Beyond Capital Punishment

The Islamic Republic of Iran has executed three political prisoners charged with having partaken in armed opposition groups. Ramin Hossein Panahi, 23 years old, arrested in 2017 was charged with being a member of Komala, the Kurdish opposition group. The other two people, Xaniar and Loghman Moradi, who were cousins were arrested back in 2009, accused of homicide of an Imam’s son. Hossein Panahi and Moradis were not the only names on the list of political prisoners that is continuously lengthening. Neither were they the only people on a long list awaiting capital punishment.

Like almost every case in Iranian Judiciary System, these people have been denied their basic rights. Fair inspection, public trial, testimonies of witnesses and the right to appeal the verdict have long been replaced with torture, forced confessions, sham trials, biased judges and horrendous prison conditions. What we read from the prisons through inmates’ narrations goes hand-in-hand with what Doctor Manette was trying to forget in A Tale of Two Cities. Domestic and international calls for conducting more just processes have been fruitless and in several cases charges have been pressed against attorneys who have advocated more transparent judiciary processes for their clients. As a matter of fact, it’s part of the Iranian judiciary norms nowadays to see the client and the lawyer both imprisoned.

Hossein Panahi and Moradis have been executed after several attempts from the judiciary authorities over the past few months. Quite frequently, these political prisoners were summoned to the quarantine sections —which is the pre-execution phase in Iranian prisons— but then were taken back to their cells. Attorneys and families would usually ask for a better treatment of the prisoners; prisoners, on their account, tried to make their voices heard, sometimes through remarkably harsh measures such as hunger strike and in the most recent case, almost a week ago as the rumors of executions taking place were more spread, Hossein Panahi sewed his lips.

However, blurry trials and forced confessions do not suffice when discussing the cases of Hossein Panahi and Moradis. One needs to go in the deep when the Islamic Republic is to deal with Kurds. There are clear issues such as ethnic discrimination, linguistic embargo and religious irrecognition which make the Iranian regime visibly hostile to Kurds and other ethnic diversities residing in Iran. The conflict with such diversities date way back in history, even before the Islamic Revolution took place. Nonetheless, the hopes for coexistence and a better condition in a country distinguished with diversity faded early on after the Islamic Revolution as the revolutionary forces took their military campaigns to the Kurdish provinces for a crack-down on mostly leftist opposition forces of the Kurdistan within Iranian borders. Such hostility further developed as the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran neglected religious minorities, including Sunnis, throughout its existence. Kurds, at times Sunnis or Yarsanis, have been religiously subjugated as well in Islamic Republic. In Ayatollah Khomeini’s opinion the question of ethnic minority is in contradiction with Islamic teachings.

Despite this contradiction, the constitution of the Islamic Republic, while stating Farsi as the official language of the nation, maintains the possibility of teaching regional languages as extra-curricular activities. Which means that Kurds and other ethnic diversities in Iran are not granted the opportunity to study their own languages and the constitutional call for teaching of regional languages has not seen any visible effort by schools and universities. The Islamic Republic of Iran has taken numerous occasions taking down prominent Kurdish figures, the most evident case being the Mykonos Incident in Berlin which will live in infamy.

Death Penalty and bogus trials should not lead the observers to turn a blind eye on the broader discrimination and unjustness that is part of the structure of the Islamic Republic since it was founded and is often concealed by the arrests and executions conducted by it. Calls for annulation of death penalty will turn hollow and pointless if made solely without considering the base of the conflicts and discriminations that are the innate parts of every authoritarian regime.

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