Europe

Iranian FM Zarif Defends Regime’s Abuses Saying, “I am a Human Rights Professor”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif refused to answer questions about his regime’s human rights abuses, indignantly telling an interviewer, “I am a human rights professor,” Al Arabiya reported Monday.

The exchange occurred at the Munich Security Conference, when moderator Lyse Doucet of the BBC asked Zarif about Iran’s human rights record, including the imprisonment of eight environmentalists.

“I am a human rights professor, I have taught human rights for over 30 years,” Zarif proclaimed to Doucet. He elaborated, saying that Iran saw human rights not only as a “moral nicety,” but as a “security requirement” for his regime.

At the end of the exchange, Zarif said, “Let’s not take the high moral ground, because you certainly don’t have it.”

Zarif’s defensiveness about Iran’s human rights record comes just days after a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) documented that the Islamic Republic had arrested, imprisoned, or executed at least 860 journalists since its founding in 1979.

The foreign minister has frequently defended Iran’s record on human rights and other excesses, even when evidence shows otherwise.

In 2015, activists mocked Zarif when he told Charlie Rose in an interview, “We don’t jail people for their opinions. But people who commit crimes, who violate the laws of a country, cannot hide behind being a journalist or being a political activist.”

Zarif was responding to a question about Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian’s incarceration. His comment came shortly after RSF reported that Iran was one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. At the time 46 journalists and Internet activists were reported as jailed by the Islamic Republic after “unfair trials and held in inhuman and degrading conditions.”

Iran’s foreign minister also came in for criticism when he falsely denied that the regime was behind a Holocaust denial conference in 2016.

Following Zarif’s denial, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement saying “that the organizations associated with the contest are sponsored or supported by government entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Tehran Municipality, and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. Previous contests in 2006 and 2015 have had the endorsement and support of government officials and agencies. There are reports in the Iranian press that the Ministry of Culture is asserting its support for the upcoming contest.”

When he was appointed to serve as President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign minister in 2013, a video surfaced of Zarif refusing to condemn the Holocaust.

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