Hanging iStock

Iran has carried out a mass execution of 12 inmates at a prison in its southeast, an NGO said on Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency. as concern grows over the rising number of executions in the Islamic republic.

The 11 men and one woman -- convicted either on drugs-related or murder charges -- were hanged on Monday morning in the main prison of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchestan province close to the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said.

They were all members of the Baluch ethnic minority who mainly adhere to the Sunni strain of Islam rather than the Shiism that is dominant in Iran, it added.

Of the 12, six were sentenced to death for drug-related charges and six were sentenced for murder. None of the executions had been reported by domestic media or confirmed by officials in Iran, it said.

The woman executed -- identified only by her surname Gargij -- was sentenced for the murder of her husband and arrested in 2019, 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.

According to IHR, at least 333 people were executed in Iran in 2021, a 25-percent increase compared to 2020.

Amnesty International, in its annual report on use of the death penalty worldwide, said executions in 2021 rose by 28 percent in Iran compared to the previous year to 314 but warned that the figure was likely an underestimate.

In addition to executions of minorities, Iran regularly executes people it accuses of espionage.