BENJAMIN WEINTHAL/If Iran can’t hold human rights pledges, how can it abide by nuke deal?


Analysis: If Iran can’t hold human rights pledges, how can it abide by nuke deal?

If the past is prologue in regard to Iran’s miserable human rights record, there are significant question marks over whether Tehran can guarantee a nuclear agreement free from arms development.
Hassan Rouhani
BERLIN – The award of this week’s Nobel Peace Prize to Taliban victim Malala Yousafzai refocused attention on Iran’s gutting of human rights and its link to a nuclear agreement.
On Thursday, Amnesty International, invoking the award to Yousafzai, posted an appeal from 28 winners of the Nobel Physics Prize to Iran’s supreme leader demanding the release of “prisoner of conscience Omid Kokabee.”
Kokabee is serving a ten-year sentence for refusing to work on Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Amnesty wrote he “has been imprisoned solely due to his refusal to engage in military research for the Islamic Republic of Iran and as a result of spurious charges related to his legitimate scholarly ties with academic institutions outside of Iran.”
If the past is prologue in connection with Iran’s miserable human rights record, there are significant question marks over whether Rouhani’s regime can guarantee a nuclear agreement free from weapons development.
The world powers group , known as the P5+1, seeks to reach a deal with Iran over its illegal nuclear program by a November 24 deadline.
In terms of Rouhani’s ability to deliver on his promises, it is worth recalling that he declared prior to his 2013 election victory: “All Iranian people should feel there is justice. Justice means equal opportunity.
All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice. Long live citizenship rights!” Writing in his New York Post column on Thursday, Amir Taheri, a leading Iranian expert, took stock of Rouhani’s track record, asking rhetorically, ”How could Rouhani or anybody else normalize with any nation when Iran itself is not normal?” According to Taheri, during Rouhani’s tenure “more than 1,700 people have been executed in murky circumstances; dozens of journalists and scores of human rights activists have been thrown into prison and many newspapers shut down.”
Iran’s leaders seem to be living in a kind parallel universe where criticism of its human rights record is non-existent. Iran’s legal deputy to Rouhani announced “no journalist has been detained in Iran for journalism,” prompting The Guardian’s Iran reporter on Saturday to write on his Twitter feed, “That’s not true.” Both Iran’s president and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have not intervened to secure the release of detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was arrested on June 22.
The Baha’i International Community issued a report last month on Rouhani’s regime titled “Unfulfilled Promises” for their plight.
Iran has continued its massive crackdown on the small Baha’i community – which it does not recognize as a religion – and sent many of its leaders to jail for merely practicing their faith.
Iranian Christians are facing ramped up persecution. Sharona Schwartz reported Tuesday on The Blaze website that, “Three Iranian men reported to be Christian converts, one of whom was making a film about the life of Jesus, were arrested in Iran late last month.”
All of this helps to explain why Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, noted in his October report that human rights “in some cases appear to have worsened.” In terms of executions, the report highlighted that, “Between July 2013 and June 2014, at least 852 individuals were reportedly executed representing an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already high rates of the previous year.”
Rouhani’s regime has failed to fill his preelection human rights promises with meaning, content and hope. It is unclear if the world powers will view the severe lack of any semblance of progress in the human rights realm as a guide for the viability of a nuclear agreement.
**Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.