a year away from its presidential elections in June 2009, Tehran regime is
besieged by mounting political crises at the top of its leadership. In a bid to
push back the fast-approaching wave, the ayatollahs are escalating their
suppression of Iranians. The apparent lull in the international campaign
against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program has brought no respite to those
condemned to the gallows inside Iran.
Earlier this month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)
expressed grave concern over the violation of human rights in Iran. U.N. Human
Rights official, Rupert Colville, told reporters "On the 27th of July, for
example, 29 executions are reported to have taken place. A month later, on the
28th of August, another five people, including a woman, were reported to have
been executed. In all, more than 220 people, including six juvenile offenders,
are believed to have been executed this year in Iran already.''
"Iran's legal obligation not to impose the death penalty for juveniles
was assumed voluntarily when it ratified the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of
which prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age
of 18,'' Coleville added.
International outrage over the wave of executions heightened in late August
when the regime executed two teenagers, Reza Hejazi and Behnam Zare, for crimes
they allegedly committed when they were under 18. On September 10, the
state-run daily Etemad reported that the ayatollahs’ supreme court had upheld
the death sentence for a 17-year-old boy named Hossein for a crime he allegedly
committed when 14. According to rights groups, 140 minors are awaiting the
death penalty in Iran.
The Italian news agency, Adnkronos International reported from Tehran
on August 18, ''Four young people, who were minors at the time their crimes
were committed, are expected to be hanged in the next few days.'' The report
singles out ''Reza Hajizadeh, who at the age of 13 accidentally killed a
playmate during an argument. He turned 18 recently and was immediately
transferred to death row in Rajaishahr prison on the outskirts of Tehran.''
On September 4, the European Parliament expressed its grave concern over
massive rights violations in Iran and execution of juveniles.
Political turmoil is on the rise within the mullahs’ ranks, parallel with
rising protests and strikes throughout the country. The mullahs are trying to
bolster their increasingly shaky rule with a rampant, systematic, and highly
organized suppression of Iranian citizens and dissidents.
Since coming to power in 1979, the ayatollahs unique blend of religious
demagoguery with abundant barbarity has been used to sow fear, confusion, and
doubt in the minds of ordinary people to contain their desire and movement for
democratic change. The main target of this campaign of terror against
dissidents has been Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran
(PMOI/MEK) whose members, according to the State Department’s country report on
human rights, are the main target of political executions in Iran.
For many years, Tehran’s goal of eradicating this group has extended beyond
Iran’s borders. Europe became a roaming ground for the ayatollahs’ hit squads
to assassinate political figures of the Iranian resistance. Tehran also sought
and gained an invaluable tool to silence its opposition abroad, when it
convinced western capitals, including Washington, to blacklist the MEK as a
“good will” gesture toward Tehran.
Now Iraq has become the main staging ground for Tehran’s campaign to deprive
the members of the MEK residing in Ashraf City, Iraq, of their rights to
freedom, safety, and security as guaranteed by International Humanitarian Law
and the Fourth Geneva Convention. In recent months, Tehran has relentlessly
sought the transfer of the protection of Ashraf residents from the U.S.-led
Multi-National Force-Iraq to the Iraqi government. The next step is to then put
tremendous pressure on Iraq’s nascent and fragile government to turn over the members
of the main Iranian opposition to Tehran, where they would be subject to
torture and execution.
On August 28, Amnesty International issued a statement regarding this
humanitarian crisis. ''Amnesty International has been monitoring the situation
of members and supporters of the PMOI in Camp Ashraf. Following the U.S.-led
military intervention in Iraq in 2003, about 3,400 members of the PMOI were
disarmed by the U.S.-led forces at Camp Ashraf. Since that time PMOI members
living in the Camp, which is managed by the MNF, have been designated as
''protected persons'' under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which
prevents extradition or forced repatriation to Iran as long as the U.S.-led
Multinational Force (MNF) is present in Iraq.''
On August 14, in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Senator Kit
Bond (R-MO) wrote that Iran ''is working to end the U.S.-led protection of
Ashraf and expose the MEK to pro-Iranian forces bent on eliminating the MEK as
credible resistance force.'' Senator Bond urged the United States ''to retain
the sole responsibility for their protection in accordance with the Fourth
Geneva Convention until a workable solution can be achieved.''
In 1988, Khomeini’s regime carried out a campaign of slaughter, executing
nearly 30,000 political prisoners, in accordance with Khomeini’s infamous
decree: "Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain
committed to their support for the [MEK], are waging war on God and are
condemned to execution.... Destroy the enemies of Islam immediately."
Twenty years later, the ayatollahs are at it again. Prominent Members of
Congress believe that the international community must continue to condemn
Tehran for massive human rights violations and frustrate its campaign to create
a humanitarian crisis for the dissidents in Camp Ashraf.