Iranian President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly touts his commitment to “constructive engagement” with the international community, particularly as he negotiates a comprehensive nuclear agreement.
Yet, with resumption of nuclear talks this week, the systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran continue unabated, overshadowed – if not sanitized – by the myopic international focus on the nuclear issue.
It should be recalled that when the US negotiated an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, it did not turn a blind eye to the USSR’s human rights abuses. Instead, the Helsinki Final Act linked the security, economic, and human rights “baskets,” with human rights emerging as the most transformative of the three. Negotiations with Iran should replicate this approach.
The latest report by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed – the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran – provides an inventory of continuing human rights abuses that remain unaddressed, even under Iran’s new “moderate” leadership.
Accordingly, the ongoing nuclear negotiations should neither distract nor deflect from addressing and redressing the Iranian regime’s massive domestic repression.
The following constitutes an overview of the serious human rights abuses in Iran, and a corresponding set of queries that will serve as a litmus test for the authenticity of Rouhani’s commitment to justice and human rights for the Iranian people.
Prior to Rouhani’s rise to power, Iran had the highest per capita execution rate in the world. Yet, the alarming rate of executions has actually increased under Rouhani, with more than 600 executions having been carried out since his ascension to the Presidency in August 2013 – with 20 executions during the week of his November “charm offensive” at the United Nations, a fact largely ignored – while the recent execution binge has witnessed over 250 executions carried out since the beginning of 2014 alone.
2. Torture …
3. Political Prisoners …
4. Persecution of Baha’i …
5. Persecution of other religious and ethnic minorities [see reference to Pastor Saeed below]
The Iranian regime also incites hatred and violence against other religious and ethnic minorities, violating their political, social, religious, economic, cultural, linguistic and educational rights. Among other abuses, minority schools and houses of worship have been closed or destroyed, restrictions have been imposed on both the public and private use of minority languages, and members of minority groups – including the Baloch, Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, and Christians – have been imprisoned on spurious charges such as “spreading corruption on earth.” Moreover, Human Rights Watch’s latest World Report documents at least 40 Kurdish prisoners who have been sentenced to death for ‘national security’ crimes such as Moharebeh (enmity against God).
Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini – who has been imprisoned based on trumped-up charges of “threatening national security” based on alleged evangelizing of his Christian faith – is reportedly suffering chronic pain as a result of numerous beatings at the hands of prison officials.
Query: Will Rouhani end the oppression of minorities and free Pastor Abedini, who remains incarcerated in an Iranian prison because of his faith?
6. Persecution of Women …
[7 -12 can be found in article link below.]
The fact that Rouhani’s rhetoric is less incendiary than that of his predecessor Ahmadinejad is welcome, but it cannot itself be cause for complacency, let alone celebration of his “charm offensive”. Nor should the nuclear negotiations overshadow Iran’s continuing violations of human rights. Rouhani’s deeds – not his words – and that of the Supreme Leader – will be the test of the regime’s commitment to a “moderate” Iran
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