Thousands of Iranian-Americans gathered near the United Nations today in order to protest the continuing tyranny of the republic of Iran. A major focus of their anger was the human rights abuse record of the regime under its President Rouhani, who continues to execute dissidents at an extraordinary clip. Though he has been portrayed as a moderate compared to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported to the assembly that there has been “a steady upward trend” of executions under the current leadership. These executions extended even to children, as 13 juveniles had been put to death by the Iranian regime.
In addition to executions, the Iranian regime was found by the United Nations’ report to be engaged in the disappearing of political enemies. “The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has noted that it has transmitted 537 cases to the Government since its establishment and that 518 remain outstanding.”
The UN report proffered by the Secretary General also noted vast and systemic violations of the rights of women in Iran. Enforcements of Islamic dress requirements have run into the millions per year, so much so that fewer women are willing to go outside of the home to seek work. “There has been a net decrease in the number of female employees from 3,691,000 in 2006 to 3,145,000 in 2015,” the report found.
Of the executed, at least two thousand were dissidents who protested the regime’s tyranny. The regime is accused of using trumped up drug trafficking charges to mask the elimination of political dissidents. Ben Borhani, a student at Irvine Valley College, told the press that “We want to show that not only is the Iranian regime a threat to the international community, but also a threat to the people within Iran,” and that executions generally follow arbitrary arrests that allege drug trafficking. “A majority of the time,” he said, “these people are political prisoners.”
Former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission Ken Blackwell spoke in support of the rally. “The human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated since Hassan Rouhani took office,” Ambassador Blackwell said. “Religious minorities are being persecuted. Independent journalists are being jailed. We should listen to the voice of the Iranian people who seek freedom. We should move towards regime change in Iran. That is the only way that the human rights situation in Iran will improve and the regime’s threat to the international community would be removed.”
Bill Richardson, a former ambassador with ties to the Democratic Party, also spoke at the event. He was sharply critical of the Iran deal’s effects on nonproliferation and the freeing of billions of dollars that Iran can siphon into state sponsorship of terrorism. Richardson mentioned that the money would certainly flow to the Assad regime, which today President Barack Obama accused of dropping “barrel bombs to massacre innocent children.” In addition, Richardson pointed out that Iran has in the past supported Hamas, and currently supports Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.
President Obama himself did not attend the rally, though he did give a speech nearby at the United Nations. Though he mentioned Iran sixteen times in the course of the speech, and human rights twice, he did not tie the concepts together. Instead he largely portrayed Iran as a good example, an example of the success of American diplomacy and a nation with a proud history and extraordinary potential. He did chide them for their support of violent sectarian organizations throughout the region, but ignored the nature of the regime and the manner in which it treats its people at home.
Back at the rally, Professor Sascha Sheehan, director of the graduate program in Negotiations and Conflict Management in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, brought home the scale of those abuses. “Amnesty International has said that the regime in Iran is carrying out a staggering execution spree,” she said. “Iran has become the largest prison for journalists in the Middle East. The Iranian regime’s human rights record is scandalous. Supporters of the Iranian Resistance will be gathering outside the UN next week to seek a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran and they will show the world that there is an alternative to the mullahs’ regime in Iran.”