Media Op-Ed

Iran Nuclear Talks Continue to Ignore Human Rights Issues

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Nuclear talks and Human Rights in Iran

“The human rights crisis in Iran claims a victim every minute,” the article said in part. “The gallows are still standing. Prisons are worse than before. The right to life is worthless. The concept of judicial protection is meaningless. Government agents have destroyed privacy. Universities are controlled by a political ideology. Freedom of expression — freedom after expression — is null and void.”

IranWire went on to quote from an interview with Ali-Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, published on Khamenei’s official website on Monday. In it Velayati disregarded the regime’s human rights abuses, reducing them to only the issue of repression of the Baha’i religious minority.

He also linked this to Iranian intransigence in nuclear talks with Western powers, declaring that if the West became convinced that it could extract concessions from Iran on that issue, it would soon strive to extract concessions from Iran on the issue of human rights.

IranWire indicates that human rights defenders are thus caught between a rock and a hard place, insofar as they wish to see economic sanctions lifted for the good of the Iranian people, but fear that a deal struck on Tehran’s terms will encourage the international community to focus on a supposed victory over the nuclear file while ignoring the deeper problems related to the Iranian regime.

“For human rights activists trapped in this unexpected historical dilemma, the biggest worry is that human right violations will fade to the background, and be lost under the cover of a nuclear agreement with the world’s powers.”

Meanwhile, victims of the Iranian regime, along with their defenders, are continually working to keep attention focused on the broader human rights issues, and sometimes the global media joins in that effort or picks up their stories.

One such case emerged on Wednesday in the Australian news site Perth Now, which reported that 25 year-old Saeed Hassanloo had been hospitalized in that country in the midst of a 40-day hunger strike related to his attempts to obtain political asylum in Australia, which have thus far been denied.

Perth Now quoted Victoria Martin-Iverson of the Refugee Rights Network as describing the risk to Hassanloo’s life if he is compelled to return to Iran. “I think that the very fact that he’s prepared to put his life and health at risk essentially proves his refugee claim,” she said in reference to his debilitating hunger strike.

Notwithstanding occasional press coverage such as this story, individual tales of human rights abuse and asylum-seeking are easily ignored in Western media in the midst of the much more visible issue of nuclear negotiations. But more broad-ranging and collective Iranian impacts on human rights are more difficult to ignore, and increasingly so.

The situation continues to deteriorate in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels had long since overrun the country, leading directly to the increase in terrorism and sectarian violence on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide. On Tuesday, RT reported that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had both prepared troops for a potential ground invasion of Yemen, expanding upon an Arab coalition bombing campaign aimed at reinstalling the US-backed Yemeni president.

While the political interests of the countries involved in this conflict are arguably the main drivers of the escalation, the sectarian nature of the current conflict has been driven primarily by the ascendance of Iranian influence there, and this has visibly brought the country to the brink of major human rights crisis stemming from terrorism and reprisals by local Sunni and Shiite forces vying to replace the ousted government.

 

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