This article originally posted on The Hill
By Shahriar Kia
Despite the fact that a chorus of so-called Iranian human rights advocates, many dispatched by the regime in Tehran, began to place their weight behind the nuclear deal between P5+1 and Iran, the opposition had beforehand warned of a resulting crackdown. The mullahs in Iran consider the nuclear agreement, and in fact any other pact signed with any party, or parties, of the international community as a green light to step up human rights violations and deadly meddling across the globe. Therefore, recent arrests of journalists and other such measures are of no surprise.
The mullahs’ regime is targeting journalists and critics, and as long as the United States and other states refuse to rally any support for any serious international initiative to address human rights violations in Iran, the regime will feel free to continue its atrocities. In such circumstances there is literally no hope for civil society to find any open space to flourish in Iran.
As the regime continues its efforts of cementing a climate of fear across the country, a rights rapporteur on Iran has described the atmosphere in the country as “dire.”
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, has in a recent report warned that the regime in Iran is silencing journalists, political reformers, artists, has persecuted and marginalized women and minorities, and taken severe action against literally any individual openly criticizing the ruling mullahs. It is worth noting that Tehran has refused to allow Shaheed to visit the country, knowing the implications will be very dire.
In October the regime sent a clear message by arresting Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman seeking to promote relations between Iran and the U.S. Reports indicate he will most likely face serious charges of espionage or be held accountable for a form of subversion.
Tehran is also continuing to hold the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian since the summer of 2014. Even cartoonists are shown no mercy as Hadi Heidari, a prominent figure in Iran, was arrested simply for sketching the Eiffel Tower in tears following the horrific Paris terror attacks that left 130 people killed and scores wounded. The list goes on as other reporters, poets and child and labor rights advocates are facing extremely tough times behind bars without having any access to legal counseling.
And last but most certainly not least, already being the world’s leader in executions per capita, an increase in the number of individuals sentenced to death and sent to the gallows has becoming extremely concerning. More than 700 prisoners have been in 2015 and the regime is on a pace to top 1,000 executions this year alone, setting a new annual record for itself. These atrocities are all taking place under the tenure of the “moderate” Hassan Rouhani as the regime has already executed 2,000 prisoners since he took the helm in the summer of 2013.
While the Iran nuclear pact prompted hope for some inexperienced analysts, the recent scenes witnessed in Iran emphasize that the regime in its entirety has no intention of loosening the strains on the society. Enjoying the support of intelligence and judiciary branches, and backed by the Revolutionary Guards, senior regime officials from all factions understand the threat of providing even the least of freedoms for the society. Despite the fact that the regime is in desperate need of foreign investments, and the very arrest of Western journalists is of no help at all for this cause, the mullahs in Iran consider holding a firm grip over the boiling society as the most important factor, fearing a repeat of the massive 2009 uprisings.
Campaigning to condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s human rights violations is very effective in making the regime realize the cost of continuing its ruthless repression. US Congress must also urge U.S. administration and international companies to condition any future business with Iran on major improvements over its human rights dossier, including an immediate abolishment of executions.
America should lead a charge on pressuring the regime in Tehran on human rights, and therefore send a very clear message to the mullahs. If the U.S. and international community are truly interested in shoring up citizens and civil society organizations placing their efforts to render political reform and increase Iran’s engagement with the outside world, they should finally come to realize there is no hope inside the regime itself. Reaching this objective is only made possible by supporting the Iranian people and their organized opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran under the leadership of Matyam Rajavi, a charismatic, Moslem and anti-fundamentalist woman based in Paris.
Otherwise, no one should be surprised to see a further human rights clampdown, increasing meddling in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East, and the regime reneging on its nuclear dossier.