#اعدام _نکنید : The Hashtag that Saved Three Lives
A campaign went viral on Tuesday, July 14 2020 with the Persian hashtag #Don’t_Execute (#اعدام _نکنید) circulating around Twitter and other social media platforms making its way to the top of the international Twitter trending list and shedding light on an atrocity that otherwise wouldn’t have made it to the news. Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi were the three names that circulated across social media, being retweeted all over the world in a unified twitter riot against the Islamic Government’s death penalty for anti-government protestors.
Under international Human Rights Law, everyone has the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. In Iran , although a party of the International Covenant on civil and political rights, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly can oftentimes lead to arrests, and on some occasions death.
Iran is among eight countries that still punish citizens with the ultimate death sentence and, after China, has the second-highest execution rated in the world. In a report by Amnesty International the statistics show that in 2015 the Islamic Regime carried out at least 977 executions, 567 in 2016, and at least 507 in 2017 although the real number is believed to be higher than the ones publicly reported. Crimes that get the ultimate punishment vary from Adultery, Drug offenses, Blasphemy, “Cooperation with the Hostile States”, Apostasy, Murder, Alcohol consumption, and in the case of the three protestors protesting for freedom. The death sentence in Iran can even be applied to children as soon as they are deemed to have reached the age of maturity which, according to the law, is 15 for boys, and 13 for girls.
Amirhossein Moradi,26, Mohammad Rajabi,26, and Saeed Tamjidi,28, were among protestors who took to the streets in anti-regime protests in November 2019. Following an overnight 300% spike in fuel prices, Iranians all over Iran took to the streets where an estimate of 1500 protestors, including children, were killed, and hundreds were injured. The first of the three to get arrested was Amirhossein Moradi. Moradi was arrested on November 19, 2019. He was held in prolonged solitary confinement, was tortured through beatings and electric shock. In one instance he even recalls an interrogator standing on his chest. He was also coerced into giving a “confession” that was broadcast on state television as propaganda and used as evidence to convict all three.
Upon Moradi’s Arrest, Rajabi and Tamjidi applied for asylum in Antalya, Turkey. Despite their asylum application, on December 28 2019 they were deported back to Iran, the same country where they feared prosecution. Their fears became reality and in a report to their lawyers they talked about being tortured through kicks, beatings with Batons, and even hung upside down while repeatedly beaten on their legs and feet. The aftermath of this torture was so severe that Tamjidi had to appear in the courtroom in a wheelchair.
In February 2020, the trials presided over judge Abolghasem Salavati who is known as Iran’s “hanging judge”. Under an Iranian Lae, the chief justice, in this case, Salavati, must approve of the defense attornies. This led to the young men’s lawyers not being given access to their clients’ files. The men were, accused of “riot leaders”, were charged with “enmity against God” and “cooperating in vandalism and arson with an intent to act against the Islamic Republic”. Salavati also atrauciously sentenced all three to imprisonment, flogging, and death sentences.
- Mohammad Rajabi was sentenced to death, 10 years in prison, and 74 lashes.
- Amir Hossein Moradi was sentenced to death, 15 years in prison, and 74 lashes of the whip.
- Saeed Tamjidi was sentenced to death, 10 years in prison, and 74 lashes of the whip.
On June 22, 2020, the youth-run organization Middle East Matters started a petition to shed light on this atrocious case and urge the United Nations, the European Union, and the rest of the International community to speak up against the death sentences and unfair trials of Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi. The petition also aimed at urging the Iranian government to immediately halt the execution of these three young men, give their lawyers access to their cases, and investigate torture allegations used to obtain false confessions. As of now, the petition has exceeded 176’000 signatures.
Sign the Petition
The Islamic Republic of Iran wants to execute three young men for participating in the November 2019 demonstrations…
Although the petition did circulate around, it didn’t gain national and international attention until mid-July when the date of the execution was released. Knowing that they would be silenced in the streets with gunshots and blood, Iranians inside and outside of Iran took to Twitter as their medium of protest. People from all means of life Students, Teachers, Actors, Clerics, Drivers, and even Donald Trump tweeted using the #اعدام _نکنید to urge the Iranian Regime to halt the executions.
In a country where speaking up in the streets is not an option, where rallying and demonstrations lead to arrests, online unity is the only hope. However, silencing online protestors is another tactic the regime uses to repress and silence innocent voices fighting for freedom.
On Netblocks.org countrywide internet disruptions were reported on July 14 2020 in Iran. NetBlocks.org reported that significant disruption to multiple networks was seen in iran after 5 pm UTC. Internet was slowed down. With a significant impact seen on social media accounts, many Iranians became disconnected from their protesting realm, twitter. Keep in mind that in Iran, Twitter is filtered and banned,so Iranians can only access Twitter with a strong VPN. The internet discrepancy however didn’t stop tweets from circulating. It didn’t scare anyone. The internet disruptions showed that the regime was hearing them, it showed that the tweets were making a difference. It was a unified outcry to halt executions. Despite the attempt to limit communications, the hashtag was tweeted and retweeted more than 4.5 million times by the end of July #6 in international trendings.
On July 19, 2019, after days of tweeting and retweeting, after hours of eyes glued to digital screens, the dawn of hope landed upon Iran. One of the Lawyers, Babak Paknia, wrote on his Twitter account that the request for retrial had been accepted by the supreme court. The executions were halted. Iranians could finally breathe.
The role of social media in giving a platform and uniting the voice of a silenced population cannot be underestimated. “Without Twitter, the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy,” said a former top U.S. National Security Council advisor. For Iranians in exile, especially, “Twitter became a window for the world to view hope, heroism, and horror.” Information and communications technologies (ICTs) played an immense role in increasing empathy, connection, access to information, and accountability for Human Rights abuses. If Twitter didn’t exist, if no digital world had given Iranians a platform, the faith of Amirhossein, Mohammad, and Saeed would have been buried under the regime’s carpet of lies and atrocities.