Iran Intensifies Use of Medieval Tactics — Including Public Executions — To Scare Protesters

A 23-year-old, Majidreza Rahnavard, is the second protester to be executed for Moharebeh, or a crime against god, since the September launch of a country-wide revolt.

Via YouTube
Majidreza Rahnavard, an Iranian executed by public hanging on December 12, 2022. Via YouTube

As the Islamic Republic intensifies its use of medieval tactics to scare protesters, the West’s response is calibrated to sidestep the rebellion’s main cause: Regime change. 

A 23-year-old, Majidreza Rahnavard, was hanged Monday from a construction crane. Tried in a secret court, Rahnavard was found guilty of Moharebeh, or “crime against god,” for the alleged killing of two regime enforcers at the city of Mashhad. 

The execution is bound to further raise a simmering outrage in America and Europe, where sanctions are being slapped on Iran almost daily now. However, the top Iranian leaders — the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the president, Ebrahim Raisi — are, as yet, off limits. 

On Monday a government news agency, Mizan, posted images of Rahnavard’s fluttering body hanging from a metal crane. His hands and feet were bound and a black bag covered his head. Guards clad in black garb stood around to secure the site. 

Rahnavard is the second protester to be executed for the ill-defined god-defying crime since the September launch of a country-wide revolt. Last week’s execution of Moshen Shekari was less public than the Monday hanging. So far the regime’s scare tactics have failed to intimidate a growing rebellion, now in its fourth month. 

Iran’s use of cranes for public hangings is far from new. With an average of 250 executions a year, Iran is only second to Communist China in the use of the death penalty. Nearly 15 executions are carried out in public. Sky-high crane hangings are a favorite form of punishment for people feared by the regime. 

Up to 30 protesters have been sentenced to death in the last few weeks, including a professional soccer player, Amir Nasr-Azadani, who has expressed support for the Iranian protest movement. 

Although not a member of the team sent to the World Cup at Qatar — which signaled solidarity with protestors by staying mum while the national anthem was playing — Mr. Nasr-Azadani is a well known star of the Iranian national league. He was sentenced to death Monday as an “accessory” to Moharebeh, the anti-god crime.

An international soccer players’ union, Fifro, issued a strongly-worded condemnation of the death sentence, tweeting on Monday that it was “shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution in Iran after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country.” 

The players’ union is part of a growing international pushback against the Tehran regime.

At the UN’s Turtle Bay headquarters an unprecedented vote is scheduled for Wednesday on an American-sponsored resolution to eject Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. Diplomats tell the Sun that Washington has already secured a majority at the 54-member Economic and Social Council for the first ever removal of a member of the women’s-rights body. 

At Paris, France summoned the Iranian chargé d’affaires Tuesday for a dressing down over the Islamic Republic’s “role in Ukraine, crackdowns on protesters at home, and the treatment of seven French nationals currently in custody,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. 

The European Union imposed a new set of sanctions against members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It targeted “in particular those who are responsible for the executions, the violence against innocent people,” the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, told reporters Monday.

“These are especially the Revolutionary Guards but also those who — with forced videos — try to intimidate people or punish them,” Ms. Baerbock added. America also added several new Iranian entities to its sanctions list, including a state-run media, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, for publishing forced confessions on the airwaves. 

Even some of Washington’s most Iran-conciliatory voices are starting to sound the alarm. President Biden’s Iran point man, Robert Malley, now supports removing the country from the UN women’s rights commission. “It makes no sense for Iran to be sitting on a commission whose role is to promote the rights of women when they are doing exactly the opposite,” Mr. Malley told MSNBC on Monday.

America so far has declined to trigger the Magnitsky Act to sanction Mr. Khamanei for human rights violations. The European Union, its members, and Great Britain have declined altogether to sanction Mr. Khamenei. 

Targeted acts, such as kicking Iran out of the UN women’s rights are helpful, as they help to “put wind beneath the wings of the protestors,” an Iran watcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Behnam Ben Taleblu, says. 

Yet, he tells the Sun, Westerners have “quarantined” their response by expressing support for specific issues: Women’s rights, opposition the death penalty, the right to assemble and protest. Meanwhile, brave Iranians are getting killed for a much larger cause: They want the regime gone once and for all. 

The New York Sun

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