Friday, 24 July 2015

IRAN: The nation of horror                          

Iran, known as Persia until 1935 is now officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is the second-largest nation in the Middle East by population (80.9 million). Iraq shares its western border, along with historical and religious ties, with Iraq and its eastern border with Afghanistan.

Iran has been a quasi-theocracy since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran was deposed. Democratically elected President Hassan Rouhani is head of the republic, but the nation’s divine leader,  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls the military, the judiciary and the state broadcasting services. Shiite Islam is the state religion of Iran, with Sunni Muslims comprising of a very small minority of Iranians.                                                                                                                  

Iran continued to face international criticism for not adhering to the requirements of United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear facilities and its uranium enrichment program. Because Iran refused to adhere to the UN’s demands, many countries brought sanctions against Iran which almost bankrupt Iran. Finally in July 2015, Iran decided to cooperate and agreed to the terms of settlement worked out. I am not convinced it was the best deal for the Middle East since Iran will be free in 15 years to create enriched Uranium again which is used in creating atomic bombs. However, this article isn’t about that issue. It is about the injustices plaguing the citizens and others in that country.

Amnesty International continues to document serious human rights violations in Iran including detention of human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, unfair trials, torture and mistreatment in detention, deaths in custody and the application of the death penalty. Iran executes more people than any country in the world, other than China. Ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities face persistent persecution. 

Reported abuses falling outside of the laws of the Islamic Republic that have been condemned include the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, and the widespread use of torture to extract repudiations by prisoners of their causes and comrades on video for propaganda purposes.   

Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s human rights record had deteriorated markedly, according to Human Rights Watch and following the 2009 election protests, there were reports of the killing of demonstrators, the torture, rape and killing of detained protesters, and the arrest and publicized mass trials of dozens of prominent opposition figures in which defendants were forced to read their confessions that bore every sign of the defendant’s being coerced.

In October 2012 the United Nations human rights office stated that Iranian authorities had engaged in a “severe clampdown” on journalists and human rights advocates. Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death in the infamous Evin prison by a high ranking official in the Iranian government.

Officials of the Islamic Republic have responded to criticism by stating that Iran has “the best human rights record in the Muslim world”. If that was true then the other Middle East nations must really be bad when it comes to human rights abuses. The Iranian officials even had the audacity to claim that Iran is not obliged to follow the West's interpretation of human rights. If Iran did follow our interpretation of human rights, they wouldn’t have so many of its citizens wanting to flee from Iran.

The apologists for the Iranian government have said that the Islamic Republic is a victim of “biased propaganda of enemies which is part of their greater plan against the world of Islam.” According to Iranian officials, those who human rights activists say are peaceful political activists being denied due process rights are actually guilty of offenses against the national security of the country, and those protesters claiming President Ahmadinejad stole the 2009 election are actually part of a foreign-backed plot to topple Iran's leaders. Statements like that are akin to farts—loud and of no purpose since anyone with any semblance of a brain isn’t going to accept such blather.

After the election of President Hassan Rouhani, he stated "Women must enjoy equal opportunity, equal protection and equal social rights", although Iran still has "a long way to go" to achieve gender equality.” The topic of women's reform is still contentious in Iran, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini saying that gender equality was “one of the biggest mistakes of Western thought.” 

In 1993, The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women identified domestic violence as one of three contexts in which violence against women occurs, describing it as:

“Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.” unquote 

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 report posted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women that violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually being someone known to her. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that in Iran, these figures apply to the women in that country also.

The lives of Iranian women are filled with difficulties that go beyond the boundaries of their homes and streets. These obstacles, more than any other challenge, point to their treatment as sex objects in the societies governed by Shi’a and male-dominated customary laws. The most noticeable difficulty of Iranian women is the sexual aggression and harassment they face. 

The only policy that has been followed relentlessly by the government in the Iranian Islamic Republic is the imposition of limitations on women through mandatory hijab, gender segregation in public places and service centers, and deprivation of the opportunity to pursue certain occupations, political, and social activities.

In Iran, domestic relations within the lives of a couple are regulated by the Iranian Civil Code which describes marriage as a hierarchic institution where the husband has absolute authority over his wife. Article 1105 reads: In relations between husband and wife; the position of the head of the family is the exclusive right of the husband.” unquote The husband is obligated to maintain his wife, but this obligation ceases to exist if the wife does not perform her duties. Article 1108 states: "If the wife refuses to fulfil duties of a wife without legitimate excuse, she will not be entitled to the cost of maintenance.”

The most urgent and pivotal policy of the followers of Islam in the past and during this present century has been to curtail the freedom and rights of women. They justify this policy by calling it their campaign against moral corruption and promiscuity, and preserving women’s status and dignity. 

From the point of view of the religious leaders in Iran, this moral corruption and promiscuity has its roots in the western world rather than in the Muslim nations. The freedom that women enjoy in the West is often used as an example of moral corruption. They believe that in the West. women are turned into sex objects. They then conclude that the salvation of society lies in returning women to their homes, covering the different parts of their bodies, hiding their shape, and putting a limit on their freedom in the public domain.

The followers of Islam in Iran consider women to be satanic, seductive, and the origin of sin. When referring to women appearing in Western advertising and movies, their public appearances in fancy clothes and makeup and their open relationships with men. they first generalize those characteristics to all liberated women in the west. Secondly, they look down on their freedom and rights as signs of corruption, glamorization, fashion, and sexual perversion. Their concept of the roles of women in Iran is that they procreate, have sex with their husbands on demand and do all the housework and cooking. And to accomplish this, it means that for most of the time, they are to remain in their homes.  

The religious laws being the prevailing customary laws of most Muslim nations, regards a woman as a second class citizen.  In her role as a housekeeper, a caretaker for children and the elderly, and a sex object, she is at the service of the man and the family, with no recognized rights such as guardianship over her children. She also lacks any entitlement to pursue her own sexual desires freely or any entitlement to the fruits of her labor at home. 

Although the Iranian society is starting to recognize the issues surrounding the beating of women by their husbands in the Islamic households in Iran, many Iranian men are reluctant to admit such issues exist. The Census Bureau in Iran, an official government agency, has precluded international organizations from performing studies of domestic violence in Iran and has never conducted their own study of violence against women. The prevalence of domestic violence has been cited as a cause of high rates of suicide, mostly through self-immolation, among Kurdish women in Iran.

As many as 66% of married women in Iran are subjected to some kind of domestic violence in the first year of their marriage, either by their husbands or by their in-laws. The more children that are in a family, the more likely domestic violence will occur towards these women.

The chief of police for Iran stated that 40% of all murders in Iran happen due to domestic violence and that 50% of all women who are murdered are done so by someone in their immediate family and mostly inside the woman’s home.

Existing laws (Iranian Code of Criminal Procedure articles 42, 43, 66) intend to prohibit violence in the form of kidnapping, gender-based harassment, abuse of pregnant women and "crimes against rights and responsibilities within the family structure," but due to cultural and political culture, these laws rarely protect women, prosecute their abusers or provide services to the victims.

Child abuse takes place on a daily basis in Iran. Unfortunately the government sponsors these abuses to some extent, mainly under the guise of the laws of Islam. This is done by allowing under-aged marriages, executions and not taking proper actions against physical abuses done by the parents (especially the father), that are the most commonly observed cases of abuse against children in Iran. In 2010, the state Welfare Organization announced that there have been almost 150,000 cases of child abuse recorded in Iran over a six-month period.

These abuses include; failing to provide the child with basic needs (i.e. proper clothing, hygiene and so forth), causing physical harm or injuries to the child, causing emotional or psychological damages to the child which may lead the child to suffer lifelong psychological difficulties and exposing a child to sexual situations whether or not touching is involved. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit those kinds of abuses are common in most countries but the Iranian authorities don’t appear to be overly concerned about those abuses against children.

As a 14-year-old girl, Razie Brahimi’s father arranged for her marriage to an older neighbor, a schoolteacher with a university education. Razie gave birth to a son just a year after the wedding but for the duration of her marriage, she reportedly experienced physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband, who would beat and insult her at the slightest provocation.

Three years into the marriage on one night after she returned from a party at her husband’s aunt’s house after three years into her marriage, she was beaten by her husband. Razie says she snapped. She said later, “I couldn’t sleep all night and in the morning I was sitting above him looking at him. I was looking at him and I was thinking of what he had done to me and thinking about why he humiliates me and thought, what could I do and what should I do?  Every single event that happened to me was rolling in front of my eyes like a film and so I took a gun and I shot him.”  She then buried him in their backyard. She told her family what she had done so they turned her in to the police.

If she had killed her husband for that reason in Canada, she would have been sent to prison. However in Iran, justice is far more severe. She was tried for murder and sentenced to hang.

For the past five years, Razie has awaited execution by hanging for her crime. Razie came close to the noose in May 2013 on the day her execution was scheduled. She informed the prison guards that she had only been 17 at the time of her crime so they stopped the proceedings and brought her back to her prison cell. If children under 18 aren’t sentenced to death in Iran, then why was she sentenced to death at age 17? At the time of this writing, she is still alive in prison waiting for her date with death by hanging.

Executions in Iran are commonplace in Iran. Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old woman was convicted and subsequently hanged for killing a man who she said tried to sexually abuse her. The man she killed was Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Her mother was allowed to visit her for one hour, a custom that generally precede executions in Iran.

Iran trails only China in regards to the number of people executed per year. Amnesty International reports that Iran executed at least 289 people in 2014. The United States, for example, executed 35 people in 2014, compared to Iran's 289, even though the American population is five times as large as Iran's.

It isn’t uncommon for condemned prisoners to be hanged publicly. They are generally hanged in a public square and are hoisted in the air by a crane for all to see. One man who raped and murdered a young woman was flogged a hundred times by guards the night before his execution then while in the public square the next morning, he was flogged by relatives of the victim a hundred times before he was hoisted into the air by a crane. Homosexuals are continuously being hanged in public.

On one occasion, a four foot long metal bench was taken from a police van in the city of Qazvin, 90 miles west of the capital Tehran and a convicted man was made to lie on it on his stomach with his shirt pulled-up to his shoulders to expose his back and waist. Two police officers held the legs of 25-year-old Saeed Ghanbari and another, his arms to ensure there was no escape from the punishment of 80 lashes handed down by a religious court. An official brandishing a flexible cane repeatedly lashed the back of a man found guilty of breaking Iran's morality laws. Apparently he had been convicted of abusing alcohol and having sex outside of marriage.

Traffic was brought to a halt in, as more than 1,000 men gathered behind barricades to watch the public flogging. Two men t00k turns lashing Ghanbari by taking the cane back behind their heads to guarantee maximum impact with each stroke thereby leaving a distinctive red mark and bruising on his back. Several wounds were bleeding. Although men and women convicted of flouting public morals are routinely flogged in detention centres, public since public floggings are considered rare.

The Qercheck Prison has earned a moniker as “the end of the world” due to harsh conditions and the fact that many of the prisoners sent there are ultimately executed. The prison is a former poultry farm that was converted in 2011 to house female prisoners. Conditions in the prison are said to rival those of a concentration camp, with prisoners suffering from poor hygienic standards, a lack of access to proper nutrition, and harsh treatment. The prison holds approximately 40 female prisoners. The children of some female prisoners are also locked up with their mothers. This ensures that the children have access to their mothers and thus parental care, but also means that they are subject to the harsh conditions of the prison.

With a capacity now detaining 15,000 people, the Evin Prison has built a reputation of being Iran’s most notorious prison. Located in northwestern Tehran, the facility has been nicknamed “Evin University” due to the large number of intellectuals, political prisoners, journalists and academics that have been incarcerated there.

Prisoners held in Section 350 of the prison, where political prisoners and intellectuals are usually held, are subjected to assault, beatings, verbal abuse and some of those injured have been denied access to medical care.

As I see it, Iran is a backward country. Other than modern buildings and means of transportation along with radios and television, etc., living in Iran is not unlike living in medieval times.

One year when the United Nations planned to have an international conference on the prevention of crime and the treatment of prisoners in Iran, there were so many countries that balked at attending that conference so the conference was held elsewhere. I certainly wouldn’t have attended that conference in Iran and like all the delegations from around the world, I later attended the conference in a more civilized country.

I honestly don’t believe that Iran will be a suitable country to visit or even live in as long as it is a theocracy and men are considered more superior than women. 

No comments: