Various international human rights organizations tend to report similar figures on this topic, especially end-of-year figures. But precise numbers are difficult to ascertain because not all executions are officially reported by the Iranian judiciary or state media. Iran Human Rights notes that this was at least initially the case with the three executions carried out on Sunday, which were confirmed via independent channels.
The official silence over those hangings is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that they were carried out at the same time that Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi issued a statement rejecting the latest report of Asma Jahangir, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, Qassemi described Jahangir’s mandate as “a resolution relying on purely political and selective goals and malice of certain countries with a special agenda.”
This is a familiar response to international criticism of Iran’s human rights abuses. Although Qassemi claimed that the Islamic Republic had provided “frequent, detailed and well-founded responses” to relevant allegations, the reality is that Iranian officials including the country’s own “human rights monitor” have made a habit of simply declaring the accounts of widespread abuse to be fabricated while providing no contravening evidence. Meanwhile, Jahangir and her predecessor in the same office have been refused entry to the country, and Iranian citizens have been prosecuted and punished for communicating with this and other international human rights advocates.
The regime has also staged public relations stunts aimed at presenting a more positive image of Iran’s human rights record, but these have lacked transparency and have been criticized both domestically and internationally for conveying clear propaganda. In July, select ambassadors to the Islamic Republic were taken on a tour of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, but the visitors were only shown particular wards of the facility after political prisoners had been transferred in order to guarantee they had no contact with the ambassadors.
In response to positive statements from some of those ambassadors following their visit, the political prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared wrote an open letter in which she said, “The honorable ambassadors should realize that what so amazed them was the dolled-up version of the ruling Islamic state’s prison system.” The overall state of that prison system has been a subject of urgent calls to action from Amnesty International in recent weeks, motivated in large part by an ongoing hunger strike in another facility housing dozens of political prisoners, namely Rajai Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj.
That hunger strike has surpassed three weeks, and participants have long since reported serious health concerns including heart, lung, and kidney ailments. For some, these effects are worsened by the fact that prison authorities confiscated prescription medicine when the prisoners were transferred to an area of the facility that had been newly renovated with 24/7 video monitoring and obstructed ventilation systems. This reflects a common human rights concern regarding the Iranian regime’s denial of medical treatment in order to exert additional pressure on prisoners, particularly political prisoners.
The aftermath of one such incident was highlighted by the Center for Human Rights in Iran on Monday, when it reported that a prominent journalist named Alireza Rajaee had lost his right eye and part of his jaw as a result of an operation to remove cancer that went undiagnosed while he was serving a four-year prison term. The report notes that a physician who visited Evin Prison during that time insisted that Rajaee needed to be hospitalized, but the prison clinic refused to do so and sent Rajaee away multiple times after only giving him painkillers.
The report also quotes Rajaee’s wife as saying, “They wanted to get rid of Alireza. My sense was that they wanted to make sure he died a slow death in prison.” But a spokesperson for the judiciary denied that prison authorities had any responsibility for the situation, and he criticized Rajaee’s advocates for “disturbing public opinion.”
On Tuesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that another judiciary spokesperson had gone further by not only denying responsibility for human rights abuses but actually asserting that “the Prisons’ Organization has done considerably more than its capacity to take care of the health and well-being of prisoners.” The NCRI notes that even a report in a state-run newspaper contradicted this claim and acknowledged the inadequacy of medical care in Iranian prisons, though it did not mention the deliberate denial of medical care as a pressure tactic.
The exertion of that pressure on the Rajai Shahr hunger strikers comes amidst a much broader crackdown targeting both political prisoners and the civilian population. As part of efforts to reinforce the hardline Islamic values of the Iranian regime, security forces have conducted numerous raids in recent months on mixed-gender parties, and another of these took place on Sunday, on the same day as the above-mentioned three executions and the Foreign Ministry’s denial of any human rights abuses.
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, the latest raid resulted in the arrest of 19 men and women who had violated the country’s strict gender segregation laws, and authorities were actively pursuing other suspects, in the interest of making a further public example of these sorts of parties. In previous instances of these types of raids, arrestees have been brutally flogged in front of their friends, as allowed by law.
This is only one tactic of public intimidation reportedly employed by the Iranian regime on a regular basis. In the case of capital crimes, executions may be carried out publicly, in front of crowds of hundreds of people including children. According to Iran Human Rights, one such public execution was carried out on Tuesday and another on Thursday, suggesting that the rate of these incidents may be escalating compared to last year, when at least 34 people were put to death in the presence of a crowd.