What would the rest of us do if a mad gunman was in our midst, systematically murdering our fellow human beings in front of our eyes? The responsible amongst us would not look the other way, because that would serve as a source of encouragement for the murderers to carry on with their heinous acts unchecked. Sooner or later, we would also be harmed in one way or another.
Yet that is exactly what is happening when it comes to the Iranian regime’s state-run systematic murder machine that is taking lives at a frightening pace. Iran is no stranger to heinous rights abuses. But 2011 has been a particularly gory year. The regime seems to be on a killing rampage in recent weeks, registering what amounts to roughly three executions per day.
According to the latest figures obtained by Iran Focus, over the last 21 days alone, at least 87 people have met their fate at the gallows. Although Tehran is notorious for obscuring the real numbers, according to public accounts, before this month draws to a close, it will have already murdered almost half the number of people executed last year.
Significantly magnifying this horror is the shocking silence from the West. Iran sees this silence as a sign to commit more murder unhindered. It thinks of the West as too desperate to talk and too weak to apply meaningful pressure. The undying promise of more western talks with the Iranian regime has intoxicated the mullahs with a feeling that they can easily try to terrorise a resentful Iranian population at a crucial time.
Although the clerical rulers characterise most of the victims as “drug dealers” to deflect international condemnation, as UN human rights officials emphasised in the 1990s, the regime routinely executes political prisoners under such guises.
In December, Ali Saremi, a political prisoner of 24 years, was hanged on charges of visiting his son in Camp Ashraf. Last week, a young Kurdish dissident, Hossein Khezri, met the same fate.
Tehran has always relied on brute force and cruel treatment as a way to curb growing popular unrest. The fact that the number of hangings, some in public and many political, have soared in recent days only reveals the extent to which the regime is fearful of the people.
But, whatever the ambitions of the regime may be and regardless of the strategy pursued by the West vis-à-vis the talks in Istanbul and elsewhere, it simply looks terrible for western officials to be shaking hands with the mullahs at a time when they are on a killing spree.
Speaking out against a murderous rage does not only fulfil essential moral obligations, it will also give a powerful message to Tehran that the West is not afraid to apply pressure on Tehran where pressure is due.