Last June, the Iranian regime held the latest round of its sham elections while being surrounded by an array of aggravating crises, chief among them the poor state of the country’s economy and the potential of the re-emergence of popular uprisings.
The charade ended with Hassan Rouhani being appointed as the country’s new president, a desperate measure taken by the ruling mullahs aimed at quelling the social unrest that, if unleashed, could quickly wash away the shaky foundations of their regime and put an end to their three-decade-long tyrannical rule.
Rouhani assumed office with many a promise to the 75-million-strong population of Iran. Dubbing his administration the government of “hope and counsel,” he tried to distance himself from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and create the false impression that, on his watch, Iran would see improvements in the domains of human rights and freedom.
The Iranian resistance immediately dismissed his false promises as the same deceptive and duplicit tactics that the regime has been employing for decades on end.
One year later, while Iran has undergone a steep decline in human rights, it has become clear that the Iranian resistance had the right of it.
With more than 700 executions during his tenure, Rouhani has even surpassed Ahmadinejad’s statistics, and has virtually doubled the rate of executions. Dozens of public executions, mass hangings in prison courtyards, and clandestine and undocumented murders of prisoners are what define Rouhani’s notion of human rights improvement.
Regime officials continue to send the people to the gallows for petty crimes and, in many cases, actions that under no logic could be classified as crimes. Death sentences are doled out in unfair trials and judicial processes that are questionable at best and are oriented by political, racial and ethnic motives.
The execution of Gholamreza Khosravi on 1 June for the “crime” of having provided financial support to an opposition TV channel — carried out in defiance of international appeals — is an example of how “moderate” Rouhani’s government truly is. Khosravi was sentenced to death in a trial that, according to Amnesty International, was in total disregard to international and the regime’s own laws.
Earlier, in March, Ms. Farzaneh Moradi was hanged, while there was strong evidence that her alleged crime was carried out by another person. Her request for an appeal was turned down. In another case, Rayhaneh Jabbari, a victim of sexual assault, is awaiting her death sentence for having defended herself against her aggressor.
Rouhani describes the death sentences that his authorities are so generous to hand out as “the will of god.” In response to the international outrage to the spike in executions, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the Iranian regime’s judiciary, shamelessly stipulates that the international community must be thankful for the executions carried out by the regime.
Another point of failure for Rouhani’s government is the issue of political prisoners, hundreds of whom continue to languish in detention, often for nothing more than the alleged crime of expressing an opinion or belief.
The brutal April 17, 2014 raid by government forces on political prisoners in Evin Prison’s Ward 350 gives a clear view of the prospects of Rouhani delivering on his promises. His response to the globally-condemned attack on the defenseless inmates was to promote the head of Iran’s Prisons’ Organization, Gholamhossein Esmaili, to the position of Director General of the Justice Department in Tehran Province.
Despite Rouhani’s professed commitment to greater tolerance of religious and ethnic minorities, the realities of his one-year presidency leave a lot to desire. A few months ago, Hashem Shabani, a member of the Ahwazi minority, was arrested, tortured, and summarily executed for his poetry.
A few weeks ago, the regime secretly hanged two other Ahwazi Arabs on charges of “moharebeh” (enmity against god) — a regime-crafted crime aimed at eliminating critics and opposition members — and four Sunni Kurds are to be executed soon.
The Baluchistan region hasn’t fared any better under Rouhani’s rule either, and the imprisonment and execution of Baluch compatriots who struggle for their natural rights continues. Last year, 16 Baluch prisoners were executed for simply having condemned a terrorist attack carried out on a PMOI/MEK opposition camp in Iraq.
Furthermore, the regime continues to imprison and persecute Christians and Baha’is to cause fear among their respective communities.
Freedom of expression has also been on the decline during Rouhani’s tenure. Censorship on internet has increased. The ban on social networks, namely Facebook and Twitter, has remained in effect under Rouhani, and the regime has most recently added Instagram to the list of forbidden websites. Social media users continue to be prosecuted and tortured, even when involved in apolitical activities.
Six newspapers have been shut down in the past year, solely for having published content that was not sanctioned by the regime, and security forces continue to arrest and imprison journalists and bloggers on trumped up charges of “propagating against the system.”
The staggering decline of human rights conditions under Rouhani’s government has become a source of international concern. In March, Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, said, “The new administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion, despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in.”
In the same month, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human Rights conditions in Iran, issued a report in which he highlighted a rise in executions, pressure on minorities, and the lack of independence of judiciary in Iran.
Dr. Shaheed continues to be denied access to visit Iran and, on many occasions, has been subjected to insults and profanity by regime officials for his role in denouncing the Iranian regime’s brutal human rights violation.
Amnesty international’s yearly report places the Iranian regime as the leading state in executions per capita, and AI authorities called the killing spree in Iran “shameful.”
European Parliament members adopted a resolution on Iran in April, in which they raised “alarm with regard to the high number of executions in 2013 and 2014, including of minors.”
They also condemned “the restrictions on freedom of information, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, academic freedom, freedom of education and freedom of movement, as well as the repression and discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation that persist” in the nation of Iran.
Rouhani’s one-year term has proven that he neither has the will nor the power to make any change on human rights conditions in Iran. Human rights has always been the regime’s Achilles Heel, and the ruling mullahs know better than anyone else that the slightest gap in this regard will lead to torrents of uprisings that will eventually seal their fate.
It is now clear that Rouhani is cut from the same cloth as his predecessors, and if he employs different tactics, he still pursues the same fundamental and strategic goal: preserving the outdated and overdue dictatorship of the mullahs at all costs — a task that is becoming more and more difficult with every passing day.
Meanwhile, what has given Rouhani and his masters in Tehran a free hand to mount the pressure on the Iranian people and ratchet up their suppressive measures is the West’s policy to turn a blind eye on the human rights conditions in Iran for the sake of keeping the mullahs at the nuclear negotiation table.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has repeatedly called on the international community, especially Western states, to make contingent their relations with the mullahs’ regime to the human rights situation in Iran, especially the abolishment of executions, cessation of torture and suppression, and respect for freedom of expression by this regime.