Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Iran and the Human Rights Opening

by Mehdi Khalaji

Wall Street Journal

August 7, 2012

With tensions mounting over Iran's nuclear program, the West has dealt the Tehran regime crippling blows on several fronts, including through sanctions, the targeted killing of scientists, and cyber operations such as the Stuxnet virus. Tehran is no doubt reeling but regime leaders have spotted a silver lining: The West's single-minded focus on the nuclear dossier has permitted them to widen their violations of human rights.

Indeed, since the protests that followed the 2009 election, Iran's human-rights abuses have worsened substantially—a development that has gone largely unnoticed in the U.S. and Europe. This is a tragedy with profound strategic implications for the West.

The Iranian legal system allows numerous human-rights violations, including discrimination against women and ethno-sectarian minorities, and the imposition of brutal penal sentences, such as stoning. Tehran's ruling theocrats view human rights as a Western invention used to undermine Islamic culture and sovereignty as part of what Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei considers a soft war against Iran. They therefore do not believe themselves duty-bound to uphold their basic human-rights obligations, including those under international agreements to which they are party.

Consider this example: A man, under house arrest for the past two years, learned of the death at different points of his two sisters. The state refused him the right to attend either funeral. This outrageous case did not involve an average Iranian citizen but rather Mehdi Karroubi, a presidential candidate in 2009 and the former speaker of parliament. Mr. Karroubi has remained under arbitrary house arrest since the post-election uprising along with two other dissidents, Mir Hossein Mousavi—the opposition's leading presidential candidate—and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who was heavily involved in her husband's campaign.


David Gothard