Rouhani’s Focus is Mostly Outbound
Since President Rouhani’s election, most of the international media’s attention on Iran has justifiably focused on Tehran’s foreign policy and its nuclear program, since both these issues affect people outside of Iran. These issues seriously affect the Iranian people on a patriotic as well as economic level – the sooner Tehran accepts the guidelines of the UN Security Council, the sooner economic sanctions can be lifted and Iranians can go on with their “normal lives”.
Unfortunately, “normal lives” for Iranians is not just a question of economics – for most, “normal” is a distinct lack of freedom and basic human rights. Even if Rouhani does miraculously manage to defuse the nuclear debacle, his success would be hollow if the abhorrent state of human rights in Iran should remain as it is today.
Apropos: In the latest 20-page report to the UN General Assembly by Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the human rights situation is summed up in the first paragraph:
“gender discrimination, as well as systemic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, continue to characterize the human rights situation in the country“.
More Violations in Iran
This report is really worth the 20-page read, but for now, here’s a quick glimpse at what we take for granted – and what Iranians cannot:
- Lack of Digital Freedom: Tehran views the freedom of the internet as a threat and does not hesitate to curtail it – internet cafes are shut down, connection speeds are “throttled”, millions of websites are blocked (including some 1,500 “anti-religious websites”), and journalists/ bloggers are arrested and serving prison sentences.
- From Torture to Executions: On the whole, Iranian prisoners are systematically mistreated, underfed, lack medical treatment and undergo punishments and torture and announced executions – which represent only a fraction of all executions in Iran – are still a travesty (724 in 18 months).This situation has not changed since Rouhani took office, as can be gathered by the execution of 16 Sunni “Insurgents” a few weeks ago.
- 10,814 Floggings in 8 months (in Mazandaran province alone): Before they are arrested or executed, thousands of “criminals are flogged – or have their limbs amputated – for such crimes as “sedition”, “acts incompatible with chastity”, drinking alcohol, “illicit” relationships and non-penetrative homosexual acts.” Legal action by the “criminals” and their families is seriously impeded and sometimes, simply disregarded.
The list goes on and on and on and includes legal and systematic discriminations abusing the rights of women, of different religious backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
Lack of Transparency, Denials and Accusations (again)
Shaheed’s report also includes a critique on the willingness of the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the relevant UN officials: Just as with its nuclear program, Tehran’s lack of transparency “continues to impede attempts to further ascertain the extent and nature of the country’s human rights situation” through general non-cooperation and specifically by not responding to “3 allegation letters, 9 urgent appeals and a number of questionnaires transmitted to several ministries”.
Tehran’s 56-page response contains the usual sets of denials and accusations that have become the symbols of the regime to any criticism: Not only has “the Islamic Republic of Iran (has) incessantly demonstrated its determination to cooperate” with Shaheed, but his report is “tainted by politicization”, “biased”, “inaccurate”, “unconvincing and lacks credit and does not merit public trust or confidence” and is “unacceptable” being based on “falsified and exaggerated data”.
The way Tehran tells it, human rights have never been better in Iran and anybody who says different is simply lying…either that, or they are lying.