In Iran, where extensive, exceptional and cross-cutting protests against the regime have been underway for three months, the authorities have started carrying out in public, with hangings, the death sentences of protesters arrested and subjected to summary trials, which lasted less than a month. The goal is to stop the protests by convincing the protesters to stop, but for now this strategy is not working.
The protests in Iran are the largest since the 1979 revolution, which transformed Iran into an Islamic republic. They had begun three months ago after the death in prison of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested in Tehran because she did not wear the veil correctly: in a short time they turned into a more general revolt against the regime, spreading to other cities . Over the past three months, the regime has arrested thousands of people (about 14,000 according to the United Nations) and killed several hundred (it is estimated at least 450).
So far, death sentences have been carried out on two people: Mohsen Shekari and Majid Reza Rahnavard, two 23-year-old protesters. Shekari was hanged last Thursday in a prison near Tehran, the Iranian capital. Rahnavard was publicly hanged on Monday from a crane on a street in the northeastern city of Mashhad with a sack covering his head.
In both cases, the two demonstrators were accused of having injured and killed some policemen, and for this reason charged with the crime of moharebeh, which in Farsi (the Iranian language) roughly means “to wage war against God”. The trial of both was held behind closed doors with lawyers assigned by the same regime, lasted a few weeks and also appears to have been based on confessions extracted while the men were in custody.
In addition to human rights activists and organizations, the sentences have caused some perplexity even among some members of the Iranian clergy, who have doubted the legitimacy of the sentences even from a religious point of view. A well-known group of Iranian religious scholars from Qom, a city of great religious importance in Iran, has published for example a communicated in which he harshly criticized the sentences of the two men and the summary trial to which they were subjected, also urging the Iranian judiciary not to proceed with further executions.
The regime had also given signs of wanting to soften some of its rules, for example those on the religious veil (from which it all started). At one point one of his exponents had argued that the religious police, the body that enforces the strict rules of religious morals and decorum in force in Iran and which is at the center of protests in recent months, would be abolished, given that Amini was arrested by the religious police. In reality, no decision has been made in both cases and one hypothesis is that the signals were primarily used to probe the reactions of the demonstrators and, again, to try to appease them.
The first death sentence was announced in mid-November, again against a person accused of “waging war against God” for having “set fire to a government building, for disturbing public order, conspiring to commit a crime against national security,” he said Mizan, the news site of the Iranian judiciary. In the following days, other people were sentenced to death on similar charges (12 according to Amnesty International), and the executions began a few days ago.
Both executions carried out so far have had the effect of provoking immediate and widespread protests in the two men’s hometowns: marching through the streets, protesters chanted slogans such as “for every person killed, another thousand will rise”.