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Iran may use mass executions to quell anti-hijab protests across country, human rights group warns

An Iranian court has issued the first death sentence related to the months-long anti-hijab protests, prompting fears of mass executions to quell the unrest. 

A Revolutionary Court in Tehran found an unnamed defendant guilty of “enmity against God” and sentenced the protester to death, drawing criticism and concern from human rights groups such as the Iran Human Rights NGO (IHRNGO) that this execution would be the first of many. 

“Underlining the Islamic Republic’s history of using the death penalty to create societal fear, Iran Human Rights warns of the possibility of hasty executions without any prewarning,” the Norway-based group wrote online. “The organization calls on the international community to prevent such crimes with timely action.”

The anti-hijab protester sentenced to death also faced charges of arson of a government building and “corruption on Earth,” IHRNGO said, citing the judiciary’s news site Mizan. The group also claimed that at least 20 protesters face security-related charges that could carry the death penalty. 

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The regime famously pursued mass executions as part of a “death commission” in 1988, which punished dissidents and political prisoners. 

The commission allegedly led to the deaths of roughly 4,500 to 5,000 men, women and children in prisons across Iran, according to Amnesty International. A former deputy of the ayatollah later claimed as many as 30,000 may have died. 

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi allegedly took part in the commission, with many former victims identifying him as being “in the room” when they were questioned. 

Protests broke out across Iran two months ago following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who allegedly breached the country’s laws regarding headscarves, called a hijab. The morality police arrested her and an hour later rushed her to a hospital after claiming she had “slipped into a coma.”

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But Amini’s family refuted the police report and said she had suffered injuries consistent with physical beatings. She died in hospital a few days later, and her death prompted protests that have now spread to over 140 cities and towns across Iran. 

At least 326 protesters have died in violent crackdowns by security forces, IHRNGO claimed. 

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) has put the total at closer to 341 deaths, with around 15,800 detained, according to the BBC.

The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Ejei last week issued a statement that “rioters” would be dealt with “firmly and strongly based on law and fairness,” claiming the protesters have “disturbed the security of people, disrupted their livelihood and insulted their sanctities.” 

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