The nuclear negotiations with Iran have continued to dominate headlines, with policy makers focused on reaching a deal with Tehran. Lost in this discussion is the humanitarian crisis faced by the people of Iran, and their struggle to overcome a brutal regime. I believe the case can be made that the Iranian regime should be sanctioned, aside from the nuclear issue, primarily because of its egregious human rights violations against its own people.
In the face of mounting dissent, the Iranian regime has been forced to contain the population using its classical tools of choice; terror and repression. Currently Iran is second only to China in the number of executions, and leads the world in per capita execution rate. Its prisons are overcrowded, and torture and mistreatment is common place.
This year has began with reports of Iran’s plan to crackdown on dissent, particularly freedom of speech and the internet. The government has reportedly set up a working group to monitor SMS communications in the country, while the Iranian revolutionary guard has announced its intention to monitor the activities of individuals on Facebook.
Political prisoners in Iran continue to be denied due process, and forced to confess under threats of torture and rape. The regime has even resorted to labeling political activists as immoral or charging them with drug related offenses in order to avoid the political nature of their cases.
Yet the Iranian people continue to remain defiant, and stand up. It is time that the international community stands with them. Perhaps it is idealistic to call for a policy which prioritizes human rights above economic and political interests. However for Iranian activists, this struggle remains one of ideals, and they have few allies.
It is time to cut ties with this regime, and recognize the opposition movement in Iran and the brave resistance of its people. The international community should implement sanctions on Iran, not solely because of their nuclear program, or their spread of international terrorism, but because they lead the world in per capita executions. Because they continue to violate human rights on a systematic basis at every level of society. And because they represent a barrier to democracy, freedom and progress in the region.
It is imperative for the international community to take a clear and definitive stance in regards to the war on human rights being fought in Iran. Those living abroad can make a difference in this struggle by standing in solidarity with the people of Iran..
The human rights situation in Iran cannot be ignored in the pursuit of a nuclear deal, and should be the primary item on the agenda of policy makers when it comes to Iran. It is time for the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran and support them in their struggle for a democratic, secular and free Iran.
Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney focused on asylum and immigration in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a human rights activist focused on the Middle East and Iran.