While Iranian President Rouhani pledged to usher in a new era of human rights for Iranians, he continues to engage in massive repression. What follows is an overview of some of the serious human rights violations in Iran that serve as a litmus test for the authenticity of Rouhani's commitment to human rights for the Iranian people.
December 10 has been declared Human Rights Day. This is a day for all of us in the West, in particular, to pray for those who live under autocratic, theocratic, despotic regimes who deny their citizens their humanity. There is slavery on the 21st century. While we exclaim over the movie "12 Years a Slave," we ignore those who are enslaved today, in Sudan and North Korea.
The treatment of ethnic minorities is a fundamental question in building a stable, democratic, and prosperous Iran. But the question of ethnic minorities is not merely a problem to be solved; it is also an immense opportunity for a wise and just leadership to transform Iran from its current pariah status into a leader among nations. Embracing human rights and global interdependence is a necessity for Iran's survival and prosperity.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an award-winning lawyer held unlawfully in Evin Prison since 2010, is on her third day of hunger strike. To show their solidarity with this incredible woman, human rights and online activists have organized a "Tweet Storm" for Friday. The online event is an urgent call to take action for her release.
Beyond doubt, this is the bloodiest period in Iran's contemporary history. A former political prisoner described how she was savagely beaten while six-months pregnant, while yet another spoke about a 14-year-old boy crying for his mother as the noose was put around his neck. Violence is often mistaken as a sign of strength. The exact contrary is true: Violence is the ultimate sign of weakness.
If this looks like an ordinary diplomatic photograph -- it is not. In a rare encounter, the Hon. Noel Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate of Canada, summoned Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, the Iranian Charge d'Affaires, to his chambers. Kinsella demanded the release of all unlawfully held Iranian prisoners of conscience and in particular the Canadian prisoners: Saeed Malekpour, Hossein Derakhshan and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall.
In the run-up to the Iranian election today, there has been a massive campaign underway for imprisonment and silencing of all opposition. There have been arrests, beatings, torture, detentions, kidnappings, disappearances, and executions -- indeed, an execution binge even by Iran's wanton standards.