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11 hanged in 48 hours — intimidation or fuel for new protests?

The walls of the notorious Evin Prison in northern Tehran were witness to 11 hangings over a two-day period this weekend: six were hanged on Saturday on terrorism charges, and five on Sunday charged with drug smuggling.

Among the five hanged on Sunday was a woman, Shirin Elmholi, a 28-year-old who was arrested in 2008 and accused of planting a bomb under a car belonging to the Revolutionary Guards. The four men were identified as Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, Mehdi Islamian and Farzad Kamangar. Heidarian was charged with plotting a bomb in a mosque in Shiraz, and the other three of being members of the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), a Kurdish rebel group in Iran.

Many Iranians both inside and outside the country were angry about the news, viewing it as intimidation by the government prior to the June 12 election anniversary. Last June hundreds of voters turned out on the streets to protest what they believed was a fraudulent result.

“I just saw their pictures on the internet,” said an individual inside Iran requesting anonymity, “those eyes will now be shut forever, this is terrible, we have to stop this,” she added.
Iranians also gathered in Toronto, Paris and Koln, in Germany, in protest.

Family members and the lawyer for the five prisoners were not informed of the execution, according to news reports outside the country. Khalil Bahramian, lawyer of Farzad Kamangar, told a journalist from Roozonline news website that Farzad Kamangar had spoken to his family on the last night before his death, but had not mentioned anything that would lead his family to believe he was to be hanged just a few hours later. His family received the news of their son’s death through journalists calling to ask about their reactions.

Kamangar was a teacher and a letter he wrote circulated the web on Sunday:

"Is it possible to sit behind the same desk, look into the eyes of the children of this land, and still remain silent? Is it possible to be a teacher and not show the path to the sea to the little fish of the country? Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death? I know that one day this harsh and uneven road will be paved for teachers and the suffering you endured will be a badge of honour so everyone can see that a teacher is a teacher, even if his or her path is blocked by the selection process, prison, and execution. ... The Little Fish calmly swam in the sea and thought: facing death is not hard for me, nor is it regrettable.”

It was also just last week that six Afghans were hanged in Iran. This sparked protests in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul.

Iran with 388 executions in 2009 holds second place for the number of executions in the world, according to Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, students at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, chanted slogans against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his visit to the campus on Monday.