Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

From day one the regime of Iran has been based on the pillars of domestic crackdown, and exporting terrorism and a reactionary, religious mentality.

As we speak, spreading extremism and Islamic fundamentalism remains a cornerstone policy of Iran’s state-run strategy, all hacked into this regime’s constitution.

The real image

Earlier this year Amnesty International’s 94-page report, “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” detailed this regime’s drastic human rights violations, with a specific focus on its extensive overdose of executions.

As witnessed for years running, Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings continuously and horrendously carried out in public. All the while, secret executions are ongoing in dungeons across the country, including Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

This is the real image of Iran, cloaked by the ruling regime and their appeasers in the West for years, who continue to portray Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate worth dealing with.

ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

Rouhani heads a corrupt system responsible for executing around 3,500 people, and counting, from 2013 to this day. 350 such counts have been registered this year alone.

Iran lacks anything even remotely comparable to a justice system and the current Justice Minister, Alireza Avaie, has been on numerous terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations.

Avaie is also known to have played a leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting of mostly members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Nursing home

Iran is the godfather of human rights violations and terrorism, known as the main source of systematic human rights violations and expanding conflicts across the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Quds Force, responsible for the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, led by Qassem Suleimani, famed for his ruthlessness, are the main parties responsible for Iran’s internal repression, and mainly, aggressively expanding Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East.

For decades the IRGC has been responsible for terrorist attacks in this flashpoint corner of the globe, including the countries of SyriaIraqLebanon and Yemen. In this regard, Tehran’s continuing practice of being the nursing home of proxy extremist groups is no matter of dispute or questioning.

What Iran has maintained a lid on has been its close collaboration with terror elements. For decades, the world has been deceived – conveniently for and by Iran – into believing that significant differences exist between Sunnis and Shiites, and thus cancelling any possibility of Tehran having links with its Sunni rivals.

Tehran has usurped this window of opportunity to portray itself and claim to be a de facto ally of the West in the fight against extremism, especially recently in the form of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Discussions in Washington are ongoing over how the US military, short of a direct conflict, can deter and contain Iran’s meddling in Middle East countries. The Pentagon has refrained from public comments.

One official familiar with the mentality of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has hinted to the media that Iran is the focus of much attention in the Pentagon recently.

Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to blueprint US-European collaboration aimed at countering Iran through the course of diplomatic and economic practices. Other senior Trump administration officials have also resorted to significant remarks.

“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said to a security forum last weekend.

“We have to address what is a growing Iranian capability and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their aim, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.

This file photo taken on May 15, 2003 shows Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (L) welcoming former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami at Sanaa International Airport. (AFP)

 

Game-changing revelations

Newly released documents obtained by US special forces in their raid on the residence of the now dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan prove what many scholars have argued for years.

Iran’s regime, known as the beating heart of Islamic fundamentalism, has never considered sectarian differences an obstacle to cooperate with extremists. Tehran seeks to strengthen its resolve in the objective of furthering influence and global support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

These documents prove how the Iranian regime was working closely with al-Qaeda, including bin Laden himself, which could have subsequently led to Tehran’s inevitable cooperation with ISIS.

Iran’s rulers, and their cohorts spread in various countries, seek the same objective of establishing a ruthless caliphate by deploying global jihad. This practice hinges on unbridled brutality, misogyny and immorality to its utmost extent. No limits in barbarity and viciousness is accepted by these parties in their effort to reach their objectives.

Further reports are emerging detailing the growing amount of ties linking the regime in Iran with extremists groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. New evidence confirms how despite the existence of various factions of extremist groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, at the end of the day, they all look at Tehran as the main source fueling this infamous mentality.

Flashpoint Yemen

Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has escalated and gained much attention recently. For example, a missile launched by the Houthis on November 4 was strikingly similar to an Iranian-made Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, added to its collection by Iran in 2010, and yet never before seen in Yemen’s missile arsenal, according to a confidential report prepared by a UN panel of experts missioned to monitor a 2015 arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

One component — a device, known to be an actuator, used to assist in steering the missile — was found among the debris bearing a metal logo of an Iranian company, Shadi Bagheri Industrial Group, known to be the subject of UN, EU, and US sanctions.

The Houthis “obtained access to missile technology more advanced” than what they had prior to the conflict’s birth in 2015, according to the panel report.

“The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the text adds.

Serious measures

The dangerous nature of Iran’s regime is obvious to all. Parallel to military and terrorist measures throughout the globe, Tehran targets naïve and vulnerable subjects, using them to relay their reactionary mentality. This includes the various Western parliaments and significant international bodies, including UN and EU institutions. Tehran’s demonization agendas have shown to be predecessors to violent attacks.

Only serious measures against Iran’s regime, and ultimately the collapse of this ruthless entity, will mark the end of Iran’s human rights violations, and meddling and support for terrorism being spread deceivingly under the flag of Islam.

ALSO READ: Who is Qais al-Khazaali, godfather of Iranian-backed Shiite militias?

Iran’s increasing meddling abroad is not a policy signaling this regime’s strength. In fact, facing deep domestic crises, Tehran is attempting to cloak its internal weakness by increasing its influence across the region on the one hand, and resorting to saber-rattling to prevent the international community from adopting a firm policy.

Iran entered negotiations and succumbed to curbing its nuclear program due to fears of uncontrollable uprisings resulting from crippling international sanctions. This is the language Iran understands and more major sanctions are needed against this regime.

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Human Rights: Iran’s Ultimate Vulnerability

Developments in the Middle East have placed the spotlight once again on Iran and its hegemonic temptations. This goes parallel to calls from parties such as France and Germany, whom Iran previously counted on in the face of U.S. pressures, demanding Tehran reel in its ballistic missile program and support for proxy groups across the region.

While all such measures are necessary and deserve escalation, Tehran’s human rights violations demand even more attention. This is the one issue that both shivers fear in the ruling regime and provides direct support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, democracy and all the other values embraced by today’s 21st century world.

As the world marks International Human Rights Day on December 10th, we are also well into the first year of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term.

Dubbed as a “moderate” figure in Iran’s politics, with many arguing otherwise, the scene witnessed in Iran during his tenure has been far from it. Over 3,500 executions are merely the first stain of an atrocious report card of human rights violations.

new report by Iran Human Rights Monitoring reviewing the plight of human rights in Iran during the course of 2017 sheds light on a reality the regime strives to cloak from the world.

Mrs. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, in a semi-annual report referred to the absence of an independent judiciary in Iran. Improving the country’s human rights situation hinges on reforming the judiciary, she added.

Amnesty International in its 2016-2017 report indicated how, aside from China, Iran is host to 55 percent of all the world’s executions.

In June Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used the term “fire at will” in a speech, leading to an increase in repressive measures and flagrant human rights violations.

This includes a 22 percent increase in the number of arrests, 25 percent increase in women executions, the execution of four juveniles, and a surge in inhumane and humiliating punishments, according to the Iran-HRM report.

Iran has witnessed 520 executions from the beginning of 2017 to the end of November, while only 91 such cases have been reported by the regime’s official news agencies. 28 of these were public hangings and five cases involved political prisoners.

The systematic murder of porters by state security forces in Iran’s border regions, counting to 84 such cases so far in 2017, raised a stir in social networks and even international media outlets.

Bent under the weight of their loads — smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, and even home appliances — the mules are a common sight in Iran’s western border regions.

The report also sheds light on the atrocious conditions in Iran’s prisons, as severe crackdown measures have rendered jails packed with inmates. This has led to poor hygiene conditions, low quality food and many other dilemmas for the prisoners.

Iran’s jails are also home to at least 640 political prisoners, an issue Tehran refuses to recognize or provide any information about. These individuals are constantly tortured and placed under inhumane pressures, as more than 56 are victim to mental and psychological tortures.

One such hideous practice has been chaining inmates to a courtyard pole, seen carried out in Ardebil Prison, northwest Iran, according to the report.

Iran is also known to resort to inhumane measures resembling the Middle Ages. Five limb amputations, 32 lashings and more than 105 humiliating public parading of prisoners have been registered from January to November 2017.

Ruled by a regime founded on pillars of crackdown, Iran has long been criticized for its lack of press freedoms; more than 30 journalists and 18 bloggers are currently behind bars across the country. At least five journalists are banned from any such activities and dozens of others are serving heavy sentences.

In its April statement Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran as 165th among 180 countries on its index of press freedoms, adding the country ruled by Tehran’s regime is considered one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists.

After imposing censorship for decades and keeping the Iranian people cut off from the outside world, the regime ruling Iran understands the power of the internet and social media, in particular.

Women-in-an-internet-cafe-in-Iran.-specials.dw_.com_
Women in an internet cafe in Iran. (specials.dw.com)

While Iran cannot afford to completely cut off the internet, the mere fact that nearly 40 million Iranians are online daily is literally a time bomb for Tehran. The regime has gone the limits to ban and filter numerous websites and platforms, especially Telegram, considered to be very popular in Iran due to the privacy and security provides to its users.

Iranian officials have publicly announced the filtering of around 16,000 to 20,000 Telegram channels, went as far as blocking any live video streaming on Instagram and filtered Twitter.

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, specifically Christians and Baha’is, are experiencing similar restrictions, parallel to not being recognized by Iran’s ruling extremists and systematically placed under pressure from state officials and authorities. The UN Special Rapporteur in her report referred to the harassment of religious and ethnic minorities, specifically holding the IRGC responsible for arresting minority members.

For the first time the UN Special Rapporteur’s report refers to the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting mostly of members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

A panel of prominent American politicians participated in a recent discussion in Washington, DC, unveiling a new book published by the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main coalition consisting of the PMOI and other Iranian dissident groups.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice expressed the American people’s solidarity with their Iranian brethren, signaling a stark contrast in policy with his predecessor who failed to stand alongside the Iranian people during their 2009 uprising.

Sanctions and a variety of restricting measures targeting Tehran’s nuclear drive, ballistic missile program, and support for terrorism and proxy groups are very necessary, and should increase. Parallel to such actions, measures targeting Iran’s senior officials and the entities behind human rights violations must be placed on agenda by the international community.

ANALYSIS: How the tide is turning against Iran

As ISIS is losing ground in its two last enclaves of Raqqa and Deir el-Zor, there are many rightfully concerning reports of Iran seeking to chip further control in Syria.

All the while, there are also signs of contradictory remarks heard from senior Iranian officials, parallel to indications on the ground of how international counterparts are seeking their own interests that fall completely against those of Tehran’s.

Such incoherency signals nothing but troubling times ahead for Iran in losing its grasp of strategic interests across the Middle East, including Syria.

‘Not tantamount to meddling’

Similar sentiments were heard recently from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani. Zarif exerted himself to defend Tehran’s carnage in other countries under the pretext of a mandate to defend human rights.

“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, based on the constitution, is a policy that is naturally founded on human rights. What is the meaning of human rights? It means defending the rights of innocent against oppressors… We have this definition in our constitution. This is not tantamount to meddling,” he claimed.

Zarif’s remarks were followed by Suleimani’s insight. “There were friends in high places, in our country’s domestic and foreign hierarchy, who argued not to get involved in Syria and Iraq, and sit back and respectfully defend the revolution. One individual asked you mean we go and defend dictators? The leader (referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) provided a clear response in saying when you look at the countries we have relations with, who is a dictator and who is not? We simply look at our interests,” he explained.

A troubling slate

The relations Khamenei refers to promote an image into the very nature of his establishment. Bashar Al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria can be read as a reign of death and destruction. With Iran’s support and in the absence of a coordinated global response over 500,000 have been killed, scores more injured, over 12 million are internally displaced or forced to seek refuge abroad, and swathes of the country is left in ruins.

Iraq’s former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki, another figure described as Tehran’s puppet, has a similar report card unfortunately gone neglected. The Sunni community was the main target of Al-Maliki’s Iran-backed wrath, fueling the rise of ISIS.

In Yemen the Houthis and ousted dictator Ali Abdullah Salah have also been at the receiving end of Iran’s support. As the Saudi-led coalition advances against Iran’s disastrous efforts, signs of major rifts, and even reports of clashes between the two forces, constitute a major quagmire for Tehran.

The Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy offspring brought to life by the IRGC back in the early 1980s, are known to instigate the Syrian war by supporting Al-Assad, and pursuing Tehran’s interest wherever needed across the Middle East.

Looking abroad, Iran has established cozy relations with North Korea and Venezuela, both dictators whose people are starving. The Pyongyang-Tehran axis is especially raising concerns considering their close nuclear and ballistic missile collaboration.

Iran’s own dictatorship

This is a regime provoking a variety of bellicosities. Recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi of relaunching certain nuclear activities are reminders of the dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Extending equally to such concerns, and not receiving adequate consideration, is Iran’s ongoing human rights violations. Over 100 executions were reported in the month of July alone. This comes after more than 3,000 were sent to the gallows during Rouhani’s first term.

President Hassan Rouhani with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis at his office in Tehran, on Jan. 18, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

More recent cases include the ongoing hunger strike of dozens of political prisoners in a jail west of Tehran going on for nearly four weeks now. These inmates are protesting prison guards resorting to violence and other repressive measures used to impose further pressures.

Concerned of this and the overall situation in Iran, Amnesty International in a statement demanded Iranian authorities “allow international monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to conduct independent, unannounced inspections of Raja’i Shahr Prison and other prisons across the country.”

While this and many other such cases deserve an international inquiry, they do signal a significant change in tone of courage in Iran’s powder keg society against the ruling regime.

From others’ perspectives

Fortunately, there is an end to be seen in the Syrian war. However, six years after the spark of that revolution, the Syrian people have suffered tremendously mainly due to Obama’s compelling kowtowing to Iran.

The war has been draining Iran, forcing it to seek the support of other parties, including Russia. The more parties with stakes in Syria, and with the US taking a far more active stance, the more Iran sees its future in the country threatened.

As the Levant’s forthcoming is being blueprinted, high on the agenda must be thwarting Iran’s interests. With ISIS defeated in Iraq, there will be no legitimacy for Iran’s presence in Iraq in any shape or form. The same argument goes for Syria.

The international community, coming to realize Iran’s destructive nature, should take the initiative and demand the eviction of all Iranian elements from Syria, including IRGC members and foreign proxy members transferred from abroad.

Peace is the end

All said and done, comprehending Iran’s regime thrives on the mentality of spreading crises across the region is vital. Ceasefire and reconciliation are not in this regime’s nature, knowing increasing public demands will follow.

This regime has failed to provide in elementary needs inside Iran for the past four decades. Thus, satellite states abroad will be no exception. Peace and tranquility in the Middle East hinges on containing Iran’s influence from all its neighboring countries and a complete end to its lethal meddling.

A new chapter is being written in this flashpoint region’s history.

All the President’s Men: Iran’s Cabinet Candidates

Vahid Salemi/AP

While humans lack the ability to see into the future, we do possess the power to analyze our world to predict what the future has in store for us. The result of Iran’s so-called presidential election back in May rendered a second term for the incumbent Hassan Rouhani. During Iran’s short election season, lasting no less than a month, the mullahs’ cunningly downgraded crackdown measures, decreasing executions and increasing social freedoms to lure the general public into polling stations.

Nevertheless, the all-male slate of cabinet candidates presented by Rouhani to the parliament for approval provides a dark insight of what awaits the Iranian people and the international community. To make a long story short, these are names consisting of former Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) members, hostage takers, executioners, torturers and thieves.

This is a signal of Iran fuelling a future of further wars, crackdown, massacres, exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, and killing sprees targeting the region’s nations.

While Iran apologists and the appeasement camp misled the international community to naively describe Rouhani as a smiling “moderate,” his first term rendered over 3,000 executions and went mostly neglected. Knowing the Obama administration desperately needed a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement, Rouhani and the mullahs saw a green light to press the gas pedal on executions.

After deactivating the gallows shortly for the May elections, the mullahs returned to their true nature and resorted to over 100 executions in July alone. This consists of an average of at least one execution every eight hours.

This should be a wake-up call for European states that have banned executions altogether, and yet are willing to signature lucrative economic deals with Tehran, such as Airbus, Total and Renault.

Rouhani’s list of cabinet candidates has raised quite a stir. After providing a variety of promises during his election campaign, he failed to present even a single female minister candidate. Only under a wave of protests and pressures did Rouhani give in to naming three female vice presidents, providing nothing more than symbolic roles.

There are also reports indicating Rouhani ran through his candidates in close coordination with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This goes against Iranian political norms — Khamenei is known to have a say in a number of specific candidates, including the key ministers of defense, foreign affairs and intelligence.

Anger mounted during his first term over Rouhani’s ironic decision to appoint Mostafa Pourmohammadi as his justice minister. Pourmohammadi is known for his direct role in the notorious 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters members of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And while Pourmohammadi is set aside in Rouhani’s second term cabinet, his replacement, Alireza Avaie, is adding insult to injury. Avaie also played a leading role in the 1988 massacre in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a press conference in September unveiling Avaie’s involvement in executions of Younesco Prison in the city of Dezful. The majority of Iran’s Arab community are resident in the country’s southwest regions.

Other names in Rouhani’s cabinet indicate a bleak second term riddled with crackdown measures and going back on all election season promises.

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi is appointed to serve as the new minister of communications and information technology. This is an individual who entered the mullahs’ hated Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) at the age of 21, becoming involved in interrogations, torture and censorship in his early days.

During the 2009 uprising Jahromi was appointed as the MOIS Director of Surveillance. He is known to have expanded this department and his appointment is seen as Rouhani’s attempt to confront the PMOI/MEK’s increasing popularity amongst Iran’s population through social media networks. Iran is known to have a young and very active social media population of over 40 million users.

Amir Hatami is set to become Iran’s new defense minister. Joining the ultraconservative and repressive IRGC Bassij paramilitaries at the age of 12, Hatami is known for his active and enthusiastic participation in the regime’s crackdown and killing campaigns. He is amongst the Bassij members tasked to join Iran’s classic army and quickly rose the ranks to provide the mullahs the influence they sought in this force. Hatami also played an important role in identifying, arresting and eliminating any army member showing even the slightest sign of patriotic devotion and acting against the mullahs’ interests.

Habibollah Beetaraf, Rouhani’s candidate for the new labor minister, was amongst the so-called “college students” who stormed the US Embassy back in 1979 and took 52 American diplomats hostage. He was one of the first IRGC members and participated in literally herding teenagers and even small children into minefields during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Iran’s industry, mines and trade will be managed by Mohammad Shariatmadari, famous for actively playing a part in the regime’s crackdown and plundering. He is heavily involved in managing Khamenei’s conglomerate, known as the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam” – Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, controlling a large percentage of the regime’s economic empire. $95 billion is this massive entity’s estimated capital.

This lineup provides a dark glimpse into what the future will bring for the Iranian people and neighboring nations. For example, following July’s execution spree, the mullahs’ regime reportedly sent 13 individuals to the gallows on August 10th alone.

This atrocity included 11 hangings in a mass killing in the city of Birjand, eastern Iran; one execution in a small town in northern Iran; and the horrific execution of 20-year-old Alireza Tajiki, arrested at the age of 15 at the time of his alleged crime.

Amnesty International demanding Tehran halt this hanging fell on deaf ears and Iran’s mullahs once again proved their sinister cruelty and lack of respect for any humane values and international laws.

Rouhani’s second term will bring nothing but additional economic and social devastation, parallel to political crackdown, destructive meddling across the region and continuing Iran’s ballistic missile/nuclear drives. Rouhani neither has the will nor intention to bring about any meaningful change in this regime’s foundations, infrastructure, nature or approach.

What else is expected from an individual who for 40 years has actively participated in the regime’s oppression and warmongering. Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official to call for public executions to teach the Iranian people a lesson.

Despite claims otherwise, Rouhani is part and parcel of the mullahs’ establishment, and he, too, seeks to maintain this system intact and in power. Hence, the international community needs to understand no change will emerge from this medieval, reactionary-minded regime.

The Iranian people and their organized opposition finally deserve the support and recognition they have been deprived of for the past four decades.

Iran’s Chink In The Armor: Human Rights Sanctions

Discussions over United States foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran are continuing as we speak. The Trump administration and Congress have been busy slapping a variety of sanctions, some unprecedented, on Iran for its conglomerate of belligerence.

Tehran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles, controversial nuclear program, support for proxies across the Middle East and fueling sectarian strife has gained widespread attention across the international community. Gone somewhat unnoticed, unfortunately, is Iran’s atrocious human rights violations record.

The appeasement policy in practiced in the West for more than three decades now has left the Iranian people without any support in the face of ongoing executions, detentions, torture and other abuses at the hands of the ruling mullahs.

While strong measures against Tehran are necessary and in fact long overdue, emphasis should be placed on Tehran’s Chink in the Armor: human rights violations.

Recent actions are raising concerns amongst human rights organizations and activists across the board.

“Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights,” Amnesty International reported. “…activists have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty…”

Recent reports also indicate a woman being executed on July 26th in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia, bringing the number of women executed during the tenure of the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani to 80. To twist the knife, the “reformist” Rouhani is not appointing even one female minister for his cabinet.

Speaking of executions, human rights activists have reported 102 executions in the month of July in Iran, while 120 death row inmates await imminent hanging. The first six months of 2017 in Iran was marked with 239 executions, including seven women and three individuals arrested while under age at the time of their alleged crime.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella body consisting of a variety dissident organizations, issued a statement expressing concerns over the lives of 53 political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison, west of Tehran. These inmates have been suspiciously transferred to an unknown location to prevent any contact with the outside world.

These statements make a review of Iran’s human rights report quite necessary.

After the mullahs’ establishment hijacked the 1979 revolution, their true nature was unveiled as their crackdown on any and all dissent escalated.

For nearly 2½ years all protests and demonstrations were quelled. Dissidents, especially members and supporters of the main NCRI partner, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were detained, tortured and murdered.

The turning point arrived at June 20th, 1981 when regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to open fire on a 500,000-strong march in Tehran.

From that day forward the Iranian regime launched a ruthless campaign aimed at purging all opposition forces. Tens of thousands were arrested and tortured, parallel to mass executions in prisons across the country.

A sound file of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, then Khomeini’s successor, was unveiled last September, shedding light on current senior Iranian officials’ involvement in those executions. This sent shockwaves across Iran and accelerated efforts launched earlier by the Iranian opposition both inside the country and abroad to shed light on this atrocity and demand accountability.

In the 1990s Iran witnessed a series of assassinations dubbed the “chain murders” led by the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. Dozens of intellectuals and dissidents, including three Christian priests, were assassinated in brutal manner.

In 1999, current President Hassan Rouhani, then Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, placed orders for the IRGC and paramilitary Bassij forces to viciously crackdown nationwide student uprisings.

Such atrocities were witnessed yet again in 2009 when the Iranian people took to the streets protesting controversial presidential results engineered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to have Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reach a second term.

Following Ahmadinejad to the presidency, the smiling Rouhani – naively described by the West’s pro-engagement camp as a moderate – registered a tally of over 3,000 executions during his first term.

And by taking advantage of the 2017 presidential election season to accuse the mullahs’ establishment of hinging their rule on executions and detentions, the months of 2017 and after his re-selection to a second term have been tainted with further human rights violations, as explained above.

While the US administration is raising the heat on Iran, the European Union continues to seek short-term economic gains at the expense of legitimizing the Iranian regime. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is to visit Iran for Rouhani’s upcoming inauguration, raising anger amongst the Iranian people. Tehran will usurp such a visit to legitimize its cruelties against the Iranian population and ramp up executions.

Iran must understand the appeasement policy has come to an end and its measures will not go unpunished. The new sanctions adopted by the US targeting the IRGC, itself heavily involved in human rights violations, are welcome and should be fully implemented.

What the international community must realize is how the human rights dossier is the soft spot for Iran’s mullahs. Tehran must be pressured correctly to both hold the mullahs accountable for their crimes against humanity, and support the Iranian people in their struggle.

Will Iran’s Rouhani Use Syria to Bargain?

After establishing the Iran nuclear deal as his first-term legacy, the question now is what new initiative will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embark on during his second term? Should the international community have any expectations of Rouhani? And if Rouhani has the will to bring about any change in, for example, Syria, a big if, will it be for the better good of the Syrian people and the region? Or will he be merely looking to promote Tehran’s interests at the expense of others.

Iran’s policies in the region are considered by many to be based on double standards. How does Iran legitimize its interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the region while millions have been left killed, injured and displaced as the entire Middle East remains in turmoil?

Iran claims to seek peace, stability and cooperation in the region through negotiations with neighboring countries. Yet the status quo has changed significantly for Rouhani’s second term. US President Donald Trump has ended Barack Obama’s appeasement policy and is pioneering an effort to isolate Iran over its belligerence.

Many of Iran’s regional neighbors view the regime as an ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who has massacred of tens of thousands of his own people.

Iran, however, continues its support for Assad, arguing international law considers Assad the president of a legal government in Syria. Disturbingly, according to the New Yorker, “Iranian-backed militias appear to have secured a road link from the Iranian border all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. The new land route will allow the Iranian regime to resupply its allies in Syria by land instead of air, which is both easier and cheaper.”

Tehran is validating its support for the Syrian regime based on a request placed by Assad and claiming 60% of the country’s lands are in the hands of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. And the mullahs’ regime refuses to acknowledge the existence of a Syrian opposition that enjoys international legitimacy and support.

While the international community accepts the fact that ISIS and other terrorists must be eradicated in all places, this does not provide grounds for Assad, with Iran’s support, to slaughter innocent civilians. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Assad of committing war crimes and using starvation as a tool in this regard.

UN special rapporteurs and envoys have leveled deeply concerning accusations against the Assad regime, and for Iran to continue its support for Assad is very troubling to say the least. The UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan da Mistura also cited Iran providing $6 billion a year to Assad, considered a conservative figure by many.

Iran accuses other countries of recruiting terrorists from across the globe to fight against Assad and places the blame for enormous civilian losses on them. And yet one cannot ignore the fact that Iran is funneling arms, ammunition and militia members to prop up the Assad regime and killing tens of thousands of civilians, as reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The Assad regime recently requested that Iran take on full supervision and payroll duties of thousands of foreigners fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops, according to a government source and a news report.

Iran accuses other countries of interfering in Syria and Bahrain, for example, and yet refuses to accept its role in the Levant as such meddling by an outside party.

Iran is proposing talks with the three other regional powers, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hold talks aimed at:

—          preserving the unity of Syria.

—          establishing a power sharing government, yet falling short of determining the highly sensitive subject of the future of Assad in Syria.

—         holding UN-supervised president elections.

The complex question is will Rouhani pressure Assad to accept such terms. The answer lies in understanding why the Tehran regime is deeply interested in Syria. The Levant, under the rule of Assad, provides a land bridge to the Lebanese Hezbollah and thus the Mediterranean Sea for Iran, allowing this regime to spread its influence from its soil all across the region. If Iran loses its foothold in Syria, considered to be its 35th province, it will be the beginning of the end of Tehran’s regional hegemony.

Such an outcome would direct all of Iran’s dilemmas inwards and provide grounds for social unrest, which could shake the very pillars of the mullahs’ regime. As a result, the fundamental nature of Iran’s ruling apparatus prevents the implementation of any meaningful shifts in its regional policy.

“Take into notice, any change in behavior is no different from change in the entire establishment,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said recently.

Will Iran’s Hassan Rouhani negotiate on Syria?

After establishing the Iran nuclear deal as his first-term legacy, the question now is what new initiative will Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embark on his second term? Should there be any expectation from the international community in Rouhani’s second term as this regime’s president? And if Rouhani has the will to bring about any change in for example Syria, a big if, will it be for the better good of the Syrian people and the region? Or merely seeking Iran’s interests?

Iran’s policies in the region have been considered by many to be based on double standards. How does Iran legitimize its interference in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and across the region while millions have been killed, injured and displaced as the entire region remains in turmoil?

Iran claims to seek peace, stability, and cooperation in the Middle East through negotiations with neighboring countries. Yet the status quo has changed significantly for Rouhani’s second term. Donald Trump is now the U.S. President, bringing an end to Obama’s appeasement policy and calling on all countries to isolate Iran.

Many of Iran’s regional neighbors view the regime as an ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who has massacred tens of thousands of his own people.

Iran, however, continues its support for Assad, arguing international law considers Assad as the president of a legal government in Syria. Does being a legal government legitimize such measures against its own constituents?

Tehran is validating its support for the Syrian regime based on a request placed by Assad and claiming 60% of the country’s lands are in the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda. And the mullahs’ regime refuses to accept the existence of a Syrian opposition that enjoys international legitimacy and support.

While the international community accepts the fact that ISIS and other terrorists must be destroyed in Syria, this does not provide the grounds for Assad, with Iran’s support, to massacre innocent civilians. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Assad of committing war crimes and using starvation as a tool in this regard.

UN special rapporteurs and envoys have levelled very concerning allegations against the Assad regime, and for Iran to continue its support for Assad is very troubling, to say the least. The UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan da Mistura, has also cited Iran providing $6 billion a year to Assad, considered a conservative figure by many.

Iran accuses other countries of recruiting terrorists from across the globe to fight against Assad and places the blame of enormous civilian losses on their part. And yet one cannot neglect the fact that Iran is providing arms, ammunition and tens of thousands of militias to prop up the Assad regime and killing tens of thousands of civilians, as reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Iran accuses other countries of interfering in Syria and Bahrain, for example, and yet refuses to accept its role in the Levant as such meddling by an outside party.

Iran is proposing talks with the three other regional powers, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hold talks aimed at:

  • preserving the unity of Syria,
  • establishing a power sharing government, yet failing to determine the highly sensitive subject of the fate of Assad as president of Syria,
  • holding UN-supervised president elections.

The sensitive question is will Hassan Rouhani pressure Assad to accept such terms.

Although it is crucial to understand why Tehran’s regime is deeply interested in Syria. The Levant, under the rule of Assad, provides a land bridge to the Lebanese Hizb’allah, and thus the Mediterranean, for Iran, allowing this regime to spread its influence from its soil all across the region. In the case Iran loses its foothold in Syria, considering it its 35th province, it will be the beginning of the end of Tehran’s regional hegemony.

Such an outcome would rebound all of Iran’s dilemmas inwards and provide the grounds for social unrests to overcome the mullahs’ regime. As a result, the very nature of Iran’s ruling apparatus prevents the rendering of any meaningful change in its regional policy.

“Take into notice any change in behavior is no different from the change in the entire establishment,” said Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently.

The Story Of Rahele Zakaie: Another Woman Perished In Iran

Following International Women’s Day on March 8, the plight of Iranian women to finally obtain the freedom and rights they deserve continues. This struggle is resembled in the case of each and every Iranian women.

News of Rahele Zakaie’s death means nothing to many people. Another human being amongst the 7.5 billion now roaming the earth. She died of cancer.

However, her loss brought much sorrow to those women who in recent years were and have been detained in the political prisoners’ ward of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, those who shared moments of joy and tears with Rahele.

She had a strange story, with many years behind bars. Thirteen years of her short life she spent in prison for theft and drug-related crimes. She was a drug addict who got clean several times, and despite spending many years behind bars, others’ fondness of her never waned.

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Iranian women inmates sit at their cell in Evin jail, north of Tehran, June 2006. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rahele, a girl from Mashhad in northwest Iran, was acquainted with crime at an early age due to poverty and her family’s background in such a lifestyle. When she was only 11 years old, her uncles used her as cover for an armed robbery. At 13 she was sent off to live with a man who was killed some time later during an armed robbery, leaving behind a 1-year-old boy. At 16, Rahele was put behind bars for theft and drug-related charges.

This was the beginning of her painful in-and-out experience from this to that prison, from interrogation to solitary confinement. She once even claimed responsibility for the narcotics found in the belongings of her friend to save her from being executed. Iran is known to execute several hundred people each year for drug-related charges, a practice condemned by Amnesty International. What Rahele considered the “price of friendship” cost her 10 ruthless years behind bars.

She always dreamed of protecting her son and worried of the fate of her sister’s five-year-old daughter, wanting a better life for her. The little girl’s father had been executed and her mother committed suicide. Rahele wanted to take care of these kids and also support her younger twin brother and sister. She was deprived of any visits and worked long hours in Sari Prison’s doll shop to pay for her son’s mobile phone charges.

However, like many others, the events of 2009 changed Rahele’s life. When prisons were filled with female political prisoners with no means to phone their families, Rahele would make these calls for them. The authorities had accused her of having contact with prisoners related to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

During this period she yearned to learn and craved to become a human rights advocate. She quit drugs once again and devoted her time to reading books.

She longed to write her life story and especially the tales of women in various prisons across the country. She once wrote a two-part report about Gharchak Prison, located southeast of Tehran, published in the Focus on Iranian Women website.

She continued her writing about the prisons she had experienced, in Mashhd, Sabzevar, Ghezel Hesar and Evin, describing the horrible spread of skin diseases and inmates using contaminated needles for drug injections. Reading Rahele’s writing demands strong tolerance, like when she talks about the “Mothers’ Ward” in Mashhad’s Vakil Abad Prison, where in each room you see a grieving mother with two little children…

Yet as Rahele explains, no prison was as atrocious as Qarchak. She always wanted to write a book about the place, where each corner contained another nightmare.

Diarrhea and blood vomiting is common. I used to cry all night until morning because of the cold. The cold would literally kill you.”

Prison authorities would kick me hard in the chest during the period that I was breastfeeding my child. I was beaten many times. In the first six months I wasn’t allowed to shower. During these six months I had six periods. When you are repeatedly beaten and tortured, the bleeding is unstoppable. All of my clothes were filled with sh*t and dried blood. After six months I literally cried and begged for a 15-minute shower. I was so happy that I was even smelling that water.”

She also endured much torture.

I was blindfolded and chained to a chair. They beat me so long that I could barely walk. Mr. Monfared grabbed my chest so hard that I fainted of pain. One cannot imagine the horror until they actually experienced it.”

A journalist who spent some time behind bars with Rahele wrote about her:

Despite all the pain she had experienced in her childhood and being behind bars, she was always full of life and loved to learn. She wanted to go to school, learn English and computers. The joy of life was the first thing you saw in Rahele’s eyes. During the little time she had, she would go to the library and had read nearly all the books. This was what made Rahele different for me. Nine years have passed, but she is still in my heart.”

They say Rahele started using drugs time and again to relieve her of the pains, and time and again she quit to start life all over again.

During the short periods of furlough, she would try to contact me to provide news about events inside the prison. She would go to see the families of political prisoners and reassure them that their loved ones were okay. She had come to learn about human rights activities and sought to follow up on these matters. In prison she attempted to gather signatures for a million-signature petition. Rahele didn’t just think about herself. She liked to change the world around her.”

Was Rahele diagnosed with cancer early on?

No. There is no decent medical care or diagnosis in prison. Her cancer was most probably diagnosed at a very late stage, as she passed away soon afterwards. I know she also suffered from dialysis in her last days.”

Rahele is described as different from those in the prison ward.

All the inmates in that ward had common background. They were either human rights advocates or journalists. However, Rahele was from another world. She was a different person from a different atmosphere, with a different language. Maybe that’s why she has remained in the memory of so many.”

Rahele had spent 13 years behind bars and was released on bail in the summer of 2014. She was ordered to live under internal exile for two years in the city of Isfahan, in south-central Iran.

“I will become a new person,” she would say.

She always yearned for freedom. Many nights when she fell asleep dreaming about freedom. However, the cancer had spread and stole her last breath on February 17.

Unfortunately, Iran under the mullahs’ regime is riddled with such painful stories of women across this ancient land. Of those unjustly jailed, tortured and executed, those suffering with faces and bodies scarred with lifelong wounds of acid attacks, and the millions enduring enormous hardships through the course of 38 years of the mullahs’ atrocious and misogynist rule.

Humanity must pledge to bring an end to all the wrongs being imposed against women, especially in countries such as Iran. The 21st century is no place for such continuing atrocities.

Originally published in Forbes

Iran’s Regime of Terror by the Numbers

In 38 years the country’s Islamist regime has taken the people into poverty and illiteracy while the leadership has gotten richer and richer.

The mullahs now ruling Iran were able to hijack the revolution that sacked the U.S.-backed Shah regime back in February 1979. However, the 38-year report card left by the mullahs has only raised extreme anger throughout the Iranian society.

Numbers are very vivid in revealing the undeniable atrocities caused by the mullahs’ disastrous policies.

The daily trend of continuous executions in Iran has raised anger amongst the international community for years. Iran is considered the number one executioner per capita.

The number of executions in Iran “paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” according to Amnesty International.

Suicides are also on the rise, especially amongst women, ranking Iran first in the Middle East and third in the world. There are also reports of a growing number of teenagers committing suicide.

Drug addiction is yet another disastrous result of the mullahs’ rule in Iran. The amount of drugs spreading amongst women and teenagers is skyrocketing and state-run media are citing experts estimating at least 8 million Iranians are suffering from this dreadful phenomenon.

Iran’s roads are even considered very dangerous, as the mullahs refuse to allocate the necessary budget to provide safe passages. 20,000 people die each year in Iran and 300,000 injured (150% more than the global average). Iran’s annual road accident casualty statistics are even compared to an all-out war.

Poverty has increased to an extent that many Iranians have resorted to gathering recyclable products, food stuffs and other trash to make ends meet, and the homeless sleeping in pre-dug graves.

All the while Iran is a country sitting on a vast sea of crude oil and natural gas, with new reports of 2 billion barrels of shell oil discovered in western Iran.

The country’s economy, however, has nosedived to such an extent that more than 50% of the industrial units have gone bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Unemployment is now a critical and increasing crisis. Nearly 15 million people are unemployed in Iran, according to an Iranian economy expert.

The mullahs’ policies have literally destroyed the entire “middle class” in Iran, leaving the population divided between a small percentage with massive riches, and a high percentage living in poverty.

30% of the country’s population is hungry and have no bread to eat,” said Ali Akbar Sayari, Deputy Health Minister in the cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran has an urban population of 65 million, of which one third live in city outskirts comparable to shacks and slums.

“Around 20 million people are living in 53,000 hectares (204 square miles) of non-official residential areas,” according to Mohammad Saeed Izadi, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Road and Construction.

Financial corruption is spreading throughout society like cancer. The numbers have become massive and even unimaginable. Above all is the apparatus linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose riches value at $95 billion.

Iran’s environment is also on the verge of complete annihilation.

“If the water crisis in Iran continues, the country will soon become very similar to Somalia and 50 million Iranians will be forced to leave the country,” said Isa Kalantari, Rouhani’s advisor in water and agricultural matters.

Even the workplace is considered unsafe under the mullahs’ rule, as Iran ranks first in the world in workplace incidents.

“Iran is the world record holder in construction accidents,” said Akbar Shokat, head of the Construction Workers’ Guild Center in an interview with the state-run ISNA news agency.

Illiteracy is plaguing millions of Iranian children, depriving them of education due to their family’s economic and social problems. Iran has a population of 10 million illiterates and 10 million low-literates, according to Rouhani’s Deputy Education Minister.

Yet another repulsive custom rendered from the mullahs’ regime has been child marriages. Poverty forces families to give off their young daughters, leaving them to face unthinkable spiritual and physical damages from arranged marriages.

43,000 girls between the ages of 10 to 15 are currently married in Iran,” according to regime officials.

This is merely a tip of the iceberg of the mullahs’ horrific track record in the past 38 years, making serious measures against this regime and in support of the Iranian people all the more necessary.

Originally posted in The Clarion Project

Flogging and Eye-Gouging Are Among Iran’s Medieval Punishments for ‘Morality’ Violations

Despite the many flaws in the nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran’s nuclear program has been curbed. Yet at what cost? As the new Trump administration realizes, the Islamic Republic is still a major violator of the human rights of its people.

The regime’s continued practice of “cruel and inhuman punishments, including floggings, amputations and forced blinding over the past year, exposes the authorities’ utterly brutal sense of justice,” Amnesty International reported, continuing to express concern over executions in Iran, all of which highlight how Iran’s so-called justice system, by legalizing such brutality, has no sense of humanity.

Well into the 21st century, such an aggressive approach vis-à-vis human dignity is quite appalling, to say the least, and deserves serious attention, as Iran continues to neglect, and violate, international prohibitions issued against torture and other abuse.

The fierce battles that continue to rage against US President Donald Trump and the new administration in Washington, DC that…

The regime’s so-called “laws” provide for flogging as punishment for 100 different “offences.” Many flogging victims are protesters under the age of 35, arrested for activities considered protected under internationally recognized rights for freedom of association, belief, expression and religion. Yet Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), making it legally bound not to engage in “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Nevertheless, its obligations have been completely ignored by Tehran, with its penalties for crimes regularly including stoning to death — under the ridiculous claim of “protecting religious morals.” Such a horrific practice proves this regime knows nothing of Islam, or of any other religion, for that matter.

Journalists and bloggers in Iran are also subject to flogging for practicing their freedom of speech rights. One member of the press was sentenced to a ruthless 459 lashes for what the regime’s ruling described as “publishing lies” and “creating unease in the public mind” through his work.

Even women have received lashings for attending mixed-gender parties – considered banned under the mullahs’ sick interpretation of Islam – after being caught at such gatherings by Iran’s so-called “morality police.” Indeed, authorities are known to storm parties and beat attendees prior to their being brought to police stations, where they are insulted, interrogated and tortured. Such individuals usually receive 74 lashes and spend three nights behind bars.

While flogging remains a highly practiced method by the mullahs, Amnesty International also reported on a case in which a man’s eyes were forcibly gouged out — in a punishment known as an “eye for an eye” retribution — a horrible fate many imprisoned individuals face.

Other of Iran’s medieval practices include “cross amputations” for thieves, whose fingers and toes are cut off unevenly on either side of their bodies.

It is worth noting here that all of the above atrocities were recorded in 2016, well into the tenure of President Hassan Rouhani, ironically dubbed as a “moderate” and/or “reformist.” Rouhani, in fact, has presided over nearly 3,000 executions, surpassing any recent records set by his predecessors, including firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ahmed Shaheed, former United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, voiced his concerns in a report revealing that Iranian authorities in 2015 alone sent to the gallows 966-1,054 people, four of whom were under the age of 18.

Just over a month into the new year, the trend is in full swing.

“The execution of at least 57 prisoners, mostly youths, has been registered in Iran since the beginning of 2017. Twenty of the victims were hanged on January 14,” according to a statement issued by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group of dissidents, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

NCRI President Maryam Rajavi has long called for a firm stance on  Iran’s long slate of human rights violations, most importantly referring Iran’s dossier to the U.N. Security Council.

“The Iranian Resistance declared years ago that it calls for abolition of the death penalty and an end to torture and all forms of rights abuses in Iran,” Rajavi says.

Originally published in Algemeiner