What We All Need to Know About the Executions in Iran

"This is androcide."

Just three days ago, Iranian news agencies confirmed the execution of another man. As far as reliable sources are able to confirm, he appears to be the 33rd person executed by the state in 2023.

As the regime continues to crack down on protestors who have taken to the streets after the death of Mahsa Amini, I spoke to Sherry Hakimi, policy advisor and executive director of genEquality about what’s really happening—and what, if anything, we can do.

Shannon Melero: What exactly does the international community need to know about the executions of protestors happening in Iran? 

Sherry Hakimi: The Islamic Republic has long used execution as a violent tactic for suppressing dissent. Even before the recent revolutionary movement, executions had been rising in Iran: In 2022, the number reportedly surpassed 400 before the September protests began; in 2021, there was a 20% increase in executions over 2020, mostly on drug-related offenses.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, these executions break international human rights law by violating due process and fair trial guarantees. The violations include the use of vaguely worded criminal provisions, denial of…the right to present a defense, forced confessions obtained through torture and ill-treatment, failure to respect the presumption of innocence, and denial of the right to appeal.

What are these people being charged with that is so severe their government believes it warrants death?

To be clear, these are charges made in sham judicial processes. Currently, the common charges are murder of [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers], “moharebeh” (“waging war against God”), and “mofsed-e-felarz” (“corruption on earth”).

The people who have been executed to date have been found guilty of murder on the basis of what can only be called coerced confessions. As for “moharebeh” and “mofsed-e-felarz,” these are catch-all charges that the Islamic Republic often levies on anyone who goes against them.

It’s important to recognize that from whatever angle you look at itjudicial, political, social, moralthese executions are illegitimate and must be stopped.

Is there a reason that the executions we’re aware of have been men? I think in general we understand that this revolution began with and about women, and yet that’s not who we are seeing receive these harsh punishments.

First, I have to disagree with the implication that women aren’t receiving harsh punishments. There are reportedly more than 19,000 people currently held in Iran’s jails, and there have been numerous reports of Iranian women being brutally beaten, tortured, raped, disfigured, and murdered by regime forces. Going through a sham judicial process before being brutalized or murdered does not lessen the harshness of either.

The atrocities experienced by womennamely, brutal rape and sexual assaultare violent, gruesome atrocities that will haunt and adversely affect those women for the rest of their days, leaving them psychologically, emotionally, and often physically scarred. I am in no way diminishing the severity of execution, but rather, elevating the severity of rape and sexual assault to the level at which it should be considered. Both execution and rape are unacceptable and inhumane tools of war utilized by primitive brutes. These acts have no place in today’s world.

A few points come to mind as to why we’re seeing more men face execution. First, there’s very little (if any) reason to believe a single one of the charges levied against any detained protester, but the four men who have been executed to date were all charged with murder. It’s possible that the Islamic Republic, in keeping with its patriarchal ways, thinks it is somewhat more plausible to pin false murder charges against male protesters.

Second, although Iran is one of the world’s biggest perpetrators of the death penalty (second only to China) [with] the distinction of having executed the most women to date, women generally make up a small percentage of the people who are executed each year everywhere. (According to the Death Penalty Information Center, women make up 1.2% of the people who have been executed since 1976 in the U.S.) It’s possible that we’re seeing a similar dynamic play out in Iran. All protesters and detainees face brutal and indiscriminate beating and torture. Women disproportionately experience brutal assault and rape, and men disproportionately are handed execution sentences.

Rally held in Beyazit in support of Iranian protests on J Istanbul, Türkiye. (Photo by Omer Kuscu/ dia images via Getty Images)

Third, this is indeed a female-led revolution, but the protesters are not solely women. From the beginning, we have lauded the fact that Iranian men and boys have been out there, shoulder to shoulder, protesting alongside Iranian women and girls.

Lastly, it’s likely not an accident that the four men executed to date and the dozens of others who face imminent execution include a karate champion, a bodybuilder, a doctor, a popular rapper, etc. In instances of war and conflict, both international and domestic, there is a history of aggressors targeting strong, skilled men and boys. This is androcide: when one side of a conflict sees its opposing men, fighting or otherwise, as rivals and a threat to their superiority and thus sets out to kill the rivals and neutralize the perceived threat. Frankly, only a country led by weak and insecure brutes treats its own people as the enemy and wantonly subjects them to violence and death.

Is there anything people outside of Iran can do to help? Is there something specific the American government should be doing? 

This revolutionary movement is ongoing, and the plea of Iranian protesters is for everyone outside of Iran to be their voice. To that end, one of the most helpful things that people can do is to keep posting about Iran across their social media channels. This is the rare case in which posting about an issue on social media is not “slacktivism,” but rather, proper activism. You can also join protests, speak with friends about what’s going on in Iran, and generally use every opportunity to spread awareness of the Iranian people’s fight for women, life, and freedom.

Revolutions are unpredictable, but the Islamic Republic regime is unlikely to fall quickly. To that end, both the U.S. and the international community need to have short-term and long-term plans. Short-term actions include announcing targeted sanctions on Islamic Republic leaders, appropriately reducing the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy in multilateral institutions like the UN, and increasing civic technology access; long-term actions include mobilizing needed humanitarian aid, emergency medical services, and greater international accountability mechanisms.

One thing that we really haven’t been talking aboutbut we shouldis that as Iranian protesters are being brutalized, there are lives, limbs, eyes, and more being needlessly lost due to a lack of medical care. I believe that international leaders (by “international leaders,” I mean every country in the world, as well as the United Nations, World Health Organization, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, and the like) need to think harder and more innovatively about what aid and support they are providing to Iranian protesters. Getting emergency medical services into Iran will be a challenging task, but it is still an effort that should be made, preferably as noisily as possible. I would really like to see more people calling on the various humanitarian/health organizations to step up efforts to help Iranians who are fighting for freedom.

When Dr. King Talks to Me, This is What He Says


Reflections on the words you know and the ones you don't.

January 12, 2023

I grew up in New Hampshire, which was the last state in the country to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday (kicking and screaming, at that; they held out until literally the year 2000, almost two decades after federal legislation making it a national holiday was passed).

Dr Martin Luther King Jr waves to participants in the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington. (Image via Getty Images)

At home, though, my white adoptive parents told me the words and leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. made them feel encouraged about adopting and raising a Black child. “We believed in his message about people of all races coming together,” my mom liked to say.

To which I responded, on more occasions than I’d like to recount, that first of all, it was a dream. People of all races weren’t exactly unified when King made his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963—the year Medgar Evers was murdered, the KKK killed four little Black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and tens of thousands of folks marched on Washington for their basic civil rights. 

And second of all: He was killed because of that dream.

My parents’ interpretation of King’s message felt willfully naive to me. But it is not uncommon for white liberals then or now to pride themselves on just knowing who he is while conveniently forgetting how radical his message was at the time of his assassination—particularly following his public denouncement of the Vietnam War in a speech given at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. Up to that point in 1967, most Northern liberals felt pretty OK about supporting King’s fight for civil rights on American soil. But when it came to people of all races in other parts of the world? Not so much. (King also committed the cardinal sin of pushing back against American military power, considered unpatriotic then and now.) The media went nuts. In a piece called “Dr. King’s Error,” The New York Times, a notable ally of King’s, called his speech “both wasteful and self-defeating.”  

But his words, the famous and less-famous ones, continue to exist and reverberate in the world. It’s odd to miss people you’ve never met (much less public figures or historical icons) but when I reread some of King’s words, I miss him. I miss the extraordinary power and passion of his focus and his love for us in real time. I often wonder if he could have imagined how the things he said amid great struggle and duress would decades later be cut, spliced, removed from their context, and posted on  Instagram. I wonder if he could guess that there would be a generation that knows him better for his quotes than for the fact that he helped get a law passed authorizing the federal government to treat me—and people of all races—equally. 

If we are going to keep lionizing his quotes, though, then MLK Day (now recognized nationally) is a good time to look at a few of them more closely and reconsider the ways they still hold meaning. Here are a few that resonate with me: 

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

The strident clamor of the bad people still be stridently clamoring. (Two words for you: January 6th.) And as we face some of the most vicious attacks on our rights, the “appalling silence of the good people” continues to damage and divide us as a nation. The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right  to abortion. There were over 600 mass shootings documented in 2022. Voter suppression is still rampant. And while I am heartened by those who do speak out and protest, most people, even those who consider themselves fair-minded, choose to remain silent. That astonishes me.

“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.”

Still holds. I don’t think even the most well-intentioned white people understand that America’s default settings—the standards of all that we know and have codified into the canons of literature, beauty, education, moral codes, and societal behavior—is a made-up truth devised to make non-white people, specifically Black people, feel less than across the board. 

“I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

In other words, your acts of oppression are oppressing us both.

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Will it, though? I wrestle with this line of Dr. King’s. I have committed myself to the struggle throughout my entire life and career—and it doesn’t always feel noble. A lot of times, it just feels exhausting. King was not wrong about the struggle making you a better person, but being a better person doesn’t automatically mean the world changes. That’s the throughline—for all of King’s grace, fortitude, and elegant militance, he placed his faith in a universal humanity that did not exist then and does not exist now. 

But I suspect King knew that as well. If America could have its own version of humanity, then why couldn’t he have one, too? One that doesn’t demolish the other version, but rather helps to rehabilitate it? As his daughter Bernice King has reminded us in her own tireless efforts at carrying on King’s legacy: “My father literally fought his entire life to ensure the inclusion of all people because he understood that we were intertwined and connected together in humanity.” 

I guess that’s ultimately what keeps me in the struggle: a version of humanity that is fueled by compassion and sustained by the truth of our existence. And I will chase down that version until it no longer needs to be imagined. As King himself said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”    

Rainesford Stauffer

Rebecca Carroll is a writer, cultural critic, and podcast creator/host. Her writing has been published widely, and she is the author of several books, including her recent memoir, Surviving the White Gaze. Rebecca is Editor at Large for The Meteor.

Iran Will Execute More Protestors

The fight is about more than head coverings ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Why the Congressional Sh*tshow Matters

Plus: Its been two years since the insurrection ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

We're Getting In on the In/Out Trend Too

Your Favorite Meteor Stories of 2022

Happy (almost) New Year, dear Meteor reader,

It’s almost our anniversary—yours and ours. In January, Meteor founding member Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote the first feature essay of the Meteornewsletter—and it’s been a thrilling journey ever since. So much has happened this year, and who better to celebrate with than you?

First, a round of applause to Meteor collective members who had astounding years. There were books: Supreme Court commentator Dahlia Lithwick released her much-anticipated  Lady JusticeAmber Tamblyn’s Listening in the Dark taught us to trust our intuition; and Julissa Natzely Arce Raya’s latest, You Sound Like a White Girl, acted like medicine unto the bones.

And there were prizes: Rebecca Carroll snagged three Webbys for her show “Billie Was a Black Woman,” Salamishah Tillet won a Pulitzer for distinguished criticism, Dawn Porter showcased the heroes of Title IX, and our podcast “Because of Anita” got a Gracie. It’s giving…

Meanwhile, in a year that came with some challenges, it meant a lot to us to tell stories that resonated with you on the issues that matter. Projects like the “My Abortion Story” series, the viral Josh and Amanda Zurawski interview, Talia Kantor Lieber’s student investigation into colleges paying (or not paying) for abortion travel, and live events like 22 For ‘22 and Meet the Moment where we got to meet some of you, in the flesh, for the first time.

It was also an emotional year on our podcast “UNDISTRACTED” with some amazing episodes: the most important conversation about RENAISSANCEever, an analysis of the Great Resignation with Elaine Welteroth, and who could forget the touching dialogue between host Brittany Packnett Cunningham and her husband, Reginald, about the birth of their son, who was delivered at just 24 weeks. Some of us are still crying about that one. (It’s me, I’m us.)

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the highlights of my favorite part of The Meteorverse: this newsletter right here, powered by all of you. Thank you, readers, for every open, every click, and every time you’ve forwarded our stories to someone you know. It means the world to us. And if you are so inclined to continue sharing The Meteor with your friends, family, enemies, exes—anyone you want, we don’t judge!—here’s a list of our top 10 newsletters this year as decided by you, the all-powerful arbiters of interesting.

10. Muslims Are Not a Monolith 

9. “If they could kill her, they could kill anyone.”

8. Queen Elizabeth’s Complicated Legacy

7. How Our Data Is Used Against Us in the Post-Roe World 

6. The Best (and worst) Parts of the KBJ Hearings So Far 

5. The Supposed Death of #MeToo

4. When “Feminists” Spout Hate 

3. The Case for Hope

2. Puerto Rico’s Dimming Future

The entire Meteor team wishes you a gentle and restful new year. We’ll see you here, in your inbox, in 2023. And we’ll keep bringing you the news and stories you want to know about with a full serving of feminist perspective—and a splash of dry wit—to keep things interesting.

For auld lang syne,

Shannon Melero

"They Chose to Make History."


For Iranian American journalist Neda Semnani, 2022 belongs to the women and girls of Iran.


December 20, 2022

Mahsa ‘Jina’ Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman, was on her way to the rest of her life when she was profiled, detained, and allegedly beaten to death in Tehran, Iran in September. 

Amini’s fate, like so many other women’s, was decided in a split second by a man who looked at her and saw only what he wanted to see: her hijab askew. Both she and he knew that the systems and institutions of the country were created to benefit one of them over the other. 

Perhaps if Amini had died at another moment in time, no one but her family would have known her story. But on this particular day, the young women and girls of Iran decided to reclaim her agency and their own. 

They chose to make history.

A woman sets fire to her headscarf during a protest over the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini outside the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

They flooded the streets and social media en masse to mourn Amini—but not only Amini. They mourned all the others who had died, who were imprisoned, who were held down by hopelessness. Iran’s women wept in public, many pulling off their state-sanctioned hijabs and cutting off their hair. And they weren’t alone. Every other marginalized group in the country joined them: Kurds and Baluchs, Black and queer, Ba’hai and Jewish, and so many others. Each person demanding equal rights for women. Each person taking up space and screaming for their history—our history—to be acknowledged, to be heard, to be integrated into the story of their country and the world at large. 

As an Iranian American and a journalist, I have watched all of this from the safety of my New York apartment. Never have I felt as connected to my ancestral homeland and its people as I have during these long weeks, and never have I felt the distance between us so acutely. 

Since the uprising began, Iranians—women, men, and non-binary people—have burned their hijabs and the Iranian flag; they’ve come together in public; they’ve made music and theater, harnessed spray paint and brushes; they’ve danced and kissed in the streets. Each nonviolent action like a ballistic missile aimed at the core of the ruthless regime and its sophisticated surveillance state. 

And after the women and girls of Iran decided to stand together, the men who rule the country fell apart. They began clutching at power through blunt force and unimaginable brutality. Since September, the Islamic Republic has killed more than 500 people, including at least 57 children, and arrested more than 1800. They have made freedom fighters of school girls and martyrs of teenagers. They’ve rounded up and jailed more than 58 journalists, most of whom are women. They’ve set fire to a prison which was filled past capacity with dissidents. They’ve used buckshot to shoot at women’s faces and genitals; hundreds of protestors have lost their eyesight. The security forces have used ambulances to pick up demonstrators and monitored hospitals to find those who had gotten away. They’ve raped and sexually assaulted protesters, many of whom are in their teens and early 20s. Security forces have allegedly tried to stop people from witnessing atrocities by shooting into homes where people were looking out of their windows.

Then last month, the parliament went further. It voted to make protest punishable by death, dissolving whatever trust was left in the Islamic Republic and officially pitting the government against its people. 

Sham trials followed. Last week, in the city of Mashhad, cranes were erected, stretching high into the air. Steel trees bearing strange fruit: two young men dead, their bodies hanging above the heads of the people. 

Their names are Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard. They may have been the first and second official execution, but they are not the first or second to die at the hands of the Islamic Republic. 

Protestors hold a sign in honor of the lives of Iranian women in Turin, Italy. In the first known execution linked to ongoing protests, Iran sentenced and hanged a man named Mohsen Shekari for injuring a paramilitary officer. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

The point of these killings isn’t to punish individuals or to protect the regime or warn off protesters; it is an attempt to obliterate hope. Yet they can’t extinguish what doesn’t exist. Because the simple truth is that as long as this regime is in power, the people say there is no hope in their future; their hope will be reborn when this regime is gone. So the revolution marches on and the people chant, “Thousands stand behind each one killed.” In other words: “You can’t kill us all.” 


This Iranian uprising, this revolution, keeps falling in and out of the headlines, a fact that belies its global importance. Iran at this moment contains the intersection of so many issues: economics, foreign policy, technology, health, religion, sectarianism, race, and class—underpinned, at least for now, by feminist values. It is like nothing we’ve seen before, making it arguably the most important story in the world, the most important story of our time.

We’re watching one generation rise up where others have cowered. We’re watching the people come together to champion the rights of women. We’re watching them reach for democratic values and ideals, not with resources or institutional support, but with their weapons of choice: speech, assembly, art, music, literature, poetry, fashion, and movement. 

As an Iranian, an American, and a woman, I’m devastated that for many outside Iran, this moment is, at most, a hashtag and a chance for people to push their political agendas. Women, minorities, and their allies are being attacked by their government and fighting for their very survival. It isn’t on the front page of every country’s newspapers, but it should be. 

Iranian protestors hold up signs for women’s rights during the FIFA World Cup Qatar. (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

So what can we do, you and I, to show up and engage with this moment? We have to support these women, children, men, boys, and non-binary Iranians by going out of our way to report their stories and amplify their voices. As we see more Iranians flee their country, we must open our own borders and provide refuge. 

Finally, we must acknowledge that in order for this revolution to succeed, many brilliant, beautiful, and brave human beings will give up their futures for someone else’s. We must acknowledge their suffering, their fears, and most of all, the lives they won’t get to live. We must also acknowledge the people they leave behind and the pain those who will survive will carry with them. This is what it means to resist and to revolt. It means that one group will sacrifice their plans, their potential, and all their normal mornings so that perhaps, one day soon, the rest of us might revel in freedom.  

Neda Toloui-Semnani is an Emmy-winning journalist and the author of They Said They Wanted Revolution: A Memoir of My Parents.

Photo by Nilo Tabrizy

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