Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Persian Letters

Would A Nuclear Deal Help Or Hurt Human Rights?

A noose in Iran (file photo)
A noose in Iran (file photo)

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"No one is executed in Iran for political motives; our judiciary is independent," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a November 6 interview with the French daily, "Le Monde."

Most of the executions carried out in Iran occur as a consequence of drug-trafficking convictions. But human-rights groups say the death penalty continues to be used as a tool to stifle political dissent, especially among ethnic minorities.

Zarif made his comment two weeks after 16 prisoners were hanged in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province in an apparent retaliation for the October 26 killing of 14 border guards along the border with Pakistan. Iranian officials said the men were "bandits linked to groups hostile to the state." Officials said they had been convicted and sentenced previously.

About 10 more prisoners were executed in November for a variety of offenses. Among those put to death was Kurdish activist Sherko Moarefi, who had been sentenced on charges that included Moharebeh (waging war against God) and membership in the leftist group Komala, which has been branded a terrorist organization by Iran. 

A translation of Zarif's interview with "Le Monde," particularly his comment regarding executions, was discussed among Iranians on social media and condemned by some who accused him of lying to portray Iran positively ahead of nuclear talks with Western powers.

The talks in Geneva ended on November 9 without an agreement, though another round of talks is expected in 10 days.

Many Iranians are hoping for a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers that could lead to an easing of Western sanctions, which have made their life increasingly difficult.

Yet, some are also wondering whether a nuclear deal with Iran would mean an end to Western concerns over the human-rights situation in the Islamic republic.

The fact that Zarif's statement about executions went largely unnoticed and the relatively muted Western reaction to the recent execution wave in Iran have contributed to the perception that once a nuclear deal is signed, human-rights abuses will go ignored. On the other hand, a nuclear deal could also lead to a relative opening up of the domestic atmosphere and an improvement in the rights situation.

The Iranian judiciary, which Zarif claimed is independent, has been one of the main instruments through which hard-liners have silenced and pressured their opponents over the years. The recent surge of executions in Iran is being seen by some observers as a show of force by the hard-liners, who would like to maintain the status quo.

Some analysts believe a nuclear deal could give Iranian President Hassan Rohani and his team more leverage to put promises of moderation on the domestic front into action. Rohani has criticized state interference in the lives of Iranians. He's also spoken against censorship and said that Iranians should have access to information.

Since the cleric came to power in August, the heavily securitized atmosphere in Iran has slightly loosened up, activists inside the country say. But there is still a long way to go for Iranians to be able to enjoy basic rights. 

Well-known religious and nationalist activist Taghi Rahmani says a nuclear deal leading to a lifting of the crippling sanctions that Iran faces would create a "positive psychological shock" in Iranian society.

"It would give Rohani and his team more bargaining power with the hard-liners. A successful deal would definitely, positively impact social and political conditions inside of Iran," Rahmani said in a November 8 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Ali Asghar Ramezanpour, a former deputy culture minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, also told RFE/RL that a nuclear deal could "to some degree" tie the hands of the hard-liners in charge of key institutions.

"The real winners could be the Iranian people; the pressure they've been facing in the past 10 years could ease."

A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named said a nuclear deal could be "the key" for Rohani to open other doors. A key was Rohani's campaign symbol.

At the same time, Rahmani warned that hard-liners could try to strike back by pushing for more repressive measures, including more executions.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
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Comments
     
by: expat
November 10, 2013 12:19
it's no surprise how some "journalists" are lobbying for the IR. We have seen that repeatedly in the last few months. They have their subtle ways of doing that; they start by questioning the regime, and then there is a turnaround and the conclusion is always the same, let the IR do it's thing, lift the sanctions so they can pay their hardworking lobbying journalists. Bravo! the last thing Rouhani cares about is human rights, if anything things have gotten worst since he took office, one of few remaining reformist papers were shut and 150 people have been executed, give these mullahs nuclear bomb and they will do what North Korea is doing to it's people.

by: Amir
November 10, 2013 14:16
Do you call this a non-side report? Didnt you find any activists think it would be lead to a worse human rights situation in Iran without a outside pressure? Ms. Esfandiari seems connected to somewhere

by: An Iranian
November 10, 2013 15:00
Iranian Neocons, who are hoping for a war with Iran are of course upset over this report. The truth is a nuclear deal will definitely improve things inside the country. But these guys don't care about the Iranian people. All they want is another a regime change in Iran.

by: Anonymous
November 10, 2013 20:01
Only criminals and terrorists are executed in Iran.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
November 10, 2013 20:21
Iran needs to have real elections for all the leaders, not just the ones that have to kow tow to the mullahs and supreme leader, who implement their interpretation and the rigidness to the implementation of islamic law. The laws should be determined by the people, not an ancient book.

by: expat
November 10, 2013 23:25
Dear An Iranian, labeling and calling names is what you guys have been doing, if you really care about the people of Iran you should be asking Rouhani why the Islamic Republic has spent all the country's resources on a shady program! why he has not delivered any of his promises he said he would do in 100 days, why the hangings have accelerated since he took office? it's you my friend, the IR lobby who does not care about people of Iran. It's a shame the RFE takes U.S tax payers money and promotes Islamic Republic policies like this.

by: Nazila
November 11, 2013 14:23
A nuclear deal will help human rights in Iran. However, Washington should continue to highlight human rights abuses.

by: Ali
November 13, 2013 19:04
MEK , Israel and Saudi Arabi are going nuts over a nuclear deal with Iran.

by: PermReader
November 22, 2013 14:20
Adding to a noose the mushroom of the mass distruction these "human rights defenders" hope for the better life for the Iranian people! Are they mad?

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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Seen anything in the Iranian blogosphere that you think Persian Letters should cover? If so, contact Golnaz Esfandiari at esfandiarig@rferl.org