Mircea Moira

World News


The Persistence of Scrutiny: Iran’s History Under the Lens of Human Rights

On March 19, an independent fact-finding mission delivered a significant report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, laying bare a series of human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian government amidst the tumultuous uprisings beginning in September 2022.

Not unexpectedly, the Iranian regime mounted a defense, launching accusations of political bias against the council and the mission, all the while failing to effectively dispute the veracity of the evidence presented or question the legitimacy of the drawn conclusions. Such a reaction from Tehran is indicative of their vexation at the erosion of their traditionally unyielding control over the narrative of internal affairs.

The autonomy of the Iranian narrative has been unreasonably extensive, and this recent report signals a crucial move towards a rectification of that imbalance. However, it represents merely a singular stride; it necessitates subsequent steps dedicated to unmasking and scrutinizing Tehran’s extensive record of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Consequently, there’s a pressing need for the mandate of the fact-finding mission and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran to not only be sustained but to be expanded. Such measures would maintain the imperative pressure on the global community to thwart the perpetuation of these transgressions.

The fact-finding mission’s remit should also extend its investigative horizon to encompass historical offenses that have escaped accountability, including the egregious massacre of 30,000 political prisoners during the summer of 1988. The regime has persistently attempted to stifle knowledge of these executions, such as by obliterating the mass grave sites housing the remains of countless victims. Yet, should the regime falter in concealing current dissident repressions, it will, as a result, lose its grasp over the narrative of prior atrocities.

The UN Human Rights Council, along with its principal member states, now should shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that the Iranian regime fails to reclaim narrative dominion, particularly following the fact-finding mission’s substantiation of a multitude of critical truths concerning Tehran’s repressive response to the protests, which erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the “morality police.”

This response has been characterized by the report as comprising “unlawful deaths, extra-judicial executions, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment, rape, and sexual violence, enforced disappearances and gender persecution,” all of which signify “many of these serious violations of human rights amount to crimes against humanity.”

Moreover, the fact-finding mission unearthed that “children were not spared from these brutal acts of violence…In detention, they were held along with adult detainees, and several were subjected to severe physical, psychological, and sexual torture, including rape.” This chilling detail parallels the reports from the 1980s massacres, which tragically included children among those executed solely for their alignment with a prominent pro-democracy opposition group.

This very opposition group has diligently monitored human rights abuses within the Islamic Republic and was at the forefront in reporting the deaths of 750 demonstrators during the 2022 uprising, as well as the subsequent arrests of an estimated 30,000 individuals. The opposition’s insights would undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable asset to the fact-finding mission’s future endeavors, whether those investigations remain confined to the recent suppression or expand to embrace the historical crimes that have been habitually neglected by the international gaze.

Irrespective of the temporal depth of the Human Rights Council’s investigations, they will invariably encounter a pattern of human rights violations by Tehran that has remained consistent, a pattern facilitated to a degree by its historical success in diverting international attention from preceding inquests. This obfuscation has fostered a dangerous sense of impunity, one which even led Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to elevate Ebrahim Raisi, one of the primary agents of the 1988 massacre, to the Iranian presidency in 2021.

Known among Iranian activists as the “butcher of Tehran,” Raisi’s role in quelling the 2022 uprising is set to cement this moniker globally. His longstanding affinity for the death penalty, which he honed during the 1988 bloodletting, has undoubtedly contributed to the surge in executions that endures to this day. At least 864 executions were carried out in 2023 alone, seemingly intended to silence the masses through fear.

It is time for the international community to manifest unequivocally that the Iranian regime’s days of impunity are conclusively over. A multitude of concrete measures stand before the global community to pursue this goal, yet the foremost and most urgent action is the collective acknowledgment that the tasks facing both the fact-finding mission on Iran’s crackdown and the special rapporteur on the nation’s human rights landscape are far from complete.