Some protesters feel that the regime may also be using the executions as a way to shore up its own supporters and reduce the risk of dissent within its ranks by showing it will crack down on alleged crimes against members of the security forces and pro-government militias. .
“It’s like they want to tell their security that, ‘Look, we’re not going to let people hurt you in any way,’” Saeed said.
“Some members of the Basij and the security forces have been killed and the regime thinks it is their duty to take revenge,” said Yan, a Tehran resident, an aspiring filmmaker also in his 30s. who also participated in the demonstrations. “Blood for blood, an eye for an eye, this is the mentality of the regime,” she added. “This means that for every one of their security forces that dies, they will be hanging a protester by the neck in retaliation.”
The executions have been greeted with a variety of emotions among Iranians at home and abroad. “My feeling is shock, resignation and increased determination,” Ansari said.
Saeed says he was so devastated when he found out about the first execution last week that he lay in bed all morning unable to move. “I woke up in the morning and I saw the news,” he said. “I sat still and silent on my bed for two hours, turned off my phone, and went back to sleep out of pure sadness.”
That sentiment soon turned to anger, he said, along with a renewed bravery at the prospect of being jailed by the regime, now that some had lost their lives.
“I have to admit that I was afraid of being jailed before these executions, but now I am thinking that I could tolerate it,” he said. “There is no longer any gray zone” between the protesters and the authorities, he added. “Either you are with the people on the side of justice or against them on the side of cruelty.”
Many people are terrified of executions, but Saeed noted that with fear comes unpredictability, which he says is a potential danger to the regime. “Angry and scared is much more dangerous than just angry, and that’s how people feel,” he added. “When you’re scared and angry, you do unexpected things.”
The unrest broke out in mid-September when a Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, died in a hospital three days after being arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code. A three-day national strike earlier this month brought daily life to a halt in this nation of 85 million, and there has been a push on social media for another strike this week.
In all, at least 475 people have been killed and another 18,000 arrested, according to the Washington-based watchdog group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Iran’s Interior Ministry said earlier this month the death toll was 200, including the security forces who were killed.
“The Iranian authorities remain steadfast in continuing their wave of killings, both on the streets and through mock trials,” Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement after the Shekari’s execution. “The clear goal is to instill fear among the public in a desperate attempt to cling to power and put an end to the popular uprising.”
Amnesty has counted 12 people who it says face the death penalty in connection with the protests, and five others who are facing trial or have been charged with capital offences. Rahnavard was sixth.
But even if the judicial killings continue, many of those involved in the uprising say they will not be intimidated.
“Revolutions have consequences and we must pay the price for freedom,” Yan said. “Unfortunately, that sometimes means losing lives.”
The Associated Press contributed.