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IHR Challenges Iran's Foreign Minister with Human Rights Question at Oslo Seminar

16 Jun 16
IHR Challenges Iran's Foreign Minister with Human Rights Question at Oslo Seminar

Iran Human Rights (June 16 2016): On Monday June 13 a seminar was held in Oslo- jointly hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Innovation Norway, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic in Iran and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)- featuring speeches from foreign ministers Børge Brende and Javad Zarif.

Javad Zarif's speech focused on the nuclear talks, the Syrian crisis, and the high number of people in Iran who voted in the recent parliamentary election. He attributed the success of the nuclear talks to the support it received from the people of Iran. At the end of his talk Zarif described Iran's current situation as stable and secure and ready for foreign investment.

During a question and answer period with Iran's Foreign Minister, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights, asked Mr. Zarif questions related to the human rights situation in Iran. "Regarding the usage of the death penalty in Iran, unfortunately, Mr. Zarif offered the same explanation as he alway does. He justified the high rate of executions in Iran by citing the high levels of drug-related offenses in Iran; even though in the past two years high ranking officials in Iran have stressed that the death penalty does not prevent drug-related offenses. Additionally, Mr. Zarif did not give an answer about the heavy prison sentences of Ms. Narges Mohammadi and Mr. Arash Sadeghi or the most recent crackdown on Iranian civil society," says Amiry-Moghaddam, commenting on Zarif's response to his question.

Below is the text of the question asked by Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam and Javad Zarif's response

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam:

You mentioned that in the last election many youth went and voted for Mr. Rouhani, because they wanted removal of the sanctions and engagement. But, one of the main reasons that many youth went to vote was also promises of improvement in the situation of human rights and the release of political prisoners. Now, about three years later, we see that, unfortunately, the situation of human rights has not improved. In some situations, it has even gotten worse, like the death penalty. Last year was probably the highest number of annual executions in more than 30 years. So, when it comes to the civil society, the crackdown continues. Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison, 10 of the years only for establishing an anti death penalty campaign which was peaceful. Or Arash Sadeghi, sentenced to 19 years in prison for peaceful civil activities. Also, when it comes to social crackdown, recently, the police attacked a graduation party of some young students, boys and girls, and they were lashed 99 times because they were partying together. So, my question to you is 1) When is the improvement of human rights coming, now that the engagement has started and the nuclear agreement has been reached? 2) How stable and secure can an establishment be that cannot tolerate peaceful civil activities or even a bunch of students partying together?

Javad Zarif:

Actually, I think the people of Iran who went to the polls to vote for members of parliament only two months ago, have shown that at least back home in Iran, they are happier than you are here looking from a distance...So, I hope that you can change your glasses and look at Iran again. If people were so dissatisfied as you say they are, they wouldn't have participated in such huge numbers. All the radios that broadcast into Iran from outside were saying that every reasonable candidate was disqualified. Do you remember all the noise about disqualifications? But, people did try to have an impact on their own destiny. They came out in large numbers. In parliamentary elections where voting is not compulsory, 30-40% is a good turnout. You know what was the turnout in Iran in the last parliamentary election? 62%. So, let's put a little grain of salt on your sort of Iran-phobic depiction of Iran.

Now, can our human rights improve? Of course. Are there problems? Of course. The death penalty is a problem, but the drug trafficking is also a problem. When you talk about the death penalty...do you also consider that over 80% of the capital cases involve drug trafficking? Do you also consider the fact that Iran confiscates some years close to 90% of the entire opiates confiscated in the world? That's a huge quantity. We have offered 4,000 lives in fighting drug trafficking. That's a lot of people.

So, while I'm not here to defend or to say that human rights in Iran cannot improve, and it has been the political platform of President Rouhani, to improve the human rights situation. And I believe first and foremost the Iranian people deserve improvement in the human rights.

I tend to disagree with you on the way you present a view of Iran. People can go to Iran and see for themselves how our youth are operating and how our youth are conducting their lives, and whether [it is the] one or two parties that you refer to as everything that is happening here.