Iran carries out second protest-related execution in its 'killing spree'

Iran carried out its second execution linked to the anti-government protests challenging the country’s theocracy on December 12. Our Observer, Hadi Ghaemi, who works as the Executive Director of the ‘Centre for Human Rights in Iran’, told us this “killing spree” to crush protests is likely to shift into “high gear” very soon. At least 11 protesters are currently on death row. Meanwhile, 28 others, including children, are facing charges that carry the death penalty.

Majidreza Rahnavard (left) and Mohsen Shekari (right), who were executed by Iran's Islamic Republic amid anti-government protests.
Majidreza Rahnavard (left) and Mohsen Shekari (right), who were executed by Iran's Islamic Republic amid anti-government protests. © Twitter/ @freewomanhy

Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, was hanged “in public” early on Monday, in the city of Mashhad. He was convicted of “waging a war against God” after he was accused of fatally stabbing two members of the paramilitary Basij, a volunteer force often deployed by Iranian authorities to suppress dissent.

People can be heard chanting “Martyr of the country Majidreza Rahnavard” in a video filmed at Rahnavard’s grave on Monday.

According to the opposition activist collective 1500tasvir, Rahnavard’s family was not aware that he was going to be executed and they received a phone call by an official at 07:00 local time, telling them that: “We have killed your son and buried his body in Behesht-e Reza cemetery."

Rahnavard’s death comes less than a week after Mohsen Shekari – the first known protester to be executed – who was hanged on December 8. Sherkari, 23, was convicted of “enmity against God” after he was accused of attacking a Basij member with a machete in Tehran.

A video that shows the moment Shekari’s mother learns of his death has been circulating on social media. According to 1500tasvir, the regime told her to stay silent to win his release. 


'There is no resemblance of justice'

The swift judicial proceedings have shocked the world and stoked concerns that more protesters could face execution … and soon.

Our Observer, Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the ‘Centre for Human Rights in Iran’ based in New York, told us that protesters are being sentenced to death after “sham trials” with no due process. 

It’s really hard to call them a trial. There is no resemblance of justice. Political defendants thrown into this unjust and brutal court system are denied the right to a public trial or counsel of their choice and kept in full isolation and tortured before being tried behind closed doors. 

Typically, the only evidence used by these courts are forced false ‘confessions’ obtained under coercion and during prolonged and brutal interrogations. Defendants don’t have lawyers and usually look bruised or tortured. The judges in these cases are there to rubber-stamp the prosecutor and interrogators’ demands. 

They are issuing the sentences so quickly, even though it has to go through a lower court, a court of appeals and the supreme court. In the most recent execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, these three courts all took place within 21 days. They are doing it so fast that none of these processes seem to have any substance. It's terrifying.

In a video published on social media, the mother of 24-year-old Kurdish rapper Saman Seyedi, known as Yasin, who is on death row, said “they dismissed [her] son’s lawyer”.


'The Islamic Republic is ramping up its killing spree'

According to Iran Human Rights, 458 people have been killed and some 18,000 arrested since the protests began. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022. while in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” but have grown into broad calls to oust Iran’s clerical leaders, who have described the protests as “riots”.

According to Hadi Ghaemi, the Islamic Republic is likely to turn to even more extreme measures to crush the protest movement: 

Not a single Iranian official has been accountable for the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini, or the more than 400 protesters who’ve been killed. Instead, the Islamic Republic is ramping up its killing spree; it will likely shift into high gear very soon.

The regime and its judiciary definitely have the capacity to execute an increasing number of people. These are the same people who executed political prisoners in large numbers over decades. They’re the same men who killed 5,000 political prisoners in a matter of weeks in 1987. The President of Iran was one of the men who led these crimes against humanity [at the time, Ebrahim Raisi was the deputy prosecutor of Tehran and one of four members named to the so-called Death Committee for Tehran that according to some estimates oversaw the execution of over 30,000 prisoners.]. They want to execute more people, it’s their way of establishing their power, of showing that they are in control. 

However, this isn’t the 1980s. The situation today is much more fragile. There is a lot of anger within the country, even within the Islamic Republic’s own ranks, and around the world. It’s become a very fluid and dangerous situation that could change at any moment.

>> Read more on The Observers: Iran forces Baha’i minority to bury their dead on top of decades-old mass grave


'The international community must increase economic and diplomatic pressure'

Hadi Ghaemi told the Observers team that without significantly strengthened international action, the Islamic Republic will continue to kill young men and women, in executions or on the streets: 

The statements coming from political ministries are good, but unfortunately they just remain words and there needs to be strong action right now. If the international community doesn’t stop this, it’s sending a green light to these crimes. 

We also encourage citizens to take to the streets to push their governments into action in an attempt to save the lives of men, women and children in Iran.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Iran executes more people annually than any nation other than China.