Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Dec. 10, 2018 - The subject of human rights, or the violation or lack of it in Iran, has been the point of contention between the Iranian officials and international bodies for almost the entire existence of this regime over the past four decades. In November, the United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Committee condemned the Iranian regime for the 65th time by adopting a resolution expressing concern over continued rights abuse in Iran using the ruling regime to cease enforced disappearance and the widespread use of arbitrary detention. Not surprisingly, Iranian officials played down the resolution as a political agenda and defended their practices of human rights in accordance with their values.
Let us look at some key areas of human rights vis-à-vis Tehran’s records over time.
Free and Fair Elections
Seemingly, presidential and parliamentary elections are held every four years to elect (read select in Iran) a president and other deputies. However, the supreme leader, a life-long monarch like figure accountable to no one, has the final say on all critical matters overriding any decision by the legislative or executive bodies. All candidates for any such positions must be vetted and approved by various bodies, appointed directly and indirectly by the supreme leader. And finally, the supreme leader has the power and authority to nullify all election results.
In the years following the 1979 revolution, all other groups and parties not complying with Khomeini’s vision and ideology were considered as dissidents and termed by the regime as “seditioners.”
As such, although officially permitted to take part in elections but never permitted to join the political dialogue and the process, Massoud Rajavi, leader of what is known today as the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK), was disqualified by a last minute Khomeini fatwa (edict). Rajavi was forecasted to obtain millions of votes during the first presidential election. Other MEK parliamentary candidates were entering the Majlis (parliament) despite successfully beating all fraudulent government campaigning and vote-rigging.
In later years, the state has toughened up restrictions and set explicit bans preventing people and organizations expressing the slightest opposition to the regime from taking part in any elections. Institutions and bodies affiliated with the office of the Supreme Leader strictly vet presidential and parliamentary candidates, guaranteeing their loyalty to the regime and its fundamental concepts.
As explained by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), with the genuine opposition having no voice, elections held in Iran are merely “a constricted power struggle through sham elections whose outcome is shaped not by popular vote but by the regime’s internal balance of power.”
Iran elections have also been subjected to egregious cases of vote rigging and election fraud. In 2009, nationwide protests and uprisings erupted as protesters accused the regime of manipulating the results in favor of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Freedom of Speech and Media in Iran
Reporters Without Borders in 2016 ranked Iran at 169 out of 180 countries monitored by this independent, international body.
Freedom House rates Iran’s press freedom at 99 out of 100 (100 being the worst score) describing the country’s media environment as “repressive.”
Iran’s constitutional law imposes severe restrictions on the media, forbidding the publication of any material deemed to be “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the right of the public.” A vague definition often used to justify crackdown on dissent and non-conformity with state propaganda.
Major media outlets and publications are either state-owned or affiliated with the state’s military and security apparatus. Keyhan and Etelaat, the country’s principal dailies, are often described by western media outlets as mouthpieces of Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei due to their strict ties to his office. Outlets not owned or linked to the ruling factions are severely censored or shut down.
Iran’s security forces closely police the media and routinely harass, arrest and charge journalists for expressing dissenting opinions. The arrest, torture, and murder of Sattar Beheshti, a young blogger, by Iran’s cyber police is a vivid example of such suppressive measures.
Beheshti had dared to criticize the government, brutally tortured and killed while in custody as a result. Freedom House’s 2016 report chronicles many other cases where journalists, reporters, and satirists have been arrested under trumped-up charges of “enmity against God.”
Torture and executions in Iran
Iran’s deliberate use of capital punishment has been a constant source of international outrage and condemnation. According to several independent international bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran and Amnesty International, Iran is the leading state in executions per capita, second only to China in terms of figures. Iran also tops the charts in the number of executions of minors and juvenile offenders.
The Iranian regime is also notoriously known for systematic and mass executions of opposition members and dissidents. Tens of thousands were executed in early 1980s.
In the summer of 1988, in a horrendous and genocidal act, over 30,000 political prisoners were summarily executed following a fatwa (edict) issued by Khomeini. The majority of those victims were PMOI / MEK members and supporter. The event led to Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, then the heir apparent to the regime’s throne. In an audio recording surfacing 28 years later, he describes the massacre as the largest crimes against humanity, and history will condemn the perpetrators. The execution of political prisoners, especially PMOI / MEK supporters, has continued in recent years.
The Iranian regime has also carried out a large number executions based on drug-related charges, including crimes not considered major offences according to international norms. Their methods include public hanging and stoning of convicts. Other inhuman practices such as torture, corporal punishment, public lashing, maiming, and public humiliations are common and mandated by law. Former political prisoners’ accounts reveal the extensive use of rape, beating, starvation, mock executions and other forms of torture being widespread and common against dissidents. Many prisoners died under torture and secretly buried.
One case highlighted in recent years was that of Kahrizak Prison, shedding light on the mass-scale torture and rape of demonstrators arrested during 2009 uprisings.
Iran has been criticized on several reprises for obtaining forced confessions from prisoners through torture. Last November, Amnesty International published a report condemning the Iranian regime for broadcasting forced confessions of prisoners to justify their executions.
Women’s Right in Iran
Women have always had an exceptional role in Iran, especially being the most educated female population in the Middle East. However, under the Islamic republic, they are strictly limited in realizing their true potentials.
In terms of personal and social freedoms, Iranian women are subject to stringent rules and regulations. Women are required to wear the hijab (head veil) in all public places or face corporal punishment. In some cases, vigilantes sanctioned by the regime have staged acid attacks against women for not adhering to the dress code.
Women are also banned from public events such as sports matches. As for civil rights, Iran’s laws explicitly classify women as second-class citizens. A woman’s share of inheritance is half of what a male relative is entitled to. Moreover, Iranian women are banned from traveling abroad without the permission of a male family member. The testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man and in some cases, it is not even acceptable. Marriage and divorce laws are also skewed in favor of men.
Iranian women’s access to education and work are also legally limited in Iran. Some faculties, especially in technology and engineering, remain the exclusive domain of male students in Iranian universities.
Women are restricted in work life. Men are legally allowed to ban their wives from working. Access to administrative functions and job titles are also limited to women. Political roles and offices are largely banned for women and too many hurdles make it practically impossible for women without deep ties and favors from state officials to make it into leadership roles. Those few who have made it to the parliament or executive branch are regularly sidelined and have ceremonial and non-enforcing authority.
Minority Rights in Iran
Iran’s ethnic and religious landscape is diversified, with a Persian Shiites constituting the majority of Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis, as well as religious minorities, such as Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Bahais. Members of these groups are constantly subject to systematic state-run discrimination and persecution.
The earliest act of suppression against minorities under the post-1979 clerical rule was the violent quelling of the 1979 Kurdish uprising, where security forces and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) led a massive military operation in Kurdistan province, leading to the deaths of thousands.
Minority rights violations in Iran has been the subject of UN General Assembly resolutions and Amnesty International condemnations. Ethnic minorities in Iran are often subjected to land and property confiscations, denial of state and para-state employment, restrictions on social, cultural, linguistic and religious freedoms. This often results in further human rights violations, such as the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, grossly unfair trials of political prisoners before “Revolutionary Courts,” corporal punishment and use of the death penalty, parallel to movement restrictions and denial of other civil rights.
Ethnic minority activists are incarcerated, tortured and executed, often under trumped-up charges and unfair trials. Conversion from Islam to other religions is severely punished under an apostasy law and religious minorities are persecuted and legally punished for professing or exercising their religion.