From Human Rights Watch:



Iran: 2 Detainees Executed, 11 Await Imminent Execution

Authorities Targeting Ethnic Minorities in Death Penalty Spree

Iranian authorities have recently escalated executions at an alarming rate, including those of Farhad Salimi and Mohammed Ghobadlou on January 23, with at least 11 people at imminent risk, many of them from minority communities, Human Rights Watch said today.At least 11 prisoners face the death penalty on political or security-related charges that under international law should never result in the death penalty, a grave violation of the right to life. Prisoners at imminent risk were often convicted on vague charges, including moharebeh, or “enmity against God,” and “corruption on earth.” Other countries should put pressure on Iran to end the use of the death penalty for such charges.Iranian authorities are notorious for wielding the death penalty against people after unfair trials to instill fear into a population that has mobilized nationwide protests calling for fundamental reforms,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Iran’s brutal government takes an especially harsh response to ethnic minority communities, including the 11 people at risk of imminent execution.”According to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRANA), a non-political and nongovernmental organization that defends human rights, at least 746 people were executed in Iran in 2023. This pattern has persisted in the new year, as the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN), an independent non-profit organization based in France, has reported on at least 34 executions so far since mid-December 2023. Most of these death sentences are related to charges involving drug offenses or “intentional murder.”Eight of those on death row are Kurdish. Anwar KhezriKamran Sheikha, and Khosrow Besharat are in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj and are facing execution, following the recent execution of their co-detainees, including Salimi, Ghasem AbstehAyoub Karimi, and Davood Abdollahi, in the past two and a half months. Khezri, Sheikha, and Besharat initiated a hunger strike on January 2 to protest Abdollahi’s execution and the looming threat of their own death sentences.According to the KHRN, these seven citizens were detained by security forces in the cities of Saqqez and Mahabad between December 2009 to February 2010 and were transferred to the Urumiyeh Intelligence Detention Center.The KHRN says they underwent physical and psychological torture for several months there to extract forced confessions. The case went through various courts, leading to the confirmation of death sentences for all of them in February 2020 by Branch 41 of the Supreme Court. 

Amnesty International reported that authorities forcibly disappeared four Iranian Kurdish dissidents—Pejman Fatehi, Vafa Azarbar, Mohammad (Hazhir) Faramarzi, and Mohsen Mazloum—after their arrests in July 2022. They also face a serious threat of secret execution without prior notification to their families or legal representatives. The death sentences of these men, handed down following an unfair secret trial, were affirmed by the Supreme Court on January 2, 2024, and are now set for implementation.On January 16, Masoud Shamsnejad, the lawyer representing these prisoners, announced on his personal X (formerly Twitter) account that the request for a retrial for his clients in Iran’s Supreme Court had been rejected. He said that “the application has not been accepted due to the lack of inclusion of preliminary and final court documents. Generally, in security cases, the court documents are not provided to lawyers.”On January 14, the families of the four detainees gathered in front of Evin Prison demanding the annulment of death sentences, the opportunity to meet with their children, and a public trial with the presence of lawyers and media.Reza Rasaee, a Kurdish Iranian citizen and follower of the Yarsan faith, was arrested in Shahriar, Tehran during the nationwide protests of 2022 and later transferred to Dizel Abad Prison in Kermanshah. On October 7, 2023, Branch 2 of the Criminal Court in Kermanshah sentenced Rasaee to death on the charge of the murder of Nader Beyrami, the head of the Intelligence Organization of the Revolutionary Guards in the city of Sahneh.According to HRANA, on November 18, 2022, during the ceremony commemorating the twenty-first anniversary of the death of Seyed Khalil Ali Nezhad, a former leader of the Yarsan community, the commemoration turned into a public protest. Security forces intervened, leading to casualties. Kermanshah’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps later confirmed Nader Beyrami’s death during the gathering.Two of those awaiting executions are Baluch. Haal Vash Human Rights Group, which focuses on human rights in the Baluchistan area, said that on November 12, 2023, Farshid Hasan Zehi, a Baluch resident who was arrested during the protests in Zahedan on November 24, 2022, was sentenced to execution following an unclear and non-transparent online court session, held without the presence of a lawyer.He is currently in Ward 9 of Zahedan Prison. He was convicted of shooting at a vehicle near the police station in Cheshme Ziarat village, Zahedan, killing a soldier, Behzad Barahoui, and injuring First Lieutenant Mehdi Hashemzehi, a member of law enforcement. Haal Vash added that Zehi was compelled to make coerced confessions under torture.Mansour Dehmordeh, a person with physical disabilities, was arrested in Zahedan on October 3, 2022. On January 3, 2023, he was sentenced to death on charges of “corruption on earth” by Branch 2 of the Criminal Court at the Shahid Nouri Judicial Complex in Zahedan. Haal Vash reported that during his 10-day detention, he suffered severe torture at the Information Detention Center, resulting in a broken nose and teeth.In March 2023, the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court sentenced Abbas (Mojahed) Kurkuri, from Izeh, to death on charges of moharebeh (“enmity against God”) and “corruption on earth.” The Judiciary’s Media Center alleged that Kurkuri is implicated in the murder of Kian Pirfalak, a child who died during nationwide protests. However, Pirfalak’s family, including his mother, denied that Kurkuri had any involvement and instead said security forces killed her son.Iranian authorities substantially increased the rates of executions in 2023. During the 2022 protests, judicial authorities drastically increased the use of vaguely defined national security charges that could carry the death penalty against protesters, including for allegedly injuring others and destroying public published in April 2023 from Iran Human Rights, a human rights group based in Norway, revealed that ethnic minorities in Iran are disproportionately targeted in executions. The report notes that in 2022 alone, 130 people were executed in the provinces of West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Sistan and Baluchistan, and Kurdistan, a significant increase from 62 in 2021 and 60 in 2020. This underscores the intensified targeting of minority communities with capital punishment.Iran’s recent attacks in neighboring countries that have killed civilians and the surge in domestic executions reveals how little Iranian authorities have to offer in the way of positive change at home and abroad,” Page said.

Iraq: Iranian Attack Kills Civilians in Erbil

Urgent Need for Accountability


An Iranian ballistic missile attack struck a home in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, on January 15, 2024, killing four civilians and injuring six others, Human Rights Watch said today. Hours later, At 5:05 a.m. on January 16, missile defense systems intercepted three drones fired by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq targeting the Erbil International Airport area, which houses US and Iraqi military forces, resulting in the temporary suspension of air traffic.Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Grps claimed responsibility for the attack on the house, saying the attacks targeted a “Mossad espionage center,” a reference to Israel’s intelligence agency. The Kurdistan Regional Government categorically rejected the claim that Israeli intelligence services were operating in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, saying that the strike was “an excuse to attack Erbil” in clear violation of Kurdistan Region and Iraqi sovereignty.“Regardless of Iranian claims about the attack, these killings follow a long history of Revolutionary Guard assassinations in residential areas of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that have targeted civilians” said Sarah Sanbar, Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Impunity for Iran’s killings of civilians will only embolden more unlawful attacks in the future.”The attack claimed the lives of two local businessmen, Peshraw Dizayee and Karam Mikhail; Dizayee’s daughter, who was 10 days away from her first birthday; and Dizayee’s housekeeper. Six others, including Dizayee’s wife and two sons, were injured, according to a statement from the Kurdistan Region Security Council.Naser Tahseen Noori, 31, who lives a few kilometers from Dizayee’s residence, told Human Rights Watch he was going to bed when he heard the explosions. “I heard the first bomb at 11:30 p.m. It was so loud I thought somebody attacked my house and broke the door. Then I got up and went out to check what was going on, and I heard the second and third bombs. The house was shaking,” he said.Noori said the explosions were followed by heavy gunfire. “I don’t know who was shooting, but it came from two directions. My son is only 11 months old, and he was so scared.”Drone footage released by Rudaw News following the attack shows near total destruction of Dizayee’s home, and minor damage to neighboring buildings.In response to the attack, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to Tehran and announced the government’s “commitment to pursuing justice by taking all necessary legal actions, including filing a formal complaint with the UN Security Council.” Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani formed a committee to investigate the attack, promising to publish its findings to “dispel any falsehoods propagated by the parties responsible for these reprehensible actions,” an apparent reference to Iran’s claims that Dizayee was engaged in espionage for Israel.Qassim Al Araji, Iraq’s national security adviser, said the inspections of Dizayee’s home found no evidence of its use as a Mossad headquarters. Iraq should publish the full findings of its investigation.Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, called the attack “cowardly,” and urged the federal government in Baghdad to “take a principled position against the flagrant violation of Iraq’s and the Kurdistan Region’s sovereignty.”The United States condemned the acts as “reckless and imprecise” and the United Kingdom called them “an unacceptable violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Though Dizayee’s residence was in the vicinity of the new US consulate, currently under construction, the US stated that its personnel and facilities were not targeted or affected.The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iraqi militias with links to Iran, has claimed responsibility for over 130 attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria since October 17 that it says were conducted in retaliation for US support for Israel in its war in Gaza. A military base hosting international troops near Erbil’s airport and Harir airbase, about 50 kilometers away, have been frequent targets of these attacks.The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has carried out multiple attacks and targeted assassinations in the Kurdistan region in recent years. In March 2022, Iranian ballistic missiles hit the home of a Kurdish businessman, Baz Karim Barzanji. In September 2022, attacks on Iranian opposition party offices killed at least 16 people, injured dozens more, and displaced hundreds of families. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also claimed responsibility for attacks on targets linked to the Islamic State in northern Syria on January 15, 2024.“Iraq should not become an arena for foreign competition at the expense of civilians’ lives and the country’s stability,” Sanbar said “Doing so only increases the risk of regional escalation, destruction, and killings.”




Iran: Security Forces Violently Repress Anniversary Protest

UN Should Investigate Patterns of Abuses in Sistan and Baluchistan


Iranian security forces used excessive force on protesters commemorating the anniversary of the brutal “Bloody Friday” government crackdown on large anti-government demonstrations in 2022, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces fired “birdshot” shotgun pellets, rubber bullets, and tear gas and beat and otherwise assaulted protesters on September 29, 2023, and again on October 20. The United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Iran should investigate the pattern of excessive force and arbitrary arrests at protests, particularly in areas with large ethnic and religious minorities such as the city of Zahedan in Sistan and Baluchistan province.Iranian authorities are as committed as ever to brutally crushing protests of their own people who demand fundamental change,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Security forces also appear to deploy excessive and lethal force even more quickly in cities like Zahedan that have large ethnic and religious minority groups.”Human Rights Watch interviewed three witnesses to the September 29 protest and one on October 20 and verified and analyzed 14 videos posted to Telegram between September 29 and October 5. These show that on September 29, security forces were armed with shotguns and machine guns and deployed tear gas against protesters, beating them with batons outside the Maki Mosque in the city center of Zahedan. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces shot at protesters with birdshot and paintball pellets to their upper bodies, beat them with batons, and arrested large numbers of protesters, including children.Human Rights Watch also verified photos shared by human rights activists that show tear gas and shotgun cartridges marked as originating from Maham Manufacturing. Munitions from this company were commonly used during the crackdown on the mass protests in 2022. The recent protests commemorated the deadly repression on September 30, 2022, in Zahedan, the predominantly Baluchi capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, one of the most economically marginalized areas of the country. On this day, known as “Bloody Friday,” Iranian security forces employed unlawful lethal force, resulting in the deaths and injuries of several dozen protesters, the largest number of casualties on any day during the 2022 protests. Thode who were killed included people leaving the Friday prayer at the Grand Mosalla Prayer Hall. Witnesses said that in the days leading up to the anniversary, security forces in Zahedan strategically positioned themselves on streets and intersections. Security forces arbitrarily stopped people heading toward the mosque for Friday prayers, checking their identification papers and inspecting their mobile phones to find any videos or photos related to the previous protests. According to Haalvsh, a human rights group that reports on violations in  and Baluchistan, security forces detained numerous individuals, including at least 32 children. Two witnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch and Haalvsh reported that after Friday prayers ended on September 29, protesters chanted against the government while leaving Maki Mosque. The witnesses said that security forces, including Revolutionary Guards, police, and Basij paramilitary forces then attacked protesters without warning on Khayyam Street, using tear gas, birdshot, and paintball pellets. “After the prayers, the security forces attacked people, they shot a lot of tear gas,” a witness said. “I heard kids were shot so I went to help them. My eyes were burning from all the tear gas, and I could see kids as young as elementary students were shot. It reminded me of Bloody Friday again. It was just the same, we couldn’t breathe, and our noses were burning. We couldn’t even see when and from where they were attacking us.” Before losing consciousness from being hit in the back, he said, he saw 23 people being injured, mostly from birdshot and paintball pellets to their upper bodies. He said that he saw at least four people shot in their heads and faces, including their eyes, and that four of those injured were children.According to Haalvsh, between September 29 and October 1, the authorities arrested at least 216 people in the cities of Zahedan, Khaash, Mirjaveh, and Chabahar in Sistan and Baluchistan. Security forces beat many of those arrested, Haalvsh found. A woman from Zahedan said, “I witnessed an elderly man who wasn’t even participating in the protest and was simply leaving the mosque after the prayers. He was attacked violently by security forces. They beat him with batons and dragged him on the ground so forcefully that his clothes were torn apart. After, they arrested him and took him away on a motorcycle.”After authorities violently cracked down on protests between September 29 and October 1, Haalvsh said that military and security forces had blocked off all streets and alleys surrounding the Maki Mosque on October 20. Haalvsh reported that security forces severely beat protesters with batons, reportedly arresting hundreds of people, including many older people and children, and taking them to detention centers using buses that had been prepared in advance.Another woman said that on October 20, she witnessed arrests of at least 20 people: “I observed through the window that security forces arrested three children in the street adjacent to our house. This street is commonly used by people after prayers, and most of the confrontations occured in this part of the neighborhood. I was unable to record the arrests as they became aware that some individuals were watching from the windows.”She said, “The security forces entered the buildings one by one in an attempt to identify the person recording. They even claimed that someone had thrown a stone from above, which was a lie … They had come with this excuse and were searching all the apartments. They also arrested one of our neighbors and severely beat another to the point of death.”A relative of an 18-year-old said that officers using batons brutally arrested the 18-year-old and his friends, detained them for seven days, then moved them to a prison, where he is still being held. During that time, they were not given adequate food and scavenged for food in the trash.On October 24, Amnesty International reported that on October 20, hundreds of people, among them dozens of children as young as 10, were forcefully apprehended, and that a significant number remain unaccounted for. Detainees, both children and adults, have experienced torture and other abuse, including severe beatings and injuries from close-range paintball shots. According to Haalvsh, on September 29, authorities shot Alireza Rigi, a 16-year-old boy with a physical disability, in the head with birdshot before beating and arresting him. He was then detained under a one-month temporary detention order. His brother, Erfan Rigi, was shot dead on Bloody Friday. Authorities turned over Erfan’s body to his family after a four-day delay, pressuring them to discreetly bury him, Haalvsh reported. Authorities also arrested Erfan’s father, who later received a five-year suspended sentence and was fired from his job. Iranian authorities have routinely slowed down, restricted, or shut down internet access during widespread protests, including in Sistan and Baluchistan, as the protesters in Zahedan have gathered around the Maki Mosque frequently after Friday prayers over the past year. Filterwatch, an initiative focused on investigating and researching internet policy and connectivity in Iran, reported that internet access in the area has been limited or cut almost every Friday since February 10.Data by the Internet Outage Detection and Analysis (IODA) project shows that as the September 30 anniversary of Bloody Friday in Zahedan approached, Sistan and Baluchistan experienced a recurrence of near-total internet shutdowns.A Zahedan resident said that between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on September 29, there was a near-complete shutdown of mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity in the neighborhoods surrounding Maki Mosque, followed by severe internet disruptions. She said that since the start of the September 2022 protests, the internet connection has been consistently slow and has been disrupted every Friday since the events of Bloody Friday.Sources also reported poor internet connectivity in other cities in Sistan and Baluchistan. A witness said that the internet is very weak at home, and that even mobile phone calls were impossible due to frequent disconnections. To have a stable connection, one must go to a specific location with a better signal. Internet and mobile connection were reliable at home before last year’s protests, the source said, but now both are problematic. In the city of Iranshahr, internet issues are common, particularly on Fridays, although not as severe as in Zahedan.The authorities have made no efforts to pursue justice for the families of the Bloody Friday victims. An informed source said that government officials pressured families seeking justice to stay silent in exchange for diyah, a term in Sharia, or Islamic law, for financial compensation for intentional harm or loss of life, which most families rejected, instead demanding accountability for those responsible for their relatives’ deaths. Victims without proper identification documents were not offered compensation. “Over the course of the last year, the people of Sistan and Baluchistan have been regularly demonstrating against an autocratic government,” Sepehri Far said. “Rather than addressing their demands, Iranian authorities have resorted to harsh repression and the arbitrary detention of both adults and children. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission should thoroughly investigate these violations and provide recommendations for achieving accountability.”





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