We must not stay silent on Iran’s use of the death penalty

Terrorism, pain, suffering, torture, blood and fear. These are the currencies the Iranian regime trades in. From their support for global terror groups to their development of weapons of mass destruction – this is a regime which seeks to be a force for ill in the world. But while others focus on their geo-political impact it is their treatment of their citizenry which most concerns Index, especially those dissidents whose bravery inspires us every day.

It is clear that the protection of citizens comes secondary to the Iranian authorities who prioritise holding onto power over all other matters.

The murder of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, who was just 22-years-old, following her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code, on 16 September 2022 saw a new phase in challenging the status quo. This was the spark that lit the fuse on the Iranians’ want for freedom with ongoing protests across the country.

In response to these protests, the regime in Iran has doubled down on their repression. Eight protesters have been executed for daring to participate in the protests. Iran is ruthlessly targeting anyone who dares to challenge one of the most tyrannical regimes in the world. In recent days we have seen their barbaric treatment of one of our Freedom of Expression Award winners, Toomaj Salehi, who has been re-arrested after detailing the horrendous torture he has received in prison.

We will write a great deal in the coming months about what is happening to Toomaj. Today though I want to highlight the experiences of the voiceless. As ever with such regimes it is the children and the vulnerable who suffer most. Those whose voices are easiest to silence.

We all would agree, I hope, that children should be given warmth, love and security as they grow up. It is the most basic of human rights. This is simply not the case in Iran.

Their repression knows no bounds and has culminated in their use of the death penalty on a child.

Hamidreza Azari, a 17-year-old, was executed by the Iranian government as part of their recent slew of capital punishments. Hamidreza allegedly killed a man during a fight when he was 16 years old. We have no details of the incident but what we do know is that he is not in prison. He is now in a grave; murdered by the state, along with Milad Zohrevand, a dissident.

This act is against international law. Juveniles cannot be subject to capital punishment. Iran knows this only too well – which is why they lied about Hamidreza’s age in the official reports.

In the United Kingdom protesting does not come with the fear of death. It’s vitally important that people like me and you use our freedom to extol those of others. If we fail to stand up for the voiceless, then the estimated 582 people who have perished at the hands of the Iranian government since 2022 will continue to grow.

Tyrants win where silence prevails.