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Iran: A Crime on YouTube, an Execution in Public

Two young men, Alireza Mafiha and Mohammad Ali Sarvari, were executed by hanging in Tehran, Iran in the early hours of January 20, 2013 before the eyes of public spectators [warning: graphic photos] who had gathered to watch, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Crime and YouTube

The hunt for the alleged muggers was given top priority after security camera footage was posted on YouTube towards the end of 2012 showing four youths on two motorbikes who ambushed a pedestrian, threatening him with a knife and taking his belongings.

Four men were soon arrested and tried. Mafiha and Sarvari were sentenced to death, and the other two were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, five years in exile, and 74 lashes.

Over a fistful of dollars

One of the powerful images (above) from Sunday's execution is from ISNA and shows one of the young men before his execution apparently resting his head on the shoulder of his executioner, while the hooded man appears to be consoling him with a hand on the shoulder.

Amirhadi from Tehran writes about this photo in his blog [fa]:

Look at this photo, it is as if the accused has laid his head on the shoulder of the very agent who is to carry out the [death] sentence. Do you see fear in his eyes? I find this image rare. Because of an agent who allows the head of an accused to rest on his shoulder. Because of an accused who is to die in a few moments finds no shelter, other than the shoulder of his executioner.

[...]

These kids, yes “kids” since the oldest was 24 and the youngest only 20. They were not professional thieves and muggers. Had they been, they wouldn't have mugged for a petty 70 or 30 thousand Tomans. [approximately 20 and 10 dollars].

They worked too. Their bios show that they did courier jobs and…. but when the value of the national money depreciates on a daily basis. When a clerk's salary does not even suffice to feed three people with only yoghurt and bread. In a society where there is no hope for tomorrow. What should they do?

The collage compares the two alleged muggers executed on Sunday with the fugitive former managing director of the Iranian National Bank: “One stole 20 dollars and ended up in the gallows, in his early 20s. The other stole 2.6 BILLION dollars and is enjoying his time in the Caribbean and Canada.”

Reposting the same photograph next to a portrait of the fugitive former managing director of the Islamic Republic National Bank, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, who is suspected of embezzling, an Iranian dissident page titled “Seeking Compensation from Those Who Organised the 1979 Revolution” writes [fa]:

Kill us. Kill the youth who have no money to buy their daily bread. This reminded me of the Le Miserables novel where a person is executed for having stolen a loaf of bread while they have robbed us of billions of dollars and laugh in our faces. Rest assured this is fire under the ashes and these poor and unemployed youths who have been persecuted and discriminated against all their lives will one day bring you down.

Spectator sport

Reacting to the news, Dara writes in his blog called [fa] ‘Words from the depth of my heart‘:

We must be terrified of a day when people go to watch executions for fun instead of going to cinemas, parks and mountains… the government executes people in public to make everybody scared, but the important thing is the people's reaction. They welcome such an execution. A dying person becomes an entertainment.

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