A man in southwestern Iran was flogged 55 times on June 6 for criticizing and “refusing to apologize” to the local representative of the regime’s Supreme Leader.
Ruhollah Barzeen, who works in a bakery in Charam, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province was flogged due to complaints from Seyed Nourallah Afshar, Charam’s head of Friday prayers.
Last year, Barzeen was prosecuted and sentenced to 55 lashes for writing a post critical of the local cleric and because of the comments written under his post.
An informed source who asked not to be named told the Human Rights News Agency that some local authorities tried to intervene to prevent the flogging but Nourallah Afshar insisted on carrying out the sentence.
Afshar had demanded during his sermons that several other local officials be flogged.
The cleric is also the head of Charam’s Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice Headquarters, tasked with cracking down on civil liberties, especially enforcing the regime’s strict dress code.
When met with criticism for the flogging, Afshar claimed that he would have prevented the implementation of the sentence if he knew it was going to be carried out.
The religious official also told state-run media yesterday that he did not take back his complaint because the “the young man refused to apologize”.
“According to the laws of the Islamic Republic, when a person carries out numerous insults and is not willing to apologize, what should (his punishment) be?” he said implying that the flogging punishment was just. Afshar also claimed that no one had asked him to take back his complaint.
Speaking to a journalist from the state-run Shargh Daily, Barzeen contradicted almost all of Afshar’s claims.
“In a group with 300 members, I wrote some things in response to a journalist. Someone took a screenshot of the things I wrote and sent it to the head of Friday prayers. After that, they asked me to apologize, but one does not apologize for something they didn’t do,” Barzeen said.
He also said that the cleric’s advisor saw the sentence one month ago, contracting the cleric’s remarks about not knowing that the sentence was going to be carried out.
Barzeen said that during the past 15 months, 20 people went to the cleric’s office asking him to cancel his complaint but he did not accept.
“He said that whoever makes a mistake, has to be punished,” he added.
Barzeen said that he went to Afshar’s office once asking for “guidance” and was sharply rebuked by the cleric.
Before this on June 1, a Tehran bus driver and labor activist, Rasoul Taleb Moghadam, was lashed 74 times for taking part in a peaceful Labor Day gathering last year outside the regime’s Parliament.
The Iranian regime is one of the few states that still uses degrading punishments, even though all international civil and political rights conventions have prohibited the use of inhumane punishments such as execution and flogging.
The regime regularly hands out flogging sentences to protesters, dissidents, and to those charged with adultery and theft, among other things. Flogging is a cruel and degrading punishment and is tantamount to torture.