CHICAGO: The leading candidate in Iran’s June 18 elections is a man who has already been sanctioned by both the US and EU for human rights violations and brutality against dissidents, including the torture and killing of children, Ali Safavi, a board member of the world’s leading dissident organization, said on Wednesday.
Appearing on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” hosted by the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, Safavi urged the West to condemn the elections which he called “a sham,” and end “appeasement” as a strategy to lure Iran away from its nuclear weapons program.
The lead candidate favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was Sayyid Ebrahim Raisol-Sadati, known as Ebrahim Raisi, who Khamenei appointed in March 2019 as Iran’s chief justice. Safavi noted that Raisi was dubbed by Iranians as “the henchman of 1988” because of his role in the massacre of more than 30,000 Iranian political prisoners that took place that year.
“Raisi became a prosecutor at the age of 19. He didn’t go to university. He didn’t even finish seminary school. All he has done in 41 years of his adult life has been issuing death sentences for dissidents. He was a key member of the ‘death commission’ in 1988 in Tehran where 30,000 were massacred upon a fatwa by (Ayatollah) Khomeini, the founder of this regime,” Safavi said.
“Khamenei wants to put him (Raisi) in charge precisely because he wants to suppress any form of dissent. The international community has to ask itself, are we going to deal with this man? Are we going to shake his bloodied hands?
“You know that Raisi is in two sanction lists of the treasurer department in the US and the EU list for violations of human rights. That is the key question. I think the Americans and the Europeans have to look themselves in the mirror and basically think about what they are going to do because Iranians reject this regime. They don’t want this regime,” Safavi added.
He said Khamenei was orchestrating Raisi’s rise in the tightly controlled election selection process to be one of the few candidates who could run, adding that this was Khamenei’s second attempt to get Raisi elected as president.
Accused of “many human rights abuses,” Raisi previously ran for president in 2017 but lost to the now outgoing president, Hassan Rouhani, who was first elected as president in 2013.
“Elections in Iran have never been about a democratic process where the people of Iran can express their views freely. It is in one short term, a travesty. It is neither fair nor free,” Safavi said.
“A vetting body, the Guardian Council with 12 members, six of whom are appointed by the Supreme Leader and six others by the judiciary chief who is himself appointed by the Supreme Leader, vet all of the candidates. And of course, whoever becomes a candidate must prove their heartfelt allegiance and practical loyalty to the Supreme Leader.
“This year there was a total of 592 candidates. Out of those 592, the Guardian Council eliminated all but seven,” he added.
The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Raisi and several other members of Iran’s judiciary in March 2019.
According to the OFAC, they oversaw the practice of torture and execution of many dissidents, including children. The practices “involved torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations,” the OFAC report said.
A UN report revealed that Iran’s judiciary sanctioned the execution of a number of child offenders, despite human rights law prohibitions against the death penalty for anyone under the age of 18. There are at least 90 child offenders currently on death row in Iran.
In addition, between September 2018 and July 2019, at least eight prominent lawyers were arrested for defending political prisoners and human rights defenders, many of whom have received lengthy sentences by Iran’s judiciary.
Raisi’s long history of brutality is widely documented. As deputy prosecutor general of Tehran, he participated in a so-called death commission that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
The following year he became the prosecutor general of Tehran serving until 1994. Raisi quickly rose in power, becoming the first deputy head of the judiciary from 2004 to 2014, involved in the brutal crackdown on Iran’s Green Movement protests that followed the chaotic and disorderly 2009 election. He became Iran’s prosecutor general from 2014 to 2016 before heading the judiciary.
Safavi said the responsibility to overthrow the regime rested on the people of Iran, but they needed the support of the West which had to stop its policies of appeasement.
“The task of overthrowing this regime rests singularly on the shoulders of the Iranian people and the organized resistance movement that is growing as we speak. It has gained tremendous traction and appeal within Iranian society. They are quite capable and willing, basically, to provide the kind of sacrifice that is needed to bring down such a murderous regime,” Safavi added.
“That said, I think now is a day of reckoning for the international community. As you know very well, for 40 years Western countries, the US included, has appeased this regime with the false narrative that by offering political and economic concessions they can strengthen the so-called moderates, the illusory moderates within this regime. Now, that game is over.
“So, the world community, Western democracies have to ask themselves a simple question. Are they willing to deal with a regime whose president has done nothing but executions in the past 41 years?”
Safavi described the situation for the Iranian population as dire.
“Iran is a horrible place to live. The economy is bankrupt. About 70 to 80 percent of Iranians live below the poverty line. There is the army of the hungry,” he said, noting some are resorting to extreme measures including selling body parts to help their families survive.
Safavi said that more than 300,000 Iranians had died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the largest per capita death rate in the world, although the regime claims only 80,000 had died.
“On the positive sides, Iranians are determined as never before to bring down this regime. Case in point, you saw the nationwide uprising in December 2017. You saw the uprising in January 2018. And then there was the nationwide uprising in November 2019 in which people rose up in 200 cities and the regime was able to overcome it only by murdering 1,500 protesters in cold blood,” Safavi added.
“But it has been unable to stop the growth and rise of opposition to this regime. And that is precisely why Khamenei had no choice other than to close ranks. He knows an uprising is simmering under the ashes waiting to erupt at any given time.”
Host of Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” talk show, Frank Kane, also joined “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” to provide insight into his show’s mission and goals, reviewing past broadcasts from the first season and also talking about his latest episode with guest Reza Pahlavi, the exiled crown prince of Iran.
The second season of the flagship interview program “Frankly Speaking” launched on Sunday, May 30.
“The Ray Hanania Radio Show” is sponsored by Arab News and broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Washington, D.C. on WDMV AM 700 radio. It is streamed live online at ArabRadio.us and on Facebook.com/ArabNews.