Iran on Saturday hanged at least seven people, including two women, while a member of its Jewish minority is at imminent risk of execution as the Islamic republic further intensified its use of capital punishment, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said in a statement.

Parvin Mousavi, 53, a mother of two grown-up children, was hanged in Urmia prison in northwestern Iran along with five men convicted in various drug-related cases, it added.

In Nishapur in eastern Iran, a 27-year-old woman named Fatemeh Abdullahi was hanged on charges of murdering her husband, it said.

IHR says it has tallied at least 223 executions this year, with at least 50 so far in May alone. A new surge began following the end of Persian New Year and Ramadan holidays in April, with 115 people including six women hanged since then, it said.

Iran carries out more recorded executions of women than any other country. Activists say many such convicts are victims of forced or abusive marriages.

Last year, Iran carried out more hangings than in any year since 2015 according to NGOs, which accuse the Islamic republic of using capital punishment as a means to instill fear in the wake of protests that erupted in autumn 2022.

‘Killing machine’

IHR said Mousavi had been in prison for four years. It cited a source saying she had been paid the equivalent of 15 euros to carry a package, she had been told contained medicine but was in fact five kilos of morphine.

Meanwhile, the group said a member of Iran’s Jewish community, which has drastically reduced in numbers in recent years but is still the largest in the Middle East outside Israel, was at imminent risk of execution over a murder charge.

Arvin Ghahremani, 20, was convicted of murder during a street fight when he was 18 and is scheduled to be executed in the western city of Kermanshah on Monday, it said, adding that it had received an audio message from his mother Sonia Saadati asking for his life to be spared.

There has meanwhile been an international outcry over the death sentence handed out last month to Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, seen by activists as retaliation for his music backing the 2022 protests. His lawyers are appealing the verdict.

Stuart Williams, with AFP