World Human Rights Day, marked annually on December 10, came and went last week without much incident, not least in Iran – at least if the mainstream English-language press is anything to go by – although Iran’s ongoing, flagrant rights violations did find mention in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s annual International Human Rights Day press statement.
But some more right-wing, denominational or Iran-specific media outlets paint a different picture. For example, citing a report on Persian-language Iranian news site LAHIG, Fox News reported last Thursday that Iran marked Human Rights Day by sentencing a woman – identified only as “A. Kh.” – to death by stoning. The report was accompanied by a gruesome photo of a woman “symbolically dressed up as a victim of death by stoning” – part of a protest campaign by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The report, including the accompanying photo, was replicated on various Christian media outlets, but not on major mainstream outlets. The NCRI, meanwhile, published its own article on Iran’s human rights violations coinciding with Human Rights Day – this time focusing on the public hanging of a young 21-year-old man at an archaeological site in the Fars province.
The NCRI report also mentioned the harsh sentence meted out to a woman identified as “A. Kh.” – apparently the same woman Fox News, and subsequently other outlets, had alleged was sentenced to death. The NCRI report, however, stated that she was sentenced to stoning, lashing, and 25 years in prison for “alleged complicity in the murder of her husband.” According to the report, another man involved in the case was sentenced to death.
What can be gleaned from these contradictory reports?
Whether or not “A. Kh.” was sentenced to death or not, the fact remains that by continuing its spree (particularly under the “moderate” Rouhani) of executions, lashings and other harsh forms of punishment that flout international norms and conventions, Iran is demonstrating its blatant disregard, not only for universal human rights conventions, but also for its own people. How ironic that it is not only doing so on Human Rights Day (like every other day of the year), but also trying to deflect attention from its many rights abuses by accusing the US of worse violations, as well as of using human rights as “leverage”… Is that not precisely what Iran is doing?