Iran Human Rights Deteriorate, Activism Undeterred

IranWire provided several updates on the rapporteur, Ahmad Shaheed’s interactive presentation of his findings, which are also available in their entirety at Shaheed’s website. Before that presentation took place on Monday, IranWire noted that Shaheed had called advance attention to the fact that Tehran had plainly failed to act on the findings and recommendations in each of the previous reports.

Indeed, Iranian officials have publicly dismissed Shaheed as politically biased, albeit without explanation for the source of that bias. Prior to holding his positions in the UN and as the chairperson of the human rights think tank Universal Rights Group, Shaheed served as a diplomat in his native Maldives.

His work as UN special rapporteur has been praised by various activist groups, and IranWire notes that his presentation on Monday was preceded by expressions of support for the renewal of his mandate by 36 different non-governmental organizations.

Following the presentation, IranWire reported that Shaheed had emphasized the escalating rate of executions in the Islamic Republic, which resulted in at least 753 people being put to death in 2014, including more than a dozen who were juveniles at the time of their arrests. The rate of death sentences is set to lead to an even greater total for 2015. In just the past 10 weeks, 252 people have been executed – the highest total in 12 years for a nation that consistently carries out more executions per capita than any other country in the world.

In addition to executions, Shaheed predictably called attention to a range of other perennial human rights abuses by Tehran, including its arrests of journalists, persecution of religious minorities, and general repression of dissent, as by arresting activists and giving them long prison sentences on vague charges such as “spreading corruption.”

Interestingly, in spite of these measures, stories continue to trickle out of the Islamic Republic indicating that domestic activists remain willing to risk attack and imprisonment to redress their grievances with a regime that is responsible not only for direct human rights abuses but also for abuses associated with economic mismanagement and failure to provide for the quality of life of its citizens.

Case in point, the Human Rights Activists News Agency reported on Tuesday that hundreds of teachers in one Iranian province had gathered at the end of last week to protest declining wages and standards of living for teachers across the country, refusing to disperse until they had met with the governor general of the province. This is the latest publicized incident in a series of teacher protests that have been going on at least for the previous two weeks, meeting with some violence from security forces and the threat of a long prison sentence for the head of the teachers union if he refused to resign his post.

Unfortunately, some protestors in Iran feel the need to result to more drastic measures than mere demonstrations when faced with government repression and low quality of life. HRANA also reported on Tuesday that a 34 year-old street vendor set himself on fire to protest municipal authorities’ seizure of his grocery kiosk, which he had sought permission to operate, only to meet with no response from officials.

 

Previously, IranWire reported that Ahmad Ronaghi-Maleki threatened to set himself on fire if regime authorities continued to deny him information about his son, who had been re-arrested by security forces who accused him of evading his punishment after he was granted a legal pardon from the Iranian supreme leader on the grounds that his health was too poor for him to survive his term in the crowded, abusive, and poorly maintained Iranian prison system.