It is difficult not to use the freak sandstorm Iran was a witness to this week as a metaphor for the increasing turbulence within Iran’s political matters.
The sandstorm hit Tehran on the 2 June 2014, causing havoc, tragically killing four and injuring around 30, with winds of the “unprecedented storm” reaching 70 mph. At the same time death was still a prevalent theme in Iran. On Sunday the execution of Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani was announced. He had been imprisoned six years ago for donating money to a satellite television station affiliated with the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group that seeks to overthrow the ruling regime. His execution took place despite widespread international pressure on Iran to halt the execution. Subsequent to this, Khamenei tweeted, presumably in response to the outrage of Savajani’s death, that Iran does not deem “takfiri” groups the enemy, but rather groups that have been “deceived”…
The deep concern over Iran’s increasing number of executions is still present, with numbers of executions continuing to soar to record-breaking levels in 2014. According to Iran Human Rights, more than two people are being killed per day and some 320 executions have taken place in the first five months of 2014 alone. This tally includes numerous human rights activists, bloggers and journalists. Of course no official numbers have been produced by the Iranian government. The rise in executions, especially of those for freedom of expression related crimes needs to be addressed urgently.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, has reported there are many concerns on the human rights situation in Iran that add to the multitude human rights abuses in Iran. These include “the independence of judges and lawyers, the intimidation, arrest and sentencing of ethnic and religious minorities, due process and fair trial standards, and the startling number of executions”. Most of the executions are for crimes that do not meet international standards of “most serious”. These inadequacies are in place in an effort to silence those who dare to speak out about the repression, ensuring the blackout of rights is maintained. Although the last Human Rights Rapporteurs allowed in Iran was 2005, there are increasing calls for dialogue with the Iranian authorities to address the increasing concerns over the country’s human rights abuses.
One example of Iran’s mockery of justice is Saeed Malekpour, the tech-savvy Iranian-Canadian arrested and given a life sentence on widely decried charges of running a porn network. Since his arrest his has been given two death sentences which were rescinded in December 2012 after his “confession”. Soon after, in his letter from jail, he told the story of how he was tortured to extract a forced confession. A former cellmate of his reported that Malekpour’s jaw was broken under interrogation. Recently, Saeed celebrated his 39th birthday; yet another year spent behind bars. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre had thus encouraged the hashtag #HBDSaeed to once again bring attention to his case. For more information about Saeed Malekpour visit his Unlock Iran campaign page.
Amnesty International has also released a comprehensive report on the persecution in universities, highlighting the threat facing academic freedom in Iran. The report, that can be found here, again demonstrates the suffocating state Iranian educational institutions are in, demanding that President Rouhani’s administration delivers the promise of a rights-respecting agenda. Numerous academics and students are targeted for ‘anti-governmental behaviour’ when exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly. They are usually faced with “reprisals such as disciplinary reviews or falsified failure of assessed work that can lead to their suspension, dismissal or expulsion.” The story of Majid Tavakoli, the prominent Iranian student leader, is testament to the threats faced by Iranians within the academic sphere. The lack of transparency, ambiguous charges and startling dismantling of the rule of law is deteriorating efforts to ensure rights throughout Iran. After seeing Rouhani’s bold statements and public disputes with hard-liner clerks on the issue of the path to paradise – urging them to stop interfering in people’s lives – we call on Rouhani to take a direct and similarly stern stance on human rights. We are again looking towards Rouhani to foster change and guide this tempest he has evoked towards a rights-respecting Iranian system.
Image source: http://www.news24.com/Green/News/Tehran-fears-new-sandstorm-20140604