Iran has hanged at least 354 people in the first six months of 2023, a rights group said Monday, adding that the pace of executions was much higher than in 2022, AFP reports.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights said the 354 people figure for the first six months up to June 30 was up 36 percent on the same period in 2022, when 261 people were executed.

Stressing concerns that non-Persian ethnic groups are disproportionately affected by executions in Iran, it said 20 percent of all executions were of members of the Sunni Baluch minority.

The group added that 206 people were executed for drug-related charges, a 126 percent rise compared to the same period last year.

Six women were among those executed in the period while two men were publicly hanged, it added.

Rights groups have accused Tehran of increasing the use of the death penalty to spread fear across society in the wake of the protests that erupted last September following the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating 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.

In April, rights groups said that Iran hanged 75 percent more people in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Iran is the world's second biggest executioner after China for which no data is available, according to Amnesty International.