International outrage over the mounting wave of executions in Iran reached another milestone Aug, 27, when 12 drug convicts were hanged at Karaj Central Prison outside Tehran. Days earlier, when the 12 were transferred to solitary confinement at the facility in preperation for the executions, the United Nations issued an urgent plea. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, called on the Islamic Republic to stay the executions immediately. After they were carried out, Shaheed's response was harsh.
Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Aug. 5 criticized Iran for the mass execution of 20 people this week, calling the action "deplorable." The prisoners were all convicted of terrorism-related offenses, but the commissioner expressed doubt as to the fairness of those trials, deriding Iran as having expressed a "disdain" toward due process. In his statement, the commissioner called the executions a "grave injustice" and pointed out that many of those killed were Kurds or part of the Sunni religious minority.
The UN experts on cultural rights and on freedom of expression, Karima Bennoune and David Kaye called June 24 for the release of artists imprisoned by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In particular, they called upon Iran to release two musicians, Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and a filmmaker, Hossein Rajabian, charged with "insulting Islamic sanctities," "propoganda against the State," and "conducting illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site." The three artists, after appeal, were sentenced to three years in prison and fined 50 million Rial ($1,658) each. While they acknowledged that their prison sentences had been reduced from six years, the experts called the sentences "unacceptable and in complete violation of international human rights law binding on Iran."
From the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists, March 2016:
Five years after the beginning of the popular Syrian Revolution which demanded democracy and human rights, the Syrian revolutionaries have been decimated through the combined military force of the Assad regime, the Iranian regime with its sectarian militias, Russian air strikes and military assistance on the one hand, and the ultra-terrorist ISIS and other Salafist–Jihadist organizations on the other hand. Nevertheless, a partial reduction of air-strikes by Russia and the Assad regime in early March led to an immediate revival of mass protests of the democratic opposition across the country with banners such as the following in Idlib: "Our peaceful revolution is still in progress until toppling Assad and imposing justice all over Syria."
For a third year running, Amnesty International's annual report on the death penalty notes an alarming surge in the number of executions worldwide—now reaching the highest total since 1989. At least 1,634 people were executed in 2015, a rise of more than 50% over the previous year. Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were leading the field, responsible for 89% of the executions. Iran executed at least 977 in 2015—the vast majority for drug-related crimes—compared with 743 in 2014. Those put to death included at least four who were under 18 at the time of the crime—which Amnesty called a violation of international law. Pakistan continued what Amnesty called as a "state-sanctioned killing spree" that began when a moratorium on civilian executions was lifted in December 2014. Pakistan sent at least 326 to the gallows last year, the highest annual total Amnesty has recorded for that country. Executions in Saudi Arabia rose by 76%, with at least 158 people put to death, Amnesty said. Most were beheaded, with the bodies often displayed in public.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired several ballistic missiles on March 8, state television said, threatening the nuclear deal that just took effect earlier this year. A state television report showed a Emad missile, Iran's most advanced model, being fired from a fortified underground silo at night time. The presenter said it was a medium-range Qiam-1 missile. However, that footage appeared to be of an earlier October launch that triggered new US sanctions. The report said the Guards had fired several missiles from silos across the country, though it only showed footage of one.
An Iranian appeals court sentenced filmmaker Keywan Karimi to one year in prison for "insulting sanctities" on Jan. 22, reducing his initial sentence of six years. The sentence resulted from Karimi's film focusing on political graffiti in Iran since the 1979 Revolution. Iran has recently cracked down on freedom of expression, harshly punishing journalists and artists. Citizens have been forced to flee the country in order to avoid unjust prison sentences. In June, one artist was sentenced to nearly 13 years for depicting Iranian parliament members as animals to criticize a draft law. Karimi plans to remain in the country and serve his sentence.