Ex-pat Iranians in Istanbul, Turkey protest the first killing of Mohsen Shekari. Photo by Onur Dogman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

And Whoever Kills A Believer Intentionally, His Recompense Is Hell

Following their leaders' dictate to show "firmness," Iran has executed a second young prisoner within days for protesting the country's repressive theocracy, publicly hanging him from a construction crane as a grisly warning to others. Both 23, Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard were hanged after being convicted in sham trials before a Revolutionary Court of "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth." Their respective crimes: Blocking roads and stabbing two paramilitary forces. Another 25 people face execution by a "regime (that) has taken justice and freedom to the slaughterhouse."

Days after dictates from their leaders, including President Ebrahim "Butcher of Tehran" Raisi, to show "firmness" by "sending the first rioter to the gallows," Iran has swiftly executed two young prisoners found guilty before a Revolutionary Court - in "proceedings that bore no resemblance to a meaningful trial" - of "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth" by protesting the country's repressive theocracy. Mohsen Shekari, 23, convicted of blocking roads and wounding two paramilitary soldiers, was the first known protester to be executed; he was hanged last week in prison. On Monday Majidreza Rahnavard, also 23, was publicly hanged, probably still alive, from a construction crane as a grisly warning to others; he was convicted, with five others, of stabbing to death two members of the paramilitary. In an already brutal crackdown on protests against the country's repressive theocracy, another 25 people face execution by a "regime (that) has taken justice and freedom to the slaughterhouse."

Despite its alleged devotion to Islam - whose compassionate God in the Qur'an urges Muslims to use "beautiful preaching" to bring people to faith and argues "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256) - Iran is one of the world's top executioners, invariably in the name of a Holy War, usually by hanging, often with the condemned still alive when it begins. So far this year, Iran has killed over 500 people, the largest number in several years according to Oslo-based Iran Human Rights. Public hangings by crane have been so common, including during Green Movement protests after a disputed 2009 election, that activists have tried to pressure crane companies not to send them there. With 90% of Iranians practising Shi'a Islam, the country's official religion, the extremist Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its allies, the Basij paramilitary force, habitually cite divine injunction to justify their rabid support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's ruthless rule and their violent repression - now, against protests entering their fourth month after the murder of Mahsa Amini.

Thus, it was both shocking and not that Iranian authorities on Thursday executed Mohsen Shekari for "waging war against God" by closing off a main street in Tehran, wounding a member of the Basij in the shoulder with a machete, and "creating fear and depriving people of their freedom and security" (sic) during September protests. Like other prisoners, activists say Shekari was tortured, coerced into a false confession, and convicted after a "show trial without any due process." His murder came after the Revolutionary Guards had urged swift, harsh judgments against "rioters, thugs and terrorists" out in the streets committing "crimes against the security of the nation and Islam." Reflecting their fervor, the authorities' fast-tracking of protesters' trials through the system, and the desperate speed with which the state is using death sentences to terrorize an angry populace into submission, the second execution came Monday with the gruesome, public hanging of Majidreza Rahnavard from a construction crane just three days after he was convicted and sentenced by the "court."

A fitness buff and champion wrestler, Rahnavard was sentenced in the city of Mashhad for allegedly killing two members of the Basij with a knife, and wounding four others, in a fit of rage about the killings of protesters. He was reportedly convicted after a coerced confession and "grossly unfair" show trial. Authorities allowed his mother to visit him in prison - there are smiling photos - but did not tell her of his sentence; his family woke early Monday morning to the news he'd been hanged and buried in the local cemetery. He was killed before dawn, so there were few witnesses. But there is grim video on social media, and Iran's state-run Mizan news agency published images of Rahnavard hanging by rope from the crane, hands tied behind him, feet bound, black bag over his head. A banner quotes the Qur'an, warning "those who wage war against Allah (and) cause corruption on the earth (shall) be slain or crucified..." Comments online: "Where are you EU?," "We will take revenge for every drop of the blood you shed," "StopExecutionsInIran," and "You remain silent, and the next victim will follow."

Since protests began in September, activists say at least 488 people have been killed and over 18,000 detained in what Iran still doggedly calls "riots" sparked by foreign enemies. Advocates now warn of "a serious risk" of mass executions, with officials already "preparing to execute" two more young men, one for allegedly drawing a knife at protests - he denies it - and one after "a fast-tracked proceeding which did not resemble a trial" for "tearing down highway railings and setting fire to rubbish cans." And other atrocities go on apace. The Guardian reports security forces are targeting the faces, breasts and genitals of women protesters; doctors say women have been shot directly into the eyes by shotgun pellets causing horrific wounds and blindness, while men have dozens of pellets lodged in their legs and backs. Iran has also re-imprisoned Baha'i leaders for 10 years for their activism; arrested dozens of artists, including two rappers both sentenced to death for their songs; and turned to blacklisting multiple European groups and individuals, notably those focused on human rights and climate change.

Meanwhile, we have the "disgraceful saga" of similarly-if-slightly-less tainted western officials and human rights bodies largely helpless before an authoritarian regime that meets protest with execution. The E.U. foreign ministers voted to step up sanctions, but have yet to recall ambassadors; Amnesty urges the international community to "take all necessary measures to pursue accountability"; Germany declares Iran's "contempt for humanity knows no bounds"; the UN Human Rights Council will establish another "fact-finding mission," but Tehran won't cooperate anyway. And Iranians still protest. This weekend they marched silently in several cities and lit candles outside Shekari's Tehran home, chanting, "They took our Mohsen away, they brought back his lifeless body"; many were beaten by security forces. A day after his execution, the regime published a list of 25 people charged with the same "crimes" - between 5 and 15 of them in the death of one Basij agent. Though no one has been held accountable for hundreds killed protesting a woman's murder for removing her hijab, or thousands in earlier protests, all 25 now face execution. Say their names.

On Death Row: Saeed Shirazi, Mohsen Rezazadeh Gharaqlu, Mahan Sadrat Marni, Sahand Noor Mohammadzadeh, Mohamed Qobadlu, Mohammad Broughni, Saman Saidi, Mohsen Shekari (executed), Toomaj Salehi, Majid Rahnavard, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, Arin Farzamnia, Amin Mehdi Shokrollahi, Reza Aria, Mehdi Mohammadi, Mohammad Amin Akhlaqi, Behrad Ali Kenari, Javad Zargaran, Shayan Charani, Hamid Qare Hasanlu, Farzaneh Qare Hassanlou, Amir Mohammad Jafari, Reza Shaker, Ali Moazzami Gudarzi.

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