Ban’s report highlighted a number of specific issues which should be familiar to anyone who has been watching human rights-related news coming out of Iran in the past several months, including that which has been reported at Iran News Update. In addition to executions, these include floggings and other forms of corporal punishment, political imprisonment, torture, forced confessions, unfair judicial practices, and widespread censorship and repression of dissent.
As one would expect, Ban’s report coincided with a number of new developments in human rights related stories, some of which were referenced in the report itself. On Monday, it was reported that the former Tehran correspondent for the Washington Post, Jason Rezaiain had filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic of Iran over his 18 months of imprisonment on false charges of espionage.
Iran News Update speculated that Rezaian’s case might help to draw additional attention to the overall plight of Iranian prisoners, particularly political prisoners. Now Ban’s report might do the same, as might the reports of Iranian officials’ responses to German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, after he suggested that Iran should change some of its most objectionable behavior to facilitate normalized relations with Western countries.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani had cancelled a planned meeting on the second day of Gabriel’s two-day trip to Tehran. That visit reportedly already resulted in trade and investment deals between the two countries, but Garbiel’s suggestions were so objectionable to hardline authorities that Iranian judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani insisted he would never have allowed “such a person” to visit the Islamic Republic.
It remains to be seen how Gabriel and the rest of the German government will respond to the snub. But it is already the case that opinion is strongly divided over whether it is appropriate to pursue expanded business relations with Iran while it is still subject to condemnation by the UN, and while it still refuses to acknowledge the validity of complaints by Rezaian, Gabriel, and many others.
An editorial in Canada’s Times Colonist illustrated this divided opinion with reference to the case of Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident who was “snatched off a Tehran street” while visiting family in the country eight years ago, and has been kept in prison on apparently false charges ever since. Malekpour, a software designer, was accused of distributing porn after a system he had designed was used to upload images considered illegal in Iran. The editorial compares the case against Malekpour to charging the inventor of the typewriter over the contents of a book.
But the main focus of the editorial is on the response of the current Canadian government to repeated inquiries by Malekpour’s sister. She indicates that Canadian authorities have declared they can do little for Malekpour because he is not a citizen. But Iran famously does not recognize dual citizenship, and Malekpour’s status would have little bearing on how Tehran responded to pressure from the Canadians.
Recently, the Canadian citizen Homa Hoodfar was released from her captivity in Iran after having been held for five months on charges of attempting to foment a feminist “soft revolution.” The release was of course widely praised, but it also spurred an editorial by Honest Reporting Canada, alleging that the Canadian government had set the imprisonment of a citizen as a red line, but had shown willingness to look the other way on various other human rights issues.
And certainly, there is no shortage of high profile political prisoners in Iranian jails who are not Western citizens but who have been targeted for alleged connections to Western entities or promotion of Western culture. Two such individuals, Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian, are currently serving three year sentences for running a website to distribute music that was not approved by state censorship authorities.
According to the Human Rights sources in Iran, the two recently began a hunger strike in protest against their having been arbitrarily transferred to separate wards, evidently for no other reason than as an additional, arbitrary punishment. Such hunger strikes are frequent forms of protest against human rights violations in the Islamic Republic, but of course not all of them receive the same levels of international attention.
It remains to be seen how much attention is given to the Rajabian brothers and to others at a time when some Western policymakers are striving to improve relations with Iran even though multiple documents have highlighted Iran’s ongoing human rights abuses.