August 2, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4864

Criticism In Iran Over Children Attending Public Executions

August 2, 2012
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 4864

Iran has the second-highest annual rate of executions in the world, after China.[1] According to the regime, those executed are criminals convicted of felonies such as murder, rape and drug trafficking; human rights activists say that some are regime opponents.[2]

Moderate conservative circles in Iran recently criticized the Iranian public's enthusiasm for attending public hangings, particularly the practice of bringing children to watch them. Jafar Mohammadi, editor of the moderate conservative website Asr-e Iran, wrote in an article that the public's appetite for this activity was a sign of social sickness. He also warned that allowing children to watch executions could cause them irreparable damage, and urged the authorities to intervene to keep them away.

An article on another moderate conservative website, Asr-e Emrooz, likewise warned of the psychological damage that could be caused to children, and called on the regime to outlaw the practice.

The deputy head of the judicial system, Ebrahim Raisi, rejected the criticism, saying: "[The punishment of] public execution is imposed by a judge, who weighs all the aspects, [including] the social climate, before imposing it. According to the police and the intelligence ministry, the firmness of the judicial branch in [combating] social and economic corruption strengthens security in [our] society."[3]

Recently, Bushehr governor Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh recently called on the regime to televise hangings so as to "teach a lesson to those who disrupt the public order."[4]

The following are the excerpts from the two articles:

Editor of Asr-e Iran: A Healthy Society Does Not Hunger To Watch Executions

In his article, Jafar Mohammadi wrote: "This morning, four rapists were executed in Tehran... There is no doubt that these people must be punished... But there are some points that must not be ignored. First, here is Mehr's report on the execution:

"'It's four AM, and pouring with rain. [Nevertheless], the streets leading to the place of execution are packed with police cars and with local people who have come to watch the sentence being carried out. The closer we get, the more crowded it is, with youngsters and teenagers forming the majority of spectators.'

"'I asked one of the locals if he knew who was being executed that day, and he replied that the previous day, large posters had gone up announcing the [upcoming] execution of four rapists and criminals, and that since then the rumor had spread through the neighborhood like wildfire and had also been conveyed via text messages to others. He added: "My house is right across from the place of execution, and I can report that over 100 people had already gathered there at 10:00 PM last night. As you can see, it is now 4:00 AM, and we have about 3,000 people here."'

Image source:, March 4, 2012

"Now we come to the question that sociologists must address out of concern [for society]: Why does the public hunger to watch executions? This is not the first time [we have seen] the public, in Tehran and other cities, displaying such enthusiasm for execution ceremonies, as if money were being distributed at these [events]. Is the sight of some criminals dying so appealing that people [are willing to] wait from midnight until dawn, even in the rain, and to forgo sleep, just to see them executed, and also film [the event]? Many people even climb onto walls and utility poles so they don't miss a single moment.

Image source: Asr-e Iran (Iran), June 20, 2012

"An examination of the reasons that cause this hunger, along with the increase of violence in society, can explain [this phenomenon]. It makes no sense for a healthy society to exhibit such an intense hunger to watch executions... A father takes his five-year-old daughter or young son, and even buys them ice cream on the way, and then forces them to watch the cruel moments of execution – what sort of message is he giving them?

Image source: Asr-e Iran (Iran), June 20, 2012

"[Even] if public executions have some benefit, families must be warned about the psychological impact of allowing children and teenagers to watch them. If parents take their children [to executions] out of stupidity, or because they do not know their role [as parents], the police should turn them away from the place of execution – because young children who have committed no crime should not have to witness the scene of death and suffer their whole lives because they saw this unforgettable [sight]. Protecting Iran's children is more important than executing criminals."[5]

Asr-e Emrooz: The Regime Must Outlaw The Presence Of Children At Executions

The Asr-e Emrooz article likewise discussed the harmful effects of bringing children to executions: "Recently, there have been many reports in the Iranian media about the immoral intentions of those who develop computer games and spread violence among children. These games are marketed as part of [a plot] with destructive Zionist goals... However, in the past few years, Iran has witnessed [the phenomenon] of legal public executions, and here a very important point must be made.

"Photos of the executions published by news agencies and on news websites show that in addition to the security officers and [adult] spectators, children are [also] present; they stand unsupervised and observe the event without anyone preventing this.

Image source: Asr-e Emrooz (Iran), June 7, 2012

Image source: Asr-e Emrooz (Iran), June 7, 2012

"There is no doubt that just like violent computer games and horror films, watching the 'live' execution of criminals can have a destructive effect on children and encourage acts of violence on their part. If there is a law against children attending these ceremonies, the relevant officials in charge must tighten supervision and prevent them from [attending them]. If there is no such law, this article will hopefully cause families to exercise more caution, and prompt the regime to pass a new law addressing this problem."[6]

Child pulling the chair from under a convicted murderer at a public hanging.
Image source:, March 4, 2012


[1] According to Iranian human rights activists, in 2011 Iran carried out at least 676 executions. Of these, 65 were carried out in public, and another 416 were announced by the Iranian authorities.. See:

[3] Mehr (Iran), June 26, 2012.

[4] Fars (Iran), June 23, 2012.

[5] Asr-e Iran (Iran), June 20, 2012.

[6] Asr-e Emrooz (Iran), June 7, 2012.

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