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Iran Executes First of Mahsa Amini Protesters

By Cassandra Backx

On December 8th Iran carried out the first known execution of a prisoner involved in the Mahsa Amini protests. Three days later a second man was publicly executed in an apparent execution spree to deter protesters and discourage the popular movement.

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Tool of repression

Mohsen Shekari, 23, had participated in the Mahsa Amini protests. He was sentenced to death after he allegedly attacked a paramilitary member. Three days after Mohsen was executed, a second protester was publicly hanged. Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, was also convicted of allegedly attacking and killing paramilitary members. Both men had seemingly been subject to torture and likely confessed to these crimes under duress, a common practice in Iran.

Amnesty International has denounced the executions as a means to crack down on civil protests and instill fear in the population. “The horrific public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard today exposes Iran’s judiciary for what it is: a tool of repression sending individuals to the gallows to spread fear and exacting revenge on protesters daring to stand up to the status quo,” says Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East.

“The arbitrary execution of Majidreza Rahnavard less than two weeks after his only court hearing lays bare the extent of the Iranian authorities’ assault on the right to life and their disregard for even maintaining a façade of meaningful judicial proceedings,” Eltahawy added.


Violent crackdown

Iran cracked down hard on the protest movement that erupted in September after a woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody having been arrested for wearing improper hijab. Security and military forces responded with disproportionate violence to the largely peaceful protests resulting in the deaths of almost 500 protesters, including more than 60 children.

However, the protesters were not deterred by the violence of the security and military forces. As members of the Basij paramilitary group were deployed in major cities and started attacking and arbitrarily detaining participants, the protesters have often fought back against the Basij provocations.

Iranian authorities have arrested over 18,000 people, jailed over 400 protesters and sentenced eleven of them to death. A few dozen who were indicted over charges punishable by death are currently awaiting their verdict.


‘Double-edged sword’

The executions were met with widespread condemnation from the international community and sanctions from the EU. Iranian dissidents have remarked that these extremely repressive measures to terrorize and deter the population will only serve to further fuel anger at the Iranian regime.

Interviewed in reformist newspaper Etemad, sociology professor Taghi Azadarmaki warns: “If the system punishes the protesters, people’s behaviour will become radical and their patience will end. The news of issuing death sentences and long-term prison sentences is dangerous. If this trend continues, people will tend towards fundamentalist changes.”

“A rushed execution of a young protester might deter others from taking to the streets,” says BBC Persian’s Parham Ghobadi, “However, it might prove to be a double-edged sword for the Iranian regime, which is seeking to instill fear but causing anger.”

“Protesters have proven over and over again that they no longer have any fear,” Ghobadi added, “The funeral of each one killed by security forces has turned into an anti-government demonstration. The hanging is therefore yet another huge gamble for the regime and one that might give fresh impetus to the protests on the streets.”

Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, had already turned into a site of anti-government protests a day after the execution was held there, with people chanting ‘Martyr of the country, Majidreza Rahnavard’.


Our stance

ACHRS firmly condemns the death penalty as a violation of the basic human right to life and as a cruel and inhumane punishment. The center is a staunch advocate for universal abolition and opposes the death penalty in any and all cases regardless of the nature of the crime or character of the perpetrator.

ACHRS supports the women-led Mahsa Amini civil protest movement and condemns the violent crackdown on the movement by Iranian authorities as being in violation of the human right to freedom of expression.

Lastly, ACHRS condemns the restrictions on women’s autonomy in Iran and stands with the Iranian protesters advocating for women’s rights.


Picture Source: CBC

(Middle East Eye; Middle East Eye; Amnesty; ACHRS; Al Arabiya; Archive; Al Arabiya; The Guardian; BBC; BBC)

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