Escalation of Child Execution in Iran

How the nuclear deal has signaled to the Mullahs that there's nothing to stop their human rights abuses.

While Iranian ruling clerics enjoy reaping the economic benefits from the nuclear deal, they also feel triumphant when it comes to the Obama administration’s total disregard of the increasing human rights violations in Iran. 

To sustain his nuclear deal, President Obama appears to have made a Faustian bargain with the Iranian leaders: He turns a blind eye to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, repressive methods to crack down on social and political freedoms, egregious human rights abuses, while Iran verbally and on the surface, binds itself to the nuclear deal.

This week, Iran’s parliament passed a bill supporting the nuclear deal which was primarily reached between President Obama and the Islamic Republic. Some policy makers were surprised that Iran passed the bill. But why would Iranian leaders not sign a deal that would bring them financial rewards and allow them to be as repressive as they please both domestically and regionally? As I mentioned several weeks ago, it was easy to predict that the Iranian parliament (Majlis) would pass the deal to receive further rewards. 

Simultaneously, Iran’s judiciary system has become more emboldened and empowered. This can be seen when they are issuing death sentences at unprecedented levels, particularly for children.  Last week, Iran’s Islamic court executed a juvenile offender on October 13, 2015 in Adelabad Prison, Shiraz. Fatemeh Salbehi, was arrested at the age of 16 because her husband was found dead at home.  

She was 16 years old when she was forced into marriage to a man who was thirty. She had never met the man before their marriage.  According to a recent release by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, “These executions are disturbing examples of surging execution rates and questionable fair trial standards in the Islamic Republic of Iran….The Iranian authorities must comply with its international law obligations and put an end to the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all.”

What is intriguing is that Iranian leaders used to take notice when there was an international outcry regarding a human rights or political prisoner case. They used to postpone the case, the execution, or do something to let the global pressure fade away.   But not anymore. In this case, Amnesty International, Amnesty USA, International human rights organizations, and the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights pressured the Islamic Republic to refrain from executing Ms. Salbehi and another young man.  But Iran’s answer was implicitly clear: We will execute anyone we like and no one can stop us now. 

One must wonder how much the nuclear deal, President Obama’s unwillingness to criticize the Islamic Republic, and President Obama’s actions in legitimizing the Islamic Republic on the global stage have played a role in emboldening and empowering the ruling mullahs and the hardliners rather than influencing them to be more rational and civilized figures. 

A week before the execution of Ms. Salbehi, another juvenile was executed. No notice was given to his family or even his attorney. The UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Christof Heyns, pointed out, “Let us be clear – these are unlawful killings committed by the State, the equivalent of murders performed by individuals…. These are profound tragedies that demean the value of human life and sully the reputation of the country,” He added “Iran must immediately stop killing children,”

More than 1,000 people will be executed in the year 2015. There has been a surprising rise in the number of executions since Iran scored a victory by signing the nuclear deal. Ms. Salbehi was one of the hundreds of women being executed on a regular basis based on Iran’s Shiite Islamist laws and on gender discrimination. These women are not allowed due process or adequate access to a lawyer. As the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned when Ms. Salbehi was hanged on Tuesday, the execution was “in breach of international law banning juvenile executions, and despite reported flaws in her trial and appeal process.” 

Finally, It is crucial to point put that we are only hearing about a few cases of human rights violations; only a few of these shocking human rights abuses make their way to the international spotlight. As an Iranian human rights activist and lawyer, Shadi, told me on a phone call from Tehran, “Just step in the Islamic courts and you will see that there are tens of thousands of these cases, particularly regarding innocent women, which the media never hear about.” 

Achieving his dream of signing a nuclear deal with Iran should not make President Obama silent about human rights violations, the ever increasing rate of child executions, and ongoing crimes against humanity.