Some feel that the comparatively few yes votes during the first round are indicative of the neglect for human rights that has arguably prevailed in the midst of Western focus on the nuclear issue and the global conflict against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
But this is not to say that there has been a complete absence of activism on the issue. Several human rights groups are entirely devoted to addressing Iran’s abuses, while other international organizations bring up Iranian action items on a regular basis.
While such efforts as these are sure to bring attention to Iranian human rights issues in far-flung regions, many human rights activists feel that a response to these issues from more high-level Western officials would have a much greater effect, not only on international awareness but also on the development of activist resources within the Islamic Republic itself.
The internet is a key battleground in the ongoing crackdown on political, cultural, and religious dissent throughout the country. In the past eight months, hundreds of men and women have been arrested solely on the basis of activities on the internet and social media that were deemed damaging to the economic, moral, or social future of the country.
A number of very recent arrests have been highlighted as examples of efforts being led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to push back against expectations of reconciliation with the West in the wake of the July 14 nuclear agreement. The regime’s power structure is, in other words, working to reaffirm a single cultural identity defined by the fundamentalist ideology of the clerical leadership.
The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had recently written a new letter to Western youth. In keeping with his recent trend toward more aggressive anti-Western propaganda, the letter reportedly elaborated upon accusations levied against the Western countries and their allies in the region.
On Tuesday, Your Middle East followed up on previous reports that the regime in Tehran was instituting a new methodology for cracking down on perceived violations of the country’s Islamic dress code.
Utilizing information gathered from traffic cameras and security forces, some 40,000 cases of what the regime calls “bad hijab” have resulted in cars being impounded over the last eight months. The new scheme calls for cars to be held for a week if their driver or a passenger is found to not be in compliance with forced veiling laws. It is quite possible that the volume of incidents so far may discourage some women from driving at all, effectively bringing Iran closer to the state of affairs in Sunni rival Saudi Arabia, where women are formally banned from driving.
The latest UN resolution on Iran’s human rights acknowledges Iran’s pledges to improve its treatment of women and ethnic minorities. But on the basis of reports like the above, it remains possible that these pledges have not only been broken but have been thoroughly reversed, whether formally or informally.