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Iran’s public executions

Iran’s public executions


Iran has begun publicly executing people who took part in the nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. The regime has been damaged by the unrest and mass killings could weaken it further.

“Distressing news continues to come from Iran. The hardline regime has executed a second protester.”


The night before he was killed, Majidreza Rahnavard was visited by his mother. According to a network of activists opposed to the Iranian regime, neither of them knew what was about to happen to him.

The group posted pictures of them hugging and said his mother left smiling.

The next morning the family got a phone call from an official who told them: “We have killed your son.”

They were given the name of a cemetery and a plot number. When they arrived Majidreza Rahnavard was being buried by security agents.

He’d been publicly hanged, 23 days after being arrested.

In what’s been described as a show trial by human rights groups, a court convicted him of stabbing to death two members of a resistance force, which has links to the country’s feared Revolutionary Guard.

Majidreza Rahnavard’s death came a few days after another protester was publicly executed.

“Mohsen Shekari was also given a death penalty for what the regime claims, stabbing a security guard and blocking a road.”


Both men were reportedly unable to choose their own lawyer and both apparently confessed to the crimes, but activists say they were forced into it after being tortured. In a video of Mohsen Shekari’s confession you can see a bruise on his right cheek and activists provided a photo of Majidreza Rahnavard with his arm in a sling.

It’s certainly a brutal escalation, but since the protests began there have been signs that the regime has been weakened.


“Since the death of Mahsa Amini in a detention facility in September, protests have erupted across the country. Many of which have turned violent. Human rights groups say more than 440 people have been killed and another 17,000 arrested.”

Al Jazeera

Mahsa Amini was a Kurdish-Iranian woman who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly. She later fell into a coma and died in hospital from severe head wounds.

“The special force was established in 2006. Its only job, to park at major intersections and thoroughfares to issue warnings to women deemed to be flouting Iran’s religious dress codes.”

Al Jazeera

Her funeral erupted into protests.

[Cries and shouts from the protest]

Police fired tear gas as it spread to the regional capital and soon there were rallies across the country. They shouted “death to the dictator” and “women, life, freedom”.

[Cries and shouts from the protest]

Iran is used to smaller protests over local issues, but these are different. Mahsa’s death has unleashed pent-up anger at the regime and they’re happening all over the country. 

What began as a movement led by women and girls angry at restrictions on what they can wear and how they live their lives has become about more than that. 

It’s diverse. Men have joined them in solidarity and to protest against other injustices including corruption, poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Some have called for a general strike. Moj Mahdara works for the Iranian Diaspora Collective…

“The Iranian people are calling for three days of strikes. That’s workers, students, people across medical fields. I think these strikes are one of the greatest threats to the Islamic Republic.”


The regime’s response has been to crack down. It’s killed protesters on the streets, shut down the internet and now it’s begun publicly executing people to send a message… but there are signs that it’s been weakened.

“The special force was established in 2006. Its only job, to park at major intersections and thoroughfares to issue warnings to women deemed to be flouting Iran’s religious dress codes. According to the attorney general, the same institution that set up the morality policy has shut it down.”

Al Jazeera

There’s uncertainty over the status of Iran’s morality police, which enforces its dress code and is accused of killing Mahsa Amini.

The country’s attorney general was asked about the guidance patrols at a news conference and said they “have been shut down from where they were set up”. But the government didn’t confirm the move and local state-run media reported that his comments were “misinterpreted”.

If confirmed, it would be a concession to protestors, but it’s unlikely to be enough to stop the unrest… Nahid Siamdoust is an assistant professor at the University of Texas…

“The executions themselves are actually spurring on further protests because you know the number of people who’ve been killed in these protests over 400 and the number of people who are still in prison 14 000 and those at risk of death and execution those are actually bringing more people into the streets of fighting for their rights and asking for their release.”

ABC News

The European Union has imposed new sanctions on Iran over its “widespread, brutal and disproportionate” response to the protests, but there are signs that the killings could continue.

A group called Iran Human Rights, which is based in Norway, said there was “a serious risk of mass execution of protesters”.

Amnesty International claims that 11 people have already been sentenced to death over the protests and at least another nine, including a 26 year old footballer, face the death penalty.

Heartfelt pleas from parents of men who face the death penalty have appeared online or in newspapers.

Those who remain loyal to the idea of the Islamic republic, but recognise the need for change, have been warning hardliners for weeks that they need to listen to the protests and respond.

If they don’t, and public executions continue, an already alienated population may demand the overthrow of the entire Islamic republic.

This episode was written by Lewis Vickers and mixed by Gary Marshall.