Last month, Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, made a whirlwind visit to Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan. According to official media, Rouhani spent much of his time there dealing with “a number of sensitive files” left undecided by the outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One such file concerns 14 human rights activists who had been in prison for up to two years. When Rouhani took over as president, he had them moved from the Karoun Prison in Ahvaz to an unknown destination. There, last July, an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal presided over by a single judge, Ayatollah Muhammad-Baqer Mussavi, sentenced the 14 to death on charges of “waging war on God” and “spreading corruption on earth” and “questioning the principle ofvelayat-e faqih” (the guardianship of the jurist). Before he left Ahvaz, Rouhani gave his green light for the executions. The first two executions were carried out last Monday when Hashem Shaabani and Hadi Rashedi were hanged in an unidentified prison. Shaabani wrote a poet Seven Reasons Why I Should Die after being indicted:
For seven days they shouted at me:
You are waging war on Allah!
Saturday, because you are an Arab!
Sunday, well, you are from Ahvaz
Monday, remember you are Iranian
Tuesday: You mock the sacred Revolution
Wednesday, didn’t you raise your voice for others?
Thursday, you are a poet and a bard
Friday: You’re a man, isn’t that enough to die?