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Tyranny & Human Rights Abuses backgrounder

Cruel & Common: Iran’s Executions

Iran’s use of the death penalty for a host of shariah punishments– including homosexuality– has earned worldwide condemnation and outrage. Share this:

Iran’s Executions By The Numbers

The Iranian regime executed at least 753 people in 2014 according to one report, which is up from 687 in 2013 while the total has steadily increased since 2004.

Twenty five of those executed were women, and 53 of the executions were public. Notably, 362 of the executions – nearly half – were for drug-related crimes, offenses not among the most egregious generally considered for capital punishment like first-degree murder or possibly rape.



This trend is especially striking given that some people feel incumbent president Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013, is said to be more “moderate” than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Repression inside Iran, however, has statistically increased under Rouhani’s leadership. In contrast, the United States used the death penalty on 35 total individuals last year, all of whom committed the most heinous crimes.

Death Penalty for the Adultery and Homosexuality

Iran punishes extra-marital relations between men and women as Zina, and proscribes shariah law punishments including lashes and execution for adulterers. Additionally, Iran’s penal code provides an elaborate series of criminal violations for same-sex acts, many of which can be punishable by death.

Chapter 2 – Hadd [Shariah-mandated] punishment for sodomy (livat)

Section 1 -Definition and reasons of hadd punishment for sodomy: 

Article 108–Sodomy (livat) is defined as sexual intercourse with a male, whether it takes place as penetration or tafkhiz [rubbing penis between thighs].

Article 109–Both the insertive and receptive parties of sodomy shall be sentenced to hadd [mandatory] punishment.

Article 110–In the case of penetration, the hadd punishment for sodomy is the death penalty—the method for which is at the discretion of the judge.

Article 111–Sodomy shall result in the death penalty provided that both the insertive and receptive parties are mature, sane and free.

Article 112–If a mature man sodomizes a minor, the insertive party shall be sentenced to the death penalty; and the receptive party, if not coerced, shall receive up to seventy four lashes as ta’zirpunishment.

Article 113–If a minor sodomises another minor, each shall receive up to seventy four lashes as ta’zir punishment, unless, one of them was coerced to commit sodomy.

In 2007, Iranian minister Mohsen Yahyavi openly told British Members of Parliament s that homosexuals should be “tortured and executed.”

Cruel and Unusual: Death by Stoning (Part 1)

Iranian methods of execution are deliberately brutal. In 2013, at least ten people were sentenced to death by stoning, although judges do have discretion in choosing a different form of execution if “the possibility of carrying out the (stoning) verdict does not exist.”stoning_iran_a_prep

Cruel and Unusual: Death by Stoning (Part 2)

It is unclear how many such executions have been carried out, but stoning is an accepted punishment in the Iranian legal system. Hanging is Iran’s preferred punishment and is at times done in public squares with cranes. Often, the prisoner does not die from the initial fall and hangs for several minutes, slowly dying of suffocation or strangulation while authorities simply watch.


The Execution of Children

Several child offenders have been executed in Iran, despite the practice being banned by international law.

An estimated 31 children have been executed since 2010, with more on trial or awaiting their sentences, and at least 13 juveniles may have been executed in 2014 alone. Often, the families of those convicted– who object strenuously to the state’s rulings– are threatened or actually targeted if they oppose the regime’s legal decisions.

“Enmity Against God”


On March 5th, Hamed Ahmadi, was executed for the crime under Iran’s Sharia criminal laws of “enmity against God,” a charge used for armed insurrection or terrorism, but increasingly used to target peaceful protestors following the 2009 election protests. After his death Amnesty International received a smuggled letter from prison regarding Ahmadi’s treatment where he wrote:

Execution followed me and my family every second. My family was executed with me over and over. If they had not received news from me for one day, they would come to the prison immediately thinking that we are finished… We were left in this situation where every minute felt like we had a noose put around our neck.

Nuclear Deal Leads to More Deaths

The current nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 countries may actually be directly responsible for more executions inside Iran.

Mina Ahadi, founder of the International Committee Against Executions, noted that after a political framework to an agreement was announced, there was an immediate upsurge in executions; she explained that the regime feels it is somewhat surrendering to the west by engaging diplomatically to the extent that it has and wants to make up for any appearance of weakness. Negotiations with Iran may lead to more human rights violations.