This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) says at least 142 people were executed in Iran in May, the highest monthly total in eight years, amid a brutal crackdown on dissent that the Norway-based watchdog says is aimed at spreading “societal fear.”
The group added in a statement released on June 1 that so far this year, the death penalty has been administered at least 307 times, a 76 percent rise compared with the same period last year.
“The purpose of the Islamic republic’s intensification of arbitrary executions is to spread societal fear to prevent protests and prolong its rule,” IHR DIrector Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said in the statement.
Amid a wave of unrest — which has posed the biggest threat to the country’s leadership since the Islamic revolution in 1979 — sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in September while in police custody for an alleged infraction of the country’s mandatory-head-scarf law, officials have launched a brutal crackdown.
Iran’s judiciary, at the urging of senior leaders, has taken a hard-line stance against demonstrators, executing at least seven protesters, including three on May 19. Several others are currently waiting on death row for their sentences to be carried out.
But IHR said the judiciary is using the death penalty in many areas, especially with regard to people convicted of drugs charges, 180 of whom were executed in the first five months of the year.
The wave of executions has sparked outrage among rights activists and many Western governments who have called the legal proceedings against the accused “sham” trials where proper representation is not always granted and decisions are rushed behind closed doors.
Officials have staunchly defended the use of the death penalty, with Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, the head of the judiciary of the Islamic republic, saying on May 30 that those who, in his view, “should be executed” will have their sentences “executed.
“If the international community doesn’t show a stronger reaction to the current wave of executions, hundreds more will fall victims to their killing machine in the coming months,” IHR’s Amiry-Moghaddam said.