Analysis: A human rights record worse than Ahmadinejad’s

“The human rights situation in the country remains dire,” says Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Hassan Rouhani has gone to great lengths to try to put a human face on the Islamic Republic’s regime. He has failed.
“The human rights situation in the country remains dire,” said Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, on Tuesday.
“Mr. Shaheed said, Iranians are worse off than during the era of Mr.Rouhani’s polarizing and relatively conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” according to a New York Times report.
Shaheed’s detailed, 26-page report documents a shocking landscape of human rights violations. According to the report, “The Islamic Republic of Iran continues, however, to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions. This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year. At least 694 individuals were reportedly executed by hanging as of 15 September 2015, including at least 10 women and one juvenile.”
Iran has raised objections to Shaheed’s assertions.
Omri Ceren, managing director of press and strategy at the Israel Project, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday: “Every day brings new evidence that, whatever moderates there are in the Iranian political system, they’re not the ones in control. The Iranians are deepening their domestic oppression, and of course now they’ve detained another American citizen [Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based businessman]. At some point the Obama administration will have to come to grips with who they’re dealing with, and work with Congress to push back strongly.”
Rouhani famously pledged during his election campaign in 2013: “All Iranian people should feel there is justice. Justice means equal opportunity. All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice. Long live citizenship rights!”
The UN report noted that “Iran ranked 135 of the 142 countries assessed by the World Economic Forum for women’s political empowerment in 2014.” Iran’s system of gender apartheid bars women from running for president and from attending mundane events such as volleyball matches.
Coinciding with the release of the UN report was the announcement that Iran sentenced two poets to lengthy incarceration time and 99 lashes for shaking hands with Iranians of the opposite sex and because they “insulted the sacred” in their prose.
“[Fatemeh] Ekhtesari and [Mehdi] Musavi’s arrests and convictions are a travesty of justice, and send a chill over the already beleaguered creative community in Iran,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center.
Iranian poets have faced the death penalty on Rouhani’s watch. In 2014, the clerical regime ordered the hanging of Hashem Shaabani, a poet from Iran’s Arabic-speaking ethnic minority Ahwazi. Shaabani wrote in a prison letter to his family that he could not ignore the “hideous crimes against Ahwazi perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions.”
Since an agreement was reached between the world powers and Iran over its illicit nuclear program in July, European politicians and diplomats have routinely ignored its atrocious human rights record.
In a rare criticism, albeit mild, of German foreign policy, the head of Human Rights Watch tweeted last week, “Disappointing public silence on human rights as German FM visited Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
Iran’s grisly torture apparatus has continued to operate under Rouhani.
Shaheed noted in his report that “more than 480 persons were flogged during the first 15 days of Ramadan for not fasting.” Two people convicted of theft had limbs amputated mere weeks prior to the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal in July.
The report noted the surgical removal of the left eye and right ear of man identified only as “Hamid S.” He was determined to be guilty of attacking another man with acid, resulting in the loss of the man’s eye and ear.
Iran forcibly blinded another man in March as part of its “retribution- in-kind” punishment. He was charged with tossing acid on another man in 2009.
Ahmadinejad infamously said that gays are nonexistent in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The UN report showed that Rouhani rejected all UN proposals to improve the situation of LGBTs in the country.
Iran’s persecution of Christians continued under Rouhani’s administration.
The Shahin Shahr Revolutionary Court “upheld the oneyear prison sentence and two-year travel ban of 13 Christian converts who were arrested on 2 February 2013 at a house church,” said the report. Iran’s judiciary charged the Christians with “propaganda against the state,” “advocating for evangelical Christianity” and “establishing house churches.”
Socialism with a human face turned out to be a failure during the Soviet period. Rouhani’s version of a kind of Islamic Republic with a human face has debunked hopes that he can reform the regime.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.