On the morning of December 8th, the Iranian government announced on state media the first publicly known execution linked to the anti-government protests which have broken out all over the country since the beginning of September. According to the Mizan News Agency, the 23-year-old man, Mohsen Shekari, was hanged Thursday morning, accused of blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a Basij militia member with a machete. The agency also reported that Mohsen Shekari was arrested on September 25th and sentenced on November 20th by Iran’s Revolutionary Court, a special court focusing on political cases and prisoners.
An international nonprofit rights organization, Iran Human Rights, strongly criticized the government’s behavior and called for a strong international response. “His execution must be met with the strongest possible terms and international reactions. Otherwise, we will be facing daily executions of protesters who are protesting for their fundamental human rights,” the group’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam told CNN.
Concerned about the possible negative outcomes of the Iranian government’s aggressive behavior against protesters, several foreign ministers and European governments spoke out against the execution. One of the first reactions reached is the one from German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock. According to the CNN article, Baerbock tweeted that Shekari “was tried and executed in a perfidious rushed trial for disagreeing with the regime.” Continuing, she said, “The Iranian regime’s inhumanity knows no bounds… But the threat of execution will not suffocate people’s desire for freedom.”
Also, French Ambassador Anne-Claire Legendre said France condemned the execution in the “strongest terms” and “reiterated its strongest commitment to the right to peaceful protest.” She said the demands by the protesters are “legitimate and must be heard,” as reported by the CNN article. Another statement reported in the article is made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. He described the news as “appalling,” and said, “the Iranian regime uses outrageously disproportionate penalties to instill terror in its population.” Furthermore, as reported by CNN, as well as the New York Times, several Iranian public figures exposed themselves and condemned on social media the violation of human rights the Iranian government is perpetuating since the beginning of the protests. According to the New York Times article, Navid Mohammadzadeh, a well-known actor in Iran, said in an Instagram post that tagged Mr. Shekari’s name, “Nothing washes off blood.” Moreover, a renowned Iranian actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, wrote in a post, urging others to speak out: “Your silence means supporting oppression and oppressors.”
Even though this is the first publicly known execution, it is not the first one. Several Iranians have been sentenced to death by execution during the protests that erupted following the death of the 22-year-old girl, Mahsa Amini, who was apprehended by the state’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly. According to the data provided in the report written by Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, as of November, Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for 21 people linked to the anti-government protests. “Two months into the popular uprising and three years on from the November 2019 protests the crisis of impunity prevailing in Iran is enabling the Iranian authorities to not only continue carrying out mass killings but also to escalate the use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression,” Ms. Eltahawy said in the report. As reported in the New York Times, Mr. Shekari’s execution is a clear sign sent by the Iranian government to intimidate protesters, who represent one of the most serious challenges to the regime’s rule in decades.
The international response to Iran’s abusive behavior has been extremely important and very intense. It is unacceptable that Iranian protesters cannot safely fight for their fundamental human rights and, as several Iranian public figures and rights non-profit organizations have reported, it is also unacceptable to remain silent. It is now important to speak out against the executions and let Iran’s government know their actions will not go unnoticed. The international and social media response will surely influence future protest developments and in order to do so and help Iranian protesters it is our duty to expose and condemn, as far as our voices can go, Iran’s government.
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