Illustration by KL./

By Natasha Phillips 


Iran’s judiciary executed at least 26 people in 10 days to discourage nationwide anti-government protests, according to Professor Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights (IHR).

In a press release, IHR noted that the executions took place between May 17 and May 27 amid a surge of demonstrations around the country. Iran is facing its worst economic crisis in 40 years as government mismanagement, sanctions and inflation plunge Iranians into poverty.

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At present, Iran has the world’s highest rate of executions per capita, and is the world’s most frequent executioner of women and children.

“While most of those executed were charged with ordinary crimes like murder and drug offenses, the authorities use the death penalty as a political tool,” Amiry-Moghaddam said in the statement. “The executions are carried out with the aim of suppressing dissent and preserving power. The abolition of the death penalty must therefore be at the forefront of popular demands.”

Of the 26 people executed across 11 different provinces in Iran during the 10-day period, two were women, according to the press release.

A previous report published on April 28 by IHR and by the Paris-based Together against the Death Penalty (Ensemble Contre La Peine de Mort-ECPM) held that there were 25 percent more executions in Iran in 2021 than in 2020. The report also found that while most executions in 2021 were linked to criminal offenses, there was “a meaningful correlation between the timing of executions and political events.”

Speaking to Kayhan Life last month, Amiry-Moghaddam said the use of the death penalty in Iran as a political means to an end was nothing new.

“We experienced that once before, during the first round of nuclear negotiations in 2015.We had the highest number of executions in the last two decades,” he said. “And in 2013, we had a doubling of executions after the presidential election when [Hassan] Rouhani was elected.”

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A May 24 Amnesty International report on global death sentences and executions in 2021 held that Iran had reported its highest number of executions since 2017. The review found that the Islamic Republic had the highest percentage increase in executions in 2021 globally.

“Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law,” the report added.

Institutions, governments and human rights organizations have called on Iran to ban the use of the death penalty. They include the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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