March 16, 2015 | The Jerusalem Post
Are Iran’s Broken Human Rights Promises a Sign of Failure for Nuclear Deal?
President Hassan Rouhani has not delivered on his pledge to loosen the vice on personal freedoms in Iran’s largely closed society.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur on Iran, wrote in a report released on Thursday that he “regrets the difficult situation of recognized and unrecognized religious minorities, and that communities continue to report arrests and prosecution for worship and participation in religious community affairs.”
Last year, 753 people were executed in Iran, the most state-sanctioned killings since 2002.
Iran should “immediately nullify the death sentences against all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,” Shaheed wrote.
“High priority should be placed on amending laws and policies that undermine or violate internationally recognized rights and standards,” he added.
Since Rouhani took office in August 2013, Iran has regressed on human rights. At a time when the world powers are slated to seal a deal with Tehran to curb its illicit nuclear weapons work, there are lessons to be learned from Iran’s failure to keep its promises on human rights.
Rouhani famously said prior to his election victory in 2013, “All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice…”
The reality has proved to be the opposite. Shaheed wrote extensively about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.
He noted that Ayatollah Bojnourdi (a high-ranking cleric and a former member of Supreme Judicial Council) stated, “Only Baha’is ‘who cooperate with Israel’ or ‘advocate against Islam’ are not entitled to citizenship rights, and that they still have human rights even though they cannot take advantage of ‘privileges,’ such as going to university in Iran.”
While the regime presents a cheery face to the world about its treatment of Iranian Christians, facts on the ground paint a disturbing picture. Shaheed wrote, “As of 1 January 2015, at least 92 Christians remain in detention in the country allegedly due to their Christian faith and activities. In 2014 alone, 69 Christian converts were reportedly arrested and detained for at least 24 hours across Iran. Authorities reportedly continued to target the leaders of house churches, generally from Muslim backgrounds. Christian converts also allegedly continue to face restrictions in observing their religious holidays.”
The regime asserted its total rejection of “homosexual behaviors,” according to the UN report.
Rouhani has cracked down on freedom of the press. “Journalists arrested or prosecuted are often accused of contact with foreign media and are seemingly targeted due to their criticism of government leaders or for discussing sensitive policy issues,” Shaheed noted. Iran has incarcerated 29 reporters, bloggers and Internet users since May 2014.
Shaheed’s report is a detailed catalogue of human rights violations during Rouhani’s tenure. The P5+1 negotiators (US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany) are narrowly focused on verification methods to ensure that Iran cannot build nuclear weapons.
However, Iran’s record on human rights does not bode well for its compliance with a nuclear deal. Broken promises abound.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post. He is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.