Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights recently said: “The problem lies in that the west does not understand that Ghesas code [retribution] is different from execution. A verdict of Ghesas belongs to the aggrieved who can either pardon the condemned or impose the sentence”.

Mohammad Javad Larijani said: “We are not embarrassed by any of our Islamic codes and stand behind them”.

Aside from the bitter irony of the secretary-general of the Iranian regime’s “Human Rights” Council defending rights violations, Larijani merely does what all regimes that kill do – provide legitimacy for it.

Governments that still execute today (including the USA and China), or have executed until relatively recently have always professed to have done so on behalf of and for the protection of society. What Islamic codes do is further “personalise” this by professing to “thoughtfully” murder human beings on behalf of the aggrieved.

Irrespective of the justifications, though, the death penalty and Ghesas are instruments of power aimed at controlling and suppressing society, re-establishing authority after every heinous act and constantly re-creating a climate of fear. By placing the responsibility of the execution on the aggrieved, the regime wants to normalise its brutality and evade accountability. But this is not possible. After all the aggrieved have not written the Islamic codes of [in]justice, nor have they tortured the accused, condemned them in unfair trials or set up the gallows in public squares and hired executioners to do the dirty deed… This is all the regime’s doing; it has nothing to do with murder and everything to do with putting people in their place.

As Mansoor Hekmat says: “[Capital punishment] has its own history. It is the state’s rights and powers over citizens today as a continuation of the state’s rights and powers in the past. When Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar blinds and kills residents of an entire town, he is not objecting to a specific crime. When a horse thief in America is hanged or a soldier who has escaped military service is executed, they are not registering a grievance in a judicial sense, but rather they are putting people in their places and forcing them to submit to rules and regulations. They are terrorising people. They are governing. In today’s world, capital punishment is not just a so-called punishment for murder, it is also a punishment for unauthorised sex, hoarding, believing in common ownership, forming opposition parties, mocking of god and prophets, homosexuality, etc. From the beginning of state rule, the killing of inhabitants has always been and is a pillar of forcing people into submission. The history of capital punishment is not found in judicial debates about crime and punishment, but rather in the history of class rule and the state”.

Executions are a pillar of the Islamic regime of Iran. It and only it is wholly responsible for the innumerable dead. Despite Iran being the execution capital of the world, though, Larijani’s efforts at legitimisation allude to another crucial fact that must never be forgotten. You only need to legitimise barbarity when there is resistance. The rising and ever-increasing battle against executions in Iran in particular is testament to the refusal of a people to submit. It is these very people who will bring an end to executions and the regime and drag Iran back into the 21st century.

Until then, the struggle continues.



  1. I don’t think Mansoor Hekmat is particularly strengthening your case here. His argument against capital punishment is childish and anarchistic.

    The logic of his argument against capital punishment renders imprisonment into kidnapping and judicial fines into armed robbery — indeed, every action of a state that makes it a state becomes a crime.

    This is wholly unnecessary. One can make arguments against actions and policies of states without making an argument against the entire concept of states.

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