President Ahmadinejad is intensifying his repression of the Baluch minority,
with 19 campaigners executed since last month
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
The Guardian – Comment is Free – London – 22 July 2009
Three more Baluch activists are due to be executed in Iran in the next few days, according to Ebrahim Hamidi, Chief Justice of Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Already, 19 Baluch political prisoners have been hanged since last month’s
fraudulent presidential election.
All were sent to the gallows after short, summary trials behind closed doors, without having access to defence lawyers and without any right to call witnesses or to appeal the death sentences.
On one day last week, 14 July, the government of Iran executed 13 members of its Baluch ethnic minority. They were hanged by the barbaric slow strangulation method, which is endorsed by the country’s dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
To see an example of the prolonged death caused by slow strangulation, watch this video of an Iranian execution:
The 13 executions went ahead, despite pleas for clemency by Amnesty International. It says the executed men never received a fair trial and has condemned their judicial killing.
“The men did not receive a fair trial and these executions must not go ahead,” urged Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme, just days before the hangings. “The Iranian authorities must abide by their international obligations to uphold human rights and guarantee fair trials, which is all the more essential in death penalty cases,” he said.
The evidence against the condemned men is disputed, with Baluch nationalists claiming they were framed for their political opposition to Tehran’s domination of the Baluchistan region and its suppression of Baluch culture.
A total of 14 men were scheduled to be hanged last week, but one condemned man had his execution deferred to allow him to be further interrogated, most likely under torture, in a bid to get him to incriminate others.
Some of the hangman’s victims were alleged members of the PRMI (People’s Resistance Movement of Iran), also known as Jondallah, a Baluch armed opposition group, which is campaigning against what they see as Persian and Shia Muslim oppression of their Baluch Sunni Muslim nation. However, the evidence of their membership of Jondallah is suspect and would certainly not be deemed proven in the courts of countries like South Africa, Brazil, India, Venezuela, Ghana or the Philippines.
The 13 convicted defendants were hanged in the city of Zahedan, south-east Iran. They were sentenced for moharebeh – “enmity against God” – for allegedly participating in armed rebellion against the Tehran government and other offences, including drug smuggling, hostage-taking and contacts with western powers. Their alleged crimes are disputed by Baluch activists.
Some of the men who were sent to the gallows were arrested prior to the commission of the crimes they allegedly perpetrated.
These executions have little to do with the victim’s guilt or innocence. They are part of a pattern of terror and intimidation in Iranian-occupied Baluchistan.
Human Rights Watch reported in March 2008 that an Iranian parliament member, Hossein Ali Shahryari, confirmed that 700 people were awaiting execution in Sistan and Baluchistan province, which is only one of Iran’s 30 provinces. Many of those on death row are Baluch political prisoners. This staggering number of death sentences is evidence of the intense, violent ethnic repression that is taking place under the leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian regime is notorious for framing political critics and opponents on trumped up charges of hooliganism, drug trafficking, terrorism, homosexuality and spying. The hanged men’s guilt is therefore open to question.
Student activist Meisam Lofti was executed in 2007 on the false charges of being a gang member and acts of criminality, according to Iranian websites and to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
In 2004, in the city of Neka, a 16 year old girl, Atefah Rajabi Sahaaleh, who had been raped several times, was convicted and executed for ‘crimes against chastity’ and ‘adultery.’ Her male rapist got 95 lashes. Atefah’s execution for adultery was particularly shocking, given that she was not married and therefore could not have been an adulterer. In an attempt to avoid bad publicity and accusations that it executes minors, the Iranian dictatorship falsely claimed that Atefah was 22 at the time of her hanging. But her father was able to produce her birth certificate, proving that she was only 16; thereby exposing the Tehran regime as liars and child killers.
The regime’s dishonesty is also evidenced by its practice of torturing detainees to make them confess publicly to crimes they have not committed.
Some of the hanged Baluch men allegedly confessed to serious offences. But these confessions need to be treated with great scepticism. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long history of extracting false confessions from innocent prisoners who have been subjected to prolonged torture.
Roxana Saberi, an American-Iranian journalist who was arrested in Tehran in 2009, was
forced to confess to spying. After her release, she confirmed that she had been pressured by threats and menaces to confess to criminal acts that she had never perpetrated.
The Baluch people are systematically oppressed for seeking equality of rights and opportunities with other Iranians. Baluch human rights campaigners report that under the constitution of the Islamic Republic, and under other laws passed by the Iranian parliament, Sunni Muslims are prohibited from becoming supreme leader, president, minister, deputy minister, army general, ambassador or any other high state official.
The official religion of the Iranian state is Shia Islam. All non-Shia Muslims are subjected to discrimination and, sometimes, to outright victimisation.
The Sunni Muslims of Baluchistan are deemed a political and religious threat to the state. They are a persecuted ethnic and faith minority. Those who express their Baluch identity and campaign for human rights risk arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution.
Help save the lives of the three men awaiting execution. There are three things you can do:
1) Email your MP.
Ask your MP to urgently protest to the Iranian Embassy.
2) Email the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, asking him to protest the government in Tehran.
3) Email the Iranian Embassy direct, urgency clemency for the condemned men. [email protected]