Keith Locke

NZ must take a stand on human rights abuse in Iran

by Keith Locke

All eyes were on Iran during its presidential elections on June 12. The re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was seen as fraudulent by many, and set off a spate of protests in following weeks. The crackdown by the Iranian government shocked the world. Many protestors and bystanders were killed or injured; over a thousand were detained.

Though Iran is no longer on the front pages of the newspapers, today, according to Human Rights Watch,  the Iranian authorities are using :

“prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats of torture to extract false confessions from detainees arrested since the disputed June 12 presidential election.”

The denial of human rights to Iranians is nothing new. Religious minorities are another target of the government. In one example, seven Iranian Baha’i’ leaders were arrested in May last year: Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.

Since that time they have been held at Evin prison, in Tehran, without formal charges or access to their lawyers. The Baha’ faith is banned in Iran, and hundreds of followers have been detained or executed since 1979 – though the government denies religion has anything to do with this. 

It is likely that the Bahai’i leaders will be accused of “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.” Their trial has recently been postponed yet again, to October.

The international community must make a stand on the abuse of human rights in Iran. I’ve submitted a written question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs asking him just what action the government has taken on the case of the Bahai’i leaders.

Published in Justice & Democracy by Keith Locke on Mon, September 7th, 2009   

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