As the Trump administration tries to rally the world to face off with the Iranian regime on the multitude of threats it poses to world peace and security, Tehran is using every tool at its disposal to prevent a unified global front from taking shape.
Last week, Iran’s foreign minister tacitly threatened that Tehran would resume its nuclear program if European states doubled down on its ballistic missile program and terrorist ventures. This week, the regime tried a different tactic.
In a program broadcast on Iran’s state-owned TV, Ahmadreza Djalali, an imprisoned Iranian dual-national with Swedish citizenship, “confessed” to spying on Iran’s nuclear program for foreign countries. Given Iran’s history of extracting confessions from prisoners through torture and threats, it’s easy to deduce how reliable Djalali’s revelation is.
Sweden happens to be one of the nonpermanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Coincidentally, after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley provided strong evidence that Iran was behind in a missile attack against Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on November 4, Sweden’s U.N. ambassador refrained from confirming that Iran was the culprit.
Djalali is not the only foreign national the Iranian regime is holding as hostage and as a bargaining chip in its foreign policy. British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari Radcliff is also lingering in jail along with several American citizens arrested on dubious national security and espionage charges. Iran has a long history of using human rights abuses and hostage-taking to pursue its political goals. But its greatest hostages are its own people.
The rulers of Iran are well aware and acknowledge that the stark majority of the country’s population is yearning for regime change, and they’ve only managed to maintain their grip on power through sheer violence. Since the early 1980s, the Iranian regime has shut any form dissent down through incarceration, torture, and execution. The most recent instance was the 2009 uprisings that followed Iran’s contested presidential elections. Unfortunately, the international community lack of interest in addressing Iran’s blatant human rights violations enabled the regime to crack down on the protests with impunity.
During the presidency of the self-proclaimed “moderate” Hassan Rouhani, there has been an uptick in the number of executions. That too has been largely ignored by the international community.
However, the aspirations of the Iranian people for living in a free and democratic state have not lessened.
In a recent signed petition to the U.N. secretary-general, 30,000 Iranian citizens called for a probe into the mass murder of political prisoners in the summer of 1988. The event, which has become known as the “1988 massacre,” involved the execution of more than 30,000 dissidents in Iran’s prisons in the span of a few months. The executions were ordered and orchestrated by the highest authorities within the regime, many of whom continue to hold positions of power. The regime subsequently imposed a total media blackout on this crime against humanity, and the international community has refrained from further investigating the 1988 massacre.
“Human rights is the weak spot of the Iranian regime,” a member of the 1988 Truth Group, which has been documenting the massacre and organized the petition, told me on secure chat.
“The West’s silence on human rights in Iran has been a boon to the regime, which has taken advantage of it not only to continue its crimes against the Iranian people, but also to threaten those countries as well,” added the correspondent, who did not want to be named due to security concerns. “A good place to start reversing course is calling for an investigation into the 1988 massacre and holding its perpetrators to account.”
The biggest force of change in Iran are the people themselves. They oppose the terrorist meddling in the Middle East region and reject its extremist ideology. They’ve been its longest-suffering victims. Neither do they have any stake in the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
A focus on Iran’s human rights record will empower this force for change and weaken the regime’s grip on power both inside and outside the country. This will be a critical component of any firm global policy toward Iran.
Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.
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By: Washington Examiner
WASHINGTON, DC – A panel of distinguished policy experts discussed the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran on Friday, emphasizing the need for the international community to hold Iran accountable for numerous, ongoing atrocities.
Among those human rights violations prominent in the discussion was the state-sponsored massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.
Evidence suggests senior officials serving in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet were involved with the 1988 mass murder. The discussion at the National Press Club coincided with the release of a book published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) titled Iran: Where Mass Murderers Rule and Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners and the Continuing Atrocities.
The panel discussion included J. Kenneth Blackwell, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission; Linda Chavez, former Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison; Adam Ereli, former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain and former Deputy Spokesperson for the United States Department of State; Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. ambassador to Morocco and Deputy Senior Adviser to the President of the United States for Middle East Policy; and Soona Samsami, the U.S. Representative of NCRI and an activist for gender equality.
Friday’s panel discussion coincided with the Congressional review of policy options on Iran.
“There is a passage in scripture that says, ‘Those who would do evil love the darkness,’” Blackwell said. “We know that violent, evil regimes love the darkness.” He added, “It is incumbent upon us as individuals, us as nation states, and as communities of nation states to put the pressure on the regime to give access to the community so that we might shine light— individual lights, collective lights, on the evils that were done in the name of the regime … We, in fact, light their candles. We, in fact, help them punch holes in the darkness.”
Blackwell noted that part of his attempts to drive darkness out with light includes his work with the United States delegation at the United Nations with Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Blackwell indicated that he has ongoing communication with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, including a letter he wrote to her on October 6 suggesting the United States mention the 1988 massacre and demand access and action in Iran in this year’s U.N. resolution.
In her October 20 reply to Blackwell, Ambassador Haley wrote that the 1988 massacre is “a concern that we both deeply share.” However, she also wrote, “Although we support including the 1988 massacre in the text, our partners continue to tell us that any explicit reference would risk the success of the resolution altogether, a risk we cannot afford.”
To that, Blackwell told the crowd:
So even within the context of human rights, there is this reluctance to pinpoint and shine light on that atrocity which would give deep insight into the character of the regime. And so when I hear this juxtaposition that we have to worry about speaking out against human rights violations because it might, in fact, affect our negotiations on the nuclear issue, I basically say well who is it that the nuclear threat threatens? The most precious human right, the right to life. So I don’t—I think it’s a false separation. And so in my argument, I basically say we need to know who our partners are that are afraid to let us have access to the 1988 massacre remains, and two, why do we have this false construction of either or? It is a situation where it is both.
In her letter, Haley also said, according to Blackwell, “We are advocating for text that urges Iran to cease practices of enforced disappearances and noted that in addition to urging the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease practices of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention – specifically those that target foreign nationals. In addition, we are working to include language that urges Iran to ensure that individuals in prison have access to legal representation and adequate medical treatment as well as minimum fair trial guarantees.”
Iran’s systematic denial of due process and fair trials for detainees is well documented, as is the government’s use of systematic torture on its prisoners.
Linda Chavez, who was an independent U.S. expert to the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, said the book’s publication is important because it presents detailed information about the 1988 massacre in a way that has not been done before.
“There were thousands, tens of thousands of people who were subjected to extrajudicial killings,” Chavez told the crowd. “They were put to death, often in public settings … hung from cranes, hung on Friday in the public square so that it would send a message of terror, really, to the Iranian people. But until recently those reports were not substantiated by hard evidence, and they certainly were not admitted to by those in the Iranian government.”
The bodies of those executed were then believed to be dumped into mass graves which have not yet been discovered.
Chavez also noted her belief that things have not changed for women in Iran.
“We have a society in Iran in which it would be an understatement to say half of the population are regarded as second-class citizens,” she said. “Women in Iran are not even given the rights of second-class citizenship. Their word cannot be taken equal to a man’s word in a court of law.”
She added, “Women in Iran continue to be subject to gross human rights violations. They are not treated as equals under this system. And I think one of the most interesting things that we’re seeing, and you can see it even in the pictures in terms of what’s happening today, is that there is a rebellion by the Iranian people.”
Samsami said, “Members of the Iranian regime have acknowledged both the massacre occurred and admitted their role, with pride, in the summer of blood, paving the way for a UN response.” She noted that other political killings have been investigated by the international community, and said that the time is ripe for the 1988 massacre to be investigated by the U.N.
Ginsberg said the 2016 Human Rights Report issued by the State Department, which was the last report under the Obama administration, was whitewashed:
I’m proud as a Democrat, who has been involved in Democratic foreign policy and has worked for Democratic presidents and vice-presidents to express my deep concern that the Obama administration’s willingness to focus all of its energies in concluding an Iran nuclear agreement at the cost of absolving Iran of its human rights violations, of absolving Iran of how it is mistreating dual nationals, of Iran mistreating its people, of Iran, in effect, being given a pass in order for the administration to achieve its desired goal can conclude this agreement.
He added, “If I had been an ambassador in Iran, and had been asked to report—to write this report, there is no way that I would have permitted this report to have been issued by the State Department under the Obama administration. It represents what essentially is a lack of condemnation of human rights violations across the board, while it details in some respects many of the atrocities.”
Since World War II, arguably the three most heinous murders of political prisoners include the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, the Japanese Army’s death-march of 7,000 American soldiers in 1946, and the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 in which over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed.
More than 30,000 Iranians of all walks of life have signed a petition addressed to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres calling for an independent investigation into the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners in Iran.
The signatories to the petition are all based inside Iran, according to the organisers of the signature campaign, the 1988 Truth group.
“The 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran is the most extensive killing of political prisoners since World War II”, 1988 Truth said in a statement on 10 December 2017, coinciding with International Human Rights Day. It added that the majority of the victims were affiliated to the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK).
The petition text added: “Most of those executed were youths imprisoned for taking part in peaceful street demonstrations and/or reading the opposition’s political publications, and many had already served their time behind bars. These prisoners were executed in groups and then buried in mass graves”.
“From the first day of the Islamic Republic’s establishment, the perpetrators of this massacre have served in the highest political, judicial and security posts. While defending this crime against humanity, they are continuing such killings and executions as we speak”.
“We the signatories are asking you, through the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly to establish an ‘independent committee’ to fully investigate this massacre. This entity should be obligated to collect all documents related to this crime against humanity, along with the names of all the perpetrators, in order to have justice served in this regard”, the petition added.
The UN Secretary General in his latest report submitted to the UN General Assembly stated that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had received a large number of complaints from the families of the victims. They have been calling on the UN and particularly the OHCHR to set up a commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on 10 December 2017 in this regard that “I was briefed on this issue quite recently and have asked my office to take a deeper look into it, but clearly when you look at historical alleged atrocities on this scale, they need a response from the UN. But more broadly speaking, we of course campaign for the end of the use of the death penalty; the suspension of it at least in those countries that seems to be heavily retentionist, and Iran is one of the countries we focus on“.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Asma Jahangir, in a report to the General Assembly on 14 August 2017 (A/72/322) referred to newly-emerged evidence confirming the occurrence of the crimes. She wrote:
“In August 2016, an audio recording of a meeting held in 1988 between high-level State officials and clerics was published. The recording revealed the names of the officials who had carried out and defended the executions, including the current Minister of Justice, a current high court judge, and the head of one of the largest religious foundations in the country and candidate in the May presidential elections. Following the publication of the audio recording, some clerical authorities and the chief of the judiciary admitted that the executions had taken place and, in some instances, defended them.”
On 18 October 2017, the London-based ‘Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran’ (JVMI) published its second report about Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners, exposing the identities of dozens of members of the “Death Commissions”, some of who are current senior members of the Iranian administration including the government and the judiciary, enjoying total impunity.