Naseem’s letter describes 97 days of physical and psychological torture, which he says was used in attempts to elicit a false confession, and which was followed by an unfair trial in which he was not permitted to defend himself. Amnesty International urges activists to contact Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Twitter to remind him that these actions, including death sentences for offenders who are minors, are violations of international law.
But efforts to save Naseem will do little on their own to address the larger problem of Iran’s over-use of the death penalty, a problem that is growing. In just the first few weeks of January, at least 64 people were put to death in the country, putting the regime on pace to execute 1,000 people by the end of 2015. This would be an increase of nearly 300 over last year, which in turn saw a higher rate of execution in 2013, solidifying Iran’s status as the country with the highest per-capita rate of executions in the world.
It is fair to say that this liberal application of the death penalty is enacted as a method of control over the population – sometimes control over crime, but other times control over political dissent, or religious morality. As many as 90 percent of those executed in Iran are accused of drug-related crimes, which do not rise to defined international standards for the types of crimes that may be punishable by death.
Apart from being widely recognized as a human rights violation, these executions are not serving their purpose as a form of social control, according to a reported published Thursday by ABC News. Approximately 2.2 million of Iran’s 80 million citizens are addicted to drugs today, and in spite of the rising level of executions this figure is climbing, as is the number of meth labs operating in the country.
The report quotes one Iranian anti-narcotics offer as saying that two such labs may spring up when one is shut down, a trend that may reflect the pressures of a dramatically widening gap between rich and poor in a country where the deputy minister for labor and social affairs recently disregarded his responsibility for job creation, calling seven million unemployed Iranians “loafers.”