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Iran on 'execution spree' of Kurdish, Baluchi minorities, Amnesty says

A total of 94 people of any background were executed in January and February, according to Amnesty International. 
People take part in a protest against the execution of Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani -sentenced to death within protests following the death of Mahsa Amini- and to demand human righst in Iran, in front of the Iranian embassy in Mexico City on December 19, 2022. - Amir Nasr-Azadani was arrested in the city of Isfahan two days after allegedly taking part in an "armed riot" in which three security agents were killed.(Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

A human rights watchdog accused Iran on Thursday of targeting the country’s minorities in an "execution spree."

Amnesty International said in a press release that 14 Kurds, 13 Baluchis and one Arab have been executed this year following “grossly unfair trials.” The London-based organization observed a “chilling escalation in the use of the death penalty as a tool of repression against ethnic minorities.” 

Several of those executed were accused of belonging to outlawed opposition groups. A total of 94 people of various backgrounds were executed in January and February, according to Amnesty International. 

Background: Iran has an ethnically and religiously diverse population. In addition to the Persian majority, there are large communities of Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Azeris and others. Iran also notably has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel with around 8,000, though the community used to be much larger. 

Many in the Kurdish, Arab and Baluchi regions complain of discrimination and neglect. One example is the 2021 water protests in the largely Arab Khuzestan province also known as Ahwaz. 

Kurdish, Arab and Baluchi armed groups have long operated in Iran and carried out numerous deadly attacks. One such group is the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. 

The ongoing protests and riots in Iran began in the Kurdistan province in response to the suspicious death in police custody of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. The Islamic Republic has especially cracked down hard on Kurdish areas as a result. 

Why it matters: Ethnic minorities in Iran have long been disproportionately executed in Iran, according to several observers. In a July 2022 report, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on Iran said they were “alarmed at the disproportionate number of executions of members of minority communities, in particular the Baluch and Kurdish minorities.” 

The report noted that Baluchis accounted for 21% of all executions in Iran in 2021. Baluchis account for only around 2% of the Iranian population. 

The Kurdish Iranian human rights organization Hengaw reported on Wednesday that at least 102 prisoners were executed during the first two months of the year. Kurds accounted for 33% of those executions, according to Hengaw, though Kurds account for just about 10% of the Iranian population. 

Members of the Bahai faith have also been notably targeted by the Islamic Republic. A 2022 report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted “escalating oppression” against the Bahai, in part due to the fact that their headquarters are located in Israel. 

Know more: Iran carried out the second most confirmed executions in the world in 2021, with more than 314. This was behind China, which executed people in the thousands. Egypt came in third with more than 83 executions and Saudi Arabia was fourth with 65, according to a May 2022 report from Amnesty International. 

The numbers were likely even higher in 2022 amid the violent crackdown against protests. The Norway-based Iran Human Rights reported in December that more than 500 executions had been carried out in Iran in 2022. 

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