Is Iran leaning towards changing its executions policy?

As millions of Iranians unprecedentedly took to social media platforms demanding to stop executions in the country, Iran may see a change to its execution policies sooner than one might expect.

Iran hanging 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Iran hanging 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Millions of Iranians across the globe took to social media on Tuesday to call for the halt of executions, in an online campaign remarkable in its scope and received support, according to CNN. 
The campaign came as the result to an announcement by a court earlier in the day, stating that it would uphold the death sentences of three young men who joined nationwide protests back in November, as people took to the street to protest against the rising gasoline prices and general frustration from the economic situation in the country. According to human rights organizations, hundreds of protesters were killed and at least 7,000 were arrested by security forces during the protests.  
Amirhossein Moradi, 25, Saeed Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 27, who according to their lawyers were forced to confess under “aberrant conditions,” were charged with “participation in vandalism and arson with the intent to confront and engage in war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The lawyers of the three condemned men appealed the charges, an appeal that the judiciary rejected, while announcing that it would uphold the charges on Tuesday. That announcement sparked a response unusual in its scope, as Iranians from all parts of Iranian society, from teachers and doctors to designers and directors, took to social media with a clear message directed at the regime: Stop the executions.  
With the government taking a harsh stance on street protests, Iranians have been seeking new ways to be heard, according to human rights activists. These collective sentiments bottled up and eventually burst in a rare moment of solidarity, bringing Iranians with diverse political views together around a single issue. 
Popular memes and hashtags circulating social media included a meme that read “I’m next, you’re next, we’re next” and the hashtag #DontExecute in Persian, which was the most tweeted hashtag in Iran by midday Tuesday, according to Twitter. US President Donald Trump also added the hashtag to one of his tweets, as the hashtag trended globally, reaching millions of people. 
The online campaign also generated tens of thousands of posts calling to end execution on other platforms popular in Iran, like Instagram and Telegram.
“I’ve never seen a hashtag with this level of participation from Iranians everywhere,” said Amir Rashidi, a digital researcher with a focus on internet security. "Past issues, including political prisoners and Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, had generated considerable social media engagement, but not like what was seen on Tuesday," he added. 
The Iranian government routinely disrupts internet and mobile services when faced with demonstrations or online campaigns protesting government policies, often shutting off access altogether, but the significant disruptions in Internet connectivity reported on Tuesday evening in Iran did not prevent the campaign from making its mark, with a broad range of prominent Iranian figures joining the campaign and sharing sentences like “Every human life is precious" with their hundreds of thousands and often millions of followers.
Said figures included, for example, Mohsen Chavoshi, a pop singer; Azar Mahisefat, a food blogger; Taraneh Alidousti, an actress; Asghar Farhadi, a filmmaker who has won two Oscars and Hossein Mahini, a player for Iran’s national soccer team. 
Politicians eventually took notice. Former Vice President Mohamad Ali Abtahi tweeted a warning to government, saying that it shouldn't be too stubborn in light of such strong public opinion. 
Roughly 24 hours after the online campaign ended, the judiciary system in Iran announced that it would examine the request to recosnider the verdict against the three men who currently face execution. It also said that it would allow their lawyers to see the official documnts presented to the judges against them, as well as the evidence. 
Iran executed 251 people in 2019. According to Amnesty International, the only country with a higher number of executions per year is China.