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".
زیباترین حکم، حکم زندگیست!#اعدام_نکنید
— Mahnaz Afshar مهناز افشار (@AfsharMahnaz) July 14, 2020
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.
این سه مادر را چهار پایه نکشید …
— Mohsen Chavoshi (@chavoshi1) July 14, 2020
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."
I cried several times before making this video. Please listen and say their names.
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 14, 2020
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".
— stellarmy⁷ ☆ (@saina_twt) July 14, 2020
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".
— ~یه ربات از نوع گرسنه~ (@ahungryrobot) July 15, 2020
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".
— -Katherine🖤 (@silverkath_) July 15, 2020
These younge men represent us all in a country where standing up for your most basic rights hands you a death sentence😳
— 🏹کمانگیر (@Kamangir_133) July 15, 2020
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.
Iran's @khamenei_ir must quash the death sentences of protesters—Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi & Mohammad Rajabi—immediately! Their trial was unfair & they said they were subjected to torture through beatings, electric shocks and being hung upside down. #اعدام_نکنید
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) July 14, 2020
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".
— Tara Sepehri Far (@sepehrifar) July 14, 2020
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".
هیچ چیز به اندازه ریختن خون مظلوم پایههای حکومت را سست و لرزان و جامعه را به انتقامجویی و عصیان تحریک نمیکند. مردم هیچ اعدامی را با دلایل سست و باورناپذیر عادلانه نمیدانند. #اعدام_نکنید
— مصطفی تاجزاده (@mostafatajzade) July 14, 2020
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 Timessays the Iranian government frequently uses to counter domestic unrest and protests.
Update: Yesterday's internet disruption in #Iran had partial impact, reducing service quality for ~3 hours on multiple providers while the hashtag #اعدام_نکنید (don't execute) trended on social media #️⃣ pic.twitter.com/zS8kYIN80H
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) July 15, 2020
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.
Good news! Farsnews says #Iran judiciary head, based on article 477 of criminal law, has ordered a retrial for 3 people sentenced to death for "their role in 2019 riots." This practically means the implementation of execution has been halted. https://t.co/F6bh7LNOJP
— Habib Abdolhossein (@HAbdolhossein) July 15, 2020