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Iranians call on government to stop executions in online campaign

Iran is under pressure to halt the executions of 3 men who were arrested  during anti-government protests in 2019

Iranians have taken to social media using the Persian hashtag meaning “No to execution”, to protest the death sentences of three men for their involvement in nationwide protests over rising fuel prices last November.

The campaign was launched yesterday after the death sentences of Amirhossein Moradi, 25, Mohammad Rajabi, 25, and Saeed Tamjidi, 27, were upheld by an Iranian court.

The hashtag quickly gained traction, according to analysts, and attracted Iranians from all sectors of society in remarkable numbers. At the time of writing, the hashtag had been tweeted six million times and been engaged with on Instagram ten million times

Iranian actress Mahnaz Afshar, who changed her Twitter cover photo to a picture of the hashtag with the English translation, joined the campaign, writing: “The most beautiful sentence is the sentence of life”.

Other well-known personalities also joined the campaign, including popular Iran national team football player Hossein Mahini who tweeted the hashtag four times and singer Mohsen Chavoshi who posted a cartoon noose as a swing carrying three men with the sun setting in the background.

Prominent Iranian journalist and activist, Masih Alinejad, also tweeted her support, posting an emotional video calling for people across the world to speak out about the situation in Iran. In the video, Alinejad says: “I think for you in the West it’s very normal that people on the other side of the ocean get executed, get killed, get beaten up, get into prison, just because of expressing themselves and criticising the government. You think this is normal but, it is not. It is not. Because three young men who are being sentenced to death, they have names as well. Say their names.”

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Alinejad linked the trio’s imminent executions to the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a police officer in the US in late May, which sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the world. Other users were quick to make the same link, tweeting “Iranian lives matter”.

Another user made a similar connection, tweeting the “No to Execution” hashtag in Persian with a caption reading “I can’t breathe, can you?”. A video of the moments before Floyd’s death show the 46-year-old begging for his life telling police officers “I can’t breathe”.

Other users tweeted a cartoon picture of the three men without facial features but with nooses around their necks, reading, “I’m next, you’re next, we’re next”. Several users shared the cartoon with the captions “you are not alone” and “say their names be their voice”.

Amnesty International also used the hashtag in a tweet, calling on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “quash the death sentences of protesters”. The international rights watchdog says the trio’s trial was “unfair” and that the men were subjected to torture in order to extract false confessions.

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Human Rights Watch researcher Tara Sepehri Far also used the hashtag to call for the sentences to be repealed, claiming the verdicts were “issued on vaguely defined national security charges, and defendants have had restricted access to lawyers”.

Some Iranian politicians also joined the online campaign, including former member of Parliament Parvaneh Salahshouri, former Vice President Mohamad Ali Abtahi and reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh.

Tajzadeh used the hashtag, writing in Persian, “people do not consider any execution to be justifiable for weak and unbelievable reasons” and claimed carrying out the death sentences would “incite society to revenge and rebellion”.

Meanwhile, an internet monitoring company, NetBlocks, reported a “significant disruption” to internet coverage in Iran last night while the hashtag was trending on social media – a tactic the New York Times says the Iranian government frequently uses to counter domestic unrest and protests.

In the wake of the campaign, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported a retrial of the trio had been ordered today. However, other news outlets, including the Mizan News Agency, were quick to deny the claims, saying the judiciary media centre rejected the notion and that yesterday’s verdict stood.

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