December 10th 2017, marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a human rights charter adopted in 1948, seeking to foster and protect the fundamental rights every citizen of the world is entitled to such as freedom, equality, and justice. This document was established during the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, also aiming to prevent genocide, massacres, and crimes against humanity from reoccurring.
This charter has never been abided by Iran’s theocratic dictatorship since taking power in 1979. Iran systematically violates the human rights of its own people; in fact, the regime leads the world in executions, as it is known to hang the most prisoners per capita.
In a span of just four days, between December 11th and 14th, the regime executed 11 prisoners in cities across Iran.
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, a group dedicated towards reporting rights violations occurring in the country, Iran has executed over 530 prisoners since January 1, 2017. During President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure thus far, more than 3200 inmates have been executed. And there remain thousands sitting in their cells, awaiting their death, while simultaneously more death sentences are handed out.
Amnesty International reported on December 12th that Iranian authorities confirmed the death sentence for Iranian-Swedish scholar Ahmadreza Djalali, who is accused of spying.[i] According to Amnesty, Djalali was subjected to torture and didn’t receive a proper trial.
Torture is a practice all too common in Iran’s prisons, and inmates are persistently subjected to various forms of ill-treatment during their incarceration.
Recent reports indicate political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi[ii] was forced to undergo electroshock torture, and as result his head, back, and knee were badly injured. To make matters worse, Panahi was denied medical care and transfer to a hospital outside Sanandaj Central Prison, where he is detained.
Regime authorities also continuously deny critically ill political prisoner, Zeinab Jalalian,[iii] transfer to a hospital. In protest, Jalalian launched a medical strike in March 2017, which is still ongoing.
Zamaneh Zivi,[iv] a law student, was sentenced to flogging on December 7th. She is charged with disrupting public order for partaking in protests in Iran supporting the Kurdish independence referendum in the neighboring country, Iraq.
In another recent instance, photos emerged on social media showing a public flogging that occurred on December 5th in Bajestan. Lashing is a very common practice in Iran’s prisons, and is used on political and ordinary prisoners as a form of punishment.
On December 11th, thousands of Iranians participated in a demonstration in Paris organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) not only raising awareness and denouncing Iran’s human rights record, but called on the international community to take swift action in helping bring an end to rights violations in the country.
The rally’s message was to “urge western governments to condition their diplomatic and trade relations with the Iranian regime on end to torture and executions in Iran.”
Others in attendance include the former Prime Minister of Algeria Sid Ahmed Ghozali, French politicians Jean-François Legaret, Jacques Boutault, Jean-Pierre Michel, Jean-Pierre Brard, Jean-Pierre Becquetalso, and more.
The NCRI and its wide support base among the Iranian people also seek to bring the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran to justice, which was another demand of the rally. In the summer of ‘88, 30,000 people of all ages and walks of life perished in prisons across the nation. The massacre has gone unpunished thus far, and many of the officials responsible for this crime against humanity hold high government positions.
It should be made a top-priority of the international community to assist in resolving the human rights crisis in Iran. There are thousands of people unjustly imprisoned, in pain and agony, and in dire need for help. When a government is systematically silencing the voice of its people as seen in Iran, it becomes the responsibility of institutions such as the United Nations to stand up for the oppressed. After all, isn’t that occasions such as Human Rights Day and charters like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are all about?
[i] Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, an emergency medicine specialist, was arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence during a trip to Iran in April 2016
[ii] Afshin Hossein Panahi is a Kurdish activist, arrested on June 23, 2017, and sentenced to eight-and-half years imprisonment. Afshin’s brother, Ramin Hossein Panahi, was shot three times by members of Iran’s revolutionary guards upon arrest earlier in the same day. Ramin is facing possible execution, as his family was told he would be hanged soon.
[iii] Zeinab Jalalian, born in 1982 in Maku, Iran, is a Kurdish political prisoner detained in Khoy Prison. She was previously sentenced to death, but later her sentence was changed to life imprisonment. Jalalian was arrested in March 2008 and is charged with “moharebeh” (enmity against God). She has been mistreated and tortured during her imprisonment, and is suffering from severe ailments.
[iv] Zamaneh Zivi is a senior law student at the Payame Noor University of Saqqez.