Iran’s Desert Vampire Executed

BBC reports that Mohammad Bijeh, an Iranian serial killer dubbed the “Desert Vampire,” was tortured to death outside Teheran.

Iran’s ‘desert vampire’ executed

An Iranian serial killer who murdered at least 20 children has been executed in front a large crowd of spectators. Mohammad Bijeh, 24, dubbed “the Tehran desert vampire” by Iran’s press, was flogged 100 times before being hanged. A brother of one of his young victims stabbed him as he was being punished. The mother of another victim was asked to put the noose around his neck. The execution took place in Pakdasht south of Tehran, near where Bijeh’s year-long killing spree took place.

The killer was hoisted about 10 metres into the air by a crane and slowly throttled to death in front of the baying crowd. Hanging by a crane – a common form of execution in Iran – does not involve a swift death as the condemned prisoner’s neck is not broken. The killer collapsed twice during the punishment, although he remained calm and silent throughout. Spectators, held back by barbed wire and about 100 police officers, chanted “harder, harder” as judicial officials took turns to flog Bijeh’s bare back before his hanging. Bijeh was stabbed by the 17-year-old brother of victim Rahim Younessi, AFP reported, as he was being readied to be hanged. Officials then invited the mother Milad Kahani to put the blue nylon rope around his neck.

The crimes of Mohammed Bijeh and his accomplice Ali Baghi had drawn massive attention in the Iranian media. They reportedly tricked children to go with them into the desert south of Tehran by saying they were going to hunt animals. They then poisoned or knocked their victims out, sexually abused them and buried them in shallow graves. They were found guilty of the murders of between 19 and 22 people, but local people believe the toll to be higher.

My guess is that even Alan Derschowitz would agree that this qualifies as “torture.” I suppose if anyone deserves it, it’s people like Bijeh. But, damn, this is barbaric.

Update: Michael Demmons, in the comments below, points us to Eugene Volokh‘s post wishing that the United States had similar policies.

I particularly like the involvement of the victims’ relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he’d killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging.

He defends the position against the obvious counter-arguments. Given that I don’t oppose the death penalty, although I have more qualms about it than I used to, this comes down to sensibilities rather than a purely rational argument. Still, mine comport with the Framers, who proscribed cruelty in punishment in the Bill of Rights, so I’m in good company.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    Did you read Volokh? He actually likes this.

  2. Fersboo says:

    What exactly was the torture part, the flogging, the hanging or the stabbing?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Fersboo: Yes.

  4. Jack Tanner says:

    Sorry I don’t share your misplaced sympathies.

    ‘An Iranian serial killer who murdered at least 20 children’

    ‘They then poisoned or knocked their victims out, sexually abused them and buried them in shallow graves.’

    He was executed barbarically? TFB. It couldn’t have been painful enough.

  5. Michael says:

    Here’s the deal: In the United States, we have a constitution and a Bill of Rights. Both, in many ways, dictate how people are to be treated. Our constitution dictates that people who are convicted of a crime are to be treated un-cruelly and un-unusually.

    Yes, you’re going to wish that some barbaic killer is treated harshly. And maybe you’ll wish that someone else is treated more humanely.

    But in order to maintain a civil society, you have to give everyone access to the same processes when they’re convicted of similar crimes. That you think a child killer is a barbarian makes no difference in the constitution.

    Yes, some of our laws are bad, I’m sure. But, for the most part, it’s allowed this country to continue as a very long standing constitutional republic.

    We could judge everything on emotion, but how long would we last as a country if we did? I’d like nothing more than to pull the switch on people like this Iranian guy or Brian Nichols. But that’s an emotional response from me. Hopefully, we’re all better off because I don’t get to take a stab or two at Nichols just to satisfy my urge for vengeance.

  6. Eddie Thomas says:

    My objection to the cruelty in punishment of this kind is not so much that it is inhumane as that it lacks proper contempt. Dangerous animals need to be destroyed, but that doesn’t mean we need to make such a show of it.

    One function of a justice system, however, is to satisfy the public demand for justice so as to forestall private acts of vengeance. If the Iranian people need to cause pain and humiliation to this criminal in order to keep them from pursuing justice outside of the legal system, I can’t see any objection. To my mind, however, it does point to a deficiency in the Iranians that they would need this. A stronger spirit would not consider the pain of the criminal as being any kind of “balance” to the suffering of the innocent.

  7. Fersboo says:

    At one time, unquestionably at the time of the drafting, signing and ratifying of the Constitution, both flogging and hanging were approved forms of punishment for federal, state, local & military jurisdictions. Methinks Mr. Joyner that you have confused punishment for torture. It would be coceivable, would it not, for someone who has been incarcerated for a period of time to also state that their punishment is in reality torture? I would be willing to wager that most ‘reasonable’ (my understading of jurisprudence may be limited to business law and the tax code, but reasonable seems to be a recurring theme that I would guess resides in criminal law and civil rights law) persons would dismiss the incarcerated person’s claim of torture.

  8. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘In the United States, we have a constitution and a Bill of Rights. ‘

    This guy was executed in Iran.

    ‘But in order to maintain a civil society, you have to give everyone access to the same processes when they’re convicted of similar crimes.’

    To my knowledge this guy wasn’t denied due process.

    ‘We could judge everything on emotion, but how long would we last as a country if we did?’

    You’re losing me here. Who’s judging what on emotion? I think sympathy for the guy is misplaced. I don’t understand the emotion of having sympathy for the guy. I think his punishment was fitting, I don’t think it was cruel. I think the only thing unusual is the misplaced sympathy for child rapists and murderers.

  9. Michael says:


    My comment was directed at people who see no problem with doing the same things here. I think that was obvious, though possibly not.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Fersboo: The most common dictionary definition for torture is “Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.” Death by hanging isn’t necessarily torture, as death is usually quite quick. The method described here is not that, however.

    Jack: These serial killer types tend to be, shall we say, emotionally disturbed.

  11. bindare says:

    Because we should place a high value on life and to protect society, in my view, justice demands execution. This, however, is not just justice, it is revenge. It is just as wrong as adding punishment for so called hate crimes. I agree with Michael, emotion should not detirmine punishment. Women criminals should be treated just like males and killers of children should be executed just like murderers who confine their crimes to adults.

  12. Jack Tanner says:

    M – I understood your intention in citing US BoR. What I didn’t explain was my intention in citing that he wasn’t covered by the BoR. My point is that first I’m not a lawyer and don’t want tohave a constitutional argument because all I would offer is opinion. Second I don’t think it’s really relevant to my point of misplaced concern.

    JJ – I took plenty of psychobabble in college. He’s disturbed, he’s evil, he’s perverted, he has unmet needs, he doesn’t recognize societal boudaries, he’s a sociopath, he’s a monster, he’s troubled, he was abused, he’s a victim of society. In the end, he did what he did and I have 0 sympathy for him. There are 20 and probably many more children who are the real victims and their families who are survivors and I can’t begin to describe how infinitely disproportionate my sympathies are to the victims and families as opposed to the killer.

  13. Matt says:

    Flogged, hung and stabbed. Looks like someone in Iran has a copy of the original release of The Passion.

  14. Arshad says:

    When you carry out the ultimate crime, takeing the life of another innocent humanbeing, you MUST pay the ultimate price. When a criminal takes the God given right for an innocent person, the right to live, the criminal has therefor lost all rights including the right to live or expect sympathy.

    I wish we had more and a bit quicker than 20 year waits for executions in USA. It would save a lot of innocent lives that we end up losing to repeat murderes and rapists.

  15. Bithead says:

    My guess is that even Alan Derschowitz would agree that this qualifies as “torture.” I suppose if anyone deserves it, it’s people like Bijeh. But, damn, this is barbaric.

    Say what you will; I’ll bet they have less incidence of the like there, than here.

  16. McGehee says:

    My objection to the cruelty in punishment of this kind is not so much that it is inhumane as that it lacks proper contempt. Dangerous animals need to be destroyed, but that doesn’t mean we need to make such a show of it. (Emphasis mine)

    Hear, hear.

  17. I can’t get behind the eye-for-an-eye angle, for the simple reason it means forcing your executioner to acts as depraved as the criminal. Isn’t that cruel and unusual?

    That said, I would like to see the family members of victims have the option to carry out the official sentence. If a state used a firing squad for captial punishment, reserve the right for the family to pull the trigger. If the state uses gas, let a family member push the button.

    It could help with closure for some, and is justice to others without needing constitutional laws amended.

  18. Old Patriot says:

    IIRC, hanging is still a punishment that can be handed down under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    I think we made a big mistake ruling that hanging is “cruel and unusual punishment”. I think a couple of public hangings would have a significant deterrent effect in this nation, especially if those hung were “activist” judges like that dork in San Francisco, or Judge Kennedy after his “living Constitution” decision about the death penalty for 18-year-olds.

  19. KianB says:

    This guy was a ‘serial killer’ , It means he was ‘sick’, he wasn’t a normal person and judging him with normal standards is wrong.

    This person was a victim of a ruthless regime who took every civil right he could have from the begining of his life, then when this guy started to kill children the police just closed their eyes, despite many warnings by locals and even suspecting the exact guy after 2nd murder, police didn’t listen. After it escelated to 20 murders (although families say this guy killed 36 and the regime is covering it up for less embarrassing), police acted. So they arrested the same guy that they could arrest after the 2nd murder.

    That said, I am in no way finding excuses for his terrible crimes but he is just a part of the big picture in a society where millions and millions of people are victims of daily social,political and religious repressions by a group of religious maffia that have the power and money and are begining to threat the whole world with nuclear bomb.

    The families of the victims are angry of the regime and the police for why they didn’t act earlier and faster against this serial killer and regime blames it on this guy and hangs him and nothing will change and society stays the same.

    The regime is creating this monsters and until this regime is on power, we continue seeing this barbaric scenes and hanging people has no effect on people’s desire for ending the tyranny and having a free and democratic country. People have rights to civil liberties and government is a responsible body. Only then we can invest on education and medical care and fight these horrible cases from their roots.

  20. Sahand says:

    I am an Iranian living in the UK now; However I’ve lived in Iran for long years since my childhood. I think there are two reasons for this:

    Firstly, there are different punishments in every society for different crimes. Murdering is ended up to death in the Iranian law. Sexual abuse ends up to flogs, On the other hand. So if someone rapes several people and kills them, he would be punished by flogs and also death. The sentence would be such a thing: 100 flogs for sexually abusing xx persons, and xx times death for murdering xx persons. Obviously that doesn’t mean they will hang him xx times! But flog is executed before they hang him up.

    Secondly, in Iranian community (good or bad – and also I think for many other societies) flogging or any other means of persecuting the killer is something which would at least calm down the murdered families. Don’t forget they’ve lost their child in an awesome way, and watching the killer persecution would heal their thoughts of passions of their little child in his very last minutes of life!

  21. Sahand says:

    Also in reply to Ms. Kian B.’s comment which I saw right now, I should add:

    I am not muslim, nor deffender of the current regime in Iran, but I think you might not be familiar with the situations in Iran. These kinds of punishments, again, good or bad, are something which people in Iran prefer themselves, regardless of this regime or any other regime! That’s coming from Iranian culture (as I mentioned in my previous post) not Iranian government or such a thing.

    Please do not mix up everything, or you are going the same wrong way as current Iranian rulers (as they know the US the root of every problem in Iran!!)

    At the end, I don’t think even one of our foreign friends had such a radical view as you’ve got – In Persian we say: Kase daghtar az ash 😉

  22. KianB says:

    Mr. Sahand I don’t know how old you are but it seems this is all ok for you, while it’s not for me. I don’t think we should punish a serial killer as savages because it’s 2005 and we should grow up.

    And 30 years before we didn’t have such a barbaric act on the streets so no my friend, I don’t have radical views, face the facts: this is wrong and there is no sympathy for it.

  23. Sahand says:

    Although it’s not a good idea to discuss these “out of topics” in here, just as my last post on this issue:

    Yes, we had the same things 30 years ago and I can provide you newspapers and magazines of those times!

    BTW, I’m not going to discuss my own idea here, but I believe these punishments are the idea of majority of people in Iran. Retribution is something in our culture, and most of us have grown up with. Iran needs a cultural revolution not a political one! Please have a look at this which I reckon clarifies the current situation of Iran. Islamic regime is just ONE of many reasons of the fall of Persian heritage!

  24. KianB says:

    Mr. Sahand I fully understand your point and Mr. Nabavi’s here and we certainly need a cultural revolution as you mentioned it. But we can’t wait 300 years until the ideal change happens in one night and we have a responsibility to do our duty and help our country.

    I also like to see a copy of a public flogging and hanging with crane 30 years before in Iran.

    I think even Mr. Nabavi will agree that until this regime is on power and we don’t have a secular government, we can’t expect the ‘cultural revolution’ you mentioned.

    I like to reserve my right to inform the world this is not what ideal Iranian culture is and Iranian people also deserve a fair and equal life, as other nations.

  25. greg says:

    I would have taken the families out for ice cream afterwards.

  26. Brass says:

    I could be wrong but wasn’t flogging still a popular form of punishment back when the framers wrote the Constitution?

  27. sepideh says:

    this is to all the ppl that think mohammad bijeh was not to be killed the way he was….
    you do not know how those families felt you dont know what they went through you dont know the pain you dont know what is loosing the one you love the most your baby your child?
    if i was the justice i would have given him to the family of those who lost there loved ones and let them deal with him and enjoy every minute of his pain and suffering becaust although the government showed off in front of so many ppl as in crowd it was a lesson to all others out there that if we catch you the same will happen to you…..
    so please i advise all of you dont comment any more as these parents did see him die but they have to live with the loss of there loved ones for ever……