Iran has executed over 300 people this year, with the rate in May during the current surge in hangings the highest monthly figure in the country since 2015, a rights group said on Thursday.
Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said at least 307 people have been executed in 2023, a rise of over 75 percent compared to the same period last year.
At least 142 people were executed in May, the highest monthly figure since 2015, meaning an average of over four people were hanged every day last month in the Islamic Republic, it added.
Campaigners accuse Iran of stepping up executions to strike fear into the population as the leadership moves to quell the protest movement that erupted in September.
Seven men have been hanged in cases related to the protests but activists say executions have surged in less high profile cases, particularly over drug and murder convictions, with ethnic minorities disproportionately targeted.
“The purpose of the Islamic Republic’s intensification of arbitrary
executions is to spread societal fear to prevent protests and prolong its rule,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam
“If the international community doesn’t show a stronger reaction to the current wave of executions, hundreds more will fall victim to their killing machine in the coming months.”
It said 59 percent of those hanged this year -- 180 people -- were executed for drug-related charges.
Over 20 percent of those executed in May -- 30 people -- were from the largely Sunni Baluch minority concentrated in the southeast of the country, it added.
The protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly flouting Iran’s dress rules for women, have abated somewhat in the last months but still continue sporadically.
Iran earlier in May hanged three more men in cases related to the protests, sparking international condemnation, and Amnesty International has warned at least seven more risk being put to death.
The Islamic republic executes more people each year than any nation other than China, according to Amnesty.