Iranians continue protests, defying rising death toll and potential execution

Nine weeks into anti-regime protests led by women and young people, one human rights group estimated that Iran's security forces have killed at least 326 people, including 43 children.

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Demonstrations against Iran’s authoritarian regime continued for the 58th straight day Sunday despite the rising number of people killed by state forces and the Iranian parliament’s recent vote to execute protesters.

Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist and communications director at Democracy for the Arab World Now, reports hundreds of people gathered Sunday in small groups outside Dey Hospital in Tehran, where dissident blogger Hossein Ronaghi was transported after his health dangerously deteriorated during a 50-day hunger strike at the capital’s notorious Evin Prison.

Ronaghi’s relatives told London-based Iran International that Hossein’s jailers tortured him—including by breaking both of his legs—and have withheld proper medical care since his arrest, despite serious medical conditions including partial kidney failure.

Video posted on social media by Memarian also showed motorists honking their horns and shouting Ronaghi’s name. Other acts of defiance captured on video include a schoolgirl without the mandatory hijab headscarf knocking the turban from the head of a Shi’a cleric, a young woman defiantly waving her hijab on a freeway overpass, numerous demonstrations at universities and other schools, and several Iranian sports teams protesting during the playing of their national anthem.

On Saturday, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO (IHRNGO) said security forces have killed at least 326 people, including 25 women and 43 children, during the nationwide protests sparked by the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman arrested by Iran’s morality police three days earlier and reportedly beaten for violating the fundamentalist theocracy’s strict dress code.

IHRNGO said that “protesters have been killed in 22 provinces, with the most reported in Sistan and Baluchistan, Tehran, Mazandaran, Kurdistan, and Gilan, respectively.”

More than 15,000 protesters have also reportedly been arrested since the start of the demonstrations.

Iranians have kept up their protests despite the deadly dangers—which now include the risk of execution following a vote by 227 of Iran’s 290 members of parliament in favor of imposing the death penalty on demonstrators in order to teach them a “hard lesson.”

Among those sentenced to death in recent days for waging “war against God” is 27-year-old Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin.

“The Iranian parliament is so disconnected from its people that it would rather kill them instead of hearing their legitimate concerns,” Vahid Razavi, an Iran-born American technology activist, told Common Dreams Sunday.

Human rights defenders sounded the alarm Friday that Zoreh Elahian, one of the lawmakers who voted to execute protesters, was visiting New York City for a meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Iran currently sits on the 45-member commission, despite severely restricting women’s rights.

“With the continuous repression of protests, many more indictments on charges carrying the death penalty and death sentences might soon be issued, and we fear that women and girls, who have been at the forefront of protests, and especially women human rights defenders, who have been arrested and jailed for demanding the end of systemic and systematic discriminatory laws, policies and practices might be particularly targeted,” a group of U.N. experts said Friday.

“We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for the sole reason of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” the experts added, “and for their actions to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.”

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