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Challenging Iran’s Rhetoric on Human Rights

Zibakalam highlighted Tehran’s tendency to describe criticisms of its human rights record as political tools, lies, and examples of prejudice against Islam. He dismissed each of these claims in turn, emphasizing that Shaheed himself is a Muslim, that his report relies on the testimony of real Iranians who have suffered real human rights abuses, and that political motives on the part of human rights activists would not absolve Iran of the responsibility to address those very real issues.

Zibakalam could have added that aside from the solid methodology behind Shaheed’s reporting, his criticisms are repeated by a variety of human rights activists, non-governmental organizations, and recurring formal reports detailing anecdotal and statistical evidence of systematic human rights violations throughout the Islamic Republic.

One such report is issued on both a monthly and an annual basis by the Human Rights Activists News Network. And on Monday the organization simultaneously released its report for the most recent Iranian month, spanning February and March, and also its report for the Iranian year that ended on March 20.

The monthly report highlights a number of individual news stories that provide examples of a range of ongoing human rights issues. It mentions several instances of mass executions in Iranian prisons, examples of the persecution of individual members of ethnic and religious minorities, crackdowns on minority group gatherings and activities, repression of women and of workers, union-busting, and official interference in free expression through culture and the arts.

This month’s report also called attention to ways in which air pollution and other quality of life issues have caused illness and death among Iranian citizens, making government mismanagement and neglect a source of human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the annual report primarily focuses on gathering statistical data from the various anecdotal human rights stories reported by HRANA and presenting those figures in order to emphasize how frequently these human rights issues recur and how some of them have worsened over time.

In addition, the monthly report takes care to point out that many of the issues it highlights have received little to no attention in the media. No doubt this is partly the result of efforts by the regime to sweep the issues under the rug and dismiss activism as politically motivated or Islamophobic.

But it is also worth noting that last week the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran issued a statement following the announcement of a framework nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, expressing hope that that agreement would free up some of the media’s attention to give due coverage to the issue of Iran’s ongoing human rights abuses. If that does indeed happen, then perhaps these latest reports will bring attention to formerly underreported issues.


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