News : Human rights

Despite Evidence, Iran Denies Human Rights Abuses and Regional Inteference

By INU staff

INU - On Friday, Turkish Weekly reported that Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, had taken to Iranian television to deny the country’s various human rights abuses. This came shortly after Iran denied entry into the country for Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Though providing no specific evidence of fabrications or faulty methods, Larijani accused Shaheed of bias in his reporting on Iran’s human rights abuses, and suggested that the former Maldivian foreign minister had been appointed by Western nations to carry out an anti-Iranian agenda. Larijani insisted that the many instances of human rights abuses highlighted by Shaheed in several reports – including unlawful executions, press repression, political imprisonment, and torture – were based on anonymous and anti-Iranian sources.

Shaheed’s conclusions have been repeated by Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations, as well as several groups focused exclusively on the situation of human rights in Iran. The latter groups may reasonably be categorized as anti-Iranian, but this is of course to be expected of any group that finds Iran to be a repeat human rights violator. A stance against these abuses does not make reports of such abuses questionable, as Larijani seems to suggest. Conversely, Shaheed would certainly be biased if his information came only from pro-Iranian sources and those approved by Iranian officials.

Turkish Weekly also indicated on Friday that Iran had made similar denials of its interference in the affairs of other nations in the Middle East region. These denials came in response to recent accusations of such interference levied by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of Saudi Arabia and other regional Arab states. Again without citing specific evidence or responding to specific allegations, the Iranian Foreign Ministry declared that it maintains a policy of non-interference and that it has contributed to regional stability.

Additionally, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami used Friday prayers in Tehran in order to defray responsibility for regional instability onto Saudi Arabia. This sermon also appeared to function as a direct response to Saudi efforts to highlight Iran’s damaging influence in the region. The content of the sermon even spat back at Saudi Arabian the words of its own foreign minister, and upped the ante on recent accusations. Saud al-Faisal this week described Iran as part of the problem rather than part of the solution in the Middle East. Khatami’s sermon asserted that Saudi Arabia is “not part of the problem but the whole problem.”

Iran’s English language propaganda network, Press TV quoted Khatami’s speech and separately addressed Saudi Arabia’s references to Iranian military occupation of Syria by saying that Iran had “firmly dismissed reports about its military involvement in Syria and Iraq.” But just as with Iran’s denials of its poor human rights record, these denials also are falsifiable. To some extent they are falsified by Iran’s own propaganda efforts, which include the release of photographs emphasizing the presence of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force in Iraq.

Furthermore, the National Council of Resistance of Iran this week reported that Iran had held funeral services for at least 16 fighters killed in Syria in the last four weeks. Indeed, Iranian support in the form of arms shipments, air support, and fighters from the Quds Force and Shiite militias have been credited with almost single-handedly preserving the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad against the threat from moderate rebel groups.

The Iranian regime is widely credited with providing many of the conditions leading to the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as well. This contradicts Khatami’s assertion in his sermon that it is solely Saudi petrodollars that have led to the creation of that group. Previously, Iranian officials have also accused the United States and Israel of deliberately creating IS, despite the fact that the Sunni militants are threats to their security as well.

In fact, while individuals in Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states have been accused of financially supporting IS, there has been no evidence to support Khatami’s assertion that Sunni governments themselves are supporting it. Indeed, Western analysts generally agree that the IS extremists are recognized as a threat to the traditional monarchies of those more moderate states. By contrast, many of the same analysts observe that so long as IS remains outside of Iran’s borders, Iran profits from the resulting increase in recruitment for Shiite militias and extremist groups.

What’s more that recruitment contributes to the proliferation of Sunni extremists in a sort of feedback loop. This is why Iran is recognized as a major source of the IS rise to power. Iran’s pre-existing presence in Iraq contributed to the consolidation of Iraqi power into a small set of Shiite hands, thus driving disenfranchised Sunnis towards a comparable alternative power structure.

This alone falsifies Ayatollah Khatami’s claim that Saudi Arabia is the “whole problem” in the Middle East. But once again, Iran’s own statements do the same. That is, at the same time that it is reducing the problem to one of Saudi influence, Iran is simultaneously blaming other countries for terrorist incidents inside its own borders.

Iran News Digest pointed out on Thursday that Iran had used terrorist incidents near the Iran-Pakistan border to threaten the possibility of Iranian military incursions across that border. On Friday, the Daily Times added new context to that story by saying that Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam had issued a statement indicating that Iran had taken no measures to prove that recent incidents had originated in Pakistan before issuing the threat.

In fact, the World Bulletin indicates that at least one recent incident, the kidnapping of five Iranian border guards, was the work of a local Iranian group in the region of the Pakistani border. Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack and kidnapping, and World Bulletin describes the group as an Iranian Sunni Muslim rebel group from Sistan-Baluchistan province.

This seems to indicate that despite Iran’s efforts to focus blame on other areas, at least a portion of the region’s terrorist activity is home-grown. But in itself this does not address Iran’s general denial of its regional interference. Yet one does not need to look much further to see that those denials are plainly disingenuous.

The Washington Free Beacon reported on Thursday that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had issued new public statements encouraging the renewal of war between Israel and Palestine, and promising support for that conflict through arms shipments to Gaza and the West Bank. This is unmistakably an instance of Iranian interference in the affairs of other Middle Eastern powers. And furthermore, it involves clear support for regional terrorist groups including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in clear contradiction to Ayatollah Khatami’s assertion that all Middle Easter terrorism originates with Saudi Arabia.

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