July 23, 2015

THE PAYOFF:

Nuclear Accord with Iran is a Victory for Diplomacy and Peace (Iran Human Rights, JULY 14, 2015)

Iranian civil society strongly supported the negotiations and the pursuit of a peaceful settlement to the long-running conflict. In a June 2015 study by the Campaign, High Hopes, Tempered Expectations: Views from Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations, prominent political and cultural figures in Iran were interviewed on their views of the nuclear talks, and their support for a negotiated settlement was unanimous, even among political prisoners and dissidents whose rights had been severely violated by the Iranian government.

However, while all of the individuals questioned in the study felt a successful accord and the aversion of war were imperative, there was a strong consensus that if an agreement was reached, President Rouhani must turn his attention to the pledges of political and social reform for which he was elected.

As one of the interviewees, the Political Scientist and Spokesperson of the banned National Front political party Hermidas Bavand stated, "[If an accord is reached], Rouhani will have a free hand to deliver on his campaign promises...he can work on his promises for the release of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and lifting the security state in the universities."

The journalist and former political prisoner Issa Saharkhiz similarly noted, "After [an accord], Rouhani will have to focus on human rights and civil rights, which were parts of his initial programs.... Cultural and political issues must be addressed side by side with economic issues."

Although many of the individuals interviewed accepted that political and social reforms had to wait for a settlement of the nuclear conflict, there was a palpable sense of dwindling patience with this line of reasoning and a view that things had been "put on hold" for too long. As succinctly stated by the playwright and theatre director Hamid Amjad, "Whether lame or legitimate, I hope that after a nuclear agreement there are no more excuses after it, and that it would be possible to expect, to demand things."

Hassan Rouhani urged to follow nuclear deal success with human rights progress  (Saeed Kamali Dehghan, 23 July 2015, The Guardian)

Most abuses in Iran are carried out by the hardline judiciary and the country's intelligence apparatus, which act independently of his government. Rouhani could, however, use his position to highlight such abuses but has largely failed to speak out.

As many as 15 political prisoners have been released in the past two days, a respected journalist and a senior politician among them, but activists said most of them had been nearing the end of their prison terms and were due to be freed within a few months. They said they were not sure if the releases signalled an opening up.

The ailing human rights activist and mother of two eight-year-olds, Narges Mohammadi, recently wrote a moving letter from inside jail which described the situation of other mothers in prison.

She wrote: "In front of me is the bed of Sajedeh Arabsorkhi, who has not seen her nine-year-old for a year. Beside me is [the Baha'i citizen] Faran Hesami, who has been kept away from her son, who is now six, for three years. On the other bed is Maryam Akbari, who hasn't seen her daughter for six years. Next door is Neda Mostaghimi, whose nine-year-old Ghazaleh is at home. I'm surrounded by 20 women, of whom ten are mothers and four have children below the age of 10."

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran's most prominent human rights laywer, said the Iranian authorities had treated rights violations as a low priority for many years, citing various excuses such as war or international isolation. But now, she said, it was time Rouhani gave the matter his full attention.

"From the people who were released recently, only one person was a woman, which is disappointing," Sotoudeh told the Guardian. She said at least 18 women were currently being held in the women's ward of Tehran's Evin prison. "Iran entered into negotiations with the international community to find a solution to the nuclear issue. It should do the same at home and start dialogue with internal opponents and opposition."

Sotoudeh, famous for her work to abolish juvenile executions in Iran, fell foul of the authorities after defending many opposition activists and politicians following the disputed presidential elections in 2009. She was jailed in 2010 and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison and banned from practising law for 10 years. Along with the filmmaker Jafar Panahi, Sotoudeh was the winner of the European parliament's most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, in 2012. 

Since her unexplained release following Rouhani's election in 2013, she has dedicated her time to staging numerous protests in front of government offices, demanding, among other things, that her right to work be reinstated. Sotoudeh has often been accompanied by the families of political prisoners or other rights campaigners. The authorities notified her recently that her ban had been lifted and said she could start work again as early as next month.

Posted by at July 23, 2015 3:29 PM
  

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