While most of the world grows increasingly irritated by the Iranian government’s unwillingness to compromise on important remaining issues concerning its nuclear program, there is a groundswell of frustration over the continuing abuse of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A 2014 report by UN Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmed Shaheed on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran makes clear that under President Rouhani’s administration, there has been no substantive change on basic human rights. This includes ongoing and increased persecution of religious minorities like Christians, Kurds and Baha’is, longstanding discrimination against women, continued imprisonment of journalists and other international violations.
Members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran constitute the country’s largest non-Muslim minority and suffer a virtual cradle-to-grave-oppression in “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education and security,” according to UN Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt in a report made last year at the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “It’s really one of the most obvious cases of state persecution,” says Bielefeldt. Attacks on Baha’i-owned properties go unprosecuted and unpunished leading to a sense of impunity for attackers.
While some acts go unpunished, others result in convictions under the flimsiest of excuses and punishments to the full extent of Shari’a law. Since 2004, the number of people put to death by public hanging jumped from 99 to 700. Executions in general have increased. An estimated 625 people, including minors, have been put to death since the beginning of President Rouhani’s term last August. Among those killed are political prisoners including artists, poets, bloggers, journalists and a variety of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities charged with crimes of faith or conscience.
Against this chilling background, it is hardly surprising that “laws that permit gender discrimination and promote violence against women,” writes Dr. Shaheed, “continue to be introduced in Iran.” Alongside Rouhani’s election into office, the Revised Islamic Penal Code went into effect defining the value of a woman’s life as only half the value of the life of a man.
Abuse of human rights on this scale does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs in an environment that is systematic, strategic and organized. Worse, the abuse is perpetrated by a regime characterized by Holocaust denial at the highest-echelons of power including the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a country where freedoms of belief and speech are essentially non-existent, open discussion on the horrors of the Holocaust is considered treasonous and a threat to “national security.”
Being kept in the abyss about the darkest period in contemporary human history might explain the acclaim received among Iranian citizens for the first-ever Persian language book called Holocaust. Researched and written by Dr. Ari Babaknia, the four-volume book is the first publication with comprehensive and accurate information for the global Persian-language community, denied access until now to the truth about Hitler and the Nazis of the mid-20th century.
Their thirst for understanding is also a call for freedom—by giving Iranians access to literature and media they have been barred from, Iran’s people are empowered to re-claim their human rights under a regime bent on denying them.
(Dr. Babaknia’s new book, “Humanity – Not,” an English-language account in words and images of the many incidences of genocide including the Jewish Holocaust, is now in release. A series of meet-the-author gatherings are taking place in the greater Los Angeles area to promote the publication which includes a selection of powerful drawings by the late Iranian artist, Ardeshir Mohassess, widely acknowledged as that country’s leading cartoonist and graphic artist.)