Iran: A Human Rights Roundup

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 3, 2010

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I won’t even pretend that the following is heartening news.

If you are a member of the celebrated Iranian film industry, and you engage in political activity that the regime doesn’t like, international acclaim will do nothing to keep the regime from persecuting you. As indicated in this video, film director Jafar Panahi wore a green scarf to the Montreal Film Festival, and said (in Farsi) that he was wearing it for freedom in Iran, and for the children who are imprisoned (he said more, but it is difficult to make some of his words out):

Obviously, the regime got wind of this, and made sure that Panahi paid a price. They probably got wind of this as well.

One ought to count one’s blessings, of course; Panahi has not been executed.

At least, not yet:

Iran executed more people last year than any other country except China, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The Islamic Republic accounted for 388 of at least 714 executions worldwide, excluding China, Amnesty said in its Death Sentences and Executions 2009 report published today. China, which doesn’t release figures, executed thousands of people, the report said.

The number of executions increased from a minimum of 672, excluding China, the year before as Iran stepped up political repression, Amnesty said. Almost a third of those killed in Iran were executed between the June 12 election and the Aug. 5 inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a second term.

“To us that’s a way of sending a political message of ‘we will not tolerate any form of dissent’,” Claudio Cordone, interim secretary general of Amnesty International, said by phone.

Ahmadinejad’s re-election drew large numbers of protesters to the streets in the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. Some individuals were accused of “enmity against God,” a charge that may cover membership of opposition groups, Cordone said.

“Many of those executed were convicted in flawed legal proceedings, some after having made televised confessions,” according to the report.

This is in line with the State Department’s analysis of the situation:

At a time of heavy international pressure on Iran, the State Department said on Thursday that the human rights situation there had “degenerated” since the disputed presidential election last year.

In a toughly worded analysis, the department cited killings of election protesters and acts of politically motivated torture, beatings and rape.

“An already poor human rights situation rapidly deteriorated after the June elections,” said Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, as the department released its overview of human rights around the world in 2009. “At least 45 people were killed in clashes,” he said.

The terrifying thing is that the trend may only get worse. One ought to note that the regime in Iran seeks not only to kill dissenters, but also to interfere with efforts to transmit news reports that the regime does not like:

Hot Bird 8 may be Europe’s largest and most powerful television satellite, but it still has little chance when the Iranian regime decides to block its signals. When that happens, the Farsi services of the BBC and Voice of America instantly disappear from television screens — and not just in Iran, but also throughout the satellite’s entire coverage area.

Tehran has targeted the satellite in an effort to prevent critical foreign media coverage from reaching domestic viewers. Even though the United Nations has condemned it as an act of sabotage, the international community can do little to stop it.

The Arabic service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle was also affected by the attacks on Hot Bird 8. “We experienced disruptions in December and February,” Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “A total of over 30 hours of programming was affected.”

Tehran has targeted the satellite in an effort to prevent critical foreign media coverage from reaching domestic viewers. Even though the United Nations has condemned it as an act of sabotage, the international community can do little to stop it.

The Arabic service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle was also affected by the attacks on Hot Bird 8. “We experienced disruptions in December and February,” Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “A total of over 30 hours of programming was affected.”

Hoffmann believes the attacks were a “targeted act to block news coverage” on Iran. For example, he noted , there were problems in February during celebrations marking the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

Note that the United Nations’ approach to the problem amounts to sending the Islamic regime notes saying “stop jamming signals, or we will follow up with polite notes asking again that you stop jamming signals.”

I told you that none of this news was heartening.

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