11 and begin work. The family moved to Khatunabad in Kerman Province and Bijeh began working at a furnace. It was during this time he was sexually abused by someone and later repeatedly raped by another person. Because of this he soon began to have feelings of revenge against those who had wronged him.
As an adult, Mohammed Bijeh moved to the impoverished town of Pakdasht, 20 miles south of Tehran, where he worked at a brickworks like many of those who lived in the area. The Men, women and children of the town worked there all day filling brick moulds with mud and drying them out before firing them in the kilns. A poor family was able to earn only several pounds a week, and over two thousand bricks had to be made to earn £2 in unhealthy and exhausting conditions. The brickworks and Pakdasht slums are surrounded by a low line of jagged hills, which separates it from working class Southern Tehran. It is said the dark plumes of smoke which billows from the tall chimney's of the kiln is so polluted, it turns the pine trees brown. There has long be a subculture of poverty, drug addiction and crime that has flourished in the region, and which contributed to the crimes of Mohammed Bijeh.
In the distance from the brickworks can be seen the Ghiamshahr slum, where Bijeh's accomplice lived. Ali Baghi, also known as Ali Gholampour, also worked at the brickworks and the younger man also suffered abuse by his father and other men when he was a child. In adulthood, Baghi became addicted to drugs and was one of Iran's 1.2 million heroin addicts. He would claim to police that his feelings of guilt were suppressed by the constant need to feed his addiction. It was during March 2004 when the first children began to disappear, and soon Bijeh pressured Baghi to participate in the murders, threatening him when he refused.
He used an observation post situated near a lime pit, where some of the victims remains would later be found, to seek out new victims. There was also a small brick bird coop not far, where he would lure the children with stories of performing doves, or the offer of digging rabbits and foxes from their burrows in the Tehran desert. And there Bijeh, and later with Baghi, would incapacitate the children by knocking them unconscious or using poison, before sexually abusing them. Afterwards they would either burn or bury the body in a shallow grave.
The police investigation into the murders was later criticised for being ineffective, because it was discovered at one point Bijeh had been arrested and held for several months, but released. As a result, he would go on to murder seven more children. Many of the victims were members of Afghan families, who did not report their children missing because they feared repatriation if they brought attention upon themselves. Other residents were ethnic Kurds, who had recently migrated back to the town in Eastern Iran to where their ancestors had been forcibly removed from the region and resettled over 300 years ago. And so it was argued that the residents of Pakdasht claimed they were not afforded the full protection of the law because of their ethnicity and poverty.
The murders continued up until 14 September 2004, when police made an arrest in the case. When the police caught him, Bijeh was said to be watching children swimming in a canal. He was questioned over the missing boys and those who's bodies were found and he confessed, implicating Baghi, who was also arrested. Bijeh explained his motivation for the crimes was to take revenge against the community after he was raped and abused as a child, as well as the pain he suffered from his mother's early death and the lack of affection from his father.
He commented; "I suffered cruelly from childhood, and when I compared my life with others, I had to commit such acts." When asked if he was sorry for the crimes, Bijeh reportedly shook his head with indifference. Bahgi's reluctance to commit the murders would not save him from justice, and both men were tried for murder before the Tehran court, presided over Judge Mansour Yavarzadeh Yeganeh. The men explained how they would slaughter animals and leave their carcasses near the shallow graves to disguise the smell of rotting flesh.
Bijeh in court
The trial was briefly halted during one session, when relatives of one of the victims attacked Bijeh as he gave evidence. They threw chairs and tried to grab hold of him as he described how he raped and murdered his young victims, and two men were removed from the courtroom. The relatives of the victims asked the court of the "harshest possible sentence". Bijeh confessed to the murders of 15 young boys between the ages of 8 and 15-years-old as well as two adults and he was sentenced to 100 lashes, followed by execution by hanging. Baghi was acquitted of involvement in the murders due to a lack of evidence, but he was convicted of some of the kidnappings as Bijeh's accomplice, which he confessed to, and was given a 15 year prison sentence. Some sources states as many as 22 victims were murdered.
During the trial, four of the victims families accepted blood money for the crimes instead of demanding the death penalty, however a further death sentence was added for rape. It was reported Bijeh declared, "I do not deserve to be sentenced to death." One person wrote to a local newspaper calling for the two killers to be burned alive in a brick furnace, whilst the father of one of the victims questioned if Bijeh and Bahgi were not part of a larger group who dealt in "children's body parts". The same man was quoted as saying, "We are ready to pay the judiciary as much as they want so they can hand them over to us and we can deal with them".
Most death sentences in Iran are carried out shortly after the verdict is passed, and the condemned are hanged early in the morning. If the crimes of the accused are particularly notorious, then the criminal is executed in public at the site of their crimes. The death sentence for Mohammed Bijeh was carried out on 16 March 2005, in the desert area where the killings were committed. Unlike his trial, which was conducted in private, his execution was a public spectacle. He was led out by officials in front of a crowd of 5,000 who came to watch his punishment. His shirt was removed and he was handcuffed to an iron post, then several judicial officials took turns in delivering the flogging, which left his back raw and bloodied. He fell to his knees several times during the punishment, but he refused to cry out.
Members of the crowd threw stones and shouted for the officials to hit him harder, whilst others cried out the names of the child victims screaming "shame on you, Bijeh!". When it was over, the mother of one of the murdered boys, Milad Kahani, was invited by officials to place the blue nylon rope around Bijeh's neck before he was hanged. It was reported that as he was being readied to be hanged, Bijeh was stabbed with a knife by the 17-year-old brother of victim Rahim Younessi, but the boy was soon ushered away by security guards. Before the hanging a cleric who was present attempted to whip up the feverish passion of the crowd by chanting, "Allahu akbar" (God is most great). The rope was then attached to a hook and he was hoisted 10 metres into the air by a large crane as he slowly throttled to death.
Some of those in the baying crowd chanted, "Marg bar Bijeh!" (Death to Bijeh!). Ali Khosravi screamed out "turn him around, make him swing!", as well as calling out the name of his 12-year-old son Kavon, who was abducted along with two of his friends who had all been playing ball outside his family home. Mr. Khosravi said, "This is the happiest day. It makes up for the day my son was killed", he also said, "We never recovered Kavon's body, all we got were some bones". 49-year-old Mohammed Nouri, an Afghan refugee, held aloft a photograph of his murdered son and thanked Iran for administering justice. He claimed, "Today's execution will reduce my suffering. I am satisfied with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian people". The arm of the crane was jerked upwards and Bijeh's shoes fell off as his body dangled, which drew great applause from the crowd. Some of those present stood quietly, raising their heads with tearful eyes towards the dangling figure. One spectators said; "Maybe it was not a good thing that there was so many children there?, It's not good for them to see this".
After 20 minutes the body was removed and Bijeh was confirmed dead by an attending doctor. Riot police were present to stop anyone who attempted to get close to the body, and scuffles continued for half an hour after his death. Some of those families who reportedly accepted blood money but never received it were unhappy with the execution. 35-year-old Fauzel Shamsi, another Afghan, said she would have preffered blood money, permitted under Islamic law, to the death penalty. Her son, 12-year-old Nematolah Shamsi had been working full-time in an oven making factory at the time of his disappearance. She said, "We had to sell all our things while we spent eight or nine months searching for our son. We have lost everything and my husband has a bad back, making it hard for him to work. We would have preferred some money".
The case caused outrage in Iran because of police mishandling, and President Mohammed Khatami ordered his Interior Minister to launch a personal investigation. The brickworks where both had worked was shut down and the owner was sent to prison on vague charges connected to the case. Many of the towns inhabitants worked there, contributing to the poverty. There was also a strong debate about the city slums and the subculture of crime, poverty and drug addiction that has become more prevalent there. Newspapers reported how the government planned to better organise the slum areas, but little progress has been made.
Many locals believe the killings went on for so long because the police refused to investigate the crimes committed in the impoverished region. An Afghan woman living in the town said, "The police do not look after us, only God will help us." It was reported that during the subsequent inquiry, 19 Iranian police officers had been reprimanded for "shortcomings" in solving the case, and seven of those reprimanded had been referred to the judicial review which deal with police matters. It was unknown what punishment the officers would face.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus