Iran tries to solve its drug problems with hangings

Eli Lake:
This week, in a little-noticed report, a U.N. official may have helped solve a riddle about Iran. Since President Hassan Rouhani's election in 2013, state executions in Iran have spiked. How could a man who promised to free political prisoners preside over this reign of terror?

It turns out part of the answer, at least, is the global war on drugs.

According to the report, released by Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, 69 percent of the state executions of prisoners in the first six months of 2015 were for drug-related offenses. In 2014, when Iran executed 753 people (the highest total in Iran in 10 years), Shaheed said nearly half were killed for drug crimes.

There are many reasons the Iranian state detains, tortures and hangs its citizens. These range from offenses against God to publishing propaganda critical of the regime. But it's the drug dealers who are being hanged the most, according to Shaheed. "The Government holds the view that the implications posed by drug-trafficking to the health and security of the Iranian people render drug-related offences 'most serious' crimes and, therefore, they deserve to be considered capital offences," he wrote.

There are two important ironies in all of this. The first is that Iran's revolutionary guard corps has itself been charged with engaging in narco-trafficking. In 2012, the Treasury Department designatedIranian Quds Force General Gholamreza Baghbani as a drug kingpin, accusing him of facilitating the shipment of heroin precursor chemicals from Iran to Afghanistan and of smuggling opium back into his country. The Argentine prosecutor who was mysteriously murdered earlier this year, Alberto Nisman, also has publicly accused Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, of engaging in the drug trade in South America.

The second irony is that Iran has been widely praised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a model partner in the war on drugs. The office had even proposed a five-year aid package for Iran's anti-drug efforts. The British human rights organization Reprieveobjected this spring, pointing out that the rate of executions for drug offenders had sky rocketed in Iran. As recently as June, the U.N. drug office's representative in Iran generally praised Tehran's efforts to combat narco-trafficking. He repeated the state's line that its police had paid a heavy price in fighting the drug dealers.
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There are several reasons why Iran has a drug problem.  One is availability with their proximity to Afghanistan and the Taliban drug trade.  The larger problem is the oppressive life of living ing a nation ruled by genocidal religious bigots who allow no breathing room for freedom.  Drugs are seen as a way to escape in those circumstances and killing the druggies only hastens their demise without solving the underlying problem.

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