Human Rights and the Nuclear Program
The issue of human rights surrounding Catherine Ashton’s visit in Tehran might seem to some a meaningless sidetrack on the highway to negotiate a permanent deal with Tehran on its nuclear program. It isn’t.
The problem with Tehran’s nuclear program, has been its lack of transparency and its unwillingness to set the infamous Iranian pride aside long enough to focus on peaceful relations with the rest of the world. Its unwillingness to accept UN resolutions and wall-to-wall criticism on the nature of its nuclear program were coupled with an arrogant defiance and macho bravado that fuelled accusations and threats that seemed condescending and border-line paranoid to the West. And although President Rouhani’s smile spearheaded the rapprochement with the West, it is the never ending rants of the hardliners that remind us that Tehran might not yet have the humility needed to accept that if everyone says that there is a problem in the contested nuclear program, there simply is one.
Now, substitute the words “nuclear program” in this paragraph to “human rights problem” and notice that it rings true in the same manner. They are both symptoms of the main problem…the bigoted regime that places Islamic Revolutionary values above all else.
Rants and Rebuttals
Ashton’s primary objective in Tehran was obviously the nuclear deal and her meetings with Rouhani and Zarif retained the essence of Rouhani’s hash tag #Constructive_Engagement.
But her two hour meeting in the Austrian embassy with 7 Iranian women’s rights activists brought the realities of the regime back into the spotlight. The next day, posters of Ashton morphed with Saddam Hussein over pictures of dead babies hit the streets and the angry rants followed:
- Sadegh Larijani – head of the judiciary: “Where in the world do they allow a foreigner to enter and go wherever they want and meet whoever they want?”.
Answer: In the free world, Mr. Larijani, in the free world.
- Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, IRGC commander: the meeting was a violation of diplomatic principles and Ashton should focus instead on “solving women’s problems in Europe”.
Answer: Perhaps…but if Ashton met with 7 women’s rights activists in Europe, nobody would rant about it.
- Signed statement by over 20 Iranian lawmakers: “The parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee strongly calls on the government to prevent these intolerable and interventionist actions by foreign delegations that travel to our country“.
Answer: Comments like these will make foreign delegations think twice about coming to Tehran in the future.
- Marzieh Afkham, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman: “These kinds of actions will increase our people’s distrust towards the West,”.
Answer: Mrs. Afkham – it is exactly comments like these, by a woman and a representative of Rouhani’s moderate foreign policy, that cause distrust.
And just as the rants from Tehran faded into background echoes, Dr. Shaheed Ahmed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights, opened a press conference regarding his latest report on Iran with this statement: “Today, I report with deep regret that despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern.” Un Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined Ahmed and “sharply rebuked the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, for failing to improve human rights since taking office in August“.
Yes, Rouhani would prefer to separate the negotiations with the West on the nuclear program from the issue of human rights but, unfortunately, both are intrinsically connected to the same regime.