Three men in Iran accused of killing three members of the country’s security forces were executed by the Islamic Republic on May 19th, sparking massive protests across the country and drawing condemnation from various governments and human rights organizations.
The Tasnim news agency and the website of Iran’s judiciary confirmed the executions of 30-year-old Majid Kazemi, 36-year-old Saleh Mirhashemi, and 37-year-old Saeed Yaqoubi on the dawn of May 19th at the Dastgerd prison in the city of Isfahan, located in central Iran.
BREAKING: Iran has executed 3 men accused of deadly violence during last year’s anti-government protests despite objections from human rights groups, authorities say they killed a police officer and two members of the paramilitary Basij group in Isfahan. https://t.co/bxAqDSmbWN
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 19, 2023
The three men were charged with the crime of “enmity against God” after being accused of being responsible for the deaths of two members of the Basiji paramilitary force and a law enforcement officer during anti-government protests on November 16, 2022. However, the Iranian government failed to show definitive evidence that would link the three men to the incident.
Their families gathered in front of the Dastgerd prison, worried about the safety of their relatives. Crowds also gathered outside the facility as early as the night of May 18th as news of their imminent execution spread.
Saleh Mirhashemi’s father holds a sign that says:
“My son is innocent. He did not have weapons.”
Saleh is one of 3 young men who is at risk of imminent execution. The families of the men have asked people to gather outside Dastgerd Prison at 10pm tonight to halt the executions pic.twitter.com/9Yf2FzAs6R
— Nazanin Nour (@NazaninNour) May 17, 2023
The three men’s family members and other Iranian figures, such as actress Taraneh Alidoosti and football player Ali Karimi expressed concern over their fate and stepped up campaigns to halt their executions. Demonstrations showing support for Kazemi, Mirhashemi, and Yaqoubi were held in Berlin, London, and Stockholm.
After they were executed, Iranian state media played videos of what appeared to be the three men’s confessions to the murder, which were extracted under torture, according to Amnesty International. Handwritten notes from the three men were also posted on Twitter, appealing for help and support.
"Hello. We ask our dear fellow citizens not to let them kill us. We need your help. We need your support." One of the letters, which went viral on social media, wrote.
Don't let them kill us!
This is a letter smuggled out of prison written by three prisoners in Iran. They were all executed shortly after. The letter reads, "Hello. We ask our dear fellow citizens not to let them kill us. We need your help. We need your support."
Saeed Yaqoubi,… pic.twitter.com/nWInRTPSHM
— Armin Navabi (@ArminNavabi) May 22, 2023
Kazemi, Mirhashemi, and Yaqoubi were among the seven people that the Islamic Republic executed in relation to the massive anti-government protests that swept the country in September 2022 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died under the custody of the “morality police.”
Many human rights organizations condemned the executions, and it also stirred massive protests across several cities in Iran, including the capital Tehran. In a video shared on social media, protesters were heard chanting slogans such as "Death to the dictator!" and "Death to Khamenei!”
شهروندان تهرانی در ستارخان تجمع کرده و شعار مرگ بر خامنهای ضحاک سر دادند. جمعه ۲۹ اردیبهشت#خانه_اصفهان #شهروندخبرنگار #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/FJ2jqwDwdM
— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 19, 2023
The European Union also denounced the executions “in the strongest possible terms,” and they called “once again on the Iranian authorities to immediately end the strongly condemnable practice of imposing and carrying out death sentences against protesters.”
According to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR), more than 220 people were executed by the Islamic Republic in 2023 alone. More than 582 people were also sentenced to death in 2022, the highest number since 2015, exceeding 333 executions recorded in 2021.