By Reza Shafiee
Amnesty International in its last two reports “Year of Shame” and “Iran: blood soaked secrets” slammed Iran for its human rights record. By calling 2018 a “year of shame” for Iran the human rights watchdog summed 40 years of the most brutal human rights treatment of a people by its unelected government.
Throughout its life, the Iranian regime has been the subject of scrutiny by human rights defenders but there has not been a single sign of improvement. In fact each year has been darker than the last for Iranian citizens. The clerical regime has been condemned for its human rights abuses 65 times in the UN General Assembly.
What make last year stand out is that more than 7000 people were arrested according to the right group. In December 2017 protests for bread breakout and soon mushroomed to 140 cities across the nation. It was unprecedented in history of the Iran’s religious dictatorship. Hassan Rouhani, Iranian regime’s president still complains about the last year widespread protests and blames it for the US leaving the 2015 failed nuclear deal with Iran.
“2018 will go down in history as a ‘year of shame’ for Iran. Throughout the year Iran’s authorities sought to stifle any sign of dissent by stepping up their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and carrying out mass arrests of protesters,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.
Last year Iran faced thousands of protests: workers, teachers, truckers, students, ethnic and religious minorities and investors in bankrupted financial entities belonging to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Many of the protests were brutally crushed by the security forces. Human rights activists including union leaders ended up in jails. The latest case was that of Iran’s Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill in Shush, southwestern Iran. After months of protests over unpaid wages, finally the regime arrested labor leader Esmail Bakhshi. He was tortured for a month before his brief release on bail only to be arrested again days later based on his televised forced confession obtained while in custody. Bakhshi’s whereabouts according to his fellow unionists and family is unknown.
Bakhshi was released the last time after 80 international labor organizations signed a letter addressed to Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling for all protesting workers and teachers who had been arrested in Iran to be released.
Iran: Blood Socked Secrets
In December, Amnesty International published a 200-page report on the 30th anniversary of 1988 massacre of 30000 political prisoners in Iran; the majority were members and supporters of main Iranian opposition MEK.
The book, with its telling title, Blood Socked Secrets, accounts the darkest days of Iran’s history. In the absence of Internet and social media in those days, many gruesome accounts of Iran’s clerical regime’s crimes against humanity were not recorded. Countless eyewitnesses are no longer alive and those who are have difficulty recounting the events because there are too painful.
Had the 1988 massacre been given enough international attention it deserved back then, Iranian people would not have faced unbridle human rights abuses in the years that followed. Impunity for crimes in those days, embolden the regime over the years to the extent that it is leveling the graves of the same victims all over Iran.
“The UN establishes an independent, impartial and effective international mechanism to help bring those responsible for these abhorrent crimes to justice,” the “Blood soaked” history of 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran will be put to rest”, the report concludes.
The human rights watchdog also says that these are crimes against humanity and the perpetrators should be held accountable by the international criminal court.
Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri was the first whistleblower of 1988 massacre in Iran. Montazeri, the handpicked successor of Khomeini, was sacked for his public objections to mass executions in 1988. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009. His son leaked an audiotape of his conversation with the members of Death Commission in 2016.
In the moving tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the “Death Commission” in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He said: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”
Iranian regime by no means is normal. The regime is founded on the idea of Velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), which in turn must rule with an iron fist. For this doctrine to thrive, according to its founder, Khomeini, it must expand beyond its borders. He has been quoted as saying: if Islam is trapped within Iran’s borders it will die. It explains the Iranian regime’s brutality against its own people in past four decades. Participating in proxy wars and its terrorist activities in the region defines its bizarre behavior outside Iran.
Luther suggests in Amnesty’s report, Year of Shame: “Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens. They must speak out in the strongest terms against the crackdown and forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those jailed for peacefully expressing their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through their human rights activism.”
The leaders of the regime including Khamenei, Rouhani and top brass IRGC officials should stand trial before an international tribunal. The crimes against humanity they have committed are unprecedented since World War II.