It all sounded all too familiar.
The Islamic Republic of Iran executed two more protesters in early January, despite persistent international protests against two similar executions in December. The recent killings sparked a new eruption of public condemnation as well as new threats of economic sanctions. As a former Iranian political prisoner, this was something of a déjà vu.
In fact, dozens of other detainees have already faced charges that could carry the death penalty, reports Norway-based Iran Human Rights, while the Iranian People’s The Mojahideen Organization (MEK) is leading a democratic alternative to the clerical system.More than 30,000 Iranians have been arrested since mid-September, according to the International Commission for Justice. Most report they are still awaiting indictment or trial.
Each of the four hanged victims was ultimately sentenced to death on vague political charges of “enmity against God” or “spreading corruption on earth.” The first victim, Mohsen Shekhali, accused of merely wounding Basij militiamen and blocking roads, justifies using him as another milestone in the regime’s crackdown on dissent. was considered sufficient for
It is very likely that Shekhali’s case was deliberately chosen for that purpose. It may have been intended to convey a message that its use will remain unrestricted. This shows that the criticism so far has been insufficient.
Verbal denunciations of the regime’s actions must be swiftly reinforced by concrete actions designed to hold officials accountable and show that further escalation would have serious consequences.
We do not know how much worse the current crackdown would be without coordinated pressure on the administration. Even before the executions began, the MEK network determined that more than 750 of her people, including 70 minors, had been shot or fatally beaten in the streets or in Iranian detention facilities. These numbers have certainly continued to rise, and there is, tragically, a clear precedent that the rate of executions has matched or even exceeded the pace of that increase.
Since the beginning of Iran’s theocratic dictatorship, the country has been the undisputed world leader in executions per capita. Worse, the pace of Tehran’s executions has accelerated since 2021, when supreme leader-backed candidate Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of the Islamic Republic in low-turnout elections. This trend is very much in line with his legacy as the ‘Butcher of Tehran’. This is the label he earned as one of the main perpetrators of the nationwide massacre of political prisoners in 1988.
I personally lost a cousin who was in prison during that massacre. He was one of his 30,000 political prisoners killed that bloody summer. Raisi and other members of his 1988 “execution commission,” often only because he handed down summary death sentences to men and women after a minute or two of questioning.
In line with the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that year, about 90% of the victims of the genocide were MEK members who remained loyal to the cause of freedom, according to Iran1988, a group seeking justice for victims. But all these killings have failed to destroy the organization, and the regime has been fruitlessly committed to doing so in the intervening 35 years. This can be seen in the current crackdown targeting riots in which MEK’s ‘resistance unit’ played a key role.
That fact ignites my confidence in the uprising, but it also increases my concern for the activists, especially women, who lead the movement. The uprising, which began in response to the death of her 22-year-old Masa Amini at the hands of Tehran’s “morality police,” has revealed public demands for regime change as the only viable solution. Became.
If the regime is so desperate as to kill women in the streets for petty crimes, then it is time for the execution of large numbers of female activists at a time when they and their supporters pose one of the most dangerous challenges to Theocratic. Certainly desperate enough to command a regime since its post-revolutionary inauguration in 1979. And given that he has already arrested 30,000 people in connection with the uprising, it is not hard to imagine that such systematic killings would reach the scale I witnessed in his late 1980s. .
The regime continues to project its intentions to the world, raising the bar when its latest crime is met only by loud but toothless protests. , has already demonstrated killing young men for crimes deemed to fall short of international standards for the most serious crimes. The first execution of female detainees will not be delayed too long.
The international community should take positive action before the next escalation. Iranian embassies abroad should be closed, and the regime should be quarantined for as long as possible until the abuses and killings that have been going on for the past four months have come to a complete halt.
Homeira Hesami is a former Iranian political prisoner and chairman of the Iranian-American Community of North Texas, a member of the Iranian-American Communities Organization. She is a medical physicist living in Carrollton. She wrote this column for her Dallas Morning News.
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