Recently, more and more coverage of Iran in the Western press has been devoted to human rights issues. This rise has coincided with a “surge” in extrajudicial executions in Iran, many of them unreported, according to a recent statement by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran. Other worrying developments have also drawn the attention of the Western press: the raging social, economic and gender inequality in Iran, its mistreatment of minorities, and the unabashed hypocrisy of its clerical regime.
Said hypocrisy reached new heights last month, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, appearing on the Charlie Rose show during a visit to New York, gave US viewers a glimpse into the very hypocrisy that has incensed Iranians in recent weeks (and years).
We do not jail people for their opinions. The government has a plan to improve – enhance – human rights in the country, as every government should […] But people who commit crimes, who violate the laws of a country, cannot hide behind being a journalist, or being a political activist. People have to observe the law.
Enhance? What does Zarif mean by that? Does the clerics’ campaign to “obliterate fun from the internet” constitute an “enhancement” to Iranians’ rights? Are arrests of women whose spouses or children were killed by government agents in the wake of the 2009 elections an “improvement”? How about banning magazines for discussing real issues? To paraphrase Sofia at The Daily Kos, will Iranians soon be violating Iranian law – and risking jail sentences – by talking about, well, anything at all? Why don’t we ask Jason Rezaian what he thinks about the foreign minister’s laughable opening statement?
To add insult to injury, Zarif stated in the interview that he himself has to “observe the law,” just like everybody else in Iran (would that be the same law that allows him to be active across social media platforms, including Twitter, while denying ordinary Iranians that same right?), stating in conclusion: “I believe at the end of the day, everybody will be served by that.” (Some served better than others.)
At least one person picked up on Zarif’s hypocrisy: an Iranian student, who stood up during one of the foreign minister’s Big Apple appearances to demand that he deliver on President Hassan Rouhani’s pledge to release political prisoners and Green Movement leaders. Is the government in Tehran up to the challenge?