Iranian activist Mohsen Shekari, identified by the United Nations as an artist, was executed in Tehran on Thursday, December 8, after 75 days in custody for his participation in the mass demonstrations calling for freedom from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Shekari, 23, was arrested and detained on September 25 for blocking Sattar Khan Street in Tehran and allegedly injuring a pro-regime Basij Resistance Force member with a machete.
Shekari’s hanging is the first of many official demonstration-based executions announced by the Islamic Republic of Iran, not including the more than 450 civilian deaths at the hands of the regime. Online, dozens of artists have posted tribute artworks in honor of Shekari’s life and bravery, calling for the end of the death penalty and immediate release of protesters.
Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court convicted Shekari on November 1 for moharebeh, “waging war against God,” after what Amnesty International described as a “grossly unfair sham trial.” The human rights organization also reported that he was not provided with appropriate legal representation. Shekari had attempted to appeal the conviction, but the court doubled down on November 20. Two years ago, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned Judge Salavati for his proclivity in issuing death sentences for Iranian political protesters.
In an interview with the Guardian, Shekari’s uncle, Mahmoud Shekari, said that Mohsen worked at a café in Tehran, where he was the primary wage earner for his family. It was during a shift that he sprang into action. “Mohsen was athletic and strong; when he saw the security forces attacking the protesters, he removed the guardrail from the side of the highway and placed it in the middle of the street to block the security forces’ way,” Mahmoud Shekari said.
Shekari’s uncle added that signs of torture were visible on the 23-year-old’s face in a filmed confession video posted by the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency, and that authorities of the Islamic Republic “have started a familiar game to torture his family” by refusing to turn over his body.
A video reportedly showing Shekari’s mother learning of her son’s unexpected hanging has also been circulating across social media, further igniting the fire of Iranian revolutionaries and sparking international outrage from officials and civilians alike.
According to the United Nations, “at least 40 Iranian artists, writers, poets, actors, film makers and musicians have been arrested and jailed” since the start of the mass protests surrounding the murder of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa (Jina) Amini for improper wrapping of her hijab at the hands of Iran’s morality police.
Iranian dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi and Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin both may be facing the death penalty for similar charges of “corruption on earth” for music encouraging Iranians to fight the regime and for their participation in the protests.