The entire adult male population of a village in southern Iran has been executed for drug offences, according to Iran’s vice-president for women and family affairs.
The matter came to light earlier this week after Shahindokht Molaverdi revealed it during an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency in rare comments from a senior government official highlighting the country’s high rate of executions of drug traffickers.
“We have a village in Sistan and Baluchestan province where every single man has been executed,” she said, without naming the place or clarifying whether the executions took place at the same time or over a longer period. “Their children are potential drug traffickers as they would want to seek revenge and provide money for their families. There is no support for these people.”
Molaverdi said the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has brought back previously axed family support programmes as part of the country’s national development plan. “We believe that if we do not support these people, they will be prone to crime, that’s why the society is responsible for the families of those executed,” she said.
According to Amnesty International, Iran remains a prolific executioner, second only to China. In 2014, at least 753 people were hanged in Iran, of whom more than half were drug offenders. In 2015, Amnesty said it had recorded “a staggering execution rate” in the Islamic republic, “with nearly 700 people put to death in the first half of the year alone”.
Maya Foa, from the anti-death penalty campaigning group Reprieve, said: “The apparent hanging of every man in one Iranian village demonstrates the astonishing scale of Iran’s execution spree. These executions – often based on juvenile arrests, torture, and unfair or nonexistent trials – show total contempt for the rule of law, and it is shameful that the UN and its funders are supporting the police forces responsible.”
Activists have repeatedly urged the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to stop funding Iran’s anti-narcotics campaign until Tehran ends its use of capital punishment for drug-related offences. It emerged last year that the UN anti-drug agency was finalising a multimillion-dollar funding package, including European money, for Iran’s counter-narcotics trafficking programmes, despite the country’s high execution rate of drug offenders. The new $20m (£14.4m) UNODC programme for Iran was signed at the start of 2016, Reprieve said.
After Molaverdi’s comments, Foa renewed the organisation’s demands, saying: “UNODC must urgently make its new Iran funding conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offences.”
Amnesty is particularly concerned about Iran’s execution of juveniles. In a report published in January, the group said Iran had carried out 73 executions of juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015.
Sistan and Baluchestan, where the unnamed village is situated, “is arguably the most underdeveloped region in Iran, with the highest poverty, infant and child mortality rates, and lowest life expectancy and literacy rates in the country,” according to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. “The province … experiences a high rate of executions for drug-related offences or crimes deemed to constitute ‘enmity against God’ in the absence of fair trials.”
Iran is a neighbour to Afghanistan, a leading producer and supplier of the world’s drugs, and faces big challenges at home with a young population susceptible to a variety of cheap and abundant addictive drugs. Critics, however, say Iran’s use of the death penalty in this regard has done little, if anything, to address the issue.