HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN DURING FIRST YEAR OF HASSAN ROUHANI’S ‘MODERATE’ PRESIDENCY
In August 2013, twenty-four years after serving as the representative of the Supreme Leader in the mullahs’ highest security organization, the Supreme Security Council, Hassan Rouhani took office as the President of the Iranian regime.
His foremost motto as the new man in office was “moderation.” Those who advocate for change from within the religious dictatorship fell head over heels for the new president, hoping for an overture with Iran while keeping the regime in power. They hope for an end to the era of extremism marked by Mohmoud Ahmadinejad, which promises to open the doors to economic trade and political cohesion with the regime.
One year later, the residents of cities and villages in Iran feel no change at best in the economic and social realms. Ali Tayebnia, Hassan Rouhani’s Minister of Economy, said on August 2: “During its history, the economy of Iran has never faced such complex conditions as today.” He added: “Right now, the government has a 250 thousand billion Toman debt… while government’s budget is somewhere from 10 to 20 thousand billion.”
The regime’s nuclear project is at a standstill and its meddling in Iraq and Syria has deepened. However, the foremost indicator for Rouhani’s record is human rights.
The situation of human rights in Iran
During Hassan Rouhani’s first year in office, there have been at least 793 executions, a number which is unprecedented in the past 25 years of Iranian history.
The executions include at least 31 women, 38 political prisoners, and 12 persons who were juveniles at the time of crime. At least 46 of these executions were carried out in public.
The number of executions in the second half of the Persian year 1392 (i.e. October 2013 to March 2014), at which point Hassan Rouhani has assumed office, doubled the figure of the first six months.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said in Geneva on 11 March 2014: “Despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in…The new government has not changed its approach regarding the application of the death penalty and seems to have followed the practice of previous administrations, which relied heavily on the death penalty to combat crime.”
The trend of intensification of violation of human rights in the past year is evident in all realms:
Human rights under Rouhani: Attacking the organized opposition
In a 10-point declaration on 30 May 2013, Hassan Rouhani promised to look into the demands of non-persian people. This promise not only was not kept by Rouhani, but repression and discrimination against non-persian peopleincreased.
Of the 37 political prisoners hanged in the first year of Rouhani’s Presidency, twenty-four were Baluchi activists, eight were Ahwazi Arabs, and five were Kurds.
In one case alone, 15 Baluchi prisoners were hanged together; and in a revenge execution, eight Baluchi prisoners were collectively hanged in Zahedan Prison after the assassination of city of Zabol’s General Prosecutor.
Four prisoners were among prisoners executed for supporting Kurdish political parties. Ahwazi Arab prisoners were among political prisoners executed during this period.
Human rights under Rouhani: Religious minorities
On 24 August 2013, a Baha’i citizen by the name of Ata’ollah Rezvani was assassinated in the city of Bandar Abbas, capital of the coastal province of Hormozgan. He was one of the active members of the Baha’i community in this city.
In his March 2014 report, Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic, stated that 110 Baha’is are currently in prison in Iran because of practicing their religion.
Meanwhile, at least 1500 students are deprived of university studies because of their belief in the Baha’i faith.
On 26 August 2013, Saeed Abedini, a Christian Iranian–American pastor was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in prison. Prior to that, Abedini had revealed in a letter that he had been beaten and denied medical treatment.
On the verge of Christmas, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Vervir Avanessian, a retired pastor of the AOG Church, to three and a half years imprisonment.
On January 6, Hossein Saketi Aramsary, a newly converted Christian, was sentenced to one-year hard labor in prison on charges of evangelism.
In the first week of January 2014, the international Open Doors Organization declared that in terms of the harassment of Christians, Iran is amongst the top ten countries in the world.
Human rights under Rouhani: Suppression of Women
Based on a directive ratified by Tehran’s council of mayors and their deputies on 17 May 2014, the suppressive ‘gender separation’ plan has been secretly implemented in Tehran’s municipalities by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, mayor of Tehran.
Based on this plan, “all senior or median directors should use only male employees for posts such as chief of bureau, secretary, phone operator, typist, and in charge of follow-ups, etc. from those employed in their office,” according to state-run news agency ISNA. In the course of implementation of this directive, some posts and jobs in the municipalities were banned for women, and a number of women lost their jobs in the municipality.
The implementation of this plan met with public abhorrence, especially by women. The regime’s authorities steadfastly defended it. The head of Administrative Court of Justice, Ali Akbar Bakhtiari, described this plan as ‘securing integrity of women’s working environment’ and said this move does not mean ‘a gender discrimination or separation.’ Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Rouhani’s Justice Minister, regarded this plan as being “in conformity with the regime’s values that would increase the revenue.” More than 183 members of the regime’s parliament called this misogynistic plan “special attention and tribute to women.”
This plan has now extended to the regime’s other organizations such as the Administrative Court of Justice and state -controlled Tasnim News Agency, affiliated to the terrorist Quds Force.
In line with this policy Tehran municipality is planning to separate benches used by boys and girls in parks. The Science and Technology University of Tehran has issued a repressive plan titled as “Moral Charter” based on which ‘no social intercourse of male and female students is allowed on the campus.’ Rules of this charter ban using perfume or after-shave.
Human rights under Rouhani: Repression in Universities
Amnesty International announced in a report on 30 May 2011,“Student activists, reformists and academics perceived as secular are hounded by authorities…. Despite initial welcome steps by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration to allow the return of a number of banned students and academics to universities, the situation remains dire. Hundreds of students continue to be barred from higher education and many remain in prison, with some fresh arrests since President Hassan Rouhani’s election. As the first academic year under his administration comes to an end, many restrictions remain in place.”
Human rights under Rouhani: Suppression of Press
Reporters Without Borders in its annual report on December 18, 2013 announced that 42 reporters or journalists have been arrested since the election of Rouhani and 12 publications have been shut down.
According to Reporters Without Borders, there are currently 65 reporters behind bars in Iran. To this effect, Iran is among the top five regime’s that have imprisoned the journalists.
It also has the highest number of women journalists imprisoned and has been described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the worst overall suppressors of journalists.
Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights