By Elahe Nafari Zavieh*
The death penalty is irreversible therefore it must be abolished. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the death penalty violates the very basic human rights. Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
A report published in 2015 stated that Iran is believed to execute the most people per capita. A report by Amnesty showed Iran had executed at least 246 people, including 9 women in 2020. Another 2020 annual report indicated at least 6 executions of juveniles.
In Iran, the death penalty is mostly used as a weapon of political repression against dissidents, protesters, and members of ethnic minority groups.
Offenders in Iran are mostly citizens who have taken to the streets to protest their basic rights and participated in nationwide protests. Iranians who express their demands in a peaceful manner but are attacked and detained by security agents and police. They are charged with “acting against national security” or “disturbing public minds” and sentenced to prison, lashes, and death.
A history of executions
Feeling threatened by the dissent against his absolute rule, less than 10 years into the Islamic revolution, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, known as the “death decree” to execute all political prisoners, most of whom were members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
A “Death Commission” was formed, including a three-member panels consisting of an Islamic judge, a representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, and a state prosecutor. Ebrahim Raisi, current Chief Justice and presidential candidate, was one of the three members.
The Iranian regime has executed at least 120,000 Iranians, one third of them being women. International law has banned the execution of pregnant women, but in Iran, at least 50 were executed.
More than 30,000 political prisoners, including minors, were executed in less than three months in the summer of 1988. Many of these prisoners were serving their prison terms and many of them had finished serving their time. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the nationwide protests of November 2019, Iranians took to the streets when gasoline prices tripled overnight. In a December 23 report, Reuters said Iranian interior ministry officials also stated that 1500 protesters were killed during the three to four days of protests across the country. According to the report, Khamenei gathered his top security and government officials together, and issued an order: Do whatever it takes to stop them.
The severe and unprecedented repressive crackdown of the 2019 protests, revealed the true nature of the Iranian regime.
Ignoring the economic pressure on Iranians
After the Iranian regime tripled the price of gasoline overnight in 2019 to make up for its budget deficit, prices increased again in 2020, and Iranians witnessed a daily increase on the prices of basic food items.
The regime resorted to frequent price hikes to compensate for its budget deficit.
A couple of months ago, the toman reached an all-time low of 30,000 tomans to the dollar. The daily fluctuations of the national currency have now become a joke for Iranians. Due to Iran’s crumbling economy, the fluctuations have a direct effect on the price of everyday commodities. Food price inflation has reached more than 45% and impoverished Iranians have even resorted to buying bread in installments.
Rise in suicides
There has been a severe rise in suicides in Iran in the past months. In April, the state-run Rokna reported a total of 84 people who committed suicide in Tehran alone from April 15 to 16. The reasons behind the suicides included poverty, unemployment, family related issues, and forced marriages or child marriages. There are minors who commit suicide, aged 10 or 11, or parents who can no longer bear the harsh lives under the corrupt regime.
An increased number of women have resorted to self-immolation as the only way out of poverty.
In February, a Human Rights News Agency said the 60 suicide attempts were carried out in the past 4 years in the Dishmok District in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, southwestern Iran. From these figures, 35 suicides led to the victims’ deaths. The southwestern city has been dubbed the “city of suicides and self-immolation”.
Sixty million Iranians live under the line of poverty due to the regime’s systematic lack of supervision over the economy. 30 million cannot pay their rent, thus moving to the outskirts of cities to make ends meet.
These are just a part of the “achievements” of the Iranian regime in the past 42 years.
In March, the Foreign Minister of Iran and China signed a 25-year cooperation agreement, which was aired live on state-run TV. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the agreement was a “road map” for trade and economic and transportation cooperation, with a special focus on both countries’ private sectors.
Iranians believe the regime is ceding parts of the country to China and call the agreement “traitorous”. Two days after the agreement was signed, Iranians in the capital, Karaj, near Tehran and Isfahan took to the streets.
With the China-Iran 25-year agreement, the Iranian regime plans to re-build the devastated economy using China’s resources to neutralize US sanctions, therefore prolonging its dictatorship and corrupt rule. However, by selling out Iran’s resources to foreign countries, Khamenei is fueling domestic anger even more.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and other officials have stated many times that the main threat to their rule is the people’s uprisings and their resistance.
Fear of anti-government protests
In May 2020, Khamenei warned of students at Iran’s universities of “passivity” about carrying out the values of the Islamic Republic and “diversion” from the regime.
He also said that the people had a right to seek justice but “should be seriously careful” that it “not be considered anti-government protests”, referring to mass anti-government protests in November 2019 and January when thousands of Iranians took to the street chanting against the regime and specifically, the Supreme Leader.
COVID-19 in Iran
Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak started to leak into the news in February 2020. The regime concealed the real facts and numbers from the start, as it has a long history of hiding the true facts. Iran has yet to vaccinate the bulk of its population and just recently started vaccinating the elderly. According to the World Health Organization, a little over 350,000 people have been fully vaccinated in Iran. According to unofficial figures announced by the Paris based NCRI opposition group, over 297,300 people have passed away in the country from COVID-19.
In a January 8 televised speech, Ali Khamenei banned the import of US and UK vaccines because they were “untrustworthy”. By delaying vaccination and keeping Iranians preoccupied with COVID-19, Khamenei is trying to prevent imminent protests to keep his regime in power. Another reason for the delay in vaccination is government corruption. Iran’s leaders’ want to become richer and fund their terrorist proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. There is talk in the government about privatizing a portion of vaccine imports. They will then sell the vaccines to ordinary Iranians and hospitals at much higher prices.
However, the Iranian people cannot be suppressed forever, and the collapse of the corrupt regime is close. Many analysts, even regime insiders, describe the current social environment as a powder keg waiting to explode.
*This article was written by Elahe Nafari Zavieh, an Iranian residing in Europe. She is a political researcher and analyst on social and political issues on Iran and the Middle East.