Rouhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist whose reporting on the anti-regime protests in 2017-18 won worldwide praise and kept citizens informed of what was happening in the streets of Tehran, was executed, according to state television.
Zam was kidnapped by Revolutionary Guards while in Iraq in 2019 and brought back to Iran to stand trial. He was convicted of “corruption on earth,” which is a charge brought by the Iranian state for attempts to overthrow it.
Zam had been living in Paris before he went back to the Middle East in 2019.
Iran has executed a once-exiled journalist over his online work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017. Ruhollah Zam was hanged early Saturday morning, months after he returned to Tehran under mysterious circumstances. https://t.co/YqNWBneEQS
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 12, 2020
Zam ran the site Amad News and coordinated a Telegram channel, both of which helped spread information during a wave of anti-regime protests that shook Iran in 2017 and 2018. He was living abroad in Paris at the time, but returned to the Middle East in 2019 and was arrested in Iraq by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It’s unclear exactly why Zam returned to the region, but Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted Saturday that Zam was “reportedly lured to Iraq (from France), kidnapped, taken back to Iran, and tortured into confession. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.”
Human rights groups across the world condemned Zam’s execution.
The international human rights group Amnesty International argued Zam’s conviction stemmed from a “grossly unfair trial” and his execution — by hanging — was rushed following the Supreme Court ruling in a “reprehensible bid to avoid an international campaign to save his life.”
“With the execution of Roohollah Zam, Iranian authorities join the company of criminal gangs and violent extremists who silence journalists by murdering them,” Committee to Protect Journalists program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement Saturday. “This is a monstrous and shameful act, and one which the international community must not let pass unnoticed.”
Those protests scared the life out of the Iranian regime. They led to the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of people on the flimsiest of evidence. Some protesters were taken into custody and never seen again. Zam and a small group of Iranian journalists reported on events surrounding the protests that were eventually brutally suppressed. The “official” death toll from the demonstrations was 21 but observers in cities outside of Tehran, where some protests saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, say the toll was far higher.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police.
The toll of 1,500 is significantly higher than figures from international human rights groups and the United States. A Dec. 16 report by Amnesty International said the death toll was at least 304. The U.S. State Department, in a statement to Reuters, said it estimates that many hundreds of Iranians were killed, and has seen reports that number could be over 1,000.
At one point, observers reported police firing directly into crowds of people. What’s truly amazing is the Iranian people knew what was happening and still turned out to protest. They were that angry at the regime.