Arab-Iranian poet and human rights activists Hashem Shaabani Nejad was executed in Iran at the end of January on charges including "waging war on god," the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center reports.
According to IHRDC, Shaabani was executed in an undisclosed prison alongside Hadi Rashedi. Both men were members of the Dialogue Institute, an organization in Iran's Khuzestan Province that promotes the understanding of Arabic culture and literature in Iran.
Arrested in early 2011, Shaabani appeared with three other men in a documentary on Iran's Press TV in December 2011 in which they appeared to confess to being part of an armed Arab terrorist group. Shaabani later said the confession was coerced. Even so, the poet was sentenced to death in July 2013 on charges of waging war on god, sowing corruption on earth, producing propaganda against the Islamic Republic and acting against national security.
According to independent watchdog Freedom House, Shaabani's execution shows that despite promises by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after his 2013 election to fight discrimination of ethnic minorities, violent repression remains government policy.
Iran's Arab minority is believed to constitute between 3 and 8 percent of the population and mostly lives in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, which is known as Ahwaz in the Arab community. Amnesty International warned in January 2014 that minority groups, including the Ahwazi Arabs, are subject to discriminatory laws and suffer from restricted social, cultural, linguistic and religious rights.
In addition, the organization says members of the Arab minority disproportionally receive unfair trials, sometimes culminating in the death penalty. According to Amnesty, authorities have remained focused on the Ahwazi since major unrest erupted in the region in 2005.