The Poet Iran Executed

The Poet Iran Executed

The hanging of poet Hashem Shaabani tells you everything you need to know about Iran’s regime.

As Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani was dangling from a noose two weeks ago, desperately grasping for his last breath of air, one wonders what he would have thought about Western leaders who call President Hassan Rouhani a moderate.  What exactly is moderate, Shaabani could have thought, about a regime which brands a poet an “enemy of God” and strangles him to death?

The crazy thing is that by the logic of the Iranian government, Shaabani had to be killed.  He criticized God and the punishment for blasphemy is clear: death.  Technically, Shaabani criticized the regime by speaking out against repression of ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan province, but since the regime sees itself as the representative of God on Earth, his fate was sealed.  It’s not called a theocracy for nothing.   

Islamic scholar and former Iraqi parliamentarian, Iyad Jamal al Din, once told me of Iran’s Supreme Leader:

Ayatollah Khamenei is a man just like me. He’s a cleric and I’m a cleric. But he says, “I am the representative of God.” From him, these words make me sleepless. You all [in America] sleep normally because you don’t know what that means. I know what it means. He means that he is right and the others are wrong. And wrong must not live. You should be defeated and destroyed.  

President Rouhani and foreign minister Mohamed Zarif are making quite a show of Iran’s supposed moderation.  They speak at ritzy conferences in Davos and Munich, maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts (despite banning them in Iran) and talk of Iran’s commitment to peace and justice.  But behind the soothing rhetoric is a regime which tortures journalists, imprisons bloggers and hangs poets.

As world powers attempt to negotiate an accord with Iran, they would do well to keep Shaabani in mind.  What does the hanging of a poet have to do with nuclear negotiations?  Everything. It gets to the heart of the nature of the regime.

Can the world trust a government which doesn’t even trust its own people?  Can the West rely on a regime which so fears dissidents that it puts them to death?  Can nukes be entrusted to the murderers of Neda, the young Iranian woman whose bloody death was captured on YouTube at a 2009 protest?  

Shaabani, and the more than 300 Iranians executed since Rouhani took power, are powerful reminders that the Iranian government remains as fanatic as it is dangerous.  The scores of students, bloggers and peaceful activists languishing in Evin prison are living testaments to Iran’s ongoing brutality.

When the Iranian government no longer fears its own people, then we will no longer have any reason to fear it.

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Iran hangs 40 people in two weeks amid surge in executions

Iran hangs 40 people in two weeks amid surge in executions

Iran has carried out a total of 40 executions since the beginning of 2014, with at least 33 carried out in the past week alone, said Amnesty International today. 

“The spike in the number of executions carried out so far this month in Iran is alarming. The Iranian authorities’ attempts to change their international image are meaningless if at the same time executions continue to increase”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

The death penalty is a violation of every human being’s right to life and is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. 

“The Iranian authorities must urgently take steps to abolish the death penalty, which has been shown again and again not to have any special deterrent effect on crime,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said. 

Since the beginning of 2014, Amnesty International has recorded 21 executions which were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities, as well as 19 additional executions reported through reliable sources. 

In the week since 9 January 2014 more officially acknowledged executions were carried out in Iran than during the whole month of January 2013. 

At least one public execution was carried out on 14 January 2014 in Saveh, Markazi Province, northern Iran, of an individual convicted of murder. 

Public executions in Iran are usually carried out using cranes which lift the condemned person by a noose around the neck in front of a crowd of spectators. 

The organization is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately adopt an official moratorium on all executions and commute all death sentences. The Iranian authorities must also end all secrecy surrounding their use of the death penalty.

Most of those executed in Iran had been convicted of alleged drug-related offences. Under international standards, non-lethal crimes such as drugs offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” to which the death penalty must be restricted. There is also no right to a meaningful appeal for drugs offences under Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law, contrary to its international obligations to ensure that anyone convicted of a criminal offence has the right to appeal the conviction. 

“In Iran drug-related offences are tried in Revolutionary Courts which routinely fall far short of international fair trial standards. The reality in Iran is that people are being ruthlessly sentenced to death after unfair trials, and this is unacceptable,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. 

Revolutionary Court trials are frequently held behind closed doors and judges have the discretion to restrict lawyers’ access to the defendant during pre-trial investigations in limited cases. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.