Using Human Rights to Better Serve a Dictatorship

By Mohammad Parvin
May 9, 2008

The founders of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) made a fundamental mistake when they established an organization to lobby for the Islamic Regime of Iran (IRI). In order to be able to promote a friendship with a terrorist regime, NIAC had not only to be silent about the human rights violations in Iran but to undermine its validity. When questioned on the human rights issue, NIAC has always placed the blame on U.S. pressure and has lectured that recognition of the IRI would improve the human rights issue in Iran . Due to this strategy, they have never condemned the human rights violations in Iran . Currently, not a single trace of the term “human rights” can be detected in their goals and mandates.

This calculated ignorance, and the statement made recently by NIAC’s president, Trita Parsi, played a major role in unveiling the true face of this organization. When NIAC went out of its way and tried to influence organizations like Amnesty International (AI), their liability regarding the absence of concern for human rights violation in Iran and lack of any condemnation of the IRI for its daily abuses became the focal point of human rights groups in general and the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR) in particular.

MEHR challenged the AI as to how and why they promote an organization that has nothing to do with the human rights issue in Iran . When questioned in a meeting held in the Congress (01/18/08) as to why NIAC does not take any meaningful position against human rights violations by Iran , Mr. Trita Parsi’s reply was: “NIAC is not a human rights organization.  We do not have expertise in that area.” After MEHR’s single announcement of Parsi’s quotation and AI’s event, several hundred Iranians supported MEHR’s petition in objection to AI for promoting NIAC.

NIAC – an organization that announces its major goal as stated on its website: “Promoting Iranian American Participation in American Civic Life” – has focused most of its effort on re-establishing normal relations with the religious dictatorship in Iran . In doing so, NIAC has tried hard to discredit all opposition to the Islamic Regime of Iran, disregarding thousands of human rights activists who fight against the IRI for a secular democracy and have paid dearly for it.

The discredited NIAC has attempted a comeback by trying to correct its strategy, in words but not in deed. In a recent article posted on an Iranian site, Trita Parsi begins with the usual allegation that due to “The Bush administration's Iran Democracy Fund…Iranian authorities have clamped down on Iran 's civil society with thousands of arrests.”  

Parsi further speaks for “human rights defenders” in Iran by stating that:

“Human rights workers argue that the "regime change slush fund" has facilitated the Ahmadinejad government's latest wave of abuses… While they recognize that the absence of diplomacy between Washington and Tehran - and the ensuing tensions - enable the Iranian government to intensify human-rights abuses, activists also fear that U.S.-Iran talks might result in a relationship that mirrors America 's relationship with Saudi Arabia , Egypt or Iran under the shah. That is, one in which geopolitical objectives trump concerns about human rights and democracy.”

As Parsi continues:

“There is a solution to this dilemma…Washington must restore its own standing on human rights, and put the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran on the table in its discussions with Tehran. A foreign policy contingent on human rights will create a balance between America 's relationship with the people of Iran and its relationship with Iran 's unpopular government.”

He then concludes, stating that “the next president of the United States must recognize the necessity of reducing tensions with Tehran through diplomacy.”

If this statement was in fact a genuine alteration of NIAC’s policy, nothing would have been more satisfying than to witness the evaporation of one of the main pillars of support for the Islamic Regime.  Unfortunately, this is not the case. Being exposed and on the run, NIAC has discovered that to remain an active promoter of IRI, a little lip service to human rights doesn’t hurt. After all, there is a Persian proverb to this effect that: “Human Rights is a chicken served in both funeral and wedding.” Khomeini, the founder of the system of terror in Iran , hardly missed the reference to human rights in Iran in numerous speeches made before the Islamic Revolution.

NIAC’s new position is not genuine and remains nothing more than an empty gesture made for the sake of “record.” It is not a coincidence that this article has only been published in an online Iranian site (IPS) and was never posted on NIAC’s website.

Human rights violations in Iran are not an arbitrary action of this or that faction or something practiced by hardliners. It is the law of the land. Article 4 of IRI’s constitution makes every single article contingent upon observation of the Islamic laws:

“All civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. This principle applies absolutely and generally to all articles of the Constitution as well as to all other laws and regulations, and the fuqaha' of the Guardian Council are judges in this matter.”

In sharia’s law that is amended to the constitution, torture, stoning, and body mutilation are considered lawful acts of correcting the sinners. There is no reform possible in this system. You touch it and it collapses. That was why during the presidency of Khatami, NIAC’s darling, and during the era of “reforms,” the number of individuals being stoned was at its highest. Neither he nor any other so called reformer dared to condemn this ultimate form of an inhumane act.

Mr. Parsi is well aware of these facts, which explains why his reference to human rights is a deceitful act aimed to further cover up his true intentions. His goal is to put human rights on a table to make the digestion of a terrorizing system possible. MEHR has been advocating for inclusion of the human rights observation as a precondition for any negotiation with the Islamic Regime. This precondition is not warranted by lecturing the notorious regime or by issuing statements and reports on human rights violations. These gestures have been made by the U.S and Europeans repeatedly in so many years. Each year, State Department and EU States as well as all human rights organizations and UN publish reports in condemnation of the Iran for human rights violations. Yet, at the very same time, lucrative deals have been made with the very same regime with no conditions whatsoever. 

If one truly cares for human rights, it would be made a precondition for any negotiation, and the release of all political prisoners would be a first step. Mr. Parsi cannot afford taking such a position because he knows that the IRI would never accept these conditions and friendly relations with the Mullahs would become history. For him, human rights are only good as a decoration of negotiations that would compromise and betray the Iranian struggle for a secular democracy.


Mohammad Parvin is an adjunct professor at the California State University and director of the Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR) -

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