Iran Protesters Refuse to Back Down as First Execution Sentence Handed Down

Nationwide protests continue in Iran for the 53rd straight day, despite nearly 15,000 Iranians having been arrested in connection to the demonstrations, who could now potentially face harsh punishments including the death penalty.

On November 13, an unidentified protester received the death penalty in the first instance of that sentence coming in the trials against people who were arrested for demonstrating. Five others were given jail time between five and 10 years, according to state media Mizan.

Iran Human Rights warned that "at least 20 protesters are currently facing charges punishable by death per official reports" and it has expressed its concerns that the Iranian government might move hastily with the executions.

Mahsa Amini Protest In Istanbul
Protests, which started with the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after being detained on the grounds that she did not comply with the headscarf rules, continue at the Iranian consulate on October 31, 2022 in İstanbul, Turkey. Omer Kuscu/Getty

As thousands continue to rally across Iran's capital city of Tehran, defying a brutal crackdown by Iranian forces, on Tuesday the country's parliament pushed the judiciary to deliver harsh sentences for protesters. In a letter signed by 227 of 290 members of parliament cited by Iran's state-run Press TV, lawmakers asked to teach those arrested "a good lesson" so as to deter others from joining them.

"We, the representatives of this nation, ask all state officials, including the judiciary, to treat those, who waged war [against the Islamic establishment] and attacked people's life and property like the Daesh [terrorists], in a way that would serve as a good lesson in the shortest possible time," the letter read.

Lawmakers added that such a punishment—the methods of which were not specified—would "prove to all that life, property, security and honor of our dear people is a red line for this [Islamic] establishment and that it would show no leniency to anybody in this regard."

Mass protests began in Iran after news of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amin on September 16 became public. The Kurdish woman had been arrested by the country's so-called morality police on September 13 while she was visiting Tehran for reportedly wearing an "improper" form of hijab, and was allegedly fatally beaten while in custody. Iranian authorities have denied any responsibility for Amin's fatal head injury.

Women have led the protests, setting their headscarves on fire and cutting their hair in solidarity, and were later joined by men and teenage boys. Hundreds of people protesting Amin's death were killed by police, and thousands were arrested in the past eight weeks.

There have been previous mass protests in Iran, but none of the size—and the length—of the current one. Back in 2009, millions took to the streets after a disputed presidential election.

Solidarity for the protesters is also growing, with Reuters reporting that Iran's water polo players refused to sing the national anthem at a competition in Thailand on Tuesday and prominent actor Taraneh Alidoosti expressed her support for the protests by posting a photo of herself with her hair uncovered by the mandatory headscarf.

In the photo, Alidoosti holds a placard that reads: "Woman, Life, Freedom."

Correction 11/15/22, 12:05 p.m. ET: This article and headline were updated to remove the reference to the Iranian Parliament voting for death sentences. A majority of the parliament supported a letter to the judiciary calling for harsh punishments of protesters, which could include the death penalty.

Update 11/15/22, 9:10 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add news of the first death penalty issued against a protester on November 13.