Last week, an Iranian court convicted human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari of “moharebeh” (”waging war against God”), plotting to commit crimes and “agitating against the ruling system,” crimes for which she was sentence to six years in prison and a fine equivalent to US$400, reported The Guardian on Sunday. According to the articleand the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Nazar Ahari, a 26-year-old journalist and founder of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was arrested for her alleged participation in two political gatherings protesting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election last year, which the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported her as saying she was covering for her committee. This charge, The Guardian alleges, is “another indication of the regime’s determination to punish those” who protested after the disputed election in June, with journalists as the primary target of this “crackdown” (according to a CPJ report cited by The Guardian, over 50 journalists are being held in Iranian jails). Also, claims the article, several women activists were targeted since 2009, like Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer who, earlier this month, was arrested and charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “acting against national security” because she represents a number of arrested protestors and political activists.
Right now in Iran, women’s rights are barely in existence: according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and ICHR, Iranian women lack equal rights with men in “marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance,” are excluded from “key areas of the state,” such as a presidency or judicial employment, and women’s rights activists are persecuted, beaten, raped and harassed for peacefully demonstrating. In addition, human rights across the board are abused: juvenile offenders are executed; people are jailed or oppressed for peacefully “exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly”; Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluchis, Kurds and religious minorities are repressed and face execution based on ethnicity and/or spiritual practice; detainees are tortured and ill-treated, often leading to death; and execution by stoning, as well as sentences of flogging and amputation, are still passed and implemented to this day. And, say the three organizations, Iran’s human rights crisis has only gotten worse since President Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
In response to criticism, officials of the Islamic Republic say that, as a sovereign country, it does not have to abide by “the West’s interpretation” of human rights. While no country should have to adhere to someone else’s standards, there are international human rights laws in place protecting citizens from the very abuses that Iran is guilty of that every nation should abide by. When people’s inalienable rights to the freedom to be individuals in mind, body and soul are violated so abhorrently and minorities are unjustly persecuted, the answers from Iran’s officials sound more like a gutless artifice than a legitimate demand for respect of Iran’s rights as a sovereign state.