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.