Iran

Human Rights Groups and Dissidents Call for Focus on Iran Arrest Sweeps, Execution Spike

The Associated Press yesterday conveyed reports from Iranian state media describing an arrest sweep conducted by the country’s Revolutionary Guard, in which at least 16 anti-government activists were arrested. The IRNA news agency quoted a prosecutor explaining that the arrested had confessed to their crimes – cooperating with the West – under ‘interrogation.’ The announcements come as human rights activists are leveling increasingly pointed criticism against the U.S. and its allies for focusing on Iran’s nuclear program to the exclusion of its institutionalized human rights atrocities, its global terrorist activities, and its critical support for regimes such as that of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this week David Keyes and Ahmad Batebi – respectively the executive director of Advancing Human Rights and a former Iranian political prisoner – took to the Daily Beast to declare that “human rights are the biggest victim of the Iranian nuclear deal” announced recently in Geneva and that “the West has abandoned the issue of human rights inside Iran.”

Sadly, human rights have been almost entirely absent during the Iran negotiations. How many times were the names of political prisoners such as Majid Tavakoli or Shiva Ahari raised? How often were improvements in human rights linked to the nuclear issue? Seemingly not at all…Rather than celebrate this deal, global powers should refocus their attention to human rights in Iran.

The deal with the Iranian government will give them a free hand to repress activists and keep political prisoners behind bars. The regime will now say if America does not want to jeopardize the nuclear deal, then it must remain silent on human rights. They will claim that repression of dissidents is an “internal affair.” It is not. Human rights are universal. Even as the nuclear deal was being negotiated, the Iranian government was furiously imprisoning bloggers, lawyers and journalists. Last year, the government targeted Sunni Muslims, executing many, arresting their religious leaders and attacking mosques. Many Bahai’s remain in prison. Women, students and workers are all denied basic rights. In the 100 days since President Rouhani assumed power, more than 300 people have been executed.

Evaluating recent events in Iran, Ilan Berman and Mollie Adatto – respectively the vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and a researcher at the organization – noted today that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s election-time pledge “to defend ordinary citizens was campaign propaganda.” Rouhani had already come in for sustained criticism over his appointment of Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi to be Justice Minister. Pour-Mohammadi is notorious in the country as one of three revolutionary-era figures who sat on a panel that condemned literally tens of thousands of political prisoners to death. A wave of executions has taken place since Rouhani’s election, causing the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran to assess that there has been no fundamental domestic reform since the transition from the administration of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Rouhani’s administration.

[Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr]