Photos: Meet the teenage girls on Iran’s death row

Mahsa’s story begins like any other teenager’s story: She fell in love. The 17-year-old Iranian hoped to marry the boy, but her father opposed the marriage. One day she got into an argument with her father over the romance, got angry, and killed him with a kitchen knife. Now, Mahsa’s brothers are requesting the death penalty for her.

In Iran, the death penalty can be applied to minors, and in 2014, a United Nations report estimated that at least 160 juvenile offenders were on death row in the country. Today Mahsa is one of them, held in a detention center in Zibashahr, near Tehran, with other minors awaiting capital punishment.

Mahsa, 17, in Zibashahr, Iran. (Sadegh Souri)

Mahsa’s portrait was taken by Sadegh Souri, a 30-year-old Iranian photographer who spent four years researching women and girls in his home country. With rare access to the Zibashahr prison, Souri’s photos tells the stories of several young women between the ages of 12 and 18, convicted of crimes including armed robbery and drug trafficking.

“My main goal in this project was to understand how young girls could end up in jail in the first place,” the prizewinning photographer tells Quartz. “I spent time talking to them, they were nice and kind.”

According to a Jan. 25 report by Amnesty International, 73 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran between 2005 and 2015.

Sowgand is 16. She was arrested when police officers entered her house with a search warrant and found 250kg of opium, 30g of cocaine and 20g of heroin. She says the narcotics belonged to her father. It has been almost a year since she has been imprisoned, and none of her family members have come to visit. (Sadegh Souri)
A girl from Zibashahr detention center playing outside. (Sadegh Souri)
There is a greenhouse in the prison and inmates are responsible for maintaining it. (Sadegh Souri)
In the prison’s center for education and pedagogy, inmates learn to make dolls, among other classes. (Sadegh Souri)
Shaqayeq, 15, has been in prison for almost a year. She was charged with armed robbery of a chain store in Tehran. When the police arrived, her boyfriend, who was also involved, escaped. Shaqayeq was arrested. (Sadegh Souri)
(Sadegh Souri)
The clergy goes to the ward of underage girls in the correction centre every day for a congregational prayer. After prayers, he talks about correct upbringing methods for girls and prays to God to forgive them. (Sadegh Souri)
Sowgand, 16 years old. One day, the officers entered her house with a search warrant and found 250 kg of opium, 30 grams of cocaine and 20 grams of heroin. The narcotics belong to her father, but Sowgand was home alone and got arrested.
It has been almost one year, and none of her family members have visited her yet.
In a few days, Khatereh will be released. (Sadegh Souri)
Zahra’s husband has come to visit her. He brought their baby boy so that Zahra can see him. (Sadegh Souri)
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