After Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, approved the order, poet and human rights activist Hashem Shaabani was executed by hanging on January 27, 2014. The 32 year old had been imprisoned and tortured for 3 years prior to his execution.
The charges against Shaabani included “waging war against God” and endangering national security. Shaabani was an Iranian of Arab ethnicity and founded the Dialogue Institute, which promoted Arabic culture and literature in Iran. Shaabani was arrested in February, 2011. When shown on Iran's Press TV in December 2011, Shaabani was alleged to have confessed to being involved in “separatist terrorism” on behalf of Iran's Arabs. He was also accused of maintaining links with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. He was sentenced to death in July 2013.
Shaabani had been fighting for the civil rights of Iran's Arabic-speaking Ahvazi community. In a letter written from prison to his family, Shaabani said he could not ignore the “hideous crimes against Ahvazis, perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions.” He defended his actions, saying “I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have, which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.”
“Waging war against God” is the translation of “Moharebeh,” a capital crime in Islamic law that has been applied to describe treason and trying to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran. During the 2009 Iranian protests, “Moharebeh” was used to try and execute political activists and protestors arrested by the regime.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, praised as a “moderate” by Western media, has been condemned by the United Nations for carrying out a record number of executions. In 2013, 625 people were executed, including 29 women. The U.N. reported that 40 people had been executed in the first two weeks of January.
Speaking on the issue of executions, Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Iran, condemned the Iranian government, saying “The persistent execution of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association, and affiliation to minority groups contravenes universally accepted human rights principles and norms.”