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Iran: Concern Grows for Possibility of Arbitrary Death Penalties Amidst Uprisings 

It has been approximately three weeks since the Iranian regime’s judiciary announced its first death sentence related to the nationwide uprising that broke out in the wake of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands of Tehran’s infamous “morality police.”  

There is still no sign of those protests losing momentum, and reports continue leaking to international media about fatal shootings and beatings, as well as death sentences that have been issued or may be issued in the near future. This publicity could pose another major challenge to the Iranian regime, given that some of the largest demonstrations in recent weeks have been fueled by memorials to victims of the government crackdown. 

So far, these martyrs have gained domestic and international attention primarily because of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. 

Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16 came three days after the morality police deemed her to be wearing her hijab improperly and subjected her to vicious beatings en route to an education center. Her funeral sparked an initial round of protests in her hometown of Saqqez, which quickly spread to the rest of the country.  

The latest estimates from the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the country’s leading pro-democracy opposition group, indicate that protests are now taking place in as many as 277 cities and towns, with their central demands being not just the restoration of women’s rights but also the ouster of the entire regime behind forced veiling laws and gender apartheid. 

Denying Treatment and Targeting Doctors

The PMOI also estimates that over 660 protesters have been killed since the uprising began, 60 of whom were under the age of 18. One contributing factor to this death toll is the difficulty that protesters have faced in receiving medical treatment. Iranian prisons and detention facilities are notorious for denying access to such treatment, often as a punitive measure, and over the past two months, authorities have been staking out hospitals, medical centers, and even pharmacies in an effort to identify and arrest anyone seeking treatment for injuries incurred at protests. 

This situation has led to a number of Iranian doctors, particularly those affiliated with the PMOI, establishing networks dedicated to making house calls and otherwise providing treatment to activists outside of hospital settings. However, these networks have themselves become targets of the regime’s surveillance operation, and some medical professionals have been arrested as a result. Furthermore, the regime has apparently now made doctors targets of prosecution for capital crimes as part of an effort to crack down on the practice. 

A doctor named Ibrahim Rigi was arrested on October 13 and accused of “leading” anti-government protests in and around the city of Zahedan. Separately, husband-and-wife doctors, Hamid and Farzaneh Qarahasanlo were arrested while attending the funeral ceremony for a protester who was killed in the city of Karaj. All three individuals are now facing prosecution for either spreading corruption on earth or enmity against God, while Hamid is reportedly in critical condition following savage beatings during his detention. 

This sort of violence and the denial of medical services that Hamid himself might have provided are only two of many contributing factors to the deterioration of Iranian prisoners’ health conditions. Others include the prevalence of both physical and psychological torture and the generally harsh conditions of many Iranian facilities.  

 

Disappearances and Phantom Executions

There are emerging reports of unknown persons being executed in Iranian prisons based on unknown charges. 

A detainee named Keyhan Shakerpanahi was hanged in Kashan Central Prison on Saturday after an abrupt transfer from Isfahan, and no sources could determine the reason for his execution. Besides, separately three individuals were executed inside Isfahan Central Prison on the same day, but only two of them could be identified by name. 

According to reports tallied by the Iran Human Rights Monitor (Iran HRM), at least 539 individuals have been hanged since the beginning of 2022.  

Furthermore, recent developments point to the possibility of another sharp spike in the execution rate during the month of December. But these trends have evidently been recognized by much of the international community, and accordingly, last week, the UN Human Rights Council ordered the establishment of a “fact-finding mission” regarding the still-escalating crackdown on protests all across Iran.  

As the NCRI’s president-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, highlighted following the 69th condemnation of Iran’s regime by the United Nations, “The time has come to refer the dossier on the regime’s crimes dossier to the United Nations Security Council and bring to justice its leaders.”