According to the Human Rights Watch, more than 50 peaceful activists have been detained in a series of protests starting in early August this year. Iran has historically handled peaceful protests poorly, with this year alone since January roughly 30 demonstrators have been killed by authorities. Reports from families claim that following their time in prison, the wrongfully detained family members return bruised. Aside from the most recent batch of incarcerated protestors, other activists, such as those working for civil rights, the environment, etc., have reportedly died after being wrongfully charged with crimes they did not commit. Iran has blatantly disregarded both international law and basic human rights laid out by the United Nations guaranteeing freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, while distracting potential critics with foreign policy issues, such as the nuclear deal.
The Human Rights Watch brought the latest accusations against Iran to the international stage. Sarah Lead Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director said, “The Iranian government is using the authoritarian playbook to respond to protests, criminalize peaceful dissent, and protect security forces from scrutiny,” she continues, “Iranian authorities have repeatedly failed to investigate serious alleged abuses against protesters.” In another statement Whitson states, “While global attention is centered on the nuclear deal and the possible impact of US sanctions, the EU and UN in particular should make clear that human rights are critical to Iran’s international standing.” Two examples of specific issues protested are the prosecution of journalists and the forced wearing of the hijab. The Committee to Protest Journalists (CPJ) MENA program coordinator Sherif Mansour said, “These horrifying sentences lay bare Iranian authorities’ depraved attitude toward journalists, as well as the hollow center of President Hassan Rouhani’s promises of reform,” he continues, “Iran should end its vicious campaign against journalists, and allow them to report freely.” Amnesty International tweeted in support of a human rights activist, Farhad Meysami, following his arrest, “Do you think wearing a badge that says ‘I am against forced hijab’ is a crime? Iranian authorities do. They’ve arrested human rights defender Farhad Meysami and charged him with national security offences for supporting Iranian women’s campaign against this degrading practice.” The blatant disregard for human rights is on the forefront of many international activists and rights organizations.
As suggested by the Human Rights Watch, the best response to the mass arrest of peaceful protestors is for Iran to open up the country to outside impartial investigators. Iran is a part of international organization such as the UN and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that require their government to act accordingly to certain standards. If Iran is to be a member of these groups, they must continue to abide by the values they agreed to. Iran ought to allow their citizens to peacefully protests rather than face international condemnations and the possibility of a trial that could humiliate the government. The Iranian people live in fear when they work to expand their rights, but with the support and pressure of the international community, Iran’s government will be forced to listen to the cries of their people.
In 1979, Iran quickly became a conservative Islamic state following over 2,500 years under the Persian monarchy. Since then, Iranian citizens have faced oppression, and many have lived in fear of being persecuted by the government with little warning. The most recent protests stem back to waves of demonstrations beginning in December of 2017. Following the arrest of over 4,000 protestors in December to January 2018, Iran continues to oppress and arrest civilian opposition.
Iranian authorities have disregarded the rights of their people while simultaneously breaking the oath they took to have national standards when joining various international organizations. The protests will continue to occur in cities across Iran, but how will the government act now? Without proper action from world leaders, it is likely they will continue their practices and avoid the social progress that their people desire.