Human rights, Islam, and Iran - Soraya Ghebleh
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Human rights, Islam, and Iran - Soraya Ghebleh

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This paper examines the human rights situation in Iran and how the Iranian Constitution contributes to discrimination against minority groups, like the followers of the Baha'i' Faith.

This paper examines the human rights situation in Iran and how the Iranian Constitution contributes to discrimination against minority groups, like the followers of the Baha'i' Faith.

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Human rights, Islam, and Iran - Soraya Ghebleh Human rights, Islam, and Iran - Soraya Ghebleh Document Transcript

  • Introduction     Iran  has  a  history  of  abusing  human  rights  whether  civil,  social,  political,  or   fundamental.  The  post-­‐revolutionary  period,  however,  from  1979  to  the  present,  has   experienced  a  deplorable  record  of  human  rights  atrocities  and  violations  under  the   Islamic  Republic  of  Iran  that  has  been  witnessed  by  the  international  community   from  the  Republic’s  inception  with  little  tangible  action  taken  to  alleviate  the   situation  of  those  affected.  Iran  uses  the  manipulation  of  Islam  and  Islamic  law  to   serve  its  political  interests.  Every  aspect  of  law  and  politics  is  centered  on  the   specific  interpretation  of  Islam  by  those  in  power,  thereby  allowing  the  government   to  operate  however  it  chooses,  targeting  and  punishing  any  opponent  without  fear   of  consequences.  International  pressure  at  various  periods  in  the  last  thirty  years   has  worked  to  put  a  stop  on  some  of  the  more  extreme  violations  such  as  executions,   arbitrary  imprisonment,  and  torture  but  the  protection  of  the  rights  of  the  Iranian   people  has  often  been  pushed  to  the  backburner  of  the  international  community’s   agenda.     Human  rights  violations  in  Iran  tend  to  parallel  two  phenomena.  The  first   phenomenon  occurs  when  the  regime  feels  any  loss  of  absolute  control  or  senses   instability  of  any  kind.  The  second  phenomenon  occurs  when  there  is  an  increase  in   radicalism  or  surge  of  Islamic  fundamentalism.  With  Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad’s   presidency,  a  combination  of  both  phenomena  can  be  seen.  The  radicalism  and   militant  Islamization  in  Iranian  leadership  witnessed  in  the  early  years  of  the   Republic  is  returning  to  Iranian  society  just  as  the  Islamic  Republic’s  grip  of  power  
  • is  losing  its  iron  fist.  Although  Ahmadinejad  does  not  retain  absolute  power  as   Ayatollah  Ali  Khameini  does,  his  political  presence  is  tremendous  and  his  actions  in   the  international  arena  have  shifted  international  attention  away  from  the  human   rights  crisis  currently  taking  place  in  Iran.  The  international  community  has  allowed   this  shift  in  focus  to  take  place  by  continuing  to  cooperate  economically  with  Iran,   focusing  on  Iran’s  potential  nuclear  capabilities,  exacerbating  Ahmadinejad’s  anti-­‐ Semitic  and  anti-­‐Israel  comments  more  than  needed,  and  engaging  with  Iran  despite   the  atrocious  human  rights  record  of  the  government.  Escalation  of  human  rights   violations  in  Iran,  justified  by  the  manipulation  of  Islamic  and  Iranian  constitutional   law  by  government  officials,  occurs  when  domestic  political  instability  is  coupled   with  intensified  Islamic  fundamentalism  in  government  leadership.     Human  Rights  and  Islam     Human  rights,  as  defined  by  Amnesty  International,  are  “basic  rights  and   freedoms  that  all  people  are  entitled  to  regardless  of  nationality,  sex,  national  or   ethnic  origin,  race,  religion,  language,  or  other  status.”  These  rights  also  include   “civil  and  political  rights,  such  as  the  right  to  life,  liberty,  and  freedom  of  expression;   and  social,  cultural  and  economic  rights  including  the  right  to  participate  in  culture,   the  right  to  food,  and  the  right  to  work  and  receive  and  education.”1  Conversations   regarding  human  rights  have  been  part  of  international  dialogue  for  more  than  sixty   years  and  while  an  international  consensus  has  been  reached  there  is  still  a   considerable  debate  on  whether  the  universal  nature  of  human  rights  is                                                                                                                   1 Amnesty International, Official Website
  • theoretically,  culturally,  and  politically  feasible.  Human  rights  are  part  of  the  new   global  identity  that  has  emerged  in  the  past  century  and  in  order  for  a  state  to  be   valid  and  legitimate  in  the  eyes  of  other  nations,  it  must  respect  the  international   standards  that  have  developed  to  protect  human  relations.2       The  compatibility  of  Islam  with  international  human  rights  doctrine  is  a  main   component  of  the  debate  that  examines  aspects  “theoretically  relevant  to  the   universalization  of  human  rights  and  specifically  relevant  to  the  practical  realization   of  human  rights  in  the  Muslim  World.”3  Some  who  believe  Islam  is  incompatible   with  universal  human  rights  values  are  non-­‐democratic  Islamic  states,  extremist   religious  groups,  and  Western  theorists  who  support  the  infamous  “clash  of   civilizations”  theory  introduced  by  Samuel  Huntington.4  The  summation  of  those   who  adhere  to  these  different  groups  or  schools  of  thought  propagates  further   violation  of  the  rights  of  the  people  who  are  suffering  in  brutal  regimes.  The  non-­‐ democratic  Islamic  states  act  as  God’s  representatives  on  Earth  and  attach   legitimacy  to  their  rule  through  religion  rather  than  the  vote  of  the  people,   reminiscent  of  many  monarchies  of  the  past.  These  states  are  then  free  to  act  as  they   please,  manipulating  Islam  and  Islamic  law  to  stamp  out  any  political  opposition  or   perceived  threats  to  their  rule,  as  is  the  case  in  the  Islamic  Republic  of  Iran.5    On  the   other  side,  Western  theorists  who  support  the  idea  that  Islamic  civilization  is                                                                                                                   2 Osanloo, Arzoo, "The Measure of Mercy: Islamic Justice, Sovereign Power, and Human Rights in Iran," Cultural Anthropology. 21.4 (2006): 570-602. 3 Baderin, Mashood. "Islam and the Realization of Human Rights in the Muslim World: A Reflection on Two Essential Approaches and Two Divergent Perspectives." Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. 4.1 (2007) 4 Ebadi, Shirin. "Islam, Human Rights, and Iran." Emory University School of Law. 17 10 2008. Address. 5 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.”
  • irreconcilable  with  international  human  rights  standards  “excuses  Muslim   countries’  non-­‐compliance  with  human  rights”  and  allows  exceptions  for  violations   of  standards  on  culturally  relativist  grounds.6     The  notion  that  Islam  has  its  own  set  of  human  rights  that  are  fundamentally   different  than  those  of  the  rest  of  the  globe  is  inaccurate.  The  aggressive  approach  of   many  Muslim  nations  in  developing  an  Islamic  standard  of  human  rights   demonstrates  two  agendas.  The  first  agenda,  is  to  demonstrate  to  the  rest  of  the   world  that  Muslims  and  adherents  of  Islam  are  not  savages  and  amoral  beings,   rather  they  choose  to  remain  firmly  rooted  in  a  human  rights  standard  that  is   unique  to  Islam.    Various  measures  have  been  adopted  in  the  last  two  decades,  such   as  the  Arab  Charter  on  Human  Rights,  the  Charter  of  the  Organisation  of  Islamic   Conference  (OIC),  the  OIC  Cairo  Declaration  of  Human  Rights  in  Islam,  and  the  OIC   Covenant  on  the  Rights  of  the  Child  in  Islam.7  For  some  countries  in  the  Muslim   world,  these  measures  were  meant  to  assert  Islamic  ideas  on  human  rights  and   standardize  these  ideas  in  a  presentable,  coherent,  and  systematic  way  to  the  rest  of   the  world.     The  second  agenda,  unfortunately,  deviates  from  the  more  positive  and   sincere  intentions  of  those  truly  invested  in  cooperating  with  the  rest  of  the  world  in   coming  to  a  universal  consensus  on  human  rights  that  involves  Islam.  While  it  has   been  suggested  by  many  that  Islam  can  be  “employed  as  a  vehicle  for  improving  the                                                                                                                   6 Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. "The Islam and Human Rights Nexus: Shifting Dimensions." Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. 4.1 (2007), 4 7  Baderin,  6    
  • poor  human  rights  situation  in  predominantly  Muslim  states,”  the  opposite  has  often   shown  itself  to  be  true,  especially  in  the  case  of  Iran.8  World  history  has  shown  that   the  perversion  and  manipulation  of  peaceful  religions  in  the  pursuit  of  power  and   control  has  often  resulted  in  the  persecution  of  different  groups  of  people  justified   in  the  name  of  those  religions  and  what  is  currently  taking  place  in  Iran  is  no   different.  Having  a  “separate”  standard  of  human  rights  is  preferable  for  Iran   because  every  single  aspect  of  society  is  interpreted  by  those  in  power  and  will   always  have  the  ultimate  justification  in  the  name  of  religion.  Whether  or  not   citizens  agree  with  the  regime’s  interpretation  of  Islam  and  the  idea  of  a  separate   Islamic  standard  of  human  rights  are  inconsequential  because  the  structure  has   been  made  such  that  speaking  against  these  views  is  equivalent  to  speaking  out   against  God.9  This  idea  of  separation  based  on  cultural  and  religious  grounds  is   supported  by  countries  with  “deplorable  human  rights  records”  such  as  Iran  and   Saudi  Arabia,  who  serve  to  benefit  the  most  from  international  acceptance  of  a   human  rights  standard  specific  to  Muslim  cultures  that  allows  them  to  treat  their   citizens  however  they  choose  without  fear  of  international  pressure  or   consequence.10       The  fact  that  there  are  polarized  points  of  view  on  how  to  approach  universal   human  rights,  whether  from  an  absolute  or  a  culturally  relativist  standpoint  in  of   itself  allows  human  rights  violations  to  occur  unchecked.  The  Iranian  government                                                                                                                   8  Baderin,  22   9  Milani,  Abbas,  “Iran  in  Ferment:  Cracks  in  the  Regime,”  Journal  of  Democracy,  20.4   (2009),  12-­‐15.   10 Mayer, 6
  • takes  the  criticism  of  some  that  Islam  is  the  inherent  cause  of  the  human  rights   violations  occurring  in  Muslim  states  and  spins  it  to  their  advantage.  By  simply   engaging  in  this  argument,  Iran  can  accomplish  many  things.  Iran  can  accuse  the   West  of  misunderstanding  Islam  or  choosing  to  attack  Islam  due  to  racial  and   religious  prejudices  which  takes  attention  away  from  the  actual  problems  of  the   people  to  the  never  ending  debate  on  religious  tension  between  the  Judeo-­‐Christian   West  and  the  Islamic  Middle  East.  It  also  allows  Iran  to  further  accuse  the  West  of   promoting  their  own  human  rights  agenda  in  the  Middle  East  as  a  means  of   interfering  in  the  society  and  politics  of  the  region  and  that  the  Western  conception   of  human  rights  is  incompatible  with  a  state  governed  by  Islamic  principles  and   laws.11  All  of  these  arguments  are  used  by  Iran  in  order  to  divert  attention  from  the   brutality  and  abuse  occurring  in  their  own  nation.  It  also  focuses  attention  away   from  the  fact  that  it  is  not  Islam  that  is  incompatible  with  the  human  rights   standards  of  the  world  but  the  government  who  is  incompatible,  demonstrated  by   the  constant  actions  taken  in  the  name  of  Islam  according  to  their  own   interpretation  geared  to  accomplish  selfish  political  goals.12     How  the  Structure  of  the  Islamic  Republic  of  Iran  Allows  Violations     Iran  serves  as  a  perfect  example  of  a  non-­‐democratic  Islamic  state  that  uses   Islam  as  a  “means  or  pretext  to  arrive  at  a  wrong  interpretation  of  religion  in  order   to  justify  its  goals.”  The  Revolution  of  1979  was  a  result  of  millions  of  disillusioned   Iranians  looking  for  a  different  leadership  who  would  help  alleviate  their  abysmal                                                                                                                   11  Baderin,  17   12  Baderin,  15  
  • social  conditions  and  create  a  more  egalitarian  society.13  Islam  was  a  common  factor   among  all  of  the  different  segments  of  society  looking  for  change  and  the  clergy  with   Ayatollah  Ruhollah  Khomeini  as  their  leader  took  advantage  of  this  and  took  control   of  the  country  with  the  proposed  return  of  a  grand  Muslim  civilization  and   elimination  of  the  Western  influences  that  were  associated  with  the  disposed   regime  of  the  Shah.14  From  its  inception,  the  Islamic  Republic  has  always  secured  its   power  by  fighting  and  defending  itself  against  “enemies,”  whether  real  or   imagined.15  These  “enemies”  are  always  loudly  attacked  publicly  and  include  the   United  States,  the  West  in  general,  Israel,  and  any  supporter  of  Zionism.  Less   publicly,  enemies  of  the  state  tend  to  include  any  threat  to  the  power  of  the  regime,   or  supposedly  any  threat  to  the  sanctity  of  “Islam.”  Any  political  opponent,  religious   minority,  piece  of  literature,  cartoon  drawing,  or  indirect  statement  taken  out  of   context  can  be  viewed  as  an  “enemy”  of  Islam  and  therefore  an  “enemy”  of  the  state.   The  constitution,  judicial  system,  and  the  structure  of  the  Islamic  Republic  became   centered  not  around  justice  and  fair  governance  but  on  ensuring  power  and  control   of  the  clergy  and  is  geared  to  pursue  anyone  or  anything  that  gets  in  the  way  of  this   power  and  control.16  Although  Iran  signed  the  International  Covenants  on  Civil  and   Political  Rights  and  Economic,  Social,  and  Cultural  Rights,  domestic  law  maintains                                                                                                                   13 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.” 14 Monshipouri, Mahmood and Ali Assareh, “The Islamic Republic and the ‘green movement’: coming full circle,” Middle East Policy 16.4 (2009): 27 15 Afshari, Reza, Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, 21 16 "Walk in Fear: Human Rights in Iran." Economist 23 July 1994: 39-40.
  • that  anything  opposed  to  government  interpretation  of  Islamic  law  is  not  the  final   word  and  does  not  have  to  be  followed.17       The  concept  of  velayat-­‐i-­‐faqih  was  introduced  with  the  new  government   established  in  1979,  which  was  a  combination  of  a  semi-­‐democratic,  semi-­‐theocratic   government  where  absolute  control  lies  within  the  Supreme  Religious  Ruler  who  in   1979  was  the  Republic’s  leader,  Ayatollah  Khomeini.  Velayat-­‐i-­‐faqih,  or  Islamic   Jurist,  is  meant  to  “conduct  the  state’s  affairs  in  accordance  with  God’s  laws”  in  the   absence  of  the  twelfth  Imam.18  In  an  Islamic  Republic,  this  translates  to  the  velayat-­‐i-­‐ faqih  having  absolute  power  with  the  last  say  on  everything  related  to  politics,  law,   and  all  aspects  of  civil  society.  Khomeini’s  goal  was  to  create  an  Islamic  society  ruled   by  absolute  Islamic  law.  The  constitution  of  Iran  was  re-­‐written  but  absolute  power   and  interpretation  of  law  was  given  to  the  Supreme  Ruler  who  could  delegate   interpretation  and  follow-­‐through  of  his  laws  as  he  deemed  fit.19  Therefore,  where   human  rights  are  concerned,  as  long  as  Islam  is  used  as  the  basis,  virtually  anything   decided  by  the  velayat-­‐i-­‐faqih  and  those  who  are  given  authority  by  him  is  justified   and  supported  by  law  and  the  constitution.20  While  the  Iranian  constitution  allowed   elected  assemblies,  ultimate  power  was  granted  to  the  faqih.       The  Iranian  approach  towards  those  accused  of  a  crime  is  the  opposite  that  is   seen  in  many  democratic  nations.  In  Iran,  a  person  is  “guilty  until  proven  innocent,”   and  that  a  “citizen’s  every  deed  or  word  is  potentially  both  a  crime  and  an  act  of                                                                                                                   17 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.” 18 Afshari, 15. 19 Osanloo, 577 20 Afshari, 17
  • disobedience.”21  This  approach  gives  premise  for  mullahs,  government  officials,  and   anyone  else  with  a  small  degree  of  power,  to  imprison  individuals  without   explanation,  proof,  or  even  valid  reason.  In  a  nation  where  the  rights  of  individuals   are  protected  by  the  legal  system,  an  effective  legal  order  has  usually  been   established  and  is  not  subject  to  change  as  a  result  of  individual  inclinations.  In  Iran,   the  exact  opposite  of  an  effective  legal  order  with  checks  and  balances  has  been   established.  Iran  lacks  an  organized  structure  with  objective  legal  practices,   consistent  with  a  political  and  legal  system  that  is  in  great  need  of  protection  of   human  rights  and  freedoms.  The  arbitrary  and  unorganized  nature  of  the  entire   legal  system  allows  violations  to  occur  in  an  unnoticed  and  often  undocumented   fashion  that  completely  lacks  any  systematization.22     The  Major  Groups  Persecuted  and  Why       The  Islamic  Republic  of  Iran  has  been  notorious  in  the  utilization  of  terror   tactics  and  quelling  of  any  opposition  that  stands  in  the  way  of  their  absolute  control   and  power.  These  opponents  or  opposition  take  many  forms  and  shapes  and  the   defeat  or  persecution  of  these  groups  is  often  preemptive  without  any  provocation   whatsoever.  According  to  the  absolute  power  vested  in  the  clergy  by  Iran’s   constitution,  anyone  that  opposes  the  government  or  who  can  be  accused  of   opposing  the  government  can  be  imprisoned  with  no  explanation  other  than  that   they  insulted  Islam  in  some  way  and  punishment  can  range  from  physical  lashes  to   execution.  The  major  categories  of  those  whose  rights  are  abused  include  any                                                                                                                   21  Milani,  12   22  Baderin,  21-­‐22  
  • political  opponents,  religious  minorities  not  recognized  by  the  constitution,  those  in   academia,  the  press  and  the  media,  and  women  as  a  gender.       The  introduction  of  specific  Islamic  laws  in  conjunction  with  the  constitution   allowed  for  any  opponent  of  the  Republic  to  be  eliminated  without  violating  any   laws  of  the  government.  The  Islamic  government  maintained  that  they  accepted   international  law  only  as  much  as  it  did  not  interfere  with  their  interpretation  of   Islamic  law  and  where  there  was  contradiction,  Islamic  law  would  always  take   precedent.23  The  specific  Islamic  laws  instituted  were  the  ancient  Shiite  penal  laws,   divided  into  four  different  judicial  categories  that  allowed  for  the  massive  numbers   of  executions  and  imprisonments  to  take  place  in  an  extremely  rapid  manner.  The   first  category  was  hodud,  which  defines  punishments  for  crimes  against  divine  will   including  rebellion  against  the  Islamic  state,  apostasy,  sex  crimes,  and  the   consumption  of  alcohol.  The  second  category  was  qesas,  or  retributive  law,  where  a   victim’s  family  could  demand  a  punishment  equal  to  the  crime  or  accept  diyat  or   blood  money.  The  third  category  was  ta’zir,  or  discretionary  punishment,  which   covered  any  crime  outside  of  the  first  two  categories,  covering  more  of  the  “minor”   crimes  committed  by  citizens.  The  fourth  category  includes  the  specific  diyat  laws   that  provide  an  ancient  chart  for  compensation  to  victims  of  homicide,  assault,  and   battery.24  For  the  discussion  of  human  rights,  the  implementation  of  hodud,  has  the   most  severe  implications  for  abuse  because  any  opponent  of  the  regime,  however                                                                                                                   23 Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, . Human Rights Betrayed: Galindo Pohl's Report Under Scrutiny. Auvers-sur-Oise, France: 1990,34 24 Afshar, 69.
  • peaceful  in  nature  and  action,  could  be  accused  of  rebelling  against  the  regime  and   Islam  and  be  executed  or  imprisoned  accordingly.  A  person  who  is  not  even   speaking  against  the  Islamic  Republic  but  is  merely  disliked  by  an  official  or  is   perceived  to  have  made  a  statement  that  could  be  understood  incorrectly  could  be   imprisoned  without  a  second  thought.  Historic  Islamic  law  is  applied  to  modern   times  where  the  interpretation  is  involved  to  fit  in  to  modern  times  when  it  benefits   those  in  power  and  is  kept  to  literal,  historic  interpretation  at  other  times  when  the   clergy  sees  fit.25  The  selective  evolution  of  Islamic  law  is  yet  another  example  of  how   the  Iranian  government  manipulates  religion.       After  the  Islamic  Republic  took  power  in  1979,  the  American  embassy  was   seized  a  few  months  later  and  international  attention  was  solely  focused  on  the   hostage  crisis.  Iran  has  managed  repeatedly  to  avoid  the  necessary  global  attention   to  the  heinous  abuses  taking  place  domestically  by  distracting  the  world  with   foreign  policy  issues  and  outlandish  and  dramatic  rhetoric  from  Iranian  leadership.   The  hostage  crisis  was  extremely  unfortunate  for  those  involved  but  served  the   purpose  of  allowing  the  Islamic  regime  to  consolidate  power  brutally  and  swiftly.   Those  high  up  in  the  government  took  this  opportunity  with  the  world  distracted  to   completely  crush  any  political  opposition,  discussion,  or  action  that  could  threaten   the  stability  and  consolidation  of  the  Islamic  Republic’s  power  and  subsequently   imprisoned  and  executed  over  12,000  people  by  the  year  1985.26  The  prisons                                                                                                                   25  Baderin,  19   26 Hakakian, Roya. “When Eyes get Averted: The Consequences of Misplaced Reporting: ‘Poor Reporting from and about Iran has kept the West in the Dark. In this lightlessness, Iranians are rendered as ghosts’.” Nieman Reports (2009)
  • became  the  “madhouses  of  the  Revolution,”  with  many  of  these  executions  not  being   reported  as  political  in  nature  but  given  some  other  reason  such  as  espionage,  drug   trafficking,  prostitution,  adultery,  or  violence  just  to  name  a  few  of  the  false   accusations  made  against  many  prisoners.27  The  notorious  Revolutionary  Courts   that  were  established  conducted  “grossly  unfair  trials  head  for  those  against  the   revolution  or  the  clergy,”  where  individuals  often  did  not  have  access  to  any  legal   counsel,  were  imprisoned  for  months  without  knowing  what  they  were  accused  of,   tortured,  humiliated,  and  in  many  cases  simply  executed.28       Religious  minorities  are  also  harassed  and  humiliated  but  not  in  every   situation.  While  most  of  the  abuse  against  religious  minorities  takes  place  against   the  followers  of  the  Baha’i’  Faith,  members  of  Christian  churches,  mostly  Protestants   are  also  harassed,  imprisoned,  and  killed  because  of  the  prosthelytizing  nature  of   Protestantism  and  its  threatening  potential  to  convert  Muslims.29  In  the  Iranian   Constitution,  Christianity  and  Judaism  are  recognized  religious  minorities  because   they  are  Abrahimic  religions  and  came  before  Islam.  The  government  recognizes   Iranian  Jews  as  being  different  than  Zionists  and  do  not  hold  the  same  hatred  and   prejudice  against  them.  Baha’i’s,  however,  are  not  recognized  in  the  Constitution   therefore  making  specific  discourse  regarding  their  minority  status  difficult  in  the                                                                                                                   27 Afshar, 34-37. 28 Afshar, 74 29 “The U.S. Commission on International Religoius Freedom says it is “Deeply Concerned” about a Worsening Situation for Religious Minorities in Iran.” The Christian Century (2006), 17.
  • Iranian  judicial  context  and  put  them  in  a  no-­‐man’s  land  where  they  can  be  accused   of  virtually  anything  with  no  constitutional  protection  or  defense.30       Professors  and  other  members  of  academia  have  also  been  targeted   throughout  the  duration  of  the  Republic’s  existence  because  it  is  among  the   educated  that  discourse  usually  takes  place.  For  academic  professors,  to  blindly   swallow  whatever  an  oppressive  regime  dictates  without  at  least  questioning  the   validity  of  the  judicial  system  and  government  practices  is  virtually  impossible  and   the  regime  recognized  this  and  quickly  purged  universities  of  any  professor  who   could  be  deemed  subversive  or  anti-­‐Islamic.31  Islamic  education  was  instilled  in   every  school  and  university,  media  and  propaganda  were  manipulated  and   controlled  by  the  government,  and  direct  control  of  what  was  taught  to  students  was   implemented  in  order  for  “Islamization”  to  occur.32  Approximately  60,000  teachers   were  purged  due  to  their  beliefs  many  accused  of  being  Shah-­‐lovers,  spies,   Freemasons,  Zionists,  Baha’i’s,  leftists,  and  infidels.33     The  press  and  the  media  are  also  very  closely  monitored  and  controlled  by   the  different  political  factions  within  the  Iranian  government  and  stepping  out  of   line  under  any  circumstances  could  lead  to  a  wide  array  of  punishments.  Limiting  of   expression  in  Iran  is  achieved  in  a  complex  and  intricate  way  with  allowable  content   shifting  quickly  and  constantly.  There  is  no  one  authority  in  the  Iranian  government                                                                                                                   30 Ghanea, Nazila. Human Rights, the UN and the Baha'i's in Iran. Kidlington, Oxford: George Ronald, 2002, 25-27 31 Afshar, 78 32 Human Rights Watch, Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, 1993, 36-38. 33 Human Rights Watch, 134-137
  • who  allows  or  disallows  content  in  the  media  but  everything  goes  under  the   Ministry  of  Culture  and  the  means  of  controlling  what  is  published  and  presented  in   the  press  and  the  media  tend  to  be  more  subtle  and  indirect.  At  least  one  religious   authority  or  government  official  reviews  everything  that  is  to  be  published  and  all   television  and  radio  is  under  the  direct  supervision  of  the  religious  leader  and  the   branches  of  government.  .34    From  a  human  rights  perspective,  Iran  is  in  complete   violation  of  the  guarantee  of  freedom  of  expression  because  this  freedom  is   “crippled  by  exceptions  requiring  compliance  with  fundamental  principles  of   Islam.”35  Even  if  freedom  of  expression  was  to  be  limited  on  the  basis  of  Islamic   principles,  the  only  way  this  could  method  could  even  begin  to  have  a  justifiable   basis  is  if  the  interpretation  of  the  Islamic  principles  was  consistent  at  all  levels   throughout  Iran  and  was  a  mutually  agreed  interpretation  decided  by  those  who   follow  and  adhere  to  the  principles  and  laws  of  Islam.       Women’s  rights  are  also  consistently  violated  in  Iran.  In  the  Iranian   constitution,  women’s  rights  are  severely  restricted.  A  married  woman  can  only   hold  employment  if  her  husband  agrees  through  written  permission  and  may  stop   her  from  working  at  any  point  in  time.36  Women  are  segregated  from  men  on  buses   and  have  a  de  facto  dress  code  with  mandatory  hejab,  The  strictness  and  severity  of   the  dress  code  has  changed  but  now  under  Ahmadinejad  the  moral  police  are   constantly  on  the  lookout  for  “bad  hejab”  and  women  cannot  enter  many  public                                                                                                                   34 Human Rights Watch, 1-7 35 Human Rights Watch, 23-30 36  “Status  of  Women  in  Iran:  Fact  Sheet,”  WIN  News,  Spring  1998:67.    
  • hospitals  to  be  treated  without  being  in  a  floor  length  chador.37  Polygamy  continues   to  be  allowed  and  the  legal  age  for  girls  to  be  married  has  been  reduced  to  nine   years  old.  In  court  hearings,  two  female  witnesses  are  required  to  substitute  for  one   male  witness  and  in  the  Iranian  criminal  code  a  woman’s  life  is  worth  only  half  a   man’s  life.38  Women’s  right  to  divorce  is  severely  limited  and  a  woman  must  prove   the  marriage  is  in  violation  of  various  codes  of  Islam,  which  almost  never  happens   but  a  man  can  divorce  whenever  he  pleases.39  Women  are  more  highly  educated  in   the  universities  than  men  yet  political  representation  in  the  government  is  virtually   nonexistent.  While  many  of  the  problems  women  face  in  Iran  tend  to  span  across   Muslim  countries  in  general,  women  in  Iran  are  fighting  for  t  heir  political  freedom   and  civil  liberties.     Methods  of  Abuse     The  methods  employed  by  those  in  power  range  widely  from  social,  civil,  and   economic  liberties  to  violations  of  fundamental  protections  and  rights   internationally  recognized  by  the  global  community.  The  abuse  that  occurs  in  Iran   can  be  divided  into  two  categories.  The  first  category  includes  the  violations  that   everyday  citizens  of  Iran  undergo  in  their  daily  lives  whereas  the  second  is  the  more   direct  and  violent  persecution,  torture,  imprisonment,  and  occasional  execution  of   specific  groups  of  people  perceived  as  a  threat  to  the  regime.                                                                                                                     37 Kitfield, James, “In Iran, Revolution is In the Air,” National Journal, 2010. 38 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.” 39 “Status of Women in Iran: Fact Sheet,” WIN News, Spring 1998, 67.
  •   In  the  early  days  of  the  Revolution,  strict  adherence  to  Islamic  codes  and   behaviors  was  expected  and  enforced  at  all  times  but  under  Khatami’s  presidency   many  of  these  restrictions  were  softened.  Under  Ahamdinejad,  however,  a   “systematic  campaign  to  consolidate  power”  has  begun.40  Ahmadinejad  has   expanded  censorship  by  imposing  major  new  restrictions  on  radio,  television,  and   film  content,  and  has  banned  the  publication  of  virtually  all  books.  He  has   restructured  diplomacy  by  firing  any  diplomat  that  has  failed  to  “promote  the   president’s  extremist  agenda  effectively.”41  Ahmadinejad  has  also  begun  to  impose   ideological  conformity  echoing  the  “cultural  revolution”  or  in  a  more  realistic  sense   the  “Islamization”  of  society  that  took  place  soon  after  the  1979  Revolution.  Efforts   to  cleanse  Iranian  society  of  “immoral  behavior”  and  to  eliminate  any  Western   influence  have  increased  exponentially  with  stricter  dress  codes  imposed  on  women   and  continued  lack  of  equality  between  men  and  women.       Throughout  the  1980s,  extreme  violence  was  recorded  and  monitored  by   groups  like  Amnesty  International,  Human  Rights  Watch,  and  to  some  extent  the   United  Nations.  Physical  and  psychological  torture  became  extremely  commonplace   tools  of  the  Revolution  to  obtain  confessions,  recant  of  Faith,  and  to  instill  fear.   Although  torture  is  forbidden  by  the  Islamic  Republic’s  own  constitution  and  by   international  human  rights  documentation  that  Iran  is  signatory  to,  the  Republic                                                                                                                   40 Berman, Ilan, “Who is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and What is He Really After?” USA Today, March 2007, 16. 41 Berman, 16.
  • continues  to  use  torture  as  an  effective  method  of  forcing  whatever  answer  was   desired  out  of  a  prisoner  for  public  confession.42       Arbitrary  imprisonment  and  the  establishment  of  a  police  state  is  also   another  means  of  maintaining  control.  Keeping  people  in  fear  that  they  may  say  a   comment  that  could  be  either  misconstrued  or  purposefully  used  against  them  by   anyone  at  anytime  keeps  people  under  the  control  of  the  government.43  Iran  is  an   example  of  a  modern  police  state,  where  terror  tactics  are  employed  randomly  and   intensely  to  create  a  heightened  sense  of  insecurity  and  fear  and  as  a  result  an   obedient  population.  The  approach  that  tends  to  be  most  commonly  applied  in  the   pursuit  of  protecting  and  promoting  human  rights  is  generally  political  or  legal  in   nature,  but  social  and  cultural  measures  have  shown  to  be  important  steps  in   ensuring  the  protection  of  all  citizens  of  a  society.  The  creation  of  a  police  state,   however,  prevents  the  development  of  solidarity  among  citizens  in  a  community.   When  a  person  is  unable  to  know  if  a  comment  they  make  or  action  they  take  to   support  another  person  who  is  being  persecuted  will  land  them  the  same  fate,   silence  persists  and  an  attitude  of  nonintervention  permeates  the  population,  just  as   the  regime  devised.44     The  terror  tactics  used  are  yet  another  example  of  how  in  times  of  increased   fundamentalism  and  any  slight  or  not  so  slight  appearances  of  dissent  towards  the   regime,  the  human  rights  situation  deteriorates  and  the  people  of  Iran  live  in  fear.                                                                                                                   42 Human Rights Watch, 44. 43  Milani,  12   44  Baderin,  5  
  • Political  and  legal  assurances  are  absolutely  necessary  to  improve  and  maintain  the   protection  of  human  rights  in  any  nation  and  without  legal  safeguards  against  abuse   and  a  system  of  checks  and  balances  that  provides  for  the  freedoms  of  a  nation’s   citizens,  rampant  abuse  will  continue  to  no  end.  When  basic  juridical  principles  are   abandoned  and  no  amount  of  international  attention  can  ameliorate  the  situation  or   improve  the  justice  of  a  case,  the  problem  is  endemic  within  the  government  and   overall  structure  of  the  system.45       Case  Study:  The  Baha’i's  of  Iran     The  Baha’i’s  of  Iran  are  the  largest  minority  group  living  in  Iran  yet  they  are   not  considered  a  minority  group  or  even  a  religion  by  the  Iranian  government  or   constitution  and  have  a  history  of  being  persecuted  by  those  in  power  in  Iran  from   the  inception  of  the  Faith  in  the  mid  19th  century.  The  Baha’i’s  in  Iran  are  the  most   persecuted  religious  minority,  mainly  because  the  government  does  not   acknowledge  that  they  are  in  fact  a  religion,  merely  a  perversion  or  deviant  from   Islam  and  that  all  Baha’i’s  are  apostates  for  “converting”  to  Islam.  In  the  aftermath  of   the  Revolution,  many  of  the  Baha’i’s  who  could  leave  Iran  left  but  the  300,000   Baha’i’s  remaining  in  Iran  were  to  undergo  systematic  humiliation,  imprisonment,   execution,  and  complete  deprivation  of  social,  economic,  and  civil  liberties  including   access  to  higher  education  and  jobs  in  the  private  sector.  In  the  years  after  the   Revolution,  over  two  hundred  Baha’i’s  have  been  killed  on  false  charges,  with  unjust                                                                                                                   45  “Protest  Against  Civil  Rights  Violations  in  Iran,”  Social  Research,  67.2  (2000).    
  • trials  in  almost  every  single  case,  a  complete  lack  of  evidence  in  any  crime   committed  and  no  legal  representation.46       The  accusations  against  Baha’i’s  range  from  espionage  for  the  West,   supporting  Zionism  therefore  conspiring  against  the  Islamic  Republic,  violent   activism  against  the  regime,  apostasy  as  well  as  any  other  humiliating  crime  such  as   sexual  deviance,  thievery,  and  violence  that  they  could  be  accused  of.  The  Baha’i’  has   been  branded  a  “political  sect”  and  not  a  religion  and  have  been  consistently   accused  and  imprisoned  for  plotting  against  the  regime.  The  hypocrisy  and  fear  of   losing  power  shows,  however,  with  the  Baha’i's  in  prison.  47    When  tortured  and   questioned,  virtually  no  Baha’i’s  are  asked  about  their  political  activities.  Rather,  the   agenda  of  the  Islamic  regime  becomes  clear  where  Baha’i’s  are  concerned  with   efforts  of  making  Baha’i’s  recant  their  faith  with  persecutions  truly  based  solely  on   religious  beliefs  and  nothing  else.48  By  constantly  harassing  and  persecuting  this   group  of  people  the  regime  hopes  to  “secure  conversion  to  Islam  by  depriving  them   of  freedom,  means  of  subsistence,  personal  property  and  studying  at  universities.”49       The  Baha’i’s  have  served  as  a  political  scapegoat  for  the  regime  and  have   been  a  target  of  the  clergy  long  before  the  clergy  gained  any  political  power.  The   popularity  of  the  religion,  the  deep-­‐rooted  religious  prejudices  the  clergy  has   against  the  Baha’i’s,  and  the  direct  threat  to  clerical  dominance  and  Shiism  in   general,  all  contribute  to  the  overwhelming  degree  of  persecution  the  Baha’i’s  have                                                                                                                   46 Ghanea, 32-40. 47 Hakakian, Roya, “Then, they came for the Baha’i,” Current, 505 (2008). 48 Afshar, 122 49 Afshar, 124
  • undergone  in  the  country  of  its  inception.50  Baha’i’s,  based  on  their  own  beliefs,  are   not  politically  active,  do  not  protest  violently  against  their  government,  and   therefore  do  not  actively  fight  out  against  the  regime  in  any  volatile  or  hostile  way   making  them  an  easy  target.51  The  Baha’i’  plight  has  specific  implications  where   human  rights  are  concerned  because  their  situation  has  been  monitored  very  closely   by  the  UN  and  the  Baha’i’  International  Community  and  have  demonstrated  the   failings  of  “UN  mechanisms  intended  to  enforce  human  rights  standards,”  and  their   situation  offers  a  “clear-­‐cut  indictment  of  the  UN  mechanisms  for  world  response  to   serious,  continuing  human  rights  violations.52  International  monitoring  has  taken   place  and  resolutions  have  been  passed  but  violence  and  extreme  deprivation  of  all   rights  that  should  be  afforded  to  any  citizen  in  any  country  and  specifically  citizens   in  a  country  bound  by  international  human  rights  legislation  has  yet  to  cease,  even   in  present  day.  This  suggests  a  failure  of  the  international  community  to  intervene   to  protect  a  non-­‐violent  minority  suffering  from  abuse,  torture,  imprisonment,   execution,  and  deprivation  of  rights.53     The  present  day  plight  of  the  Iranian  Baha’i’s  continues  to  invoke   international  condemnation  of  Iran’s  discrimination  against  Baha’i's  but  the  lack  of   any  ability  to  actually  prevent  what  occurs  in  Iran  puts  the  international  community   in  a  difficult  position.  The  most  recent  controversial  incident  involving   discrimination  against  the  Baha’i’s  of  Iran  was  the  imprisonment  of  the  seven                                                                                                                   50 Afshar, 119-128 51 Hakakian, “Then, they came for the Baha’i”. 52 Ghanea, 54-60. 53 Ghanea, 124.
  • leaders  of  the  Iranian  Baha’i’  community  in  Iran’s  notorious  Evin  prison  in  2008.54   This  particular  case  has  attracted  international  attention  because  of  the  complete   and  total  lack  of  justice  surrounding  their  confinement  in  prison,  lack  of  access  to   lawyers,  and  complete  and  total  lack  of  evidence  on  any  of  the  false  accusations   made  against  the  leaders.  Because  of  the  Baha’i’s  status  as  apostates  rather  than  a   religious  minority,  they  are  barely  afforded  the  same  privileges  of  legal  protection   and  the  right  to  a  fair  and  just  trial  that  a  murderer  or  rapist  is  given.    In  August  of   2010,  these  leaders  were  finally  sentenced  to  twenty  years  in  prison,  an  act  that  has   been  condemned  by  many  leaders  internationally.  Observations  by  those  watching   the  situation  from  the  Baha’i’s  outside  of  Iran  follow  similar  conclusions  of  Amnesty   International  with  the  agreement  that  the  “verdict  is  a  sad  and  damning   manifestation  of  the  deeply-­‐rooted  discrimination  against  Baha’i’s  by  the  Iranian   authorities.”55  This  verdict,  unfortunately,  indicates  a  continuing  trend  of  arbitrary   treatment  and  unjust  and  discriminatory  actions  taken  towards  the  Baha’i'   community.  Because  the  majority  of  the  increasingly  educated  population  of  Iran  no   longer  holds  the  belief  that  the  West  is  the  source  of  all  the  evil  and  unrest  that   occurs  in  Iran,  the  Baha’i’s  have  once  again  become  a  domestic  scapegoat  for  unrest   and  instability  that  the  clerical  government  attempt  to  shift  blame  to.     International  Involvement                                                                                                                   54  "About the Persecution," Iran Press Watch, 2010. Web. <http://www.iranpresswatch.org/persecution>.   55  "Sentences Against Jailed Iranian Religious Minority Leaders Condemned," Amnesty International, 2010. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/heavy-sentences- against-jailed-iranian-baha’i-religious-minority-leaders-condemned->.  
  •   The  human  rights  situation  in  Iran  is  nothing  new  or  surprising  and  the  fact   that  violations  still  occur  has  shown  to  some  extent  that  lack  of  power  international   organizations  have  in  affecting  absolute  and  concise  change  and  improvement  in   human  rights  situations.  The  Baha’i’  case  has  served  as  a  specific  example  of  how  the   UN  monitored  and  was  very  closely  aware  of  a  minority  group  whose  rights  were   grossly  violated  on  no  true  grounds  other  than  religion  but  no  legal  action  that  was   tangible  was  taken.56  Abhorrence  with  regard  to  the  actions  of  the  Iranian  regime   has  been  internationally  expressed  since  the  inception  of  the  regime,  especially   when  violent  repression  was  at  its  peak.  Many  countries  refused  to  negotiate  or   interact  economically  with  Iran  and  condemned  the  human  rights  violations  that   were  occurring  but  in  present  day  this  is  not  the  case.       From  1984  to  2001,  the  United  Nations  Commission  on  Human  Rights  has   sent  different  Special  Rapporteurs  to  monitor  the  human  rights  situation  in  Iran  and   while  these  visits  did  find  evidences  of  executions  on  political  basis,  torture,   imprisonment,  and  violations  of  civil  liberties,  the  reports  did  not  come  close  to   describing  the  true  situation  of  what  was  occurring  in  Iran.  The  monitoring  took   place  within  the  confines  of  what  the  government  showed  and  allowed  to  be  seen.   As  to  be  expected,  in  almost  every  case  monitors  were  given  tainted  information.   When  interviewing  political  prisoners,  the  government  officials  prepared  showcases   of  prisons  filled  with  brainwashed  prisoners  or  those  who  feared  for  their  own   personal  physical  safety  as  well  as  the  safety  of  their  loved  ones.  These  “prisoners”                                                                                                                   56 Ghanea, 22-24.
  • told  stories  that  contradicted  with  virtually  every  report  that  managed  to  get  out   undetected  by  the  government.  57       While  the  international  community  has  long  condemned  Iran  for  its   violations  of  human  rights  and  has  at  times  halted  discussions  or  interaction,  it  is  in   the  best  interests  of  most  countries  of  the  world  to  have  some  kind  of  interaction   with  Iran  and  almost  all  countries  interact  politically  and  economically  with  Iran   despite  its  human  rights  records.  Global  discourse  on  human  rights  has  further   complicated  addressing  the  volatile  situation  in  Iran.  With  the  push  for  acceptance   of  a  different  but  equal  standard  of  human  rights  derived  from  Islam,  speaking  out   against  the  politics  of  Islamic  governments  can  now  be  interpreted  as  speaking  out   against  Islam  and  its  standards.  Many  politicians  in  the  West  seem  to  have  chosen   avoidance  and  inaction  with  regard  to  the  human  rights  situation  in  Iran  and  other   areas  of  the  Middle  East  because  they  are  unwilling  to  be  perceived  as  prejudice  or   intolerant.    During  the  reformist  Khatami  years  when  much  of  the  violent  abuses   had  ceased  and  calmed  down,  a  great  improvement  was  noted  by  the  international   community,  but  to  those  who  lived  in  Iran  and  whose  civil  liberties  were  still  being   infringed  and  violated  they  did  not  see  this  as  success  but  as  a  public  relations  ploy   of  the  government.58       Although  the  UN  has  criticized  Iran  repeatedly  and  has  issued  various   resolutions  against  Iran’s  abuse  of  human  rights,  the  Iranian  government  has  chosen   to  portray  themselves  as  victims  of  politically  motivated  attacks  from  the  outside                                                                                                                   57 Human Rights Watch, 44. 58 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.”
  • world  rather  than  to  take  responsibility  for  their  abuses  against  their  own  citizens.59   The  fear  of  losing  what  little  cooperation  and  support  they  have  in  the  Middle  East   has  often  prevented  the  UN  and  other  nations  from  taking  decisive  action  against   Iran.  The  West  has  attempted  to  maintain  a  delicate  balance  between  having  a   relationship  with  Iran  and  pursuing  their  own  national  security  and  foreign  policy   interests  and  at  the  same  time  condemning  the  undemocratic  and  unacceptable   practices  the  government  participates  in.60  The  UN  has  imposed  harsh  sanctions  on   Iran  as  a  result  of  their  nuclear  program,  which  has  had  negative  diplomatic  effects   for  Iran,  but  the  sanctions  on  Iranian’s  human  rights  violations  have  yet  to  change   anything.61     Current  State  of  Human  Rights  in  Iran     Under  Ahmadinejad,  human  rights  violations  have  begun  to  increase.  Under   the  former  reformist  president,  Khatami,  there  was  movement  in  positive  directions   and  many  of  the  civil  liberties  and  “bad  hijab”  laws  that  were  strictly  enforced  and   imposed  on  the  Iranian  people  during  the  1980s  were  softened  in  favor  of  more   dialogue  among  the  Iranian  population  and  more  conciliatory  gestures  towards  the   international  community.  With  Ahmadinejad,  as  noted,  the  small  tastes  of  reform   under  Khatami  have  been  reversed  and  efforts  in  the  opposing  direction  have  been   intensified.  Ahmadinejad’s  history  of  involvement  in  the  Pasdaran,  or  the   Revolutionary  Guard,  indicates  a  shift  towards  increasing  militarization  and  a                                                                                                                   59  Osanloo,  574   60  Osanloo,  576   61  Monshipouri  and  Assareh,  27  
  • heightened  sense  of  a  police  state.62  Not  only  has  Ahmadinejad  demonstrated   personally  the  leaning  toward  fundamentalism  but  also  the  Revolutionary  Guard  is   often  portrayed  as  being  even  more  severe  and  zealous  in  the  encouragement  of   Islamic  fundamentalism.  A  power  distribution  between  Khatami,  Ahmadinejad  and   the  Revolutionary  Guard  has  begun  to  take  form  and  the  Revolutionary  Guard   themselves  have  taken  it  upon  themselves  to  further  protect  Iran  from  the  “soft   threat”  facing  the  nation.63  This  “soft  threat”  claimed  to  be  the  largest  threat  against   the  regime  has  been  enthusiastically  defended  against  by  the  current  regime,  with   the  Revolutionary  Guard  and  its  supporters  as  the  self  imposed  caretakers  of  the   moral  character  of  the  nation.64  This  increased  involvement  in  political  and  social   affairs  by  the  Revolutionary  Guard  demonstrates  the  weakening  of  Ahmadinejad’s   regime  as  well  as  clerical  following,  where  brutal  force  is  the  tool  of  choice  to   control  citizens  indicating  a  loss  of  control.65     Ahmadinejad  has  clearly  shown  his  commitment  to  Khomeini’s  vision  by   stating  his  beliefs  that  “all  orders  in  the  Islamic  Republic  be  based  on  the  Quran  and   the  revolutionary  tradition.”66  His  ideology  parallels  his  actions.  While  Iran  has   made  headway  in  that  it  even  allows  human  rights  discourse  to  exist  and  there  are   more  university  educated  women  than  men,  Ahmadinejad’s  efforts  to  return  to  the                                                                                                                   62 Moarefy, Sahand, “Changing of the Guard: the rise of radicalism in Iran,” Harvard International Review, (2009), 12. 63  Milani,  13   64  Milani,  14   65  Monshipouri  and  Assareh,  26   66 Berman, 16.
  • “moral  fervour,  and  xenophobic  zeal”67  of  the  Islamic  Revolution’s  early  years   negates  any  small  victory  or  improvement  Iran  may  have  made  in  the  last  30  years.   Ahmadinejad  is  also  in  a  politically  unstable  junction  in  his  career,  where  he  is   experiencing  more  dissention  among  the  Iranian  population  as  well  as  more   attention  from  the  international  world  on  Iran’s  foreign  policy  activities  and   increasingly  on  certain  aspects  of  its  domestic  activities.  While  his  outlandish  and   dramatic  remarks  have  caught  the  attention  of  the  media  more  than  his  abusive   domestic  policies,  the  current  diversions  of  attention  from  domestic  abuses  will  not   last  forever  in  an  increasingly  interdependent  and  open  world.68       The  last  four  years  have  seen  an  increase  in  crackdown  on  civil  liberties.   Arrests  targeting  women’s-­‐rights  advocates,  journalists,  political  activists  of  any   kind,  and  Baha’i’s  to  name  a  few  of  the  classic  groups  that  have  long  been  focused  on   by  the  Islamic  regime  have  increased  greatly.  The  number  of  executions  and  those   undergoing  capital  punishment  has  increased  as  well  as  police  brutality  meant  to   inspire  fear  in  a  population  of  people  who  have  always  feared  their  government   whether  under  the  Shah  with  his  secret  police  or  the  Ayatollah  with  his  Pasdaran   and  Basij.69  The  political  climate  has  changed  however  as  have  the  population  of   people.  While  many  people  were  taken  in  very  easily  by  the  persuasive  Ayatollah   Khomeini  and  his  revolutionary  ideas  that  supported  the  poor  against  the  Western   regime  the  Shah’s  monarchy  had  come  to  represent  to  the  people,  there  is  much   more  knowledge  and  transparency  in  the  world  today  than  there  was  in  1979.  A                                                                                                                   67 “Islamic Republic of Fear: Iran,” The Economist, 25 August 2007, 46. 68  Berman,  16   69 Islamic Republic of Fear: Iran,” 46.
  • much  larger  amount  of  the  population  is  educated  and  well  aware  of  the  freedoms   that  exist  outside  of  Iran’s  borders  and  while  many  people  do  not  want  to  leave  their   country,  a  change  is  more  likely  to  occur  in  the  near  future.70     At  this  point  in  Iran’s  political  history  and  in  the  life  of  the  Islamic  Republic,   dissent  has  developed  to  a  point  that  can  no  longer  be  crushed  by  mass  execution   without  catching  the  world’s  attention.  The  so-­‐called  Green  Revolution  that   surrounded  the  events  of  the  Iranian  presidential  elections  in  the  summer  of  2009   could  potentially  be  a  turning  point  for  the  human  rights  situation  in  Iran.  The   rioting  and  accusations  against  the  government  for  rigging  the  election  in  favor  of   Ahmadinejad  caused  dissent  and  protest  on  the  streets  that  has  been  seen  in  very   short  bursts  in  the  last  30  years  but  nothing  close  to  the  outcry  of  the  summer  of   2009.  Women  were  among  the  most  active  in  protesting  the  current  state  of  the   government,  which  is  only  natural  being  that  they  are  among  the  most  educated  and   most  repressed.71    Despite  the  government’s  efforts  to  blame  the  dissent  on  the   West  and  all  those  they  see  as  domestic  enemies,  the  Iranian  population  is  well   aware  of  the  grassroots  and  homegrown  nature  of  the  most  recent  dissent.72  The   unemployment  rate  among  those  15-­‐29  is  20%,  with  Iran  continuing  to  suffer  from   unemployment,  inflation,  and  a  severe  “brain  drain.”  The  unsatisfactory  economic   situation  for  the  increasingly  youthful  population  of  Iran  that  is  disconnected  with   the  Revolution  of  the  past  may  in  itself  be  a  catalyst  to  ignite  action  without  even                                                                                                                   70  Berman,  17   71 Monshipouri and Assareh, 27-30. 72  Monshipouri  and  Assareh,  28  
  • taking  into  account  the  multitude  of  other  reasons  that  contribute  to  the  discontent   spread  throughout  the  nation.     Iranians  no  longer  want  to  be  left  out  from  the  global  community  and   President  Obama’s  Cairo  speech  in  June  of  2009,  where  he  espoused  ideals  of   dialogue  and  negotiation  rather  than  intervention  and  false  promotion  of   democracy,  resonated  loudly  with  the  Middle  East.73  At  this  juncture,  even  for  the   short  time  the  protests  lasted  before  violent  repression  and  crackdowns  began  to   occur,  Iranian  youth  were  on  fire,  becoming  one  of  the  first  generations  to  use  the   Internet  and  technology  to  report  and  share  with  the  world  the  details  of  what  was   truly  taking  place  on  the  streets  of  Tehran.74  The  spur  of  media  attention  on  the   situation  in  Iran  was  beneficial  to  the  citizens  of  Iran  because  for  the  first  time  by   many  people  around  the  world,  the  citizens  were  seen  as  separate  from  the   government.  Many  Iranians  have  family  and  friends  outside  of  Iran  with  a  very  large   Iranian  minority  in  America  and  for  most,  a  more  cordial  and  friendly  relationship   between  the  Iranian  and  American  leadership  would  be  preferred  over  political   alienation  and  constant  conflict  with  the  US  and  the  developed  world.  Even  with   outside  influences  curbing  the  insistence  on  spreading  democracy,  the  Iranian   people  want  justice  and  democracy  for  themselves.75     The  crackdown  on  political  opposition  has  demonstrated  itself  by  the  great   increase  in  numbers  of  people  imprisoned  with  jails  suffering  from  overcrowding                                                                                                                   73  Obama, Barack,"Speech in Cairo," Cairo, Egypt, 04 06 2009.   74 Monshipouri and Assareh, 28. 75  Monshipouri  and  Assareh,  27  
  • similar  to  the  early  days  of  the  Revolution.  The  increased  radicalism  of  Ahmadinejad   backed  by  the  large  numbers  of  Pasdaran  and  military  officials  slowly  filling  the   ranks  of  many  political  positions  in  government  accompanied  by  a  very  public  and   international  challenge  to  the  power  of  the  regime  has  mirrored  the  expected   increase  in  brutality  and  imprisonment.  While  Iran  was  in  a  relatively  stable  place   with  regard  to  the  United  States  before  Ahmadinejad  was  elected,  Ahmadinejad  has   maintained  a  presidency  based  on  preparing  for  the  return  of  fundamental  Islam,   and  maintaining  a  positive  relationship  with  the  US,  a  purported  enemy  of  Islam,   would  go  against  this  process  (Berman).  Not  only  is  the  increase  in  the  power  of  the   presidency  and  the  military  important  to  note  at  this  moment  but  also  the  increased   contention  among  the  clerical  factions  within  the  regime  as  well  as  the  tensions   between  the  religious,  political,  and  military  leadership  that  are  beginning  to  show   themselves  slowly  (Akbar  Ganji).    If  Ahmadinejad  and  the  Revolutionary  Guard   manage  to  expand  their  power  within  the  Iranian  government  at  all  levels  and  take   over  the  influence  of  even  more  moderate  clergy  members  while  simultaneously   purging  the  political  establishment  of  anyone  who  speaks  out  against  Ahmadinejad   and  the  Revolutionary  Guard,  repression  and  further  injustice  will  increase.   Conclusions:  Why  Abuse  Continues  and  What  Can  Be  Done     Human  rights  abuse  in  Iran  continues  for  many  different  reasons  that  are   perpetuated  by  both  domestic  and  international  actors.  As  long  as  the  Islamic   regime  grasps  for  power  over  a  population  of  very  young  people  who  do  not  identify   with  the  origins  of  the  Islamic  Revolution  and  who  continue  to  lack  employment,  
  • opportunity,  enjoyment,  and  the  freedoms  experienced  everywhere  else  in  the   world,  violent  clashes  will  continue  and  violent  suppression  of  the  voices  of  many  in   Iran  will  persist.  Poor  reporting  from  and  about  Iran  has  contributed  to  lack  of   understanding  or  knowledge  about  what  is  truly  going  on  in  Iran  and  distorted   information  from  Iran  itself  as  well  as  insufficient  monitoring  by  the  international   community  have  further  confused  what  little  knowledge  of  Iran  the  media  chooses   to  focus  on.76  Like  the  hostage  crisis  in  the  early  months  of  the  Revolution  distracted   the  world  from  the  domestic  brutality  occurring  in  Iran,  Ahmadinejad  is  providing   the  world  with  plenty  of  distractions  with  his  controversial  rhetoric  and  his  public   insistence  on  a  nuclear-­‐capable  Iran  that  successfully  diverts  attention  from  his   increasingly  harsh  domestic  policies  and  abuses  of  human  rights.77       The  international  community  is  not  at  a  complete  loss  in  this  situation.  While   Iran  claims  to  not  be  affected  by  international  pressure,  it  seeks  regional  hegemony   and  does  not  want  to  be  economically  isolated  or  to  be  a  pariah  in  world  affairs.  The   citizens  of  Iran  also  do  not  want  to  be  considered  outcasts  in  a  global  society.  The   international  community’s  impulse  should  not  be  to  intervene  militarily  in  Iran   because  this  will  not  improve  the  plight  of  those  who  are  suffering  from  human   rights  violations.  Military  intervention  and  continued  attacks  on  the  Iranian  people   by  the  international  community  will  only  give  the  Iranian  government  more   evidence  and  excuses  to  fight  “foreign”  influence  in  order  to  “protect  national                                                                                                                   76 Hakakian, “When Eyes Get Averted,” 14 77 Hakakian, “When Eyes Get Averted,” 14
  • security”  by  means  of  tightening  power  and  continued  repression  of  individual   citizens.78     In  terms  of  US  intervention,  no  matter  how  dire  the  human  rights  situation  is   in  Iran  it  will  always  fall  to  the  backburner  of  national  security  interests  but  perhaps   now  is  the  time  to  consider  fighting  for  increased  global  security  by  pushing  to   provide  people  everywhere  with  basic  rights  and  freedoms.  Iranian  people  want   change  for  themselves  and  to  improve  their  lives  and  do  not  want  to  be  used  as   pawns  for  other  countries  to  gain  economically  or  diplomatically.  International   action  plays  a  large  role  in  affecting  the  human  rights  situation  of  the  people  in  Iran   because  if  the  international  community  were  to  reject  the  abuse  in  a  much  stronger   and  decisive  way  while  simultaneously  reaching  out  to  the  Iranian  people,  the   influence  and  rhetoric  of  the  Islamic  Regime  against  the  West  would  quickly  become   transparent  and  meaningless.79  Merely  condemning  the  violations  and  abuses  that   are  occurring,  as  is  the  common  reaction  when  such  incidents  are  reported  to  the   international  community,  should  no  longer  serve  as  the  only  response.  Even  in  light   of  the  very  public,  recent  sentencing  of  the  Baha’i’  leaders,  the  strongest  reactions   were  various  international  leaders  condemning  the  act  but  with  no  threat  of  any   action  that  will  render  the  regime  insecure.  As  long  as  the  Iranian  regime  remains   reassured  that  no  real  action  would  be  taken  against  them,  they  will  continue  to  act   as  they  please  in  violation  of  the  natural  moral  sense  every  human  being  feels  as   well  as  the  international  treaties  it  has  agreed  to  honor.                                                                                                                       78 Ebadi, “Islam, Human Rights, and Iran.” 79 Kitfield, “Revolution is in the Air.”
  • The  ideas  that  many  people  in  the  West  carry  that  Islam  is  inherently  and   vehemently  opposed  to  international  human  rights  and  the  universality  of  a  human   rights  standard  within  global  interactions  should  be  abandoned  in  favor  for  a   convergent  approach  that  leans  towards  reconciliation.  There  are  obvious   discrepancies  between  various  Islamic  traditions  and  specific  laws  with  certain   aspects  of  human  rights  dialogue  but  these  should  not  be  avoided  or  ignored.   Constructive  discourse  to  find  harmony  between  points  of  contention  and   disagreement  should  be  the  main  prerogative  of  the  international  community  rather   than  shame  and  division  between  the  Islamic  world  and  the  rest  of  the  global   community.  The  response  of  the  international  community  at  this  potentially  critical   phase  for  both  domestic  politics  in  Iran  and  international  relations  with  Iran  is   crucial  and  in  the  long  run  should  aim  for  the  best  wishes,  comfort,  and  security  of   the  Iranian  people.  The  crackdown  of  human  rights  accompanied  by  the  increase  in   radicalism  and  militant  Islam  will  only  last  so  long  if  a  state-­‐sponsored  enemy  such   as  the  America  and  the  West  no  longer  exists  to  take  blame  for  everything  that  goes   wrong  in  Iran.  If  the  international  community  stands  behind  those  being  violated   with  all  of  its  weight,  it  will  be  beneficial  to  both  the  Iranian  people  and  the  rest  of   the  world  in  the  long  run,  with  the  only  potential  victim  being  the  Islamic  Regime.         Works Cited
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  •           Human  Rights  Violations  In  Iran  as  a  Method  of  Maintaining  Power   An  examination  of  why  human  rights  violations  continue  to  persist  at  all  levels  in  Iran,   how  the  government  justifies  human  rights  violations  in  the  name  of  Islam  in  order  to   assert  power  and  control,  the  response  of  the  international  community  to  these   violations,  and  how  the  ebb  and  flow  of  the  political  climate  of  Iran  affects  the  rights   and  liberties  of  the  Iranian  people