By Hossein Beizayl
Human rights issues loom large in the contemporary history of Iran. Under the reign of the late Shah, Iranians were deprived of fundamental rights and freedoms and suffered from pervasive violations of human rights, much at the hands of Shah’s notorious security forces and SAVAK.
The 1979 anti-monarchy revolution in Iran awakened hopes that a new era was dawning in which human rights and human dignity would be respected. As it turned out, the policies and the behavior of the new religious regime offered changes that were limited in style and rhetoric but were much worse than before. Once more, human rights, freedom, and justice were caged, this time by the ayatollahs. Shah’s policies of obstructing freedom of expression, arresting and torturing those who opposed him and his monarchy took a short break because of the revolution but were re-established ten-fold by the new regime in different forms. The cost of such brutality and injustice has been the killing of more than 120,000 freedom-minded people by the mullahs’ regime. The killing machine of the mullah’s regime began its work about 43 years ago and has not stopped since.
In the past few years, the Iranian political system has resorted to lethal force to suppress the ever-growing domestic discontent and dissent. The government put down widespread peaceful protests by unleashing its security forces and killing hundreds in November 2019. Political executions of dissidents and protesters are increasing alarmingly and becoming the norm. Critics and activists from all walks of life are being imprisoned on fabricated national security charges and handed lengthy, draconian sentences. Censorship and lack of freedom of expression are at an all-time high.
Iran’s brutality has earned the country the title of the number one executor in the world per capita, a ranking that the Iranian authorities have exhibited no remorse for and are often seen defending their inhumane policies.
The lack of attention to human rights is all the more indefensible, given that Iranian authorities are subjecting the people of Iran to widespread arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for expressing peaceful dissent.
12 executed in two days, 45 in past 30 days
Terrified of protests and uprisings, the clerical regime has accelerated executions to instill an atmosphere of terror. Twelve prisoners were hanged on January 19 and 20, six each day, bringing to at least 45 the number of executions recorded in the past 30 days (the 10th month in the Persian calendar).
On Thursday, January 20, Idris Gomshadzehi, a Baluch citizen, was executed in Zahedan Prison; Parviz Akbari-Rad, Jamaluddin Gorgich, and Dadshah Sarani were hanged in Zabul Prison; Ali Yazdani and Eshaq Mohammad Amin (an Afghan national) were hanged in Rasht and Isfahan prisons, respectively.
On Wednesday, January 19, in an unprecedented act of barbarity, Juma Mohammadi from Izeh, was executed after 20 years in prison. A large crowd attended his funeral in Izeh and expressed revulsion towards the regime by firing bird shots. The same day, five other prisoners, Eqbal Mostofi and Houshang Khanmohammadi, were executed in Khorramabad, Hamed Manouchehri, Sobhan Shohani, and Mohammad Karimnejad were hanged in Ilam.
According to VOA Persian, in 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranked second with 246 executions, and according to Amnesty International, Iran, alone was responsible for half of all registered executions in the world in 2020. It is not only the number of executions that is appalling but also the nature of some of them. These executions have involved juveniles, women, and individuals from ethnic and religious minority groups, including Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, and Sunnis. Although Iran has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran’s government has made no effort to alter the country’s Penal Code, which allows girls as young as nine to be executed.
Iran’s court system denies defendants access to legal counsel and a fair trial to suppress political prisoners further. Lack of due process forced confessions and physical or psychological torture are prominent in the process through which the judiciary sentences defendants to the death penalty. As stated by the Human Rights Watch report: “Iranian courts, and particularly revolutionary courts, regularly fall far short of providing fair trials and use confessions likely obtained under torture as evidence in court. Authorities have failed to meaningfully investigate numerous allegations of torture against detainees. They routinely restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel, particularly during the initial investigation period.”
Human rights activists and political analysts believe that by increasing the number of executions, Tehran is attempting to instill fear in the society and send a warning to the population that any opposition will be harshly dealt with.
The international community should adhere to its obligations towards human rights
The state of civil and political liberties in a country is intricately related to its foreign policies; strengthening the former will facilitate the latter, producing more constructive foreign policies. It will not be an easy task, but it must start now if there is any hope of bringing peace and stability to the Middle East. A new policy towards Iran with human rights as one of its major pillars should adhere to four broad guiding principles. The nuclear crisis and geopolitical conflicts will find a long-term solution only when the international community, and in particular the U.S. government, recognize the urgency of the Iranian people’s basic civil liberties and their voice in determining their government’s domestic and foreign policies. Thus, the new U.S. policy towards Iran must finally integrate human-rights concerns on their own merit and give them priority on par with other critical security issues.