No compromise with Iran on human rights

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Iranian human rights protestors. New York, 2008. [David Shankbone/flickr]

On International Human Rights Day, 10 December, write Friends of a Free Iran, it is worth turning our attention to one of the worst human rights offenders in the world.

Euro MPs Gérard DEPREZ (ALDE – Belgium), Tunne KELAM (EPP – Estonia), Ryszard CZARNECKI EP Vice-President (ECR – Poland), Eduard KUKAN (EPP – Slovakia), José BOVÉ (Greens – France) Julie WARD (S&D – UK) and Rina Ronja KARI (GUE/NGL – Denmark) are Members of the Friends of a Free Iran in the European Parliament

This year’s slogan, ‘Human Rights 365’, stresses that every day is Human Rights Day. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “I call on people to hold call their governments to account … every day of the year.”

So let us examine Iran’s ongoing violations of human rights – every day of the year – and look at the record of the so-call moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.

During Rouhani’s tenure, Iran is a country in which human rights have not only been abused but are often literally nonexistent. Indeed, only last month, the UN General Assembly – for the 61st time – condemned Iran for its flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.

Despite all of the propaganda by Tehran’s apologists, the human rights situation is deteriorating at a faster pace under Rouhani than under his infamous predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There have been at least 1,100 executions in the 15 months Rouhani has been in office, more than in any similar period in the past 25 years. The victims include political dissidents like Gholamreza Khosravi, who was put to death for a small financial donation to the main opposition group PMOI.

Iran is the world record holder for the highest number of executions per capita, and is the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders. Death sentences for ethnic and religious minorities have increased dramatically. A number of priests have been incarcerated for advocating their beliefs.

According to the Reporters Without Borders, Iran has become the “world’s leading jailer of female journalists and netizens,” under Hassan Rouhani with at least 65 journalists and news providers behind bars and is “one of the world’s most repressive countries as regards freedom of information.” It is one of the largest customers of Internet censoring and filtering equipment and blocks around five million websites dedicated to arts, social issues, and news, and works hard to filter the contents of blogs and social media.

Mistreatment of women has been at the heart of this theocratic regime. In October, organized gangs affiliated with the clerical establishment committed, with total impunity, and are responsible for acid attacks on Iranian women and girls, which led to at least one death, and several blinded and disfigured faces.

On 25 October, in defiance of international appeals, the Rouhani government hanged Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old girl, for defending herself against an intelligence agent who had tried to sexually assault her. Amnesty International called the execution “another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record.”

In November, in the southern city of Jahrom, regime-backed paramilitary Basij forces stabbed a dozen young female students after being incited to do so by the clerical leaders.

A new report by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, says Tehran is executing people only “for exercising their protected rights, including freedom of expression and association.”  

On the International Day of Human Rights, it is vital that we Europeans pay special attention to these abuses that Iranian have suffered from for over three decades.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi has underscored that the regime has trampled on all 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She has pointed out during her various speeches in the European Parliament that the horrifying atrocities perpetrated by the Iranian government, render illegitimate continued political, diplomatic and trade relations with the ruling dictatorship.

We agree with her that giving concessions to the mullahs only emboldens them to continue and intensify their atrocities. The EU cannot remain silent about the horrific crimes Iran has committed against its people. Nuclear negotiations should not act as a pretext to turn a blind eye to flagrant violations of human rights.

Tehran has also been the center for the expansion of terrorism and fundamentalism throughout the region, endangering world peace and security.

It is time for Europe to show some spine. Federica Mogherini, the new EU foreign policy chief, should pay special attention to Iran’s dreadful rights abuses and condition any further expansion of ties to a clear improvement of human rights.

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