Newark, Delaware (Special to Informed Comment) –
Under the previous Iranian Penal Code or IPC, which was in force until 2013, the charge of mohareb, “Waging War (on Islam,” was frequently used against political dissidents and people with connections to opposition groups abroad, even if they were non-violent. The new Penal Code has provided for their punishment under the vague charges of efsad-fil-arz and baghy.
“They are looking for a neck to hang.” Those were the chilling words of Navid Afkari, a young wrestler who in September 2020 was executed in Shiraz after having been charged with killing a member of the security forces. His dossier, like hundreds of others, remains murky to say the least.
But executions are nothing new to Iran.
In the 1930’s, during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, several pro-communist sympathizers and other opponents were jailed and died in prison, under suspicious circumstances among them Taghi Arani and Teymourtash.
Sardar-e-Fateh of the Bakhtiari tribe, the father of the late PM Shapur Bakhtiar, was also executed on the orders of Reza Shah.
Under Mohammad Reza Shah, executions continued. In October 1954, Morteza Keyvan, an Iranian poet, art critic, newspaper editor and political activist of the Tudeh Party (Iran’s pro-Soviet party), was executed in Qasr prison.
In addition, 31 members of the Tudeh officers’ organization were executed.
Another notable execution at the time was that of Dr. Hossein Fatemi, Mossadegh’s 37-year-old foreign minister, who proposed the oil nationalization to Dr. M. He was executed by a firing squad in Tehran’s Qasr prison on 10 November 1954, while still suffering from the injuries of an earlier assassination attempt on him by the Fedayee-e Islam.
Shortly thereafter, Navab Safavi, the leader of the Fedayeen Islam and one of his comrades- in -arms who had been involved in assassinations of Iran’s Prime ministers and of the famous anti-Shia writer Kasravi, were also put to death.
Many of the leaders and members of leftist and Islamist organizations who took up arms against the regime in the 1970s faced firing squads. The numbers are not clear. But at least a few dozen met a similar fate. Some, such as Bijan Jazani and his colleagues, were not executed but gunned down on the hills of Evin prison.
Khosrow Goleshorkh and Keramat Daneshian, both aged 30, two writers and poets, were charged with the plot of kidnapping the Shah’s son. The allegation against them was found to be fabricated. They were both executed on 18 February 1974.
During the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, the number of executions was high, but it never reached the level of what happened after the Revolution. It is noteworthy that many of those who repented, led a normal life, and even got jobs in the government.
This was not the case after the rise of the Islamic Republic.
Now, executions were the order of the day.
Some members of the intelligentsia, or sympathizers of leftist and Islamist organizations, most notably the largest ones, (the Fedayeen and the Mojahedin) after having been released from prison, were also put to death.
The poet Saeid Soltanpour, who had been in prison during the reign of the Shah and was released after the Revolution, was arrested on his wedding night, taken to the gallows by the IRI, and executed. He was 41.
He has now become a legend.
Many of the Shah’s generals and his prime minister were also executed. Some without due process of law. A few after facing kangaroo courts, the most notable one being the Shah’s Prime Minister Abbas Hoveyda.
Farrokh Rou Parsa, minister of education and an educated woman, met the same fate, being charged with spreading corruption on earth, a common term used by the IRI prosecutors who apply the sharia law of justice rather than generally accepted modern jusrisprudence.
Habib Elghanian, a Jewish Iranian entrepreneur who had created many industries in Iran, returned from a trip, faced execution. He was branded as a Zionist who loved the state of Israel, yet he was a true Iranian nationalist and had done nothing wrong.
Many members of the Bahai faith were also executed at that time.
In 1988, immediately after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, some 4,000-5,000 political prisoners who had almost completed their sentence and who were waiting to be released, were executed in Evin and Gohar Dasht prisons. The decree came directly by Khomeini. They were also branded as Mohareb ba Khoda (enemy of God).
This incident, which has been the subject of numerous books and films, is the single incident in the history of executions in the world when political prisoners were taken from their cells after long sentences and taken to the gallows.
The late Abbas Amir Entezam, the spokesman of the provisional government who, arrested on trumped on charges, spent 27 years in prison, wrote: “The worst time was when I was with other prisoners and witnessed many of my cell mates being taken and executed one-by-one, without any trials or jury. In the year 1367(1989), we were 350 people in our ward (bandeh zendan); 342 were executed; their ages ranging between 20 – 70 years. Those were the worst days of my life. I will never forget a single moment of that pain.” (Interview with author, Tehran, 2005).
In September 1982, Sadeq Ghotbzadeh who had sat next to Ayatollah Khomeini on that infamous Air France flight to Tehran and Iran’s foreign minister, was executed after being falsely charged with a coup plot.
And so, the executions continued…….
According to historian Ervand Abrahamian,
“Whereas less than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, more than 7900 were executed between 1981 and 1985. … the prison system was centralized and drastically expanded … Prison life was drastically worse under the Islamic Republic than under the Pahlavis. In the prison literature of the Pahlavi era, the recurring words had been “boredom” and “monotony.” In that of the Islamic Republic, they were “fear,” “death,” “terror,” “horror,” and most frequent of all “nightmare” (kaboos).”
In 2010, A Kurdish teacher and poet, Farzad Kamangar, was put to death. The IRI has been especially wary of the ethnic minorities of Iran, fearing that they might want independence from the central government. Farzad Kamangar was 32 years old.
Since the murder of Mahsa Amini, and after protests took place in major cities of Iran, executions have been on the rise, especially in the regions of Sistan-Baluchistan, Kurdistan and Khuzestan.
By executing anyone whether for political reasons or murder, or for homosexuality or other “crimes,” the IRI continues to create fear in the Iranian society. You protest, we will kill you. You raise your voice; we will kill you. Only on occasions when there has been outcry by the governments around the world or human rights organizations have, have we witnessed a decrease.
Still, the IRI does not heed the international community’s outrage. Its rulers do what they want, without fearing any repercussions. The Shah’s regime did care about world opinion. This has not been the case with the IRI. In the last year alone, according to various documented and undocumented reports, nearly 245 individuals the number could be much higher) have been executed, after engaging in protest or on trumped up charges. The recent execution of three men, Saleh Mirhashemi, Saeed Yaghoubi and Majid Kazemi who were charged with killing members of the security forces in street fights in Isfahan (it is very hard to know the exact details) has been met with international outcry to no avail.
Just before their death, they wrote a note from prison, “Please don’t let them kill us.”
The Islamic regime does not move an inch to reduce any of these actions. In fact, it has gotten bolder as Iranians behave defiantly. Yet the very boldness of its reaction may hide a state of panic. The regime in Tehran indeed finds itself in a deep crisis, with protests in Iran calling for the fall of Khamenei and the abolition of Velayat- e -faghih. Yet in the short run, that means more executions, especially since Ebrahim Raisi, the current President of Iran, in the early phase of the Revolution, was a member of the execution committee and served as a warden in Evin prison.
After China, Iran is the number one executioner of our time. It is sad and it is inconceivable that a country with so much beauty, so much culture is on record as the number two killer of its citizens.
Can we stop this killing machine? Yes, we can, and we must.