The massive anti-hijab uprising in Iran, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody mid-September, continues despite the crackdown by security forces. At least 326 protesters, including 43 children and 25 women, have been killed in a violent crackdown by security forces, according to Iran Human Rights.The world leaders have also called out the “oppressive” Iranian regime over its high handed actions on those taking part in the anti-hijab protest.
In this background, an alleged order by the Iranian govt, calling for the execution of 15,000 people over the protests triggered outrage on social media.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau was among those who condemned the alleged execution call by the Iranian regime, tweeting, “Canada denounces the Iranian regime’s barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protestors. These brave Iranians were fighting for their human rights – and we continue to stand united in support of them, and united against the regime’s heinous actions.” The tweet has since been deleted, however an archived version of the same can be seen here.
Several other Twitter and Facebook users also raged over the “brutal” Iranian government for allegedly sentencing thousands of protesters to death.
News websites also reported on the alleged execution order in Iran. News major Mirror also published an article titled “Iran may execute 15,000 jailed anti-hijab protesters to teach them ‘hard lesson’.” Newschecker found that while there have been calls for harsh punishment, there has been no such announcement or order yet.
A keyword search for “Iran,” “15,000 execution” & “protestors” on Google did not yield any credible news report on the alleged mass execution order issued against anti-hijab demonstrators in the middle eastern country. On the contrary, it threw up several reports from the past 24 hours calling out the false claims on mass executions in Iran.
One such report by NBC News, dated November 16, 2022, stated, “An image that has circulated widely on social media falsely says 15,000 protesters have been sentenced to death. That claim is not true…”
The report further elaborated how several public figures including Canadian PM Justin Trudeau amplified the false claim on social media platforms.
Several other news organisations have termed the Canadian Prime Minister’s tweet “denouncing” Iran’s “barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protestors” – which has since been deleted- as “false.”
A CNN report dated November 15, 2022, said, “ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deleted a tweet containing false information on mass death sentences in Iran, after a viral campaign on social media circulated the fake news.”
The report further quoted a Canadian government spokesperson as saying, “The post was informed by initial reporting that was incomplete and lacked necessary context. Because of that, it has since been deleted. It was based on reporting of serious concerns raised by international human rights advocates warning of possible future sentences, including the death penalty, imposed on thousands of Iranian protesters who have already been detained by the regime.”
Another article by Middle East Eye, dated November 15, 2022, titled ‘No, Iran has not sentenced 15,000 protesters to death,’ reported on widespread criticism received by the Canadian PM for his now-deleted-tweet.
Further,while looking up keywords “Iran,” “15,000,” & “executions” on Twitter to fathom the virality of the claim, we spotted a tweet by BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh, dated November 15, 2022, clarifying, “The widely shared claim that the Iranian regime has committed to executing 15,000 detained protesters is not true.” Sardarizadeh also listed out other facts and statistics on detention and trials of the anti-hijab protesters in Iran.
In a tweet dated November 15, 2022, Wall Street Journal’s Sune Engel Rasmussen, who covers Afghanistan and Iran, also said, “Iran has not sentenced 15,000 protesters to death, as a number of celebrities and political leaders are saying.”
Following this, we scanned through the websites and Twitter handles of human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Center for Human Rights in Iran and Iran Human Rights which were devoid of any information of the alleged mass execution of 15,000 anti-hijab protesters by the Iranian government.
Notably, as per the official website of Iran Human Right, the country has recorded a total of 474 executions in 2022 till the time of publishing this article.
Has Iran Handed Down Death Sentences To Any Participants Of Anti-Hijab Protests?
Yes, it has. A Google search for “Iran Death Penalty” threw multiple reports from the past two days detailing on the first death sentence by Iran over the nation-wide anti-hijab protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.
BBC reported, “A court in Iran has issued the first death sentence to a person arrested for taking part in the protests that have engulfed the country, state media say. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran found the defendant, who was not named, had set fire to a government facility and was guilty of “enmity against God”. Another court jailed five people for between five and 10 years on national security and public order charges.”
In a tweet dated November 15, 2022, Amnesty International has said that Iranian Authorities have sentenced a man to death over recent protests.
At a press briefing, dated November 15, 2022, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jeremy Laurence said, “On Sunday, an Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran found an unnamed protester guilty of moharebeh or “waging war against God” and efsad-e fel-arz or “corruption on earth” for allegedly damaging public property and sentenced the person to death. At least nine other protesters have been charged with offences that carry the death penalty.”
It should be noted that in a report dated November 15, 2022 Iran-based Radio Farda stated one more person has been sentenced to death in connection with the anti-hijab protests on Tuesday. But added that the decision can be challenged and appealed.
Dubai-based Al Arabiya also stated, “Iran’s judiciary sentenced a second protester to death on Tuesday, two days after it issued its first death sentence in connection with anti-regime protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody…It said the verdict was preliminary and could be appealed.”
However, we did not come across any other international news organisation who have reported on the death sentence to a second anti-hijab protest.
Even if these reports are to be believed, at most two people (one of which is open for further appeal) have been sentenced to death by Iranian regime for their participation in anti-hijab protests so far, and not 15,000 as widely claimed.
How Did The Misinformation Originate?
Newschecker continued our investigation in an attempt to ascertain the origin of the viral claim that 15,000 anti-hijab protesters have been sentenced to death in Iran. We started by establishing the number of protesters that have been arrested in Iran so far, and found a tweet by Human Rights Activists News Agency, dated November 14, 2022, which stated that 15,820 individuals have been arrested for agitation.
Multiple other news organisations also stated that over 15,000 people have been arrested since the beginning of protests in Iran.This explains the 15,000 statistic mentioned in the viral claim.
But how did the arrest of 15,000 end up being shared as ordered “execution”? We found that several Twitter and Facebook users shared a report by Newsweek, while making claims of “mass executions” in Iran.
Taking a clue, we conducted a keyword search for “Newsweek, “ “Iran,” & “15,000” on Google which led us to an article by the news major, dated November 10, 2022, titled ‘Iran Protesters Refuse to Back Down as First Execution Sentence Handed Down.’
Notably the URL of the article read, “iran-protesters-refuse-back-down-15000-face-execution-”
Further, we scrolled through the end of the article and found an end note saying, “Correction 11/15/22, 12:05 p.m. ET: This article and headline were updated to remove the reference to the Iranian Parliament voting for death sentences. A majority of the parliament supported a letter to the judiciary calling for harsh punishments of protesters, which could include the death penalty.”
We dug out an archived version of the same article and found the headline to be “Iran Protesters Refuse to Back Down as 15,000 Face Execution.” It is likely that this headline by Newsweek led to the massive circulation of this misinformation.
Viral claim that the Iranian regime has ordered a mass execution of 15,000 people involved in the ongoing anti-hijab protests is false.
Report By NBC News, Dated November 16, 2022
Report By CNN, Dated November 15, 2022
Tweet By Shayan Sardarizadeh, Dated November 15, 2022
Tweet By Sune Engel Rasmussen, Dated November 15, 2022
Press Briefing By UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dated November 15, 2022
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