‘Moharebeh’ meaning explained amid news of Mohsen Shekari’s death

Bruno Cooke December 9, 2022
‘Moharebeh’ meaning explained amid news of Mohsen Shekari’s death
Iranian flag waving with cityscape on background in Tehran, Iran. This image was downloaded from Getty Images Creative on December 9, 2022.

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NPR, among others, reported this week that Iran had carried out the first known execution of a prisoner arrested during recent protests after they were convicted on the charge of moharebeh.

Mohsen Shekari was arrested on September 25, 2022 and convicted on November 20.

Republic World adds that he allegedly wounded a member of the Iranian paramilitary, the Basij, in Tehran. 

What is the meaning of the word “moharebeh”? Where is it from, and what do we know about Mohsen Shekari himself?

Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

What is the meaning of the word ‘moharebeh’ in the context of Mohsen Shekari’s conviction?

“Moharebeh” is a Farsi (Persian) word meaning “waging war against God.” That is the definition NPR uses.

Republic World’s definition is slightly different, although essentially the same: “enmity against God”; enmity is a state or feeling of active hostility towards something. It’s similar in meaning to words such as “antagonism” and “antipathy.”

The outlet adds that, in the context of Iranian law, the crime of moharebeh refers to “the act of committing violence or rebellion against the state or the Islamic regime” with, it notes, “the intention of disrupting the social order or overthrowing the government.”

Iran International, meanwhile, summarises the meaning of the word “moharebeh” as “fighting against God.” 

It adds that it is a “legally vague term,” meaning clerical judges have a degree of leeway when convicting individuals on the charge of moharebeh.

Is there an Arabic word meaning the same thing as ‘moharebeh’?

Also spelled “muharebeh” (as in, with a “U” instead of an “O”), moharebeh is a Persian term. But it appears to be essentially interchangeable with the Arabic term “hirabah.”

Someone who perpetrates moharebeh is a “mohareb” or ‘muḥārib.’ The Los Angeles Times reports Iranian media has, in the past, referred to those who commit moharebeh as “enemies of God.”

In 2014, accusations of taking part in protests led to death sentences on charges of being ‘mohareb’ for at least nine individuals. 

The UN claims moharebeh, in Sharia Law, is “resorting to arms in order to frighten people”; if the state convicts someone of moharebeh, they are a mohareb; and the punishment of moharebeh is “exile” or the “death penalty.”

This image was downloaded from Getty Images Creative on December 9, 2022.

Who is Mohsen Shekari?

Iran International reported on Thursday, December 8, 2022 that the Tasnim news agency, which it describes as being “affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard,” identified the person who was executed as Mohsen Shekari.

But it gave “no more details.”

Republic World adds that the Mizan news agency reported Shekari had “blocked Sattar Khan Street in Tehran on 25th September.”

Following this, a court found him guilty on November 1, 2022. He appealed on November 20, but the court rejected his appeal. 

Iranian flag waving with cityscape on background in Tehran, Iran. This image was downloaded from Getty Images Creative on December 9, 2022.

How have people reacted to the news?

NPR quotes Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Oslo-based activist group Iran Human Rights, as recommending others respond to Mohsen Shekari’s execution “with strong reactions.”

The group opposes the conviction and consequent sentence.

“This execution must have rapid practical consequences internationally,” Amiry-Moghaddam reportedly said. 

Reza Pahlavi, the eldest son of the last Shah of Iran, addressed the “leaders of the free world.”

He recommended “action, not simple condemnation. To hold this regime accountable, promptly expel its ambassadors and recall your own.”

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.