January 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Judiciary Poised to Gouge Out Eye of Protestor as Executions Surge

January 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Judiciary Poised to Gouge Out Eye of Protestor as Executions Surge

Latest Developments

A jailed Iranian has begun a hunger strike to protest Tehran’s plan to gouge out his left eye as a punishment for allegedly blinding a policeman during a 2017 protest. Iran’s judiciary had sentenced the defendant, Mehdi Mousavian, in 2019 to qisas, or retribution-in-kind, for throwing a stone at the policeman’s eye, but Mousavian denies the allegation. The policeman initially demanded 14 billion tomans — equivalent to about $280,000 — from Mousavian’s family as punishment. But the family could not afford the hefty ransom, and the policeman was entitled by law to demand a literal “eye for an eye.”

“Blinding as a form of punishment is a medieval practice that the Islamic Republic uses to intimidate society,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based nonprofit Iran Human Rights (IHR), in a January 26 statement. “The United Nations should not tolerate blinding as a form of punishment by any of its member states in 2024. We want the international community and all countries with diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic to convey this message that implementing such a punishment will have serious consequences for the Islamic Republic.”

Expert Analysis

“The Iranian people continue to protest against the illegal occupation of Iran by the Islamic Republic. The regime continues its brutal repression. The Biden administration, for too long, has abandoned the Iranian people. It’s time for Congress to demand maximum support for the Iranian people who remain the best chance for a free, democratic, and prosperous Iran and a peaceful Middle East.” —Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Data show that less pressure by the United States on Tehran, under the Biden administration, has been correlated with the higher number of executions and other human rights violations by the Islamist regime in Iran. The United States should revive maximum pressure on the regime and initiate a campaign of maximum support for the Iranian people. Such a policy serves vital U.S. national interests and empowers the Iranian people to fight back against their oppressors more effectively.” —Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

Surge in Executions

Mousavian’s planned punishment comes as executions in Iran surge. In 2024 to date, Tehran has already executed 61 people, according to IHR. In 2023, the clerical regime executed at least 834 people, said United Nations experts on January 23. By contrast, Tehran executed 582 people in 2022 and 331 in 2021, IHR said. The figures do not include the hundreds of protestors killed by Iranian security forces since nationwide demonstrations began in September 2022. Iran has consistently ranked only behind China — which does not disclose how many people it executes — in the number of total executions it conducts each year.

Protests Continue

Despite the rise in executions and draconian punishments, Iranian citizens continue to risk their lives by protesting the regime. According to FDD’s “Mapping the Protests in Iran” tracker, at least 161 protests have occurred in January 2024 alone. In December 2023, at least 207 protests unfolded. The month before, Iranians conducted at least 260 protests. These developments suggest that Tehran has yet to stifle widespread opposition not only to its policies but also to its legitimacy.

Mapping Protests in Iran,” by Mark Dubowitz

Executions in Iran Surge Over Past Year,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Publicly Hangs Two Afghan Prisoners,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Surpasses 500 Executions in 2022,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Politics and Economy