BY AMIR TAHERI
Monday, August 6, 2007
It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of “Allah Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: “Alhamd li-Allah” (Praise be to Allah).
The scene was Wednesday in Mashad, Iran’s second most populous city, where a crackdown against “anti-Islam hooligans” has been under way for weeks.
The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.
The latest wave of executions is the biggest Iran has suffered in the same time span since 1984, when thousands of opposition prisoners were shot on orders from Ayatollah Khomeini.