By: Jabbar Fazeli, MD
Iran hanged (slow strangulation with a crane) two more Iranians yesterday (1). In one of the photos you can see the soon to be hanged trying to comfort himself by putting his head on the shoulder of the executioner.
By itself this is no news, as the Islamic Republic happens to be proud of its "hanging" industry and holds a few world records in this category. What's new is that the condemned were petty thieves who represent the, sanction induced, crime wave in the country, and this hanging represents the iron fist approach chosen to tackle this crime wave.
Last month the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani (the brother of Ali Larijani, the parliament speaker), expanded the death penalty to include violent robberies. Iran traditionally brands certain criminals as "mohareb" to qualify them for the death penalty. This "Enemy of God" category has included killers, rapists, drug traffickers, "spies", political and opposition activists, bloggers, journalists, lawyers, and now it includes violent robbers.
These two particular robbers were prefect candidates for the regime to use as an example, as their crime was caught on tape showing them robbing and attacking a man with a machete. The state TV showed the following clip as evidence of their crime:
Most executions in Iran happen behind prison walls, but the Iranian regime likes to have a few public hangings to show the people who's boss and to "deter" certain activities, criminal and otherwise. The exact names and numbers of people being executed in Iran is a state secret and most die without much fanfare.
Most convictions in Iran are based on "confessions" and the state TV often airs the confessions of prominent convicted "criminals" before public hangings. Considering the secrecy of the judiciary system and the inability of the accused to mount a meaningful defense, expanding the death penalty to include more crimes can serve to provide the regime with more options to charge and convict people at will. Iranian prisons currently house defense lawyers who were brave enough to stand in defense of some of these "criminals. The Sakharov prize laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh is one high profile example (http://www.uskowioniran.com/2012/10/sakharov-prize-today-traitors-tomorrow.html?m=1).
Assuming that all the accused are guilty, as is often the outcome in Iranian courts, the question to ask is "on what basis do robbers deserve the death penalty"?
Even under the harshest version of the "eye for an eye" sharia law, the death penalty would not apply in cases of violent robbery. It is another example of how a regime, based on religion, is bending religion to suit its political and social objectives.
The "hangings for everyone" approach reflects the supreme need of this regime to stay in power at all cost. The approach can be best understood in military terms; Every challenge can be overcome with "violence" and brute force.
When activists demonstrate on the streets, the regime arrests, torture, and hangs a few.
When bloggers and journalists challenge the assertions and policies of the government, the regime arrests, torture, and kills a few.
When religious and ethnic minorities advocate for more rights, they are lumped with the most violent separatists and hanged just the same.
When the economy tanks and the unemployed resort to crime, the regime deflects responsibility, ignores the root causes, and resorts to hangings as a means to curb crime and save their own hide.
One would only have to read the comments that follow this piece to see the military doctrine the regime is following. To counter the blog threats the military option include the use of thousands of "cyber basij" hired to take the "war" to the cyber "enemy", regardless of the truth.
In short, for every social and political problem in Iran the regime is offering a "violent solution". Little that they know that the inevitable result of this "strategy of violence" is that the regime's own end is now more and more likely to be a violent one.
For more on the inhuman hanging practices in Iran see http://www.uskowioniran.com/2012/10/iranian-inhumane-hanging-practices.html?m=1
Photo source: AP,new.kuwittimes.com, jpost, NYT