Here Are the People Iran Sentenced to Death in Its Protest Crackdown
They are a doctor, a rapper, a karate champion, a barber and an actor, sons, grandsons and fathers. They are among the 13 people Iran has hurriedly sentenced to death in its campaign to quash the monthslong uprising against the Islamic Republic.
In December, two men were hanged in quick succession, the second from a construction crane with a sack over his head. Eleven others remain at risk of execution, according to the human rights group Amnesty International, though other groups cite higher numbers, which The New York Times was not able to independently verify.
The men have been swept up in accusations that range from setting a trash can on fire to killing members of the Basij militia, who are part of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Most of the men have been charged with “moharebe,” a broad term that means waging a war on God and typically carries the death penalty in Iran.
Their trials were fast-tracked behind closed doors by Iran’s Revolutionary Court system, with government-assigned lawyers representing the defendants. The evidence presented has often been opaque, sometimes relying on coerced confessions or grainy video footage. Rights groups say that in some of the cases of the accused, there are accounts and evidence of torture.
At least 15 others have been charged with capital offenses and are awaiting sentencing, according to Amnesty.
Not every detail of the judicial proceedings or the alleged crimes could be confirmed, but The Times interviewed some of the defendants’ friends and families and corroborated information on social media accounts with activists and reports by Amnesty and other major human rights groups.
Here are the 10 people The Times knows of who have been sentenced to death as part of the protests, as well as details about the two men who have already been executed.
This article will be updated as individual circumstances change or new information is found.
Sentenced to death
Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh, 26, a bodybuilding champion.
Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh was arrested on Sept. 23 in Tehran after participating in protests. He was accused of burning a trash can and tires and destroying highway rails. The court’s evidence relied on grainy video footage that his lawyer said does not depict him.
On the day he was arrested, he was told he would be executed, he said in a phone call with his family that was posted on BBC Persian.
Mr. Nourmohammad-Zadeh is a bodybuilder who, according to social media posts, has won medals in statewide competitions.
He worked at a small jewelry shop in a mall, near which protests broke out in September. Mr. Nourmohammad-Zadeh has said all he did was kick a trash can outside the mall and move rails that were already broken, according to the tape published on BBC Persian. More than 100 employees and shop owners at the mall signed a petition vouching for his innocence.
Part of a religiously conservative family, he said that he prays three times a day, reads the Quran in his cell and that he did not understand the charge of “moharebe,” a term he had been unfamiliar with until his arrest.
His two grandmothers made a video pleading for his exoneration. “Our child is innocent, we are two desperate old women begging you to forgive him,” one of the women said.
Mahan Sadrat Marani, 22.
Mahan Sadrat Marani was arrested in late October in Tehran. He was accused of attacking a Basij member with a knife, setting a motorcycle on fire and damaging a mobile phone. The court’s evidence relied on low-quality video footage in which no knife is visible, according to Amnesty.
Since his arrest, the Basij member and the cleric who filed the complaints have withdrawn them to try to save Mr. Sadrat Marani from execution, they said.
The Protests in Iran
Since September, Iran has been embroiled in demonstrations prompted by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, while she was in police custody.
- A Women-Led Uprising: Casting off their legally required head scarves, Iranian women have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, supplying the defining images of defiance.
- Morality Police: The unit, which was one of the main triggers for the protests that began after the death of Ms. Amini, was shut down in a concession to protesters.
- A Deadly Crackdown: Since the protests began, Iran’s security forces have killed hundreds of Iranians, including dozens of teenagers and children. Now, officials are turning to public executions.
- Taraneh Alidoosti: The well-known Iranian actress was released after she spent two and a half weeks in detention for condemning the government’s harsh response to the protests.
Mr. Sadrat Marani’s father told Iranian media that the family had “kissed the hands of the two men,” hoping to persuade them to speak out against their son’s sentence. Mr. Sadrat Marani’s grandmothers made a video pleading mercy on him.
After a public backlash and a campaign by the Basij member, Mr. Sadrat Marani’s execution was suspended just hours before he was scheduled to be hanged at dawn. His situation remains precarious.
Photos on his social media show Mr. Sadrat Marani riding motorbikes and wearing fashionably mismatched sneakers. He trained as a bodybuilder and lived with his parents and sisters, working three jobs to help his family get by, according to his two grandmothers in a video appeal to save his life.
Mohammad Boroughani, 19.
Mohammad Boroughani was arrested in Pakdasht, Karaj, near Tehran. He was accused of wielding a machete, setting fire to the governor’s building and injuring an official on duty with a knife. The court, citing Instagram messages, called him “a leader of the riots” in Pakdasht. .
“I went out to the streets because of an Instagram story my friend posted. I don’t know anything about politics,” Mr. Boroughani said in his trial, according to a Tasnim News Agency report. When the judge asked him why he took videos of the clashes he replied, “I ask for forgiveness and mercy. I got caught up in the moment and did these things.”
When Mr. Boroughani turned 18, he rapped about his life.
“I won’t forget the games of childhood, bikes and playing — we were so happy — now we don’t know if we are down or up — only memories are left, the more we get older the less joy — now my only friend is a cigarette and I’m suddenly 18,” he rapped.
His father makes his living by gathering metal scraps to sell, according to Iranian media reports.
On Jan. 2, Iran’s Supreme Court announced that it had upheld the verdict against Mr. Boroughani.
Mohammad Ghobadlou, 22, a barber.
Mohammad Ghobadlou was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 22, and accused of running over a police officer with a car, killing one person and injuring five others. As evidence, the court relied on a confession that Amnesty said was coerced under torture.
Mr. Ghobadlou worked at a barbershop in Tehran. In his Instagram videos, he joking with his clients: In one video, he says that in Iran they call the sons of rich politicians “aghazadeh,” which translates roughly as gentlemen, but “the real aghazadehs are the ones who earn their own living.”
In another video, he recites poetry while driving at night in Tehran and blasting Persian pop music.
His mother said in a video posted on social media that her son was bipolar and had not taken his medication in recent months.
On Dec. 24, the Supreme Court announced that it had upheld the verdict against Mr. Ghobadlou.
Saman Seydi (stage name Yasin), 24, a rapper and graphic artist.
Saman Seydi, known professionally as Yasin, was arrested on Oct. 2 in Tehran. He was accused of possessing a pistol and shooting three times in the air during protests. As evidence, the court relied on confessions that Amnesty said were forced under torture.
Mr. Seydi, a rapper and graphic artist, is from Iran’s Kurdish minority and had lived with his parents and two sisters. He posted his music videos on his Instagram page, often rapping in Kurdish about social injustice.
“You never know how strong you are until you become someone’s rock,” he wrote on his page alongside a selfie.
Mr. Seydi’s father, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, told the ILNA news agency that he worked in a wood factory and had lost one son in a car accident. He said that he and his family members had dedicated their lives to defending the Islamic Republic and many of them, including his brother, were martyrs of the war.
“My son is an artist, my son is not a rioter,” Mr. Seydi’s mother said in a video posted on social media.
Hamid Ghare Hassanlou, 53, a radiologist.
Hamid Ghare Hassanlou, a radiologist, was arrested on Nov. 4 in Karaj, just outside Tehran, and was accused of being involved in the killing of a Basij member during protests.
His wife, Farzaneh, 46, who was with him, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison without visitation rights. The court relied on confessions that Amnesty said were extracted under torture from his wife, who later withdrew them.
The Iranian medical community around the world has mobilized to stop Dr. Ghare Hassanlou’s execution, with thousands of doctors demanding the release of him and his wife.
Iranian media reported that senior officials had written a letter to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asking for the verdict to be turned. .
The day before their arrest, Dr. Ghare Hassanlou and his wife were driving home from work when they encountered a large protest honoring a young woman who was killed by security forces. When they left their car in the traffic to walk, they were caught up in a melee of people assaulting a Basij member, according to his colleague and Amnesty.
Dr. Ghare Hassanlou is known in Iran’s medical community for having long served underprivileged areas. He built several schools in rural and low-income towns, donated medical equipment to clinics, treated patients for free and volunteered in a public clinic, according to his colleagues and his family’s online posts.
In a video released by state media, Mrs. Ghare Hassanlou can be seen trying to stop the assault on the Basij member.
On Jan. 3, the Supreme Court announced that it had overturned Dr. Ghare Hassanlou’s verdict, citing shortcomings in the investigation. The case was returned to the original judge for retrial, leaving the doctorstill at risk of a death sentence.
Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, a karate champion.
Mohammad Mehdi Karami was arrested in Karaj in early November. He was accused in the killing of a Basij memberduring protests in that city. The court relied on forced confessions that were broadcast on state television, according to Amnesty.
Mr. Karami has won more than a dozen medals in national karate competitions, according to a video message made by his parents.
His family migrated from Kurdistan province to Karaj for work; his father told a newspaper, Etemad, that he sells napkins and tissues on the street.
A video of Mr. Karami competing in a karate match shows him with a red belt and an audience cheering his name. He bows at the end and gives a high five to another athlete.
“Every night I fear they will tell me the news of my child’s execution,” his father told Etemad. “I beg you in God’s name, don’t execute my child! Give him a life sentence instead.”
On Jan. 3, the Supreme Court announced that it had upheld the verdict in his case, though there can still be an appeal.
Hossein Mohammadi, 26, a theater actor.
Hossein Mohammadi was arrested on Nov. 5 at his home in Karaj, and accused in the killing of a Basij member during a large protest in Karaj. The court used forced confessions aired on state television against him, according to Amnesty.
Mr. Mohammadi, an award-winning theater actor,wrote poems, sang and acted in several short films and plays, and won the best actor award at a local art festival.
A friend who performed with him in plays but asked not to be named said in an interview that Mr. Mohammadi hada gentle personality, and was incapable of harming anyone.
On Jan. 3, the Supreme Court announced that it had overturned Mr. Mohammadi’s verdict, citing shortcomings in the investigation. The case was returned to the original judge for retrial. He is still at risk of receiving a death sentence.
Manouchehr Mehman Navaz, 45.
Manouchehr Mehman Navaz was arrested on Sept. 25 in Gharchak, in Tehran province.
He was accused of setting fire to a government building and to several cars, and attacking a security guard’s outpost by throwing Molotov cocktails. In its decision against him, the court relied on his text messages to a friend, which the judge said placed him in a protest, and grainy footage. Prosecutors requested he be hanged in public at the same place as the arson.
As with other defendants, very little information is publicly available about Mr. Mehman Navaz. He is married and has two teenage daughters, according to Iran Human Rights Network.
Sayed Mohammad Hosseini, 20.
Sayed Mohammad Hosseini was arrested in early November, and accused in the killing of a Basij member during a protest in Karaj.
After a visit to the prison where he was being held, his lawyer, Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani, said on Twitter that his client had suffered physical abuse: “He has been severely tortured, beaten up with tied hands and closed eyes, kicked in his head and falling unconscious, beaten up with an iron bar to his soles of the feet and given electric shocks on different parts of his body.”
There is very little personal information about him and his extended family has not spoken publicly to the media.
Mr. Mohammad Hosseini has said he was on his way to the cemetery where his parents are buried when he ran into traffic and was arrested. “The knife I had on me was for planting flowers and plants around their graves,” he told the court judge.
On Jan. 3, the Supreme Court announced that it had upheld the verdict against him, though there can still be an appeal.
Mohsen Shekari, 23, a barista hanged on Dec. 8.
Mohsen Shekari was executed by hanging on Dec. 8, less than three months after his arrest. He was the first protester known to be killed in an official execution.
He was accused of burning a trash can, blocking a road, stabbing a member of the Basij militia with a machete and threatening public safety.
Mr. Shekari had lived in Tehran with his parents. He worked at a coffee shop in a working-class neighborhood of Tehran. He liked baggy cargo jeans and bandannas wrapped around his wrist, photos on social media show.
In one video posted on social media, he can be seen singing at a cafe accompanied by a guitar.
“I now have one wish only, that is to see you one more time,” he sang. “You are my lone star.”
Majid Reza Rahnavard, 23, a shop worker hanged on Dec. 12.
Majid Reza Rahnavard was arrested on Nov. 19 in the northeastern city of Mashhad and was hanged from a crane in public on Dec. 12, less than a month after his arrest. He was the second protester known to be officially executed.
He was accused of stabbing to death two members of the Basij militia and wounding four other people in Mashhad.
His mother was informed of his execution and burial after it took place, according to media reports.
A video shared with The Times by one of Mr. Rhanavard’s relatives shows family members bringing flowers to his graveside. “There is nothing I feared more than them taking my 23-year-old son,” his mother can be heard saying through sobs. “God damn all of you who killed my son.”
Mr. Reza Rahnavard worked at a shop selling women’s clothing and shoes in Mashhad. He was an avid athlete who trained as a gymnast and a wrestler, according to his family.
In a video taken before his execution and verified by his family, Mr. Rahnavard appears blindfolded with a hand in a cast. In the video, he tells a reporter, “I don’t want them to cry at my grave, I don’t want them to pray and recite the Quran for me. ” He adds, “Be happy and play joyful music.”
The two hangings have drawn severe condemnation from the public and human rights groups, and even criticism from some senior figures within Iran’s clerical establishment who questioned the religious validity of the death sentences.
Leily Nikounazar contributed reporting.