82 Executions in Iran Between April and July

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, in July, Iran executed a staggering 38 individuals for crimes related to drugs, murder, and sexual offenses. In the previous three months, an additional 44 individuals faced the same fate. All of these executions took place under the direction of president-elect Ebrahim Raisi, who will assume office on Friday.

Raisi, who has been colloquially referred to as the “Ayatollah of Massacre” for his role in the extra-judicial executions of political prisoners in 1988, continues to evade accountability for his endless violations of human rights.

According to Senior Advocacy Coordinator, Skylar Thompson, “The impending Ebrahim Raisi presidency is a frightening illustration of the culture of impunity in the Islamic Republic of Iran; it shows that without international support for a meaningful pathway to accountability, Iranian citizens will continue to suffer at the hands of the regime.” She continued, “As Head of the Judiciary, Raisi presided over the highest number of executions per capita, and in addition has committed some of the most egregious crimes imaginable throughout his career, his impending position as President promises comparable ruthlessness”

In addition to the staggering number of executions, capital punishment sentencing is also on the rise [See figure 1]. In July alone, a total of 10 people were sentenced to death, compared with 6 in June, 3 in May, and 5 in April.


While the death penalty is not prohibited under international law,  in countries that have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence may only be legally imposed for ‘the most serious crimes’. According to HRC General Comment no. 36 on The Right to Life (GC 36), the phrase “the most serious crime” must be “read restrictively and apply only to crimes of extreme gravity”.

Iran’s judicial system interprets the phrase, to put it lightly, in a way that is less-than-restrictive.  Despite recent legal reforms, drug-related offenses accounted for the highest number of executions between April and July (48.8%).  GC 36 also establishes that “sexual offenses, while serious in nature, must never serve as a basis for the imposition of the death penalty”, but from April to July 2021, 4 individuals were executed in Iran on charges of a sexual offense.



One of the 10 executed in July was juvenile offender Baha al-din Ghasemzadeh. Juvenile executions are explicitly prohibited under international law, but they are an enduring practice within Iran’s criminal justice system. In fact, in a recent interview with Agence France-Presse, Secretary of the state-run High Council for Human Rights Majid Tafresh said that the Islamic Republic executes juvenile offenders “three to four times a year”, and claimed this should not be considered a human rights violation.

According to HRA’s Spreading Justice Project Manager, Parasto Azizi, “HRAs Spreading Justice team has documented several individuals including judges and prosecutors responsible for imposing the death penalty for crimes falling outside of those internationally recognized as most serious including illegally imposing the death penalty in cases involving juveniles.”

*In addition to the numbers analyzed in this report, on August 2nd, the day of publishing, two juvenile offenders were executed in Urmia Prison on drug-related charges.


Sydney Pen Association Demands Immediate Release of Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bazhan from Evin Prison

On Sunday, June 20, the Sydney Pen Association in Australia issued a statement in light of Ebrahim Ra’isi’s election as next President of the Islamic Republic.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, quoting the Writers’ Association of Iran, the statement calls for the immediate release of Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bazhan, currently being held in Evin prison for their writings critical of the State. All three authors are members of the Writers’ Association of Iran, and each has published several books on Iranian history, sociology, and literature.

“The three authors need medical attention and authorities have not taken any of them to hospital,” the statement says.

In April, Baktash Abtin’s lawyer announced that his client had contracted COVID but had not received the necessary treatment. Reza Khandan Mahabadi suffers from osteoarthritis of the neck and Keyvan Bazhan has a thyroid disease. Penn Sydney was recently informed by inmates that another wave of coronavirus has spread to Evin Prison, further endangering the lives of its inmates.

The writers were first sentenced to imprisonment when now-president-elect Ebrahim Ra’isi was head of the judiciary on charges of propaganda against the Islamic Republic and acting against national security. They were also accused of attending the graves of disgruntled poets and writers and critics of the regime.

The prosecution cited the publication of a book on the history of the Writers’ Association of Iran, an institution that has criticized Iran’s past and present governments for decades, and the defendants were sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran.

In January 2019, an appeals court in Tehran reduced the sentence to a total of 15 years and six months in prison. Baktash Abtin and Reza Khandan Mahabadi were sentenced to six years in prison each, and Keyvan Bazhan was sentenced to three years and six months.

Abtin, Khandan Mahabadi and Bazhan were arrested on October 26 of last year, after attending the Judgment Enforcement Unit of the Evin Court, and  were transferred to the infamous Evin Prison to serve out their sentences.

The statement cites a joint text by Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bajan, which was issued from inside the prison on June 6, 2021.

Below is an excerpt from their text:


We are addressing all writers and libertarians who have made “freedom of expression everywhere and for all” the focus of their human endeavors. This is the demand that the historical-global movement for freedom of expression has practically and always pursued. The Writers’ Association of Iran, of which we are three members, has been active as part of this movement for more than half a century; A movement that must be enhanced by its power and volume; Because apart from the daily threat of freedom of expression by the ruling powers, many people in the world are completely deprived of it; Including writers and people of Iran. We are currently in prison, and according to the sentence, we have to endure a total of 13 and a half years in prison because we are writers who oppose censorship and demand freedom of expression without exception. We are not the first prisoners and oppressed of this movement and we will not be the last until “freedom of expression everywhere and for everyone” is achieved.


Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bazhan


Bektash Abtin concluded in his story to Sydney Pen Association president Mark Isaac,  “Freedom is never given to anyone on a gold tray; it comes at a high price. In a country like Iran, death very easily finds intellectuals, libertarians and those who fight for freedom of expression. We are not worried about the trial and the prison and its difficulties, because we have made our decision.”

Ebrahim Raisi in Response to Questions About his Role in the 1988 Executions in Iran: “I Should be Praised and Admired”

In his first press conference since being announced as winner of Iran’s presidential election, Ebrahim Raisi was interviewed by Al Jazeera.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activist, Al Jazeera questioned the president elect about his role in the executions of the political prisoners in Summer 1988 in Iran, his inclusion on the human rights sanctions list, and the request for his trial by some human rights organizations.

In response, without claiming to have played a role in the 1988 executions, Raisi claimed that he has “always been a defender of the rights of the people, as a juristic”, and that “human rights has been at the axis of all (his) responsibilities”. He went on to state that he should be “praised and acclaimed” for this.

For the four decades of the Islamic Republic’s existence, Raisi has served in various positions in the judiciary against human rights and been responsible for the execution, imprisonment, torture, amputation to repression, justification of repression, violation of the rights of countless women, Bahai’s and others.

For his role in the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988, in Tehran, he has been called the “Ayatollah of Massacre” by critics.

Greengrocer Arrested After Stating that Ebrahim Raisi’s Campaign Extorted Money from Daily Markets

On June 14th, a greengrocer was arrested at his workplace in Ahvaz in Khuzestan Province after his comments on the recent actions of Ebrahim Raisi’s presidential campaign.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the grocer was arrested by security forces and transferred to an unknown location.

Recently, a video of the greengrocer was published on social media, in which he says that the election campaign of Ebrahim Raisi extorted money from greengrocers of a daily market under the pretext of helping the campaign.

As of this writing, the charges against him and his whereabouts are unknown.