Iran Focus: For the past 30 years, executions have defined the state’s systematic reaction to political dissent in Iran. But, after a series of nationwide protests following last year’s presidential elections, the use of hangings has taken on a vital significance for the regime. Opponents are not merely executed for physical annihilation but also to spread fear among the rest of the population.
For the past 30 years, executions have defined the state’s systematic reaction to political dissent in Iran. But, after a series of nationwide protests following last year’s presidential elections, the use of hangings has taken on a vital significance for the regime. Opponents are not merely executed for physical annihilation but also to spread fear among the rest of the population. How the Iranian people and the international community choose to react could serve as a defining moment for dealing with the regime’s persistent threats.
On 9 May, five activists were hanged at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. In an attempt to justify the executions, state-run media branded the victims as “terrorists,” but rights groups and lawyers denounced the accusations and the authorities’ refusal to abide by their own legal due process, let alone comply with international standards.
Although the reaction by the families of the victims and the wider Iranian community bore the signature of a determined opposition towards the increasingly aggressive regime, the international community and in particular Western countries by and large exercised a surprising reticence. The censure statements by the European Union and Norway were too little too late. Emboldened by such ambivalence, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlat-Abadi announced Saturday that death sentences for six relatives of members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI), who reside in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, had been confirmed.
As the anniversary of the 11-month-long uprising fast approaches, the Iranian regime hopes its various repressive tactics, including the hangings, could have a chilling effect for defiant protestors. But, last week this all backfired. Thousands of angry people took to the streets in various cities in Iran’s Kurdistan Province and in Tehran to condemn the executions. Even imprisoned activists stood firm and scolded the desperate regime, with one of them courageously asking to be the sixth to be executed.
By virtue of the courageous stance of the victims’ relatives, university students, women and other activists in Iran, the Iranian regime’s attempts to frighten and silence the population have clearly failed. The ruling clerics are navigating a cracked lifeboat in the angry seas.
The international community should act more firmly towards Tehran to deflect its terrorism and nuclear threats. Its disturbing silence would only encourage the regime to prolong its oppressive rule by exercising even more ruthlessness, while disheartening the Iranian people who are relentlessly pursuing democratic change. It is time for the United Nations Security Council to take up the regime’s abysmal rights record. Moreover, the international community has to make all relations with Tehran, diplomatic or otherwise, contingent on a halt in execution and torture in Iranian prisons.