Rather ironically, the mass execution came close on the heels of reports that Iran’s rate of executions had been lower in the first half of 2016 than in the first half of 2015. Despite the improvement, it was determined that approximately 230 executions had been carried out between January and the beginning of July, leaving little doubt that the Islamic Republic would retain its title as the country with the largest per capita rate of executions in the world.
In 2015, the total year-end figure was very nearly 1,000 people, with the vast majority of them being non-violent drug offenders. And although the first months of 2016 seemed to mark a substantial decrease, some Iran experts explained this away on the basis of the fact that executions frequently slow or stop during national elections and the holy month of Ramadan, both of which took place in the first half of the current year.
Indeed, Iran’s attitude toward the death penalty had evidently not-changed, as evidenced by the fact that during that time, new death penalties were passed against defendants who were below the age of majority at the time of their offenses. This is in clear violation of international norms, as outlined in two human rights documents to which Iran is a signatory.
The first weeks of August seem to have given the impression that not only has Iran’s attitude toward executions not changed, neither has its long-term practice. In this regard, the August 3 mass execution does not stand alone. Numerous executions have been recorded since then. The National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that in addition to the 20 Sunni Kurds, at least 16 other individuals were put to death just between the August 2 and 6.
Now, according to brief reports by the website Iran Human Rights, at least seven more Iranians were hanged just on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Of the five people whose death sentences were confirmed in two different localities on Wednesday, the two who were hanged in the city of Bandar Abbas were hanged in public. The same may be true of three Ahwazi Arab prisoners whom Iran Human Rights described as “victims of the Iranian government’s systematic repression in the ethnic regions of Iran.” The Judiciary had slated their execution to be carried out in public, but the actual location had not been confirmed after the fact.
Public hangings are a common occurrence in Iran, but it is comparatively unusual for there to be five in one day, in two different localities. If it is confirmed that this is what took place on Wednesday, it will provide additional support to the claims that the Iranian regime is engaged in more aggressive intimidation as it evidently continues a crackdown on political dissent and secular or pro-Western sentiment.
The NCRI claimed on Thursday that such dissent has become “predominant.” It quoted Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi as saying this, in the context of a report showing that 4,400 clothing stores had been forced to close last year after theocratic authorities determined that they offered “indecent apparel violating public morality.”
The NCRI also reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had issued a statement on state television in July reiterating the nation’s commitment to a crackdown on such “violations.” “Any discussion over the voluntary or mandatory nature of the hijab is deviatory, and does not have any place in the Islamic Republic,” he said. Khamenei has also spearheaded efforts to discourage women from entering the workforce and to encourage them to begin families at an early age.
This has apparently coincided with various other forms of discrimination, whether carried out by government institutions or hardline civilian groups. As one of the latest examples of this, IranWire reported on Thursday that a highly ranked Iranian women’s soccer team had been banned from competition. The provincial government initially cited budgetary problems, even though funding had been increased for a less successful male team.
Subsequently, the justification for the ban was changed to reflect issues of public morality, suggesting that some members of the team had been lesbians. In Iran, homosexuality remains a serious crime, representing one example of Iran’s extremely liberal application of the death penalty