Iranian human rights violations show up Rouhani’s empty promises

Iranian human rights violations show up Rouhani’s empty promises

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. (Reuters)

The human rights situation has been deteriorating to an unprecedented level in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This highlights the empowerment of the hard-line judiciary system and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) under the so-called moderate administration of President Hassan Rouhani. 

Specifically, several groups have become the Iranian regime’s targets. The first category is linked to religious and ethnic minorities, including the Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis, Sunnis, Christians and Baha’is. The situation has become so alarming that the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, recently urged Tehran to “ensure that all those who reside in the country have equal protection before the law, regardless of ethnicity, religion or belief.”

It is important to point out that the Islamic Republic is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This means that the Iranian authorities ought to make sure that those defendants who are detained based on criminal charges have access to lawyers or be able to choose their own attorney if they desire to do so. The right to have access to a lawyer is one of the most basic rights guaranteed by international law. 

But, unfortunately, the theocratic establishment frequently denies defendants access to lawyers, stopping them enjoying due process and fair legal representation. This is because the regime can intimidate, obtain forced confessions or torture detainees more easily when they don’t have access to a lawyer, and ultimately sentence the defendants to long terms of imprisonment or even execution. 

When it comes to ethnic and religious minorities, the Iranian authorities have escalated their crackdown on the Arab population of Ahvaz. According to a recent report by the Iran Human Rights Monitor: “Reports from Ahvaz, in southwest Iran, indicate security forces launched a mass arresting campaign targeting Ahvazi Arab activists. In some districts security forces opened fire on young activists attempting to flee.” 

The arrests of Ahvazi Arabs have been implemented without any warrant or legal justification in various cities and villages, including Susangerd, Khorramshahr, Kot Abdollah, Kuy Alavi, and Kot Seyed Saleh. 

The Iranian authorities are attempting to impose fear on the Arab population of Ahvaz in order to subjugate and further tighten its grip on them. Arbitrary arrests of Christians and Baha’is have also been on the rise.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh 

There are generally four state apparatuses that engage in such heightened suppression: The IRGC, the Ministry of Intelligence (Ettela’at), the judiciary system, and local law enforcement. 

The Iranian authorities are attempting to impose fear on the Arab population of Ahvaz in order to subjugate and further tighten its grip on them. Arbitrary arrests of Christians and Baha’is have also been on the rise. An August report from Amnesty International indicated that: “Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith.”

One recent incident included the sentencing of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, ethnic Assyrian Christians, along with Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, by Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran. They were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison. 

Human rights abuses against Christians have reached such horrendous levels that Amnesty International had to initiate an “urgent action” appeal. The pressure group has called on Tehran to “quash the convictions and sentences of Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Issavi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari, as they have been targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of religion and belief, expression, and association, through their Christian faith.”

In addition, arrests of Baha’is — including elected officials and a city council member — have increased in various areas, including Shiraz, Isfahan and Karaj. The Iranian authorities have not provided any clear charges for these arrests. Michael Page, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, accurately pointed out that: “The more than 20 arrests in a month without providing any justification shows how intolerant the Islamic Republic is toward Iran’s Baha’i community.”

Environmental activists are another group that has become the target of the Iranian authorities. In spite of the fact they had a license for their wildlife projects, eight activists, including two women — Sepideh Kashani and Niloufar Bayani — could face the death penalty for ridiculous, vague, ambiguous charges such as “sowing corruption on earth.”

Rouhani continues to make empty promises with respect to promoting citizens’ rights and individual liberties such as the freedoms of speech, the press and assembly. Nevertheless, Iran’s latest horrendous human rights record says otherwise. 

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “Iran is the most prolific executioner of juveniles in the world.” This alarming issue recently prompted Rehman to tell a UN General Assembly human rights committee that: “I appeal to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law.”

In sum, under the administration of the so-called moderate Rouhani, the human rights situation has become alarming in Iran. Rouhani has emboldened and empowered the IRGC and the hard-line judiciary system. 

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view