By Pooya Stone
On September 12, Iran executed the 27-year-old wrestling champion Navid Afkari despite a massive solidarity campaign to spare his life. This gross violation of human rights prompted the international community to focus on the Iranian government’s record in abusing the minimum rights of its citizens.
Earlier, on September 2, Amnesty International shed light on harrowing torture and ill-treatment exercised against the citizens who were detained during the November 2019 protests.
“Widespread torture including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances, and deprivation of medical care. Hundreds subjected to grossly unfair trials on baseless national security charges. Death sentences issued based on torture-tainted ‘confessions,’” AI wrote in its revelation.
On September 5, Aida Younesi, sister of jailed elite student Ali Younesi, exposed the authorities’ attempts to compel his brother to make televised confessions. “[Ali] was told to accept allegations in televised confessions to have his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment,” Younesi tweeted.
Also, in August, Iranian authorities hanged Mostafa Salehi, who was detained during anti-establishment protests, in Isfahan Central Prison. The judge and the Supreme Court sentenced and upheld the death penalty against Salehi based on a confession extracted through torture. “I must execute you at all costs. I made an honored word to superiors to hang one person from Kahrizsang city [Salehi’s hometown],” told an interrogator him.
Furthermore, since the beginning of 2020, Iran’s judiciary has executed over 100 persons across the country. In August alone, authorities hanged at least 28 prisoners under different excuses. However, Iranian officials use the death penalty to terrify society and diminish the spirit of protests.
“[The Iranian] government executed a young man – after brutally torturing him – to intimidate Iranian protesters,” tweeted the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 16.
On Saturday, @JZarif’s government executed a young man – after brutally torturing him – to intimidate Iranian protesters. Navid Afkari’s execution was a despicable act. Democracies around the world have a moral obligation to stand firm and reject this regime’s brutality.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 16, 2020
In this respect, the Iranian opposition argues that it is essential that the international community hold the Iranian government accountable for its numerous crimes against its own people. Turning a blind eye to the ayatollahs’ human rights violation is considered a green light to them to intensify suppression against citizens, particularly protesters.
On September 16, former vice-president of the European Parliament Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras described the execution of Navid Afkari as a terror act. “These executions in Iran are not a matter of the general death penalty. It’s pure terror, the regime wants to ensure its survival,” Dr. Quadras said in a webinar summit hosted by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
In such circumstances, the civilized world, especially rights organizations and activists, bear a profoundly consequential responsibility for the Iranian people. Europeans and the U.S. government must hold the ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) accountable for their malign behavior inside Iran and abroad, opposition activists say.
The 41-year appeasement policy toward Iran merely incited the ayatollahs to further embolden their oppressive apparatuses and abuse their citizens’ rights, activists point out. Giving infinite impunity to Iranian officials has also encouraged them to cross geographic boundaries and use terrorism as a means to blackmail other nations.
In this respect, the world must recognize Iranian citizens’ struggle for freedom, justice, equality, and the rule of law. The United States’ recent sanctions against human rights abusers send a strong message to the Iranian people. It obviously addresses Iranian youths and women who seek a free and democratic Iran that you are not alone.
European states must follow the United States’ act, the opposition argues. This is the time for performing effective and practical measures against gross violations of human rights in Iran. It would bring peace and stability to the Middle East region and the world further than sparing the lives of innocent people who are on death row right now.