Reyhaneh Jabbari's Execution Shows Emboldened Iran

How the weakness of the U.S. is creating more victims inside the Islamic Republic.

1412068835096_wps_19_A_picture_taken_on_July_8Despite the surge in executions and human rights violations in the Islamic Republic, the mainstream media and some Western politicians still depict the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and his governmental technocrat team as moderate or reformist.

Recently, a 26-year-old Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was executed in Iran’s prison for allegedly killing the man who raped her. Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, the alleged rapist, was a former employee in Iran’s intelligence ministry. The trial of Jabbari lacked fair and due process.

The intriguing issue is that this execution led to a considerable amount of international outcry from human rights groups. Many requested that the Islamic Republic’s president, Hassan Rouhani, rescind the death sentence against Jabbari.

Normally, when there is significant international pressure, the Islamic Republic has tended to shift the death sentence or postpone it. But the fact that the Iranian government went ahead and executed this women highlights the increasing empowerment and emboldened sentiments of the Iranian regime as it defies, as well as disregards, the international condemnation.

Several crucial factors, including President Obama’s projection of weak foreign policy, leadership, as well as his administration’s appeasement policies toward the Islamic Republic’s domestic and foreign policy, play crucial roles in emboldening and empowering the Islamic Republic.

In addition, the new wave of acid attacks against Iranian women appear not to raise any concerns in the Iranian government with regards to its  global and regional image.

A new report by a United Nations Human Rights investigator further highlights the surge in executions and human rights violations, and it underlines the fallacy of the narrative that President Hassan Rouhani is distinct from other Iranian politicians, such as his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The new report was provided by a United Nations human rights investigator, Ahmad Shaheed, who was a former diplomat from the Maldives and currently special rapporteur on human rights issues in the Islamic Republic.

Shaheed, who has been denied to entry into the Islamic Republic, conducted his report by amassing hundreds of interviews and substantiated records of human rights abuses, including those executions officially reported by the Iranian government. Although he did not directly blame Rouhani, Shaheed recently addressed and briefed the United Nations General Assembly on Iran’s human rights record, which corresponds with the timing that Rouhani had been in office.

The surge in human rights abuses appear to have been carried out on several crucial platforms. First of all, there is an alarming increase in the number of prison and public executions in comparison to the prior year.

In 2012, under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the recorded number of executions was 580 people. This indicates that there has been an increase of approximately 45 percent in executions under Rouhani. In 2013, 687 people were executed.

In addition, the range of charges for executing Iranian citizens appears to have been widened. The legal reasons behind executions include political, economic, human rights activism, and drug trafficking. Addressing a General Assembly human rights committee this week, Ahmad Shaheed pointed out this "surge in executions in the country over the past 12-15 months." Shaheed added, "At least 852 individuals were executed in the period since June of last year, including eight juveniles."

The second manner of human rights violation is targeted at those who are engaged in freedom of information, particularly journalists. In addition, other reporters and posters, such as bloggers, Facebook users, and people who are active on social media, have been restricted as well. The number of journalists who have been detained in the Islamic Republic have also ratcheted up. According to Shaheed, there are currently 35 journalists under detention in Iran.

The third phenomenon appears to represent the concerns regarding the persecution of religious minorities, including the Christians, Sunnis, Dervishes, and Baha'i community. Currently, 120 people of the Baha'i community, as well as 49 Christians, have been documented to be in prison in Iran solely for religious practices.  Some members of the Arab community, characterized as “cultural rights activists,” as well as juveniles, have also been put to death sentence.

The fourth category of human rights abuses is linked to the restrictions on and deterioration of women's rights in the Islamic Republic. For example, the Iranian government has also imposed a quota on the admission of Iranian girls to universities. According the UN human rights reports, the number of Iranian women being enrolled at universities has come down to 48 percent.

President Rouhani was elected by the majority of Iranian people as a moderate candidate who would potentially promote civil liberties, social justice, and individual freedoms (including freedom of speech, assembly and press).

Instead of taking a more robust position towards the Islamic Republic when it comes to dealing with the Islamic Republic, President Obama will more likely disregard the recent surge in egregious and appalling human rights abuses due to the administration's extreme focus on striking a final nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. The comprehensive nuclear deal would ultimately remove political and economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The United States should concentrate more on human rights violations in Iran by incorporating this issue with the country’s nuclear defiance.

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