This week has seen a mounting of bleak stories that highlight the dire situation of human rights in Iran; from detained journalists, to the hangings of two gay men. So many terrible indications that are suggesting that the worst is yet to come.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, regularly voices his concerns about these continuing issues. This week his blog discussed the increasing repression of journalists, which is leading to an idea that journalism in Iran is becoming a criminal profession. Dr. Shaeed quotes Saba Azarpeik’s mother (Saba was arrested last May) who says: “They should just take away the title of ‘journalist’ as an occupation altogether, so that our children do not enter this field and so that they avoid facing issues.” Her poignant message conveying her feelings of frustration and anguish, again shows the madness behind the indiscriminate detention and violation of rights of journalists who only set about to do the work they have been hired to do.
The UN rights experts calculated that since the 22 May 2014 “36 individuals that include journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and authors, many of whom are also human rights activists, have been arrested, summoned or sentenced in connection with their journalistic activities or for simply expressing their opinion on social media websites. Some of them have also been charged for ‘gathering and colluding against national security’ following their participation in peaceful assemblies.” Although this Big Brother attitude Iran is fostering feels as though it has come straight out of a dystopian novel, it has sadly become a reality for all those working within fields requiring them to share their opinions and creativity. The definition of dystopia by Erika Gottlieb sends chilling images of modern day Iran:
“Dystopian fiction looks at totalitarian dictatorship as its prototype, a society that puts its whole population continuously on trial… in disenfranchising and enslaving entire classes of its own citizens, a society that, by glorifying and justifying violence by law, preys upon itself. Dystopian society is what we would today call dysfunctional; it reveals the lack of the very qualities that traditionally justify or set the raison d’être for a community.”
One wonders whether the Iranian regime is that said prototype…
Last week 7 UN mandate holders, including Dr. Shaheed condemned this rise in terror against journalists. They urged the Iranian government to “immediately and unconditionally release all individuals held in connection with their exercise of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and those charged for carrying out their legitimate activities as journalists.” Unfortunately their pleas will go unheard.
Further, another horrifying reality in Iran is the treatment of homosexuals. Here homosexuals are deemed as “immoral villains” and “miscreants”. On August 6, two men Abdullah Ghavami Chahzanjiri and Salman Ghanbari Chahzanjiri, were hanged in southern Iran. In an official local paper they concluded that justice was served for the people of Iran to “feel the peace and the promotion of security in society.” The head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, has however denied the execution of homosexuals in Iran blaming Western lies and propaganda. This contradiction from Iranian officials is not uncommon. He then continued to humour the world when he maintained that “In the Islamic Republic no one sticks their nose into the private lives of individuals to find out what kind of private violations are being committed.”
To further highlight how Iran does not interfere with the private lives of individuals, news about the passing of the bill to ban permanent contraception to increase Iran’s population pops to mind. The Iranian parliament passed this bill after a decree by Ayatollah Khamenei, in May,to calling to increase the population to “strengthen national identity” and counter “undesirable aspects of western lifestyles”. Although it seems that the fertility bill was amended to remove prison sentences for doctors that preformed vasectomies and tubectomies – replacing them with warnings or the closure of the practice.
This is a nation that relies on the notion of “wrong place, wrong time, wrong profession” to imprison all those in its way, draining the Iranian population who have every aspect of their lives tailored and monitored. Iran must respect the freedom of expression of its journalists – including the right to criticise –, abandon its atrocious stance against homosexuals, and respect autonomy and privacy of all its citizens. You cannot foster growth within a population of the oppressed.