Iran’s repression of its own people has continued largely unabated, the United Nations indicated in a new report presented to the UN General Assembly last week. The semi-annual publication, authored by Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, paints a grim portrait of an Islamist regime committed to the suppression of dissent that contradicts its radical ideology.
According to the report, which covers the first six months of 2017 and was first released in August, Tehran’s human rights violations include at least 247 executions, the majority for drug-related offenses; the use of flogging, binding, amputation, and stoning as punishments; a “high number” of arrests of journalists, political activists, and human rights defenders; and wide-ranging discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i.
The UN document says Jahangir remains “extremely disturbed by the level of fear” among Iranians communicating with her about the regime’s abuses. Iranians living outside the country, the report states, worry that Tehran will perpetrate “reprisals against their family members” living in Iran. Jahangir said during a press conference that the regime has prohibited her from visiting Iran to conduct research.
The report cites an “emerging pattern” of the detention of dual nationals in Iran, including Iranian-Americans Siamak and Baquer Namazi and British-Iranians Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Khamal Foroughi, among others. Jahangir told the press conference that Tehran’s allegations of spying are a “little far-fetched,” noting their failure to receive due process in courts. Their incarceration, she added, reflects “not justice but revenge.”
The report does highlight “several developments that could lead to positive changes in the human rights situation” in Iran, including President Hassan Rouhani’s release of a Charter on Citizens’ Rights last December and his campaign rhetoric pledging to improve the regime’s human rights record.
However, the report provides no evidence that Rouhani has acted on these commitments. In fact, in a separate statement to the UN General Assembly, Jahangir said Rouhani’s earlier declarations “render many of the reports that I continue to receive all the more painful, and the need for institutional reform all the more pressing.” During her press conference, Jahangir asserted, “There have been promises, but he’ll have to walk the talk.”
The report also favorably records efforts by the Iranian parliament to pass a law that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses. But due to “pressure from judicial and law enforcement authorities,” the report notes, the efforts thus far have failed.
For its part, the Iranian regime has dismissed the report and challenged the legitimacy of Jahangir’s mandate. Bahram Ghasemi, a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said Tehran believes “that the reports issued by the UN special rapporteur are based on an unjust, unfair, politicized and malevolent resolution re-establishing the mandate of a special rapporteur.” Consequently, he argued, “they lack credibility and legitimacy.”
Overall, the report offers little reason for optimism that Tehran intends to correct its longstanding human rights abuses. As President Trump noted in his October 13 speech announcing a new Iran strategy, “the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims” are “its own people.” In the absence of further international pressure, this grim reality is likely to endure.
Tzvi Kahn is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @TzviKahn.
Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD