The Left made the argument that if international sanctions were lifted against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country would open up politically and respect fundamental rights, international law and standards.
Nevertheless, the reality indicates that the ruling clerics are heading toward more radicalism, extremism, fundamentalism, and forceful implementation of Sharia and Shiite laws. The ruling mullahs seem to be proud that their country has hit the highest rate of execution since 1989. The official number shows that Iran performed nearly two times more executions in 2015, in comparison to 2010, when the hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office, as well as roughly 10 times more than the number of executions in 2005.
Approximately 1000 people were executed in 2015, according to the latest report from the United Nations investigator, Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. The unofficial number is definitely much higher.
The peak of the executions in 2015 was between April and June in which nearly 4 people were executed every day (on average). Most of the executions were carried out in prisons located in urban areas, such as Ghezel Hesar and Rajai Shahr in Karaj, and Adel Abad in Shiraz, through various traditional methods.
Iran has surpassed China in the number of executions being carried out per capita. Most of the executions in Iran are being done by hanging. In addition to the alarming increase in executions, fundamental rights, including those for ethnic and religious minorities, appear to have regressed, in 2015, as well.
These are all being done under the presidency of the so-called “moderate,” Hassan Rouhani, who has established friendly ties with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama.
Moreover, what the media did not tell the American public is that this year witnessed the highest level of disqualifications of political candidates (61 percent) since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, 1979.
In other areas, according to Amnesty International, the Islamic Republic continues to be a leading executioner of minors. Currently, 160 juvenile offenders are on Iran’s death row. Other human rights groups also believe that Iran has executed more juveniles than any other country. Michael G. Bochenek, senior counsel of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, pointed out, “Iran is almost certainly the world leader in executing juvenile offenders.” Some articles in Iran’s criminal code allows girls as young as 9 and boys as young as 15 to receive death sentences.
In addition, ethnic and religious minority communities, including the Christians and Bahais, continue to be systematically targeted and discriminated against.
Other groups include the journalists, artists, writers, musicians, and human rights activists who witness arbitrary arrests, detentions and prosecutions.
Amnesty international and the United Nations argue that they do not have executive power to force Iran to reform its law or hold Iranian leaders accountable. They say they can only offers recommendations, such as the latest one in which Iran was asked to “take the necessary steps to ensure and that it citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms awarded to by the Iranian constitution with special emphasis on the right to freedom of expression, the right to political activity and their right to assemble.”
According to one Iranian lawyer based in Karaj, “Iran’s judiciary and parliament will ignore these recommendations and not follow up with them.”
One of Rouhani’s main pledges was to promote and reform restrictive laws in relation to civil liberties and social justice. “The situation has not changed since Rouhani came to power. They only talk about their victory with regards to the nuclear deal, while a lot people and religious minorities face daily discrimination,” Morteza, an Iranian teacher in the city of Esfahan, pointed out.
When it comes to the number of people being executed, as well as the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, Iran’s president would not change the status quo regardless of whether he is being projected as a moderate or hardliner.
The major institutions that have power over these matters are the judiciary system (its head is appointed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), the ministry of intelligence and the office of the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards, and paramilitary groups such as the Basij.
In order to preserve his own interests and power, an Iranian president will not take a stand against these powerful political establishments, and will support the ruling political establishment because he is one of them, being qualified to run for office by the hardline Guardian Council. In fact, the number of executions and rights for ethnic and religious minorities appear to deteriorate when the Islamic Republic has a “moderate” or “reformist” president. The above institutions tighten the rules in order to send a message to Iranians and the international community that a non-hardline president does not mean that the country is liberalizing its politics.
Finally, the lifting of sanctions not only does not promote human rights in Iran, but it worsens them. The question is whether we want to continue the appeasement policy with the leading country in human rights abuses.