brutal patriarchal state kills over 800 prisoners

  • Post last modified:April 4, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Iran’s murderous “war on drugs” and its violent repression of ethnic minorities has turned its prisons into sites of “mass killing”. This was the conclusion of a new Amnesty International report on 4 April documenting the “horrifying surge in executions” Iran carried out in 2023.

Iran’s executions – upholding state patriarchal violence

Amnesty’s report titled Don’t Let Them Kill Us: Iran’s Relentless Execution Crisis since 2022 Uprising detailed how Iranian authorities executed at least 853 people in 2023. Notably, this was up 48% on the previous year.

Significantly, it said that its report reveals:

how the Iranian authorities have intensified their use of the death penalty to instil fear among the population and tighten their grip on power in the aftermath of the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising of September-December 2022.

This refers to protests in 2022, when women in Iran took to the streets after the Iranian authorities allegedly murdered 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish Mahsa Amini. The Iranian Morality Police had purportedly arrested Amini because she dressed in skinny jeans and was not wearing her headscarf correctly, which breached dress codes under the state’s sharia law.

It triggered country-wide protests against patriarchal and state violence, which particularly impacts Kurdish women. Since then, Iranian authorities have violently suppressed multiple protests rising up under the anti-government “Women Life Freedom” banner.

Crucially, Amnesty’s report highlighted that since the 2022 uprising, the Iranian authorities have executed nine people in connection to the protests. In particular, it said that:

Of the six executions that took place in 2023, five protesters were executed for the vague and broadly worded charges of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) or “corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz).

Iran’s “war on drugs”

On top of this, Amnesty’s report underscored how Iran has weaponised its brutal “war on drugs” type policies against marginalised groups.

It stated that:

The briefing also raises the alarm over the disproportionate impact of the authorities’ lethal anti-narcotics policies on poor and marginalized communities.

Specifically, over half of the executions – 56% – were for drug-related charges. Iran modified it anti-narcotics legislation in 2017 and executions for drug offences declined in 2018 and 2020. However, they dramatically rebounded last year.

Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa Diana Eltahawy said that:

The death penalty is abhorrent in all circumstances but deploying it on a mass scale for drug-related offences after grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts is a grotesque abuse of power.

The Islamic Republic’s deadly anti-narcotics policies are contributing to a cycle of ‎poverty and systemic injustice, and further entrenching ‎discrimination against marginalized communities, in particular Iran’s oppressed Baluchi minority.

Murdering minorities and children

Amnesty said the Iranian authorities have been targeting the Sunni Baluch minority concentrated in the southeast disproportionately. Significantly, the report noted that the the minority:

constitutes only about 5 percent of Iran’s population but accounted for 20 percent of all executions in 2023

Meanwhile, it also drew attention to Iran’s execution of those arrested as children. It noted that:

Iran is one of the last countries in the world that continues to use the death penalty against individuals aged under 18 at the time of the crime in a violation of international law. The authorities persist in their refusal to amend Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code to abolish the death penalty for crimes committed by children in all circumstances.

Among those Iran executed was 17-year-old Hamidreza Azari. Authorities in Razavi Khorasan province hung Azari in November after convicting him over a deadly 2023 stabbing when he was 16.

Amnesty said that it had reviewed his birth certificate and that his age “was misrepresented” as 18 by state media to “evade accountability”.

‘Grotesque abuse of power’

Given its findings, Amnesty said that the Iranian authorities have:

persisted with their state-sanctioned killing spree which has turned prisons into killing fields

Two other NGOs, Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM), published a report last month giving the slightly lower figure of 834 people executed in 2023.

However, Amnesty emphasised that its numbers were “minimum figures” and the real death toll would be higher.

Moreover, it said that Iran’s behaviour has not changed this year. Already, rights groups have recorded at least 95 executions up to 20 March.

In its report, Amnesty said that:

Without a robust global response, Amnesty International fears that the Iranian authorities will continue using the death penalty as a tool of oppression to execute thousands more people in the coming years

Without stronger international action to halt the rise in executions, Amnesty said “thousands” risked being hanged in the coming years.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Feature image via BBC News – YouTube

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