by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
How the Obama administration is facilitating Iran's unprecedented killing binge.
President Obama is determined to defend the Islamic Republic as a legitimate government that should receive sanctions relief. He has even overstepped his constitutional authority by signing the nuclear deal (a treaty) in the United Nations Security Council without getting the two-third vote of the Senate. He did not give Congress time to review the nuclear deal as he previously promised.
The Obama administration is advocating for a regime that has been on an execution spree on an unprecedented level, according to Amnesty International's latest report. Since the beginning of this year, the Islamic Republic has executed approximately 700 people.
People being executed are usually not told about their death sentence until the noose is put around their neck and until they reach the gallows. Family members of the victims often do not know about the execution until weeks after.
As Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program said, "Iran's staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale." He added, "The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Iran where trials are blatantly unfair."
I regularly speak with Iranian people living in various cities in Iran including Esfahan, Tehran, Tabriz, and Khorasan in order to obtain a better understanding on the ground. My family lives there too. The words of every one of them (about the current situation in Iran after the nuclear deal was reached) echoes what Zahra, an English teacher in the province of Esfahan, told me. She said, “Any cash given to the these Sheikhs in the government (the clerics) by the powers because of the nuclear deal, will not be distributed to the people. The money will not be used to improve people’s economic standards. The people on top will steal the money, saving it in their bank accounts, or send it to their Arab allies, Bashar Al Assad, Hezbollah, and the Iraqi government. They [Iranian leaders] are also going to increase domestic suppression if they begin seeing the flow of cash.”
If we look at the history of the Islamic Republic closely, we see that when a “reformist” president (Mohammad Khatami) was in power in Iran, the nation witnessed the same increase in executions and suppression. It was one of the worst periods of oppression and crackdowns on civil liberties. In addition, the number of executions normally rises under the so-called “moderates” and “reformists” rules.
When Iranian people feel that they might finally have a better relationships with the West, the ruling establishments ratchets up their imprisonment, torture, suppression and killings in order to show the people who is in charge and in order to impose fear. By using these tactics, they send a clear message that the Islamists are in charge, not the youth.
Unfortunately, although President Obama is very vocal about defending the nuclear deal, the lifting of economic sanctions on the Ayatollah, the release of over a hundred of billion dollars to the ruling clerics of Iran, he has not issued any serious criticism against the leaders of the Islamic Republic with regards to the execution spree.
In the Islamic Republic, one can be executed for actions which might not even be a crime or it might be a misdemeanor in other democratic countries. For example, one can be executed for "enmity against Allah" or "corruption on earth." In addition, a non-Muslim man can be executed for having sex with a Muslim women, but not vice versa. One can be executed or stoned if he/she is married and has sex with an unmarried person. One can also be executed for cursing or using bad words against the prophet.
As the report by Amnesty International described, "They [death sentences] are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offenses, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty… Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation."
Boumedouha observed, “For years, Iranian authorities have used the death penalty to spread a climate of fear in a misguided effort to combat drug trafficking, yet there is not a shred of evidence to show that this is an effective method of tackling crime…"
The more the Iranian leaders are empowered and emboldened financially, economically and politically, the more they tighten the noose on all freedoms (including speech, assembly, press, etc.), as well as basic inalienable human rights.
There are currently thousands of innocent people on death row waiting to be unfairly executed in the Islamic Republic. While President Obama finds it urgent to overstep his constitutional authority to quickly sign the nuclear deal with Iran and push for sanctions relief against the ruling clerics, he needs to pay close attention to how the empowerment of the ruling Islamists in Iran is adversely affecting the lives of millions of innocent people.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf Project at Columbia University. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
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