-- Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was savagely beaten, tortured
and raped while in Iranian custody in 2003, according to an
emergency-room doctor who examined her before she died.
The doctor has recently received political asylum in Canada.
Shahram Azam, formerly a physician on the staff of the Iranian
Ministry of Defence, says he examined Ms. Kazemi, a 54-year-old
Iranian-born dual citizen, at Tehran's Baghiattulah hospital early on
the morning of June 27, 2003 -- four days after she was arrested while
photographing a demonstration outside Tehran's Evin prison.
His account of Ms. Kazemi's condition in the days before her death,
the first by a medical eye witness, confirms that she was tortured --
far more brutally than even critics of Iran's hard-line theocratic
regime had believed.
"Her entire body carried strange marks of violence," Dr.
Azam said. "She had a big bruise on the right side of her forehead
stretching down to the ear. The ear drum was intact, but the membrane in
one of her ears had recently burst, and a loose blood vessel could be
seen. Behind the head, on the left-hand side, was a big, loose swelling.
Three deep scratches behind her neck looked like the result of nails
digging into the flesh. The right shoulder was bruised, and on the left
hand two fingers were broken. Three fingers had broken nails or no
Dr. Azam's account of his examination, which he intends to describe
at a press conference in Ottawa today, goes on to describe severe
abdominal bruising, "stretching over the thigh down to the
knees." Though male doctors in Iran are not allowed to carry out
vaginal exams, Dr. Azam's emergency-room nurse thoroughly examined Ms.
Kazemi and found the bruising to be the result of "a very brutal
The nurse told him that "the entire genital area had been
damaged," Dr. Azam said.
There was also evidence Ms. Kazemi had been whipped.
"The backs of both legs where the skin had come off indicated
flogging, five marks on one leg and seven on the other. The big toe on
the left leg was crushed," he said.
Though senior Iranian officials have at various times acknowledged
that Ms. Kazemi was murdered by state security officers -- Iran's
ambassador to the United Kingdom said as much in February, but later
retracted his remarks -- the official Iranian position is that Ms.
Kazemi died after she fainted, fell and hit her head.
Canada has tried to pressure the Iranian regime, without visible
success, into reopening the case. Canada's ambassador to Iran was
withdrawn last July, after a lower-level Iranian official was acquitted
in a brief trial that was widely viewed as a sham. A new ambassador was
sent to Tehran in November.
Dr. Azam fled Iran last August under the guise of seeking medical
treatment in Finland. He later went to Sweden and from there applied for
political asylum in Canada. This month he received landed-immigrant
status as a refugee sponsored by the Canadian government.
He, his wife and 12-year-old daughter landed in Canada on Monday. For
security reasons, he has not revealed where in the country they intend
Dr. Azam wants to testify to what he saw in a public hearing, he
said, in hopes that the truth about Ms. Kazemi's death will renew
worldwide attention on her case, and ultimately lead to the
"indictment" of Iran's Islamic Republic.
What the doctor found:
"Her entire body carried strange marks of violence."
-Tehran ER physician Shahram Azam
*Bruised from forehead to ear
*Two broken fingers
*Broken and missing fingernails
*Severe abdominal bruising
*Evidence of 'very brutal rape'
*Swelling behind the head
*Burst ear membrane
*Deep scratches on the neck
*Evidence of flogging to the legs
*Crushed big toe
What the Iranians said:
'The death of the late Kazemi was an accident due to a fall in blood
pressure resulting from hunger strike and her fall on the ground while