The signs were horribly ominous on January 8 at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, Iran, known for hanging prisoners. Two young protesters—Mohammad Boroughani, 19 years old, and Mohammad Ghobadlou, 22, both brutally tortured into falsely confessing to attacking paramilitary “Basiji” forces and sentenced to death in rushed trials with sham regime lawyers—were transferred to solitary cells as is common before an execution. Ambulances and massed troops were seen outside the prison walls, and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) closed the roads around the prison.
Word went out that the two men were in danger of being hanged the very next morning. Scores of people made their way to the prison gates and stayed through the wintry night, in spite of the threatening sound of close gunfire and an internet shutdown. They embraced and cheered Ghobadlou’s mother and father, who shouted against falsified evidence in the trial. They chanted, “This is your final warning, if you execute [them] there will be an uprising” and “Each person killed will be replaced by 1000 more.” This action received mainstream news attention in many countries.
A few days passed with people on tenterhooks dreading the morning prayer hour, after which executions usually take place. On January 11, the Iranian Supreme Court halted Boroughani’s execution temporarily, pending review. Information is spotty, but it appears that Ghobadlou’s execution was also temporarily halted, and his case has been remanded to the court.
Over the past month, in several internationally high-profile cases, the Islamic regime seemed to have made some small, temporary and revocable concessions:
- After a widespread international media campaign, the Supreme Court revoked the death sentences of LGBTQ activists Zahra (Sara) Sedighi-Hamedani (31) and Elham Choubdar (24) in Urmia province for “corruption on earth through the promotion of homosexuality” and sent them back to court for retrial.
- The death sentence of soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani was changed to 16 years in prison (allegedly for “complicity,” “assembly and collusion” and “membership in illegal groups”).
- The case of Kurdish rapper Saman Seydi (Yasin), sentenced to death for “waging war against god,” was sent back to court for retrial.
- Acclaimed actress Taraneh Alidoosti, arrested on December 17 and detained for three weeks for publicly decrying executions of protesters, was released on bail.
- Dissident writer Keyvan Samimi was released from prison for time served.
We should celebrate every moment of each precious life snatched from the gallows, even as the struggle must intensify with the mullah regime taking steps to steamroll ahead with more legal and extralegal executions.
There are more than 100 protesters from the current wave of uprising since September 16 who have been sentenced to death and are on trial or indicted on charges that carry the death penalty. Most of these protesters are charged with the Dark Ages “crimes” under Shari’a law of “Waging war against God” or “Corruption on earth.” The regime aims to take public revenge for the deaths of some 60 security agents in the early days of the uprising, many of them Basiji plainclothes militia. These paramilitary pigs are hated for the beating, murdering and disappearing of protesters. And it matters little to the theocrats whether the accused had anything at all to do with those deaths as long as they get their state-sanctioned revenge.
In the same group trial in Isfahan which convicted the soccer player Nasr-Azadani, three other protesters were sentenced to death by hanging (i.e., official lynching): Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi, and Saeed Yaqoubi. Majid Kazemi was just moved into a solitary cell, signaling possible imminent execution. In a recorded call from prison, Majid Kazemi describes how he was tortured and forced to confess when he had committed no crime and had no weapons.
Iran’s judiciary announced in late October that it would hold public trials for 2,000 people arrested for “crimes” such as blocking traffic, reporting news or social media posts.
In the face of all this, people around the world should take heed of the Instagram post from the Communist Party of Iran Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (CPI-MLM), which includes this (unofficial translation by IEC volunteers):
Let's support the lives of prisoners in prison and have solidarity with their families around Rajai Shahr Prison and be their voice in any way we can.
In different countries of the world in front of consulates and in front of important political centers of other countries, we should carry out a broad struggle to protect the lives of prisoners.
To eradicate all oppressions and repression and political prisoners, we must root out the capitalist government of the Islamic Republic with a real revolution.
The time is now. Take up and amplify the inspiring example of activists and revolutionaries of @QuemarLaJaula in Colombia, who took out the demands of the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now to crowds at Colombia’s most famous landmark, the 400-year-old Clock Tower in Cartagena. They chanted: “The people of Iran are our people, too! Their struggle is our struggle!”
As we write, it has been announced that the IRI hanged Alireza Akbari on January 13. Akbari, an Iranian-British dual national and a former official in the IRI, was arrested in 2019 during a visit to Iran and accused of spying for British espionage services. In an audio message, he says he was tortured and interrogated for 3,500 hours and forced into a false confession on camera. He was suddenly executed after 3 years of imprisonment. This poses a serious threat to all political prisoners in Iran’s prisons.
There is no due process in the IRI and no way to determine the truth or falsehood of accusations. Beyond that, all these executions of political prisoners in Iran must be condemned categorically by justice loving people around the world. It heightens the need to take up the call of the IEC to fight for their unconditional and immediate freedom with urgency.