A record number of people face execution after allegations of their involvement with ongoing protests in Iran. Meanwhile, the country’s jailing of journalists has pushed worldwide figures to a new high. However, despite these unwanted milestones, there are no signs of the protests subsiding.
The executions in the past week of Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, the first people put to death over the protests, sparked an outcry. However, campaigners warn that more executions will follow without tougher international action. Iran has already sentenced a dozen more people to death.
At the same time, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated on 14 December that the crackdown has pushed the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide to a record high of 533 in 2022. Iran is now third on the list of countries with the greatest numbers of jailed reporters. It’s also the only country that was not part of the list last year, said RSF, which has published the annual tally since 1995. RSF said Iran had locked up an “unprecedented” 34 media professionals since protests broke out in September.
Iran’s protests erupted after police jailed and killed Iranian-Kurdish woman Jîna Mahsa Amini for allegedly not properly observing hijab laws.
Silencing and spreading fear
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group, said of the executions that Iran is trying to:
spread fear among people and save the regime from the nationwide protests.
It appears that the move to lock up journalists is part of the same drive. RSF highlighted the cases of Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi. The pair are among 15 female journalists arrested during the protests who drew attention to the death of Amini. They now face a potential death penalty on the charge of sedition – which IHR describes as “fabricated accusations”. It also said the arrests of Hamedi and Mohammadi are:
indicative of the Iranian authorities’ desire to systematically reduce women to silence.
Protesters have faced similar spurious charges. Mohammad Ghobadlou was sentenced to death on charges of running over police officials with a car, killing one and injuring several others. Saman Seydi, a young Kurdish rapper, was sentenced to death on charges of firing a pistol three times into the air during protests. Toomaj Salehi, a prominent rapper, was charged solely for music and social media posts critical of the government. Amnesty International said that all of these charges are based on confessions gained after torture.
Nonetheless, there are no reports of a slackening in Iran’s protest activity in recent days, even after the executions.
The UK’s “half-hearted” response
Campaigners are highlighting all of the individuals facing the death penalty in the hope that increased scrutiny on specific cases can help spare lives. However, they also warn that the executions are often sudden. Authorities hanged Rahnavard just 23 days after his arrest, shortly after a last meeting with his mother. She had no idea he was about to be hanged. Shekari’s case was unknown until state media announced his execution.
Amnesty said Iranian authorities are issuing, upholding, and carrying out death sentences in a “speedy manner”. As a result, there is a “serious risk” that Iran could execute unknown detainees “at any moment”.
IHR’s Amiry-Moghaddam is urging international action on Iran:
Unless the political cost of the executions is increased significantly, we will be facing mass executions.
However, the UK’s response so far has been poor. One Iranian caller on radio station LBC said the UK’s sanctions are “half-hearted” and “not cutting it”.
Featured image via Channel 4 News/YouTube
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
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