by Lily Stewart
A decade-long silent conflict has been raging in Iran since the end of it’s war. Since 1979, the Iranian government has been waging a war on its citizens. The losers of this war have been the Iranian people. The proletariat have been wounded for decades by this regime, while the world stands by and watches. These wounds run deep and are most starkly evidenced by the citizen executions in Iran, 4,500 citizens currently sit on death row in Iran; 78 executions have been committed in August 2016 alone. Iran is continuously listed as the country with the second highest rate of executions in the world. There is a humanitarian crisis taking place in Iran.
The authoritarian Iranian regime routinely violates international law and ignores the cries of its people seeking democratic political reform. The breach includes the execution of individuals who committed crimes that do not meet the international legal standard for executions. Iran, included in the ranks with China and Saudi Arabia, continuously gives the most extreme and fatal punishment for perpetrators convicted of drug trafficking, “adultery” and “blasphemy.” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, is quoted in 2015 as saying, “Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all put people to death at unprecedented levels, often after grossly unfair trials. This slaughter must end.”
This slaughter is not contained to those who have reached a legal age. Of the 977 confirmed individuals who were executed by the Iranian government in 2015, at least four were executed for crimes committed before the age of 18. Iran is one of the few states in the world still executing minors, and is frequently cited as delivering the highest number of minor death sentences.
The cruel and unusual punishment the Iranian government inflicts on its citizens does not stop at death sentences for crimes not meeting international standards, but continues in its treatment of prisoners currently sitting on death row. Two days after his execution, Hamed Ahmadi’s words gave the world a glimpse into the atrocities committed against death row prisoners. It describes how, over the course of five years, prison guards repeatedly left him with the impression he was to be executed the next day:
The door opened. Our hearts started to pound. The nightmare of death was coming true...But 45 days went by. Every day, we thought we would be executed the next day but no one came for us. We approached death 45 times. We said good-bye to life 45 times.
Time and time again, both Mr. Ahmadi and his family were led to believe that his execution was imminent. Time and time again, guards mocked his family as they stood in front of the prison, refusing to give them information. Once, his family even received news from the government that Mr. Ahmadi was executed and held a funeral for him. It was like receiving a call from the dead when Mr. Ahmadi was finally able to contact his sister. This treatment continued for five long years.
Sadly, Hamed Ahmadi was put to death after an unfair trial. His story is not a unique story. This is the reality the 4,500 prisoners on Iranian death row face daily.
There was hope within Iran that renewed relations for western countries during the P5+1 talks would bring reform to the current regime. The Iranian deal lifted sanctions and removed from the U.S. Terror List, opening the opportunity for change. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. Activists and political prisoners were included in a “cleanse” ordered from “above” that occurred directly after the summit concluded. These prisoners, in direct violation of the law, were not provided food or drink in the day before their execution. This points to an increasingly barbaric violation of human rights.
Various movements have taken place to represent the true interests on the Iranian people. During the 2009 Green Revolution, after a tumultuous election, Iranians took to the streets and were turned upon by their own government. During Ashura, the highest holy day for Shiites, hundreds of thousands took part in protests. The regime opened fire on peaceful protests, shattering the long tradition of nonviolence on that day. Over the course of this failed revolution, thousands were beaten, arrested or killed. Many of those arrested still sit on death row.
Organizations abroad, some exiled from Iran while working to improve the human condition, have also worked for the Iranian people. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has worked tirelessly from Paris for the relief of the unfair treatment the regime imparts on its people. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect, seeks to guide the organization in a peaceful transfer of power to the people by overthrowing the religious dictatorship currently ruling. The transfer of power to the people would help to end the human rights violations that are taking place currently in the Iranian justice system. Over 100,000 exiled Iranians attended the organization’s annual gathering in July, shedding light on the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime.
Various human rights organizations, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the NCRI, have pleaded to the global community to place the humanitarian crisis taking place on Iran’s death row on the international agenda. The 4,500 individuals sitting waiting for their executions - many after receiving unfair trials for crimes meeting the international standard for executions - still have a chance.
It is important that we, as an international community, rally against this unfit regime as it continuously degrades and systematically kills its own citizens. The evidence shows the Iranian government is using this form of punishment to insight fear, not justice.
Lily Stewart is an aspiring journalist located in the United States looking to shed light on human rights violations that are taking place across the globe.
Crowdsourcing the struggle for human rights. Be part of the solution at Movements.org. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Movements.