Now that a final draft has been prepared and is under review by the US Congress, the call for scrutiny of human rights appears to be reinvigorated. The Indo Asian News Service reported on Thursday that Amnesty International had released a new report calling attention to the stunning rate of executions in the Islamic Republic during this year. The human rights NGO finds that 694 executions took place in roughly the first half of the year.
NPR adds that this figure represents a recent surge in state-sanctioned killings by a nation that already held the record for the highest number of executions per capita. What’s more, it appears that all but four of these deaths took place in only the first five months of the year, reflecting a steep drop-off for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Nevertheless, IANS emphasizes that it is significant that any executions at all were carried out by the theocratic government during that sacred period.
Amnesty International adds that the recent uptick in executions indicates that the nation is well on its way to exceeding 1,000 for the year. In fact, given that the nearly 700 killings so far covered less than half of the year, it appears likely that the figure at the end of 2015 will not just exceed 1,000 executions, but will dramatically exceed it.
But this is only one of many persistent human rights abuses by the clerical regime. Two reports by other rights groups have recently been released to call attention to a range of issues during the last month and throughout the previous year. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Activists News Agency released the English language edition of its Overview of the Human Rights Situation in Iran for the Iranian calendar month of Khordad, which spans May and June.
The overview highlights the issue of executions, noting that the month began with 30 of them. But the report goes on to identify a number of other issues including a series of crackdowns on women’s rights, as well as specific arrests and attacks on peaceful activists within the country.
And last week, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released its 2014 annual report, detailing many of the organization’s activities and advocacy. On Monday, the organization’s executive director published an article urging the international community to pursue these issues “with the same vigor” that it pursued a nuclear agreement. Hadi Ghaemi also warned that without such international action, the Iranian regime might respond to the post-agreement context by increasing its silencing of domestic dissent. For some, the rising tide of executions is sufficient evidence that this trend has already begun.
On Tuesday, the International Campaign described how the regime’s repression is increasingly bound up with religious rhetoric, characterizing any opposition to the government as a sin, insofar as it undermines the state’s Islamic authority. The consequent association of obedience to Tehran with obedience to absolute truth is described by the article as a reason why no democratic reform is ultimately possible under the existing regime.
This examination of theocratic ideology also reflects upon the Amnesty International statement, which points out that a steady stream of death sentences are issued on the basis of vague charges and offenses that are clearly not legitimate crimes. Many of these, such as “spreading corruption on Earth” or “enmity against God” are religious in nature and allow mere dissent to be punished as a capital religious crime.
While the International Campaign is among those groups that have largely embraced the nuclear deal, others point to the regime’s theocratic nature and its ongoing human rights abuses as reasons why West should have maintained higher demands, possibly including demands outside of the nuclear file. Some have accused US President Barack Obama of neglecting the plight of Americans held captive in Iran, at a time when he could have set their release as a precondition for any nuclear deal.
BR Now highlighted this criticism on Thursday, adding that there are now questions about whether the 2012 to 2013 release of four Iranians who were being held in Iran was used in part to incentivize the Iranians to open negotiations. The article points out that this “has spurred fresh criticism of the Obama administration” for not demanding the same accommodations of Iran and pushing for the release of four Americans detained or missing in the Islamic Republic.
Pastor Saeed Abedini and former US Marine Amir Hekmati have both been imprisoned in Iran since 2012, the former for ostensibly proselytizing Christianity and the latter on questionable charges of espionage. As of Wednesday, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian had been held for exactly one year, and only recently saw a courtroom. He is also accused of unspecified national security crimes, but his case in particular is suspected of stemming from hardline efforts to secure leverage in the nuclear negotiations.
In addition to these three, former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing since 2007 and is generally believed to be held secretly in Iranian custody.