150 Iranian political and civil rights activists issued a statement on Thursday protesting the execution of the young athlete Navid Afakari in an Iranian prison, with the signees drawing parallels between his hanging and the brutal massacre of protesters during the November 2019 uprising against Iran's clergy-dominated establishment.
The activists issued the letter following the recent execution of Afkari, a 27-year-old national wrestling champion, in Shiraz. Iranian officials had sentenced Afkari to two death sentences after he was charged with participating in Shiraz's August 2018 protests and allegedly killing a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Afkari was hastily hanged in an early morning incident on September 12, as his family and lawyers tried to negotiate a pardon with the security guard's relatives. Despite a legal requirement, Afkari's family and attorneys were not present when he was hanged in Shiraz's notorious Adelabad prison.
Issuing two death sentences for the young wrestler indicated that the establishment was resolved from the beginning to kill the young athlete, the statement reads.
The mandate to bring Afkari to a swift and brutal death "came from the same headquarters that had ordered the killing of hundreds of protesters in November 2019," the statement says. "The order was carried out with the same purpose as the previous massacre: to intimidate the people and suppress the protesters."
In November 2019, an overnight three-fold increase in gasoline prices triggered an unprecedented uprising against the Iranian establishment, with protests soon spreading to more than 100 cities and 29 out of 31 provinces of Iran.
As ordered by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, swarms of police forces in riot gear, as well as Special Unit soldiers, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) members, and plainclothesmen, all stormed into the rallies, directly opening fire into the crowds and killing and wounding thousands, including at least 23 children.
The activists blamed Afkari's death on Khamenei's office and the Iranian judiciary, calling the parties "responsible" for such a "cruel crime."
"Disregarding the public will, the Supreme Leader's office and the criminal head of the Judiciary hastily, and even without legal and humane formalities, executed the young wrestler and plasterer," they wrote, adding that the "establishment's haste in committing such a crime" shows the "depth of the regime's fear of the poor and oppressed people's uprising."
According to the statement, the Iranian leaders responsible for Afkari's death are so hated that another revolt may be on the horizon.