As protests in Iran enter their second month with no end in sight, the government has continued to step up its violence against the largely peaceful protesters. More have been shot by security forces, sentenced to death, and now there are allegations that Iran is attempting to assassinate foreign nationals abroad.

Protests broke out after the death of Mahsa ‘Jina’ Amini. Many believe she was murdered, in police custody following her arrest by the morality police for wearing her headscarf too loosely in public. Iran was already seeing protests against the government over rising prices throughout the country leading back to 2021.

While there was a recent article published claiming that 15,000 had been sentenced to death, this has now been debunked. According to most sources there are currently at least 5 Iranians who have recived death sentences, out of the over 15,000 arrested. Though it is being reported that more than 20 others face charges that could likewise result in the death penalty.

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran, 344 protesters have already been murdered by state security forces extrajudicially, this figure includes 52 children. As people in Iran continue to take to the streets to speak out against their oppressive government, this figure is unlikely to taper off any time soon.

Many have spoken out about the brutal treatment that these brave protesters have faced, especially regarding the handing down of death sentences. Unfortunately, many in the international community may see push back as their own countries still maintain the use of capital punishment.

Even as the protests are ongoing, former US president Donald Trump has called for the state murder of narcotics dealers. While he did receive some pushback, it is an unfortunate fact that many countries around the world continue to use capital punishment on their citizens. In 2019 alone there were 657 state sanctioned executions (note that this data does not include China, which is believed to have far more executions than any other country).

While the majority of these executions are taking place in authoritarian nations, the US is a notable standout when it comes to democracies that refuse to stop killing their own citizens. The US has an especially marked propensity for killing the intellectually disabled.

Democratic countries carrying out barbaric executions of their own citizens, while attempting to take Iran to task, should be embarrassed by the hypocrisy (similarly to those calling for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner while their countries continue the futile war on drugs). Even if one wishes to look at it from a cynical perspective, ending the death penalty would give a rhetorical advantage to those speaking out against what the Iranian regime is doing to its citizens (though it is the moral thing to do as well).

Iran, it seems, has decided to take things a few steps further, not satisfied only killing those it disagrees with inside its boarders. Now MI5, the UK’s spy agency, is claiming that Iran has created created plans to black-bag or murder at least 10 people within Britain. MI5’s director general, Ken McCallum, alleges that those that were to be targeted included British nationals.

While it is difficult, if not impossible to verify this information, there have been other reported attempts by Iran to use violence in an attempt to silence those speaking out against the Iranian government’s flagrant human rights abuses while living abroad. One example was the planned kidnapping of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist, author, and human rights activist, who has long been a strong advocate for women’s rights.

The time is nigh for democracies around the world to decide if they are going to continue to ignore flagrant human rights violations, both at home and abroad. Will they begin to hold each other accountable and demand better, or continue to settle for half-measures and appeasement? If democratic countries believe that freedom and human dignity are truly that valuable, they need to demonstrate as much in their actions, even if it means personal sacrifice. Brave people around the world are already paying with their lives.