Mohsen Shekhari, Iran’s martyr#1

There can be no words minced when it comes to condemning Iran‘s execution of 23-year old Mohsen Shekari, who became a martyr to a despotic regime. Shekari gets the onerous ‘honour’ of being the first anti-hijab protestor to be executed. He was accused of disturbing public order by blocking a thoroughfare in Tehran during a protest in late September after the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police and injuring a security guard with a knife during scuffles.

The impact of this execution will determine the future course of the protests. The murder by the Iranian state is a grim reminder of the way authoritarian regimes – believers in one-way communication where the state speaks and the citizenry complies – view protests. The killing is a warning. Official figures are not available, but since September, about 500 civilians have been killed by security forces and at least 18,000 arrested. Many have been released, about 1,500 face criminal charges, and at least 80 detainees face the death sentence. So, will Iranians be willing to continue living under the terms laid out by the theocratic junta? Or, are they looking for change borne out of desperation? It’s too early to say, but so far it appears that Shekari’s execution has done little to dim the protests.

For those living in democracies, and are too easily temped to describe their own governments as autocracies whenever wrongs are actually or perceived to be committed, Shekari’s murder should serve as a moment to reflect about the rights and institutions they may take for granted. For governments in open democratic societies, the lesson is a clear one: ensuring protection for voices of dissent. In Iran, there’s a regime hell bent to protect itself.

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