Less than 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.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is the author of The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis (Palgrave: February 2008)
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org.