A human rights activist staged a festive street party complete with balloons and free ice cream in honor of the Iranian foreign minister who visited New York last week, an act of street theater that was in fact designed to scorn Iran’s dismal record as a world leader in executing prisoners.
David Keyes, executive director of the non-profit Advancing Human Rights, designed the stunt to mark the execution of 1,000 Iranians over the past 18 months.
The target of the stunt: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who visited New York University on Wednesday.
“I’m throwing a celebration here for 1,000 hangings, it’s a big milestone in Iran’s history,” Keyes told passersby as seen in a video he posted on YouTube.
The activist was offering “free ice cream” and said he “would love for him [Zarif] to come taste the taste of oppression.”
Keyes said he uses comedy and satire to highlight human rights abuses, because “dictators fear humor.”
Though Keyes didn’t get up close to the foreign minister, he did approach - armed with festive helium balloons in the red, green and white colors of the Iranian flag - Iran’s deputy foreign ministers Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi.
“Guys, how are you going to celebrate 2,000 hangings,” he asked as he walked alongside them. “What’s a favorite way to hang gay people, you think?”
Watch the moments below:
The Iranian officials appeared momentarily flustered by the display and apparently walked around the block in a circle, Keyes said.
Keyes extended his hand for handshakes, but the Iranians didn’t take him up on the offer.
As they entered their SUV, Keyes saw someone inside taking his picture.
“Snapping pictures of me, that’s a little terrifying,” Keyes said.
As the foreign minister’s SUV appeared to be pulling out of a parking garage, Keyes called out to him in Farsi using a megaphone, “Tyranny and despotism cannot exist forever.”
According to Cornell University Law School which tracks reports on executions worldwide, there were more than 700 executions in Iran in 2014 and at least 310 in 2015 through April, corroborating Keyes' figure of 1,000 executions in the past 18 months.