The nuclear deal with Iran has turned into a polarized discussion in which one is either for or against it without much leeway in the middle. In some cases, the split between both sides seems obvious: Iranian hardliners and American Republicans are against the deal while Iranian moderates and American Democrats support it with only a few crossing the rigid lines.
But the nuclear deal with Iran isn’t only polarizing existing rifts, it is creating new ones among what looked to be homogeneous groups such as Iranian dissidents and activists, human rights groups. These groups who were usually either against the regime in Tehran, found themselves on opposite sides in regards to the deal.
With so many voices clamoring about the benefits and dangers of the deal, it seems frustratingly impossible to decide whether the nuclear deal will make the world a better place or not.
Activists Choose Sides
The nuclear deal has placed a wedge between human rights activists and groups, who had, in the past, been in consensus in regards to Iran.
On one hand, prominent Iranian activists joined forces to head the “We Support Iran Deal” campaign. The activists include politicians, actors, activists, artists etc… who all believe that the nuclear deal will be beneficial to the Iranian people. The fact that many of these supporters have been oppressed by the regime in the past only adds impact to their support. These include human rights activists Ghoncheh Ghavami (the British Iranian imprisoned for a year for watching a volleyball game), Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize winner critical of the regime), Nasrin Sotoudeh (a human rights lawyer who has spent years, on and off, in Iranian prisons) and Taghi Karroubi (the son of Iranian reformist, Mehdi Karroubi, who is under house arrest since 2011).
On the other hand, a group of Iranian dissidents are opposing the deal. These Iranians who were jailed and tortured or suffered the executions of loved ones are unforgiving and claiming that the deal should not be signed until the regime in Tehran allows its citizens more freedom. Other human rights activists around the world have lent their voices against the deal as in the case of LGBT activist who believes that no deal can be signed as long as Iranians are executed for being gay.
Is the Deal Good for Human Rights?
Obviously, nobody can be 100% sure if this deal is good for human rights in Iran or not. The activists who do support the deal feel that easing tensions with Tehran will help the Iranian public opinion as well as the moderates and the reformers to create an atmosphere in which the regime will have to tone down its harsh Islamic Revolutionary laws, which could lead to more individual freedoms. Signing the deal would be a triumph for Rouhani’s moderate approach and could convince hardliners to back out of isolationist ideals.
The activists who oppose the deal feel that it should have been tied to improving the state of human rights in Iran and not only focus on the nuclear program. For them, the deal is meaningless if it doesn’t help Iranians whose lives have been and will continue to be traumatized or extinguished simply because they do not agree with the regime.
Khamenei has placed himself in support for the nuclear deal but dead against its moderating effects: He is weary that a nuclear deal will open the doors for Western influence into “cultural, economic and political” spheres. Khamenei is probably right about this since once Iranian citizens are exposed to Western brands, some may be less adamant in sustaining harsh Islamic/Shariah laws. God only knows how the regime will react to millions of Iranians who are clamoring for the rights to buy an iPad or to join facebook.
Will the nuclear deal help the state of human rights in Iran or should it have been used to obtain more substantial gains for the freedom of Iranians? The nuclear deal focuses on Tehran’s nuclear program and as such, has no impact on human rights. But once Iran is open to Western business and influence, it may very well tone down abuses of human rights in Iran.
Nobody knows and only time will tell.