December 22, 2007

Forgotten Human Rights in Iran

By M. Parvin  

The recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) claiming the Islamic Regime in Iran (IRI) had suspended aspects of its nuclear weapons program, acknowledged as fact that the IRI had commissioned a secret, military-run atomic weapon program. The IRI and it's lobby have as yet not acknowledged this, even after hailing the publication of the NIE report. 

Should the supposed halt of a secret program change our views about a regime that has been lying to the entire world for so many years? Regardless of the reason behind all the controversy about the NIE, one thing is quite clear: The IRI's western supporters, including many politicians, global financial institutions and media, as well as Iranian lobby groups, are using the NIE to further push for unconditional acceptance of a regime that stands tall among the abusers of human rights in the world. If the IRI's atomic weapons program has been pursued secretly, its human rights violations have been practiced openly on a daily basis. And yet, the world community has been dead silent about it.

 While the IRI continues to crack down on civil, social, and economic liberties on a daily basis, the world community continues to be indifferent. One struggles to find a single statement issued by the western states, one article written by so-called "progressives", or one slogan raised in anti-war campaigns that would somehow link the human rights of the Iranian people to "grand bargain" that they are advocating to be offered to the IRI. If they succeed in bringing the IRI into the world community, the freedom loving Iranians who have made so many sacrifices for their cause will face the Islamic Regime backed by the entire world.

 The western states, the U.S. in particular, have ignored the human rights factor mainly due to the misconception that Iran is not ripe for a regime change. A widespread misinformation campaign that has been orchestrated by the IRI's agents and lobby groups [1] has played a major role in creation of such misconceptions. As an example, in a recent article [2] in the Nation magazine, Trita Parsi, the president of National Iranian Council (NIAC), flatly rejects the idea of a regime change by the Iranians without offering any logical argument or statistics. He states that:

 "... the current choice Iranians face is not between Islamic tyranny and democratic freedom. It is between chaos and stability. The increased tension with the United States over the past year has only strengthened the government's hold on power by limiting the space for pro-democracy activists. Whatever we think of the clergy in Tehran , we cannot afford wishful thinking about their imminent departure."

He then mischaracterizes another issue vital to IRI's survival and refers to sanctions as a "proven failure" without providing any proof:

 "... And so far, beyond isolated instances, the Administration has not given broad negotiations a fair chance, nor has the United States pursued a policy of inclusion and regional integration. (A policy of sanctions and confrontation, on the other hand, is a proven failure.)"

And concludes by suggesting that Washington should give IRI all it wants:

 "... only Washington can offer Tehran what it really seeks: de-containment and reintegration in the Middle East . Iran wants a seat at the table and a say as a legitimate player in all regional decision-making. Iran can make it costly for the United States not to recognize it as a regional power, but it cannot gain its seat at the table without American agreement. This is an extremely valuable carrot Washington can offer Tehran in return for momentous changes in Iranian behavior. In fact, unbeknownst to decision-makers in Washington , America holds an ace up its sleeve. But this ace can be used only in the context of real negotiations. "

What Trita Parsi suggests in this article is typical of what his organization (NIAC) and many other similar organizations have been saying for years. It can be summarized as:  

  1. The Islamic Regime is untouchable
  2. Human Rights are not an option in Iran . The only option is stability.
  3. This stability cannot be achieved by sanction but by offering Tehran what it really seeks: A seat at all regional negotiation table; recognizing it as a regional power; de-containment.

They are wrong on all counts due to the fact that:  

  • The Islamic Regime is badly shaken and vulnerable.
  • Stability in Iran is impossible without the consideration of Human Rights.
  • A smart sanctions approach can create permanent stability.

During the past 28 years, the IRI has ruled by force and silenced opposition with daily jailing, torture, and executions. The regime's awareness of its vulnerability is the reason for its fear of the Iranian people.  Political activists are not the only ones under attack. Security officials boast that their campaigns against inappropriate attire for women (bad hejab), youths entertaining Western-style haircuts, fans of rock music, shopkeepers selling indecent garments, and unmarried couples walking on the streets, has resulted in more than 500,000 arrests since April 2007. Despite what is being portrayed by the regime's agents and lobby groups, and what is promoted by most of the western media, the majority of Iranians oppose this regime in its entirety and desire a secular democracy.  

Of course, there are many Iranians who disapprove of the IRI but are not very active. These Iranians are witnessing in frustration the idea that the IRI, regardless of its long history of terrorism and human rights violations, may soon be accepted by the world community. They have the desire and capability to fight and conquer IRI but are incapable of fighting the entire world that feeds and reconstructs the power source of their enemy. They know that if there are interwoven interests between the West and the IRI, it may be extremely difficult to enforce change. The Iranians feel a sense of abandonment which explains why they are nervously waiting and watching.

 Lobby groups and spokesmen such as Trita Parsi have been trying to undermine the will of the Iranians and promote the IRI as untouchable. However, they withhold the fact that if foreign obstacles are removed and the IRI is not recognized or legitimized by the western states, then the Iranian people would be able to gain their basic freedoms and make the world safer through non-violence related tactics and civil disobedience. In short, A smart sanctions approach imposed by the free world is the only help [3] they need.

 Mohammad Parvin, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at the California State University , an Aerospace Specialist, and Founding Director of the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR)


      1. Investigative Reports on the Role of the Lobby Groups in the US
The Iranian Challenge, Trita Parsi, Nation, November 19, 2007
The Clergy Challenge, Mohammad Parvin, American Daily, December 11, 2007

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