For young Iranians, crimes of any kind can result in harsh punishments, including the death penalty. A recent example was the case of Alireza Tajiki, which received international attention. He was arrested at the age of 15 and sentenced to death at the age of 16. Reports have surfaced that Tajiki was tortured to obtain a confession and that he did not receive a fair trial. His court proceedings violated acceptable international standards of a fair trial or due process.
Additionally, sentencing a child to death is a violation of international laws. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran expressed outrage at the killing of Tajiki. Human rights experts from the United Nations attempted repeatedly to intervene on his behalf.
“I am distressed in the extreme to learn that this execution has gone ahead, despite twice being postponed on previous scheduled dates,” said Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur. “I’m deeply concerned that the court relied on the use of forced confessions, which were reportedly extracted using torture, including beatings, floggings, and suspension by the arms and feet. There has been no investigation into these torture claims.”
Jahangir also noted that Tajiki did not have adequate legal representation, as he was denied access to a lawyer during the investigation and was confined for 15 days in solitary confinement without access to his family.
“This treatment would be unacceptable for an adult, but for a child suspect to have been convicted after such grave rights abuses, and then to be executed despite all interventions, is truly shocking,” said Jahangir.
Tajiki had previously had the death sentence quashed in 2014 by the Iranian Supreme Court, the Provincial Criminal Court of Fars, ruled he was mentally mature enough to understand the crime for which he would be executed. Their verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
“I note that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which commit the country to protecting and respecting children’s right to life,” the Special Rapporteur noted. “These Conventions also unequivocally forbid the passing and carrying out of the death penalty on anyone below 18 years of age.”
The human rights expert recalled that Iran has already executed three other juvenile offenders since January and at least 86 are known to be on death row, although the exact figure may be higher. Most of these were tried and sentenced as children, then executed once they had passed 18.
“The Government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally stop sentencing children to death,” said Ms. Jahangir. “It must also commute all existing death sentences imposed on children, in line with its international commitments.”
This example is just one that points to the larger issue of how Iran’s regime is treating the youth of its country.
In Iran, however, the atmosphere of growth and advancement for the younger generations have been eliminated by the Iranian regime’s suppression of their freedom of speech and the press, closure of universities, sending young people to war, and plundering the public’s wealth. Thus, Iranian youths have found no opportunity for contributing to global peace.
One of the biggest problems facing many young Iranians is the lack of employment, let alone meaningful employment that would allow them to contribute to society, both locally and globally. It is estimated that 15 million people have no jobs, with less than 50% of university graduates being able to find jobs. Those who are employed are working in menial jobs, often not in the field that they studied.
Yet, there seem to be no plans by the regime to address the situation of the young in Iran. As drug use among young people continues to soar, the regime in Iran and specifically its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are actively involved in drug trade and distribution as they find this as one of the most effective ways to quell and paralyze the country’s disgruntled and rebellious youth, posing an existential threat.
These young people are either fleeing the country or protesting against the mullahs, demanding their rights despite the harsh consequences.
The International Youth Day is an appropriate opportunity to call on the international community to support their demands and help them reach the peaceful society they deserve. For those who enjoy these rights, it is time to stand in solidarity with the youth of Iran whose future is being hijacked by an oppressive regime.