Iran: first execution in public square after two years of interruption

Iran: first execution in public square after two years of interruption

Second country in the world to use the death penalty the most, Iran is once again hanging in public places. This return marks an “additional step” in the repression.

An activist hanging from a fake noose during a demonstration in Paris to denounce the number of executions in Iran in 2016. JOEL SAGET / AFP

Iran carried out its first public execution since June 2020 on Saturday July 23, after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Iman Sabzikar, a 28-year-old worker, was found guilty of the murder of a policeman in Shiraz (southern Iran). The Norwegian NGO Iran Human Rights denounces a “medieval” act, all the more worrying in view of the increase in executions since the beginning of the year. According to the organisation’s latest report, there were 251 hangings in the first half of 2022, compared to 117 in the whole of 2021.

According to Amnesty International, Iran is the second country in the world, behind China, to use the death penalty the most. Lately, the Iranian regime has arrested many filmmakers and intellectuals accused of “disturbing public order”, as well as that of hundreds of demonstrators last May. For Thierry Coville, researcher at IRIS (Institute of International and Strategic Relations) specialist in Iran contacted by Le Figaro, “this hardening of the regime will not stop”.

Repression, “it’s in their DNA”

Ebrahim Raisi’s victory in the 2021 presidential election has bogged Iran down in radicalism. Since then, all the powers have been in the hands of the radicals, “a conjunction that we haven’t had often”, affirms Thierry Coville. At the same time, Iran is going through an unprecedented economic crisis. The official inflation rate is said to be around 40% and a quarter of the population is said to live in slum-like conditions. Last May, the President announced the end of the end of subsidies for basic necessities. This austerity measure led to a vertiginous increase in the prices of a large part of the basic necessities (bread, pasta, eggs, dairy products, meat, among others), sometimes multiplied by three. Many Iranians took to the streets, with Tehran responding with mass arrests of protesters.

“The government represses immediately without thinking because it does not want the social and economic crisis to cause a political crisis, explains the researcher, it is in their DNA”. Supported by around 20 to 30% of the population, there is no question of losing the approval of supporters, without whom maintaining power would be impossible.

“There is always a reaction from Iranian society, but we have the impression that it is alone because politically there is a vacuum”, explains Thierry Coville. The urban middle class, 10% of whom have fallen into poverty since 2018, expresses a general fed up that is also found in the slogans of the demonstrators: “radicals or moderates, it’s over for us “. In the last presidential elections, there was a 50% turnout, a historically low figure for the country. Since the beginning of the crisis, “those who were moderate and in favor of human rights have been swept away”, explains Thierry Coville, which reinforces the radicals in their policies of economic pragmatism. “All is not white or black and the government plays a lot on it,” he adds.

Finally, the return of public execution marks only a “further step” in the repression in Iran. Unsurprisingly, many radical debates are resurfacing, particularly around the wearing of the veil, after Ebrahim Raïssi’s statement suggesting denying access to public services to poorly veiled women.

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