A number of human rights organizations joined in a campaign this past week to call attention to what they called a “horrifying wave” and a “spree” of executions in Iran. A statement from Amnesty International reiterated the content of earlier reports finding that over 250 executions were carried out across Iran in just the first half of 2022. The month of July has seen substantial further increases, in line with the statement’s observation that upwards of a dozen prisoners have been executed at one time as part of the ongoing spree.
Information gathered shows that since early 2022, Iran’s authorities have regularly carried out mass executions. On 15 June, authorities in Raja’i Shahr prison executed 12 people, which followed the mass execution of 12 people on 6 June in Zahedan prison.https://t.co/htFDJnkgjk pic.twitter.com/SQAKPBuxps
— Amnesty Iran (@AmnestyIran) July 28, 2022
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, at least 11 individuals were hanged on Saturday, June 23, after the preceding Wednesday and Thursday had seen a total of eight executions. The same source offered a slightly higher estimate than Amnesty International for the total number of executions in the first six months of 2022, noting that it exceeded the estimate for all of 2020. By some accounts, the past month’s executions have led to the current year already exceeding Iran’s total number of executions for all of 2021, as well.
Human rights organizations routinely rely upon varied estimates in order to call attention to the problem of excessive executions in Iran. This is because many of those executions are carried out in relative secrecy, leaving the organizations in question to collect reports from independent sources including inmates at the facilities where new executions are alleged to have taken place. The Human Rights Activists News Agency has stated on numerous occasions that 88 percent of all executions go unmentioned in Iranian state media and official statements from the nation’s judiciary, and that “these unreported executions are known as ‘secret executions’ by human rights organizations.”
The execution has by all accounts increased significantly since the appointment of ultra-hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi as the country’s president in June 2021.
Raisi has been labeled the “butcher of Tehran” and his enthusiastic support for the widespread use of capital and corporal punishment. In the summer of 1988, he was one of four officials to serve on the Tehran “death commission” which oversaw mass executions of political prisoners in Evin and Gohardasht Prisons, as part of a nationwide massacre that is believed to have claimed 30,000 lives. Beginning in 2019, as head of the judiciary, he oversaw perhaps the worst crackdown on dissent in recent years. Prior to taking on that role, Raisi served as head of the so-called religious foundation, Astan-e Quds Razavi, which has a long history of financing terrorism and fomenting Islamic extremism throughout the world.
Raisi’s appointment as president was widely regarded as a response to the growth of domestic unrest and open calls for regime change since the end of 2017. The widespread protests in Iran, continuous nationwide uprisings, and the role of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in those uprisings compelled the regime to close its ranks and select Raisi, the “butcher of Tehran” as president to deal with the protests and uprisings.
The outcome of Raisi’s selection has been more suppression and executions. The regime has gone as far as arresting and imprisoning teachers and educators, protesting about their salary and harsh living conditions.
On Tuesday, three teachers were arrested in the city of Divandareh after they joined in a demonstration demanding the freedom of five other teachers who remained in detention without charge after having been arrested more than a month earlier. Numerous other teacher activists also remain in detention across the country, in connection with a nationwide protest in May that coincided with International Worker’s Day, as well as a broader protest movement through which educators have been demanding higher salaries and better conditions for years.
Teachers are only one of many professional and social groups that have led to recurring challenges to the clerical regime in recent years. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Iran has undergone at least eight additional anti-government uprisings since the initial uprising in December 2017 and January 2018.
The regime has cracked down fiercely on most of these but to little avail. In fact, the mass killing of 1,500 protesters during a November 2019 uprising sparked a “justice-seeking movement” that remains active to this day and even draws attention to other domestic issues. On July 11, several relatives of the 2019 crackdown’s victims were arrested.
Ebrahim Raisi is a mass murderer, and the iron fist of Khamenei in dealing with people and the international community has a role to play in the face of daily violations of human rights in Iran. There needs to be a change in the policy toward Iran’s regime. Raisi and the regime’s officials must be tried and brought to justice for their crimes. The international community must not shake hands with Raisi; they should stand with the victims and families of those tortured and executed by this regime, especially the victims of the 1988 massacre.