By Andrew M. Potts
An international campaign has been launched to end the death penalty in Iran.
Iran has carried out thousands of executions since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with men who have sex with men one of the largest groups targeted.
Other victim groups include women who are often executed for adultery. In the past, people have been given death sentences for heresy for criticising the country’s clerical rule, converting to other religions or following non-orthodox interpretations of Islam.
Nine opposition activists are on death row for taking part in protests after last June’s disputed election, while another 10 men and youths await execution on sodomy charges.
Thanks to efforts by Iranian women’s groups and international condemnation, Iran has largely given up the practice of stoning people to death, but hanging is still commonplace, and firing squads are sometimes used.
The most recent Amnesty International investigation into human rights abuses in Iran counted 346 executions in 2008 — 133 of those executed were juvenile offenders.
The 346 No Execution Campaign takes its name from that figure, although the campaign’s communications director believes this to be a conservative estimate.
“The unofficial number is likely much higher,” Iranian Homosexual Human Rights Councils communications director Arsham Parsi said.
“Iran must stop taking innocent lives in such cavalier, arbitrary and brutal ways. Our campaign’s mission is to petition member governments to apply diplomatic pressure on Iran to cease and desist with these barbaric and unjust executions.”
Campaign organisers hope to get at least 346 people in each participating country to write to their foreign ministers to urge their governments to press Iran to abolish the death penalty.
The 346 campaign is being organised by the Iranian Homosexual Human Rights Councils in the USA and Canada, while gay and lesbian group Outrage is the campaign’s UK partner.
Other countries participating include Italy and Germany and the campaign is looking to add partners from other countries.
Sydney activist group Community Action Against Homophobia is considering becoming Australian partners with the project.
info: Visit www.noexecution.com