With Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi released yesterday
from an Iranian prison, Huffington Post blogger Sam Sedaei
lists the lessons the United States should take from the whole affair:
1) Talking with Iran works. Time and again, the Iranian regime has shown that it is prone to change on human rights when confronted by the international community. For instance, in the cases of the arrest of Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars or detainment of fifteen British soldiers in 2007, the Iranian regime promised to persecute the victims. But after the arrests received strong international criticism, the regime released the victims.
Another instance relates to the state's execution of juvenile offenders, which activists in Iran have been fighting for decades to stop. But it was no coincidence that Hossein Zabhi, Iran's Deputy State Public Prosecutor, announced on October 15 of 2008 that Iran would no longer execute juvenile offenders for drug crimes; a day earlier, the United Nations member states began a debate on the rights of the child and more than 300 NGOs from eighty-two countries called on the General Assembly to take urgent action to end executions for crimes committed by children.
2) As the president of the United States, President Obama has the responsibility to speak up on human rights. Some Americans believe the United States has no moral authority on the subject and give recent examples of torture and renditions to make that point. However, the fact is that although over the past few years, the United States has engaged in questionable actions, the current scrutiny by the media and lingering possibilities of prosecution of those who were involved attest to the fact that even when America is at its worst, there is accountability.
It is wrong to look at respect for human rights as black and white and conclude that the U.S. has not been perfect, it has no moral authority over a country like Iran where atrocities are not nearly comparable to anything that have ever been committed by the American government. As the oldest democracy with the strongest economy and military in the world, the United States has not only the ability, but responsibility to use its weight and leverage to push the cause of human rights.