Ted Cruz Adds to Criticism of Neglect of Iran Human Rights Abuses

On Thursday, criticism of this neglect gained more traction as Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican Senator and US presidential candidate, announced his plans to file legislation to impose a fine on the US State Department for concealing its knowledge of the recent Iranian human rights record. Arutz Sheva reports that a State Department report on the topic was due for release on February 25 but still has not seen the light of day, owing to an apparent decision on the part of the Obama administration to conceal it in order to avoid imperiling the delicate Iran nuclear negotiations.

Cruz characterized that policy by saying, “It appears that both President Obama and Secretary of State (John) Kerry are trying to sweep under the rug Iran’s horrific human rights record because, presumably, acknowledging that fact would be inconvenient.” His legislation seeks to pressure the administration to reverse this policy by fining the State Department five percent of its budget for every 30 days that the human rights report continues to be delayed.

Because of the delay of more than five and a half months so far, it remains unclear just which human rights abuses were uncovered and given focus in the latest assessment. But various human rights groups have of course pointed to a series of persistent problems, with varying degrees of focus. These include the rising rate of executions, which is on track to clear the 1,000 person mark this year, the imprisonment of journalists, and the crackdown on women’s rights and “improper” veiling.

Furthermore, a report published Thursday in the Weekly Standard suggested that the list of human rights topics being neglected by Western governments goes beyond those that are exposed by Iran-focused NGOs. The article notes that female genital mutilation, often regarded as a largely African problem, is also shockingly common in Iran, with 60 percent of girls in the province of Hormozgan having been subjected to it in 2014.

The problem is easily linked to the principles and social influence of the Iranian regime, given that it is usually justified in terms of a preoccupation with female chastity. And this is certainly a preoccupation for the government in Tehran, which maintains policies that segregate the genders and suggest that women are responsible for not enlivening the sexual passions of men in public.

This is reflected, for instance, in the ban on women’s attendance at public sporting events. Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday that recent hopes of the loosening of that policy have been frustrated among women’s rights activists, who allege that the claim was simply a lie by the ruling regime.

Iranian media indicates that 200 seats of the 12,000-seat Azadi sports complex in Tehran will be designated as a special female section at the time of two volleyball matches between Iran and the United States. But these 200 seats will be reserved only for female officials and the families of players. What’s more, the very slight change in policy may be aimed merely at reducing international scrutiny at a time of rare American presence in the stadium. That is to say, the presence of any women can be viewed as helping to justify Western neglect of the broader problem.

On the topic of female genital mutilation, women’s rights activist Rayeyeh Mozafarian claims that the United Nations is also guilty of a conspicuous lack of action, especially considering that she has lobbied the organization to take steps to condemn and discourage the practice. Local campaigns have apparently emerged in absence of international organizing, but the persistence of the practice reflects the fact that the Iranian government has shown no interest in contradicting hardline clerics who endorse the genital mutilation.

Meanwhile, the government remains the perpetrator and driving force behind other, more well-publicized human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. And these Cruz’s legislation focuses on the lack of US outcry against these particular trends in the midst of the nuclear negotiations. Gulf News reported on Thursday that a Kurdish political prisoner had been executed for “spreading propaganda against the state” and “enmity against God” in spite of the fact that he had been told his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

The hanging of Mansour Arvand reportedly took place on Sunday, two days before 25 prisoners were executed en masse in Rajaishahr prison. Two more executions the following day brought the total for the month of June to 206, according to Iran Human Rights.