Reading some recent media reports on Iran, one would think – in the words of Washington Post columnist – that “hope springs eternal,” and that the Islamic republic is on the verge of turning over a new leaf in both the foreign and domestic spheres.
You might even imagine that Tehran is committing fewer human rights violations – particularly in light of the scarcity of reports on the enforcement of rights-related sanctions on Iran since the nuclear deal was implemented earlier this year.
However, this impression could not be further from the truth. Yes, Iran has thus far managed to prevent sanctions from being enforced over rights violations. However, this should not be taken to mean that Iran has a newfound regard for human rights – quite the contrary.
A brief overview of media reports from the past month reveals that when it comes to human rights abuses, the “moderate” regime of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is still going strong. For example, in one recent case, Iran’s Guardian Council barred a female lawmaker-elect from serving in parliament after photos surfaced allegedly showing her “failing to observe” the “Islamic dress code” while on a trip abroad.
In another case, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced rights activist Narges Mohammadi – already serving a 6-year jail term – to an additional 16 years in prison for “propaganda against the state.” Her crime? Grassroots activism against the death penalty, which Rouhani’s “moderate” regime has used liberally and continues to use, including against child offenders.
But that’s not all: the regime has also resorted to numerous other draconian corporeal punishments in the past month, from limb amputation to flogging – with the latest victims of the latter being students whose crime was attending a mixed graduation party.
As Rouhani – whose administration has executed 2,400 people since his election – enters his third year in office, the United Nation’s condemnations of the “outrageous” state of human rights in Iran only grow louder. Why, then, are he and his ministers still welcomed in Western capitals without an outcry – including in the media – over the atrocities for which they are responsible (not to mention sanctions)? Is the incarceration, torture, amputation, flogging, and hanging of Iranian citizens seen as acceptable collateral damage for keeping the nuclear deal in place?