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Iran has executed at least 251 people in the first half of 2022, including women defending themselves against domestic violence.
Statistically speaking, Iran executed at least one person a day in the first half of 2022. According to a recent report by human rights organization Amnesty International, Iranian executioners have killed some 251 people since the beginning of the year. That's about twice as many as the same time last year, Amnesty said.
In 2021, Iran was responsible for the second-highest per-capita rate of executions worldwide, with an estimated 314 individuals killed. The country was likely only surpassed by China. However, as the People's Republic handles executions as state secrets, independent verification is impossible.
In Iran, the "horrific spree" of executions has continued, said Diana Eltahawy, expert for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. On one day in July alone, three women from three separate prisons across the country were all put to death for murdering their husbands.
One of them was 15 years old when she was married; another had been wedded to a member of an opposing clan to end the bloodshed between the two groups. The third was an Afghan national, who, like many of her fellow countrymen and -women, did not hold Iranian papers and lived on the fringes of society as a second-class citizen.
According to the organization Iran Human Rights Monitor, 164 women were executed between 2010 and 2021 — 60 of them had been charged with murder. In at least 40 of these cases, the women were executed for killing their husbands in self-defense after suffering domestic violence.
"If women had a say in Iran's justice system, for example in criminal code or jurisdiction, many of the women executed might still be alive," Shole Pakravan told DW. Her daughter, Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed in October 2014 for killing her husband, after spending seven years on death row.
In court, Jabbari declared she had acted out of self-defense as her husband attempted to rape her. The judge deemed the act murder and sentenced her to death by hanging.
"My daughter wrote many letters to me from jail, where she spent years imprisoned with other women serving their sentences. She believed that if a female judge had reviewed her case, she would have understood my daughter better and believed her testimony."
Extreme interpretations of the Quran accept domestic violence against women and only consider such behavior grounds for divorce in extraordinary cases. Iran's Islamic penal code is informed by interpretations of Sharia or religious law known as fiqh. It foresees little to no prohibition of violence against women and scant protection against sexual violence and rape.
In contravention of international law, Iran's Youthful Population and Protection of the Family law severely restricts access to family planning medical care and proscribes abortions "carried out on a large scale" as a crime of "corruption on earth," punishable by death.
The hope that female judges could soon be ruling over domestic violence cases may remain a pipe-dream for the foreseeable future, however, as narrow interpretations of Sharia do not support it. In addition, female testimony is given half the weight of male testimony, placing them at a severe disadvantage before the court. Supplying evidence for domestic violence is extremely difficult.
In Iran, many who oppose the death penalty are criminally prosecuted and imprisoned. Human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh first became a political prisoner in 2010, and again in 2018. She was a recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012, and named as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2021.
Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian journalist, human rights defender and former vice president of the Defenders for Human Rights Center, was imprisoned in 2011 for advocating against the death penalty, and again in 2021. She was awarded the Human Rights Award of the City of Weimar in 2016.
"The hard-liners in parliament and in the government have worsened the situation for women and minorities in Iran," Human Rights Watch Iran expert Tara Sepehri Far told DW.
One minority has been particularly affected by the recent sharp rise in executions: Amnesty International estimated that one-quarter of those executed in the first half of 2022 were Baloch. Most were sentenced for drug-related crimes.
According to Amnesty, the Baloch minority constitute some 5% of Iran's population. They mostly live in the country's southeast, along the borders to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The region is economically marginalized and suffers continuous droughts. For many, the drug trade is their only source of income.
German-Iranian journalist Jamshid Sharmahd also faces the death penalty in Iran. In 2020, while living in California, he was kidnapped to Iran by secret services under mysterious circumstances and placed in custody.
There, he was accused of masterminding the 2008 Shiraz mosque bombing, which left 14 dead and 215 wounded, and of heading the pro-monarchy militant group called Tondar (Farsi for thunder). His family has said he's now facing the death penalty for these allegations.
This article was translated from German