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  • 28 April 2014
  • Posted By Kaveh Eslampour
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Iran and Women’s Rights

On Wednesday, Iran was elected to a second four-year term on the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a body charged with advancing gender equality and the rights of women around the world. The move was strongly criticized by the Obama administration, who denounced Iran’s long record of repressing women’s rights.

Iran’s ascension to such a body, given its poor human rights record, warrants concern from the international community. At the same time, this may an important opportunity to shine a spotlight on the issue of women’s right’s inside of Iran. It should also be viewed as an opportunity to further press Iran to operate within the framework of the UN and to allow the Special Rappateur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, to visit Iran.

On the first count, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shined a spotlight on women’s rights this week on the occasion of Women’s Day, saying “I, as the head of the government, confess there are still so many deficiencies with regards to the vindication of women’s rights.” He described “gender injustice” in Iran and lamented that “there are still women who are suffering from and even afraid of men’s unjust behavior – and this era must end.”

United Nation Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed released a report in March that documented the numerous violations of women’s rights and the imprisonment of many prominent women’s rights journalists, lawyers, and activists. His report describes the institutionalized discrimination of women that prevents fair court procedures, discourages women to come forward with rape charges, and many other forms that impact women’s everyday life. President Rouhani’s comments acknowledging some of these issues represents a small signal towards an effort to address gender inequality.

Rouhani’s election was based on a platform of not only improving relations with the West and negotiating an end to the nuclear standoff, but also improving human rights and building an inclusive government. Nearly ten months into his presidency, many analysts have criticized his short comings in regard to improving human rights – especially the rights of women. At the same time, women in Iran represent the majority of university students, even in the sciences that are traditionally dominated by males. Family planning laws are considered liberal in the region, and women have seen an increasing role in political and economic affairs over the last decade.

While Iran’s election to the Commission on the Status of Women should raise concerns if it confers legitimacy to Iran’s human rights and women’s rights record, multilateral engagement on these issues should remain a top priority. Cooperating and working with the international community can provide a path to establishing greater accountability of what is happening inside of Iran and addressing the urgent need to address women’s rights.

The House Gets Bad Advice

When it comes to crafting law, Congress seeks input from outside experts to help inform and guide their decisionmaking. The type of experts the body seeks out can say a lot about why Congress does what it does. Last Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee invited some particularly revealing “expert witnesses” that say a lot about the body’s priorities.

The Middle East Subcommittee held a hearing on the “Iran-Syria Nexus and its Implications for the Region,” featuring Mark Dubowitz, the Executive Director of the Foundation of Defense and Democracies (FDD), a major pro-sanctions lobby that has  been in the spotlight thanks financial filings that indicate it is primarily sponsored by far-right wing millionaires like Sheldon Adelson. Also testifying was John Bolton, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has called for the U.S. to bomb Iran for years now, going back to his days as UN Ambassador under the Bush Administration.

Dubowitz and Bolton, both representing the neo-conservative hawks in Washington, urged the Members of Congress in attendance to escalate sanctions, dismiss negotiations, and carry out preventative war on Iran.

Dubowitz called for “massively intensifying sanctions on Iran to bring it to the verge of economic collapse.” According to him, Washington was not doing enough to send the message to the Supreme Leader that the U.S. means business. He claimed that the U.S. has been granting sanctions relief to Iran through its “unwillingness to entertain new sanctions [and] non-enforcement of existing sanctions.”

Bolton sided with Dubowitz but added that negotiations with Iran are worthless and that the U.S. should ultimately aim for regime change within Iran. As predicted, Bolton argued yet again that the “only option is a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.”

Blocking Iran talks is rerun of Iraq failure

This past weekend, with news that the U.S. and Iran may be planning direct talks soon to address the nuclear standoff, there were swift reactions by some to try to kill the initiative.  Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren warned that Iran should not be “rewarded” with direct talks, and Senator Lindsey Graham–who has pledged the U.S. will join Israel if they choose to bomb Iran–ominously said “the time for talking is over.”

For some, it seems that negotiations with Iran that could resolve the nuclear impasse are a bigger danger than Iran’s nuclear program.

Rolf Ekéus, who headed the UN team charged with eliminating Iraqi WMD infrastructure from 1991 to 1997, makes a compelling case in Foreign Affairs that the international community is indeed headed down the same path with Iran that we took with Iraq.  The piece, co-written with Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, presents a timeline in which a U.S. policy aimed at regime change prevented sanctions from being removed and made war inevitable:

  • In 1991, after the Gulf War, the UN Security Council requires Iraq to destroy all WMD material and accept international inspections.  
  • From 1991 to 1997, Iraq procedes with disarmament in order to get the international community to honor its end of the deal: to lift UN financial and trade embargoes once Iraq has complied.
  • By 1997, Iraq completes disarmament and the UN has a monitoring system in place.  There are calls in the Security Council to begin lifting the sanctions.
  • But that spring, Secretary of State Madeline Albright announces the U.S. will not lift the sanctions until Saddam is removed.  
  • By the end of 1998, Congress passes the Iraq Liberation Act which makes regime change the official U.S. policy towards Iraq.  President Clinton signs the bill into law.
  • In 1998, with no chance of getting sanctions lifted through cooperation, Saddam obstructs and finally kicks out inspectors after a U.S.-British bombing campaign.
  • Citing the Iraq Liberation Act and allegations of Iraqi WMD programs and capabilities, Congress authorizes war with Iraq and the U.S. invades in 2003.
  • 9 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

UN Report: Sanctions worsen human rights problems in Iran

In a recently released report to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon updated the body on the dismal human rights situation in Iran.  The report paints a bleak picture of the Iranian government’s attitude and actions towards its own people, concentrating on the extensive human rights violations of the Islamic Republic, but also finds that sanctions are creating additional human rights concerns for ordinary Iranians.

The critical sections of the document report “torture, amputations, flogging, the increasingly frequent application of the death penalty (including in public and for political prisoners), arbitrary detention and unfair trials” within Iran. Other violations noted include infringements against the rights of women, against  opposition political figures and the general electorate.  The report notes that “authorities have taken certain positive steps such as the decision to omit stoning as a method of execution,” but that judges do still retain the discretion to order such a sentence.  Another section  observes that, “the revised Islamic Penal Code, which is yet to be approved…establishes new measures to limit the juvenile death penalty,” but cautions that the new code fails to end juvenile executions.

In the midst of all of the findings of Iranian government sponsored repression, the Secretary General also examines the impact of western sanctions, under the title “Economic, social, and cultural rights”:

“The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.”

The report notes rising concerns about the sanctions among civil society groups:

“A number of Iranian non-governmental organizations and activists have expressed concerns about the growing impact of sanctions on the population and have noted that inflation, rising prices of commodities, subsidy cuts and sanctions are compounding each other and having far-reaching effects on the general population. They report, for instance, that people do not have access to lifesaving medicines.”

Sanctions also worsen current humanitarian problems by hindering relief efforts and basic medical care in the country, according to the report:

“Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions. Owing to payment problems, several medical companies have stopped exporting medicines to the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used in the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, thalassemia and multiple sclerosis.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that ordinary people in Iran are being squeezed by human rights violations–between the repression of their own government on one side, and the indiscriminate pressure of U.S.-led sanctions on the other.  These sanctions are not helping to alleviate the suffering among ordinary Iranians, they are actively making the situation even worse.

  • 30 July 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions, UN

Congressional push for sanctions on food and medicine

It’s that time of year again–when Republicans and Democrats in Congress takes a break from wringing each other’s necks to pass a piece of legislation to “tighten the noose” around Iran just in time for campaign season.

For those just checking in, here’s an example of what our current sanctions are already doing on the ground in Iran (via Tehran Bureau):

The board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society has informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S., EU, and UN sanctions technically do not ban medical goods.  In fact, there is a so-called “humanitarian exemption” in U.S. sanctions that is supposed to exempt humanitarian goods like medicine, medical goods, and food.

And yet medicine is not getting in to Iran as “sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods.”

It turns out that imposing the broadest, most indiscriminate, crippling-est, noose tightening sanctions ever (did I miss anything in there?) means that a few piecemeal exemptions for food or medicine, or even  Internet communication tools, don’t really stand up.

Iran News Roundup 01/03

Iran proposes new nuclear negotiations

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has proposed a new round of talks with the P5+1 nations concerning its nuclear program (Guardian 12/31). Salehi said that Iran is prepared to reenter negotiations based upon the “step by step” plan proposed by Russia in July.

A EU foreign policy spokesman said The European Union is open to talks with Iran provided there are no preconditions (Jerusalem Post 12/31).

This comes as Iran announces it has produced its first domestically-made nuclear fuel rod and inserted it into the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used for medical purposes (NY Times 01/01).

President signs new Iran sanctions into law

On Saturday, president Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), which includes a measure targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector (AFP 01/01).

In the president’s signing statement, he notes that the [Iran sanctions] section “1245 would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments. Like section 1244, should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding.”

Political analysts said that Washington hopes these sanctions will push foreign banks to change their behavior before the U.S. is required to freeze them from the U.S. financial markets (Reuters 01/02).

Reuters provides a detailed list of sanctions on Iran by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations over the last thirty years(Reuters 01/02).

Greece open to Iran sanctions

A Greek official has stated that if the EU decides to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Greece will join and not break ranks with its European Union partners (Reuters 01/03).

Meanwhile, Oil prices jumped to over $101 a barrel amid concerns over crude oil disruptions (Bloomberg 01/03).

Upcoming parliamentary elections a challenge for Iran hardliners

The New York Times reports on how a boycott by reformers and dire economic circumstances may undermine Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, posing a challenge to Iran’s conservative Islamic establishment (NY Times 01/02).

Iran News Roundup 12/30

Iran seeks renewed diplomacy

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran is prepared to renew talks with the P5+1 group of world powers over its nuclear program (Jerusalem Post 12/30).

Mossad chief: nuclear Iran not an existential threat  

Israeli Intelligence chief Tamir Pardo said that Israel will continue to use covert action to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, but if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it would not constitute an existential threat to Israel (Haaretz 12/29).

Shirin Ebadi calls on UN Security Council

Nobel Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi urges the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue of human rights in Iran and calls on it to empower the International Criminal Court to prosecute Iranian human rights abusers.  Additionally, Ebadi calls for mid-level officials to be added to the list of officials sanctioned for human rights abuses (Wall Street Journal 12/30).  

NY Times Editorial urges President to waive oil sanctions

A New York Times editorial strongly supports applying maximum pressure on Iran, but warns “penalizing foreign companies for engaging in otherwise lawful commerce with Iran is not the right way to go about it and could backfire.”  The Times states President Obama should “limit the damage by making full use of a waiver, which allows him to block the penalties if they would threaten national security or cause oil prices to soar.” (NY Times 12/29).  

Paul: sanctions lead to war

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul told voters in Iowa that Western sanctions against Iran are “acts of war,” which are likely to lead to an actual war (ABC 12/30).

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for The National Interest, Paul Piller discusses how the tactics of pressure and sanctions against Iran have made a diplomatic solution impossible:

We seem to have lost sight of what all those sanctions and pressure were supposed to achieve in the first place. They have come to be treated as if they were ends in themselves. That myopia, combined with reactive pigheadedness on the part of the Iranians, has produced a destructive spiral.

This is a tragedy in the making. It is being made largely because too many people in this country have lost sight both of U.S. interests and of the fundamental bargaining principle that if we want to solve a problem that involves someone else with whom we have differences, we should make it easier, not harder, for the other side to say yes.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The website of former Iranian president Rafsanjani has been shut down, reports the Associated Press.

Lawyers representing Iran’s Central Bank are preparing to file a motion in a New York federal court seeking to release nearly $2 billion of frozen assets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Iran News Roundup 12/22

Iran’s currency troubles

The Financial Times reports that Iran’s currency has dropped almost 10 percent in recent days, a record low against the U.S. dollar.  While sanctions and economic mismanagement are likely culprits, some Iranian media have accused Ahamdinejad’s government of “engineering a deliberate devaluation to boost the rial value of its oil income in the final months of the fiscal year” to attempt to reduce the budget deficit, which some say could be as high as 7% of GDP (Financial Times 12/21).

Do GOP voters prefer diplomacy over war?

In an op-ed, Scott Clement writes that, although Republican voters see Iran as a threat, more than six in 10 pick “economic and diplomatic efforts” as the best Iran policy rather than military options (Washington Post 12/21).

Ambassador Rice discusses Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy 

U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program during a U.N. Security Council briefing, specifically about the possibility of secret underground enrichment facilities in Iran. In her assessment, the Security Council “must redouble its efforts to implement the sanctions already imposed,” barring weapons and nuclear-related business with Iran in order to buy “more time to resolve this crisis through diplomatic means” (Think Progress 12/21).

Rice also noted, “[S]anctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions” (State Department 12/21).

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles

On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).

The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).

DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran

 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).

Camp Ashraf closure delayed

Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).

American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/20

Panetta: U.S. will not allow Iran to have a bomb

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has come under fire from neoconservatives for warning against the unintended consequences of Israeli military action against Iran, told CBS on Monday “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon” and shares Israel’s common concern. “There are no options off the table.”

“If they proceed and we get intelligence that they [Iran] are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” When asked whether Iran will have a nuclear weapon in 2012, Panetta answered by saying that “it will probably be about a year before they [Iran]’ would be able to startdeveloping a nuclear weapon.

Scott Pelley of CBS clarified at the end of the report,”Panetta also told CBS News that while Iran needs a year or less to assemble a weapon, he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to go ahead” (CBS 12/29).

Former Mossad Chief: Military attack will embolden Iran

Former Mossad chief Mier Dagan has stated that “the immediate alternative of an attack [on Iran] may lead the Iranians into a reality in which they are [pushed over the edge] and try to obtain nuclear capabilities as quickly as possible instead of trading rather carefully while taking the international community’s demands into consideration” (Think Progress 12/19).

MEK sends mixed signals 

In a statement, MEK leadership said Camp Ashraf residents “in principle” agree to a United Nations plan to move residents from Camp Ashraf on “condition that the United Nations, United States and European Union support and endorse the proposal and that the Iraqi government guarantee the residents’ security and well-being” (Reuters 12/20).

IPS reports that, although the MEK seems willing to agree to conditions, U.S. officials are still hearing disturbing “talk about martyrdom and dying” from MEK leaders in negotiations. “Experts on the MEK accuse its leaders of holding its own members hostage to efforts to get the organization removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (IPS 12/19).

Meanwhile, according to a Washington Post report, the MEK peddled the story of Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri’s visit to the White House in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government as it battles the potential closure of Camp Ashraf (Washinton Post 12/20)

Japan warns U.S. of “danger” of central bank sanctions

Japan’s Foreign Minister met with Secretary Clinton and discussed central bank sanctions mandated by Congress, saying, “During our frank discussion on Iran, specifically in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which targets the Central Bank of Iran, I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop” (State Department 12/19).

Meanwhile, oil rose for a second day amidst declining U.S. crude stockpiles and speculation over further sanctions against Iran (Business Week 12/20)Francisco Blanch, Bank of America Corp.’s head, said that further sanctions on Iran may surge oil prices by $40 a barrel.

Iran reportedly cuts ties with UAE as concerns mount over national currency 

Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post Thomas Erdbrink says Iran is cutting all ties with UAE in anticipation of sanctions by the Persian Gulf kingdoms.

In a statement, Iranian president Ahmadinejad said his administration is doing everything it can to save the Iranian national currency from plunging further out of control (Taiwan News 12/20).