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1. Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty


The Islamic Penal Code of Iran divides punishment into four classes, according to the types of crimes:

  1. Hudood - punishments whose nature and amount have been prescribed by the Shari'ah.
  2. Qisas - punishment to which an offender is sentenced, and which is equivalent to his offense.
  3. Diyat - monetary compensation prescribed for an offence by the Shari'ah.
  4. Ta'zeerat - chastisement (ta'deeb) or punishment ('Uqoobat) whose nature and amount has not been prescribed by the Shari'ah, and it has been left to the discretion of the judge, such as imprisonment, fine, or lashes which are more lenient than the amount of Hadd


Iranian law is inherently biased and more brutal towards women.

In certain cases, adultery is considered a capital offence. Execution is by stoning.

The Islamic Penal Code stipulates that women are to be buried in the ground up to breast level and the stones must not be large enough to kill quickly.

In other cases, adultery is punishable through humiliation by stoning. However, this can also result in death.

According to the Iranian law, adultery can be proven in court with the testimonies of four men, or three men and two women.


If an act of lesbianism is repeated four times, the result is the death sentence.

For the first three 'offences', lesbianism (Mosaheqeh) is punishable by lashing.


Moharebeh has roots in the Qur'an, but it is by no means religious. Moharebeh (Mohareb, Muharebeh) has been translated and described as:

  • Heresy,
  • Armed war against the state,
  • Armed war against God,
  • working to undermine the Islamic system,
  • Cooperating with foreign agents or entities.


The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to use this charge to purge women's rights activists, political dissidents, GLBT, ethnic and religious minorities. Moharebeh is a capital offence. It often comes with additional charges of association with an opposition or separatist group; propaganda against the state; attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic; and conspiracy to undermine the government.


Under the Iranian Penal Code murder is punishable by qesas-e nafs, the legal right of the victim's famiy to seek the death penalty.

Murder is treated as a private dispute and the state’s role is to facilitate the resolution of the dispute through the judicial process. Under the Iranian penal code, murder is punishable either by qesas [retribution in kind] or by monetary compensation.

In cases of premeditated murder, the family of the victim has the right to ask for their relative's killer to be put to death. The family can also choose to forgive the culprit and accept payment of diyeh (blood money) instead.

Qesas (retaliation) is not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees everyone the right to seek pardon or commutation of a sentence. It further stipulates that a pardon may be granted in all cases, including those where a death sentence has been imposed.

The Islamic Penal Code does not permit anyone to seek pardon or amnesty where qesas has been imposed, though it considers the death penalty to be imposed by the state in these cases.

This and other instances where prisoners are not granted the right to seek pardon are a direct violation of the ICCPR.

Drug trafficking

Drug trafficking is punishable by death, usually hanging.

As part of an effort to combat the influx of opium and other drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran has made the trafficking of narcotics between borders and the cultivation of certain plants punishable by death in most cases.

International rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been hanged annually. And in some cases, the lawyers and family members are not informed of the executions either shortly before or after they have been carried out.

The Revolutionary Courts have jurisdiction over all narcotics cases in Iran. A UK Home Office report in 2006 states that these trials are not made public and many of the allege perpetrators are not given legal representations and a fair hearing. The UN has called for these courts to be suspended as they do not conform to international standards. The same report also estimates that around 5,000 women are imprisoned for drug offences since 2002.

Amnesty International considers Iran ‘abolitionist’ in its commitment to drug-related executions.

Iran executed 96 people for drug offenses in 2008 and 172 people in 2009. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that capital punishment for these offenses does not comply with the limitations in Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which forbids execution for all but the “most serious crimes.”

Discrimination against Ethnic Minorities

The women of Iran face continuing discrimination in law and practice and those campaigning for women's rights are targeted for state repression.

Women belonging to religious and ethnic minorities in Iran are especially subjected to discrimination and persecution, especially within the Kurdistan community. Much of the violence against Kurdish women is attributed to low education rates. Poor literacy rates among Kurdish girls and women are among the lowest in the country.

A 2003 study found that self-immolation attempts amongst Kurdish women are high. Cases have risen between 1998-2003 and that 55% of the attempts were by married people. Of the 98 cases, 75 of which were women and 59 listed their occupation as ‘housewife.’ Other studies show that majority of patients recovering in burn centers and hospitals are women and girls and a large percentage of them are below 20 years old or in their mid-thirties.

In 2005 the UN Special Rapporteur linked the astoundingly high number of suicides by women to a lack of legal protection and judicial recourse for domestic violence, as well as other factors caused by gender inequality.

The women in the Baha’i community - the largest religious minority in Iran - also face discrimination by the state. Gender equality and the strength of women is a central tenet of the Baha’i faith. However, the Iranian government does not grant the same equality to Baha’i women. The faith is deemed a cult. The Iranian constitution does not recognize it as an accepted religion or sect. Baha’i are falsely accused of being spies for foreign governments, engaging in immoral behavior, or otherwise working to overthrow the Iranian government.

And due this religious mistrust, the Iranian government is consistent in its persecution of Baha’i women. They are forced to either worship clandestinely or face harassment, intimidation, denial of education, imprisonment, torture, and even execution. They are also denied economic and education opportunities.

More seriously, the Iranian judiciary has declared that no one will be prosecuted for crimes against the Baha’i community and the women have no legal recourse in response to extrajudicial executions. The treatment of Baha’i women has been deemed “ideological genocide,” of which the Islamic Republic of Iran has institutionally created and “conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction,”. This is in accordance with the UN definition of genocide.

The Iranian governments portraits Baha`iism as a political movement, justifying executions on the grounds of political crimes.

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