The UN General Assembly has begun its annual session in New York City, serving as a platform for debate and discussion about global issues, including the situation of human rights in Iran. Although the international community’s attention has been squarely focused on Iran’s nuclear program and the potential threat it poses towards regional stability, the regime's war against its own people remains largely below the radar.
Despite the existence of a robust civil society and consistent demands for fundamental change within Iran, particularly by students and young activists, the regime is consistently portrayed as a representative government which adheres to democracy. There is continual discussion that reform will somehow take place in Iran and that if we just give the regime time, offer it more concessions and relieve external pressure then it will somehow open itself up. Proponents of this argument now have four years of so-called reform to test this hypothesis, notwithstanding the previous four years, which have an abysmal human rights record.
Executions actually accelerated under President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure, reaching a 12-year high, and leading the entire world in per capita executions. During Rouhani’s first term, then-UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Ahmad Shaheed actually noted that “the overall situation has worsened” with respect to human rights. Rouhani himself ran on a platform of change and promised that he would improve the conditions for dissidents and activists, but failed to deliver.
In August, political prisoners launched hunger strikes to protest inhumane conditions and lack of due process in Iran’s judicial system. Their organized campaigns of resistance garnered support and solidarity in Iran, despite systematic efforts by authorities to deny them adequate medical treatment.
One needs to look no further than the public executions taking place inside the country to understand just how far Iran is from a democracy, or how incapable of reform this regime truly is.
Elections in Iran are neither free nor fair, and the theocracy is controlled by the all-powerful Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guards, who control more than half of Iran’s economy. It is little wonder that terror and repression are institutionalized in the day to day life in Iran.
The United Nations should address the systematic violation of human rights that continues to take place inside Iran. As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted, Iran continues to execute juveniles, including five juvenile offenders in 2016, and 78 more reported to be on death row. More than 3,100 people have been executed under Rouhani’s watch, some related to drug charges, with reports that more than 5,000 remain on death row.
Despite the fact that Iran’s policy of capital punishment for drug offenses is illegal under international law, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime continues to provide funding to Iran to supposedly combat drug trafficking, in effect bankrolling its executions and policies of terror.
On Wednesday, I will join thousands of Iranian Americans in a rally at the United Nations to confront Rouhani and to call on the UN to end impunity for the leaders of a regime who have the blood of tens of thousands of Iranians, including my father, Ali Asghar, on their hands.
The international community should stop enabling the regime in Iran in its war against its own people. This does not mean military action, but it does mean that policies which embolden the regime and strengthen its rotten core should be suspended and a new era of support for Iran and its civil society should begin.
Make no mistake: This regime has no future, and its leadership does not belong to this century. The sooner the international community recognizes this fact, the better it will be for all of us, especially the people of Iran.