Iran protests
Iran protestsiStock

Iran hanged 75 percent more people in 2022 than the previous year, two rights groups said on Thursday, warning that the Iranian "killing machine" risked putting even more people to death this year after protests rocked the country, AFP reports.

The figure of at least 582 executions was the highest for Iran since 2015 and well above the figure of 333 for 2021, the report by Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) said.

Last year was marked by the eruption of nationwide protests sparked by the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd who had been arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress rules for women.

The government crackdown on the demonstrations resulted on hundreds of people being killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands arrested.

Four men have already been executed over their involvement in the protests and death sentences have been handed down to others.

IHR director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam said, according to AFP, that while the international reaction was keeping protest-related executions in check, Iran was pressing ahead with executions on other charges to deter people from protesting.

"We fear the number of executions will dramatically increase in 2023 if the international community does not react more," he said.

"Every execution in Iran is political, regardless of the charges," he added, describing those executed on drug or murder charges as the "low cost victims" of Iran's "killing machine".

He said that with over 150 executions in the first three months of this year alone, the overall total for 2023 risked being the highest in some two decades, exceeding even 2015 when, according to IHR, 972 people were put to death in Iran.

The report said that after the four men were executed on protest-related charges, 100 more protesters risk execution after being sentenced to death or charged with capital offences.

It expressed alarm over a sharp rise in the number of drug-related executions after the protests erupted.

A fall in the number of drug-related executions -- driven by 2017 amendments to the anti-narcotics law -- had been behind a drop in the overall number of executions in Iran up to 2021.

More than half of those executed after the start of the protests, and 44 percent of the 582 executions recorded in 2022, were on drug-related charges.

This was more than double the number in 2021, and 10 times higher than the number of drug-related executions in 2020, it said.

There has long been a concern over the number of executions in Iran, which activists say disproportionately target members of the country’s ethnic and religious minorities, notably Kurds in the northwest, Arabs in the southwest and Baluch in the southeast.