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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Criminal Law in Iran

Nickie Phillips

Flag of Iran in map


Mohsen Alizadeh is an Assistant Professor in criminal justice at Montclair State University in New Jersey and a former practicing lawyer in Iran. He discusses the role of shari’a in the Iranian criminal justice system.

Helpful Vocabulary:

Qajar Dynasty (1979-1925 CE) - Played a major role in transplanting western ideas of law to the Persian system

Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979) – Adopted the French Napoleonic Code for Iran

Islamic Revolution (1979) – Pahlavi Dynasty overthrown by religious clerics; New law adopts Islamic punishments while keeping many other aspects of western law

Mazdaism – Another name for Zoroastrianism, the indigenous Persian religion

Shari’a - Islamic law, derived from the Qur’an and the teachings and practices of the prophet Muhammad

Ta’azir(at) - criminal sanction not mentioned in the shari’a

Quisa(t) - law of retaliation; “eye-for-an-eye”

Diya(t) - If quisa is not practical, punishment is an amount of money paid to victim (restitution); “blood money”

Hadd/Huddud - Fornication, homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, drinking alcohol, armed robbery (dacoity); requires physical punishment

Primary principles - legal principles which have their base in shari’a, consensus, or reason

Secondary principles – legal principles which have their basis in a decree by a high-ranking clergyman (ayatollah)

Inquisitorial system – Courts act as fact-finders in criminal cases


Alizadeh, M. (2010). Iran. In M. Nalla and G. Newman, Crime and Punishment Around the World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Bjorken, J. (2004). Iran. In Sullivan, L. and M. Haberfeld, Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Jahangir, A. (2007). The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution [in Persian]. Tehran: Didar Publications. Constitution in English:

Maftei, C. (2010). The sanctions of the Islamic Criminal Law: Aspects of the criminal law in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Juridical Current, 13(3), pp. 139-148.

Nadjafi, A. (2004). Iranian adult corrections system: Constant evaluation. In Winterdyk, J., Adult Corrections. New York, NY: Monsey.

Tellenbach, S. (2009). Aspects of the Iranian Code of Islamic punishment: The principle of legality and the temporal, spatial, and personal applicability of the law. Criminal Law Review. 9(4), pp. 689-705.