Following closely on the heels of the last week’s mass execution of at least two dozen Sunni dissidents in Gohardasht prison, including prominent prisoner of conscience Shahram Ahmadi, displays a continued reign of terror by the Iranian regime, to systematically target political dissidents and ethnic minorities.
That the executions occurred on the anniversary of the massacre in 1988 of 30,000 political prisoners, based on a fatwa (religious decree) by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and that a vast majority affiliated with Iran’s main opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), seems to point out an attempt to intimidate dissidents by the current regime.
Reports indicate that some 36 Sunni prisoners were transferred to await execution, and that at least 21 prisoners were executed on Tuesday. The final count may be as high as 29. In an added twist of cruelty, relatives were told to come to the prison to say their final goodbyes, but upon arrival were instead directed to a morgue to collect the bodies of the victims.
Sunni prisoners in Gohardasht have reportedly gone on hunger strike to protest the executions.
Prisoner of concience, Ahmadi, was an ethnic Kurd and Sunni activist in Iran, who was arrested in 2009, and spent a reported 33 months in solitary confinement. He maintained his innocence, denying all charges against him. In one of his last interviews, he discussed this, “They executed my brother, I have nothing left to lose, the truth is that I am innocent, and I do not want people to not know that I am innocent before I am executed.” Amnesty International said that Ahmadi spent nearly three years in pretrial detention without access to counsel or communication with his family. He was tortured and forced to “confess” his crimes. His trial lasted 5 minutes, after which he was sentenced to death for “enmity against God” (moharebeh).
Shahram’s younger brother, Bahram was arrested in 2009 and was part of a larger group of nine Sunni Kurdish men, who were sentenced to death for “enmity against God”. He was executed in 2012. Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still executes juvenile offenders.
Kurds continue to face discrimination. A 2012 report by Minority Rights Group International, states that Kurdish properties are confiscated at a higher rate than those of other ethnic groups. The regime has long targeted ethnic and religious minorities, particularly those who have fought against them, such as the Kurds, who also happen to be Sunni Muslims.
Human rights organizations maintain that some 2,600 ordinary Iranians and dissidents have been executed, many in public, during the term of the “moderate” president, Hassan Rouhani, and that in 2015 Iran led the world in per capita executions.
The Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi strongly condemned the mass executions as a “crime against humanity” and urged “the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council to end their silence and bring the record of the Iranian regime’s crimes before the International Criminal Court.”
Mrs. Rajavi reiterated, “Ali Khamenei and other leaders of the regime, as well as direct perpetrators of these crimes, must be brought to justice.”