Focusing on abuses

We must not ignore human rights in Iran


Focusing on abuses
by Trita Parsi

Old habits are difficult to break. After years of almost singularly focusing on the nuclear issue, the west has been slow to react to the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. While United Nations Security Council members are preparing new sanctions over the nuclear issue, the UN has yet to address Iran’s human rights abuses since the fraudulent elections last summer.

Now more than ever, the narrow nuclear focus must be set aside and renewed attention given to the state of human rights in Iran. It is literally a matter of life and death.

On January 28, Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were executed for the capital crime of moharebeh, or “taking up arms against God”. Though the Iranian authorities claimed that the two were involved in anti-government protests following the election dispute, Rahmanipour’s lawyer points out he was arrested a month before the elections.

His lawyer was prevented from representing him at his show trial in July and was shocked at the news of the executions, as she was still waiting for word from the appeals court. His father heard about his son’s execution on television.

Nine other activists have been convicted of moharebeh and are awaiting execution. Hundreds more await trial, though they are denied access to legal representation. Several leaders of the persecuted Bahai minority are also on trial, accused of spying.

Seeking to discourage Iran’s Green Movement from taking to the streets on Thursday, the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian revolution, hardline elements within the government have introduced a bill to speed up executions.

The international community should not sit idly by as the Iranian government violates its obligations to uphold human rights. A special session at the UN Human Rights Council should be called immediately to bring attention to the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.

The pressure by hardliners to execute more prisoners is clearly political in nature. Even the head of the Iranian judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, recognised them as such. “These demands are political in nature and are against the law and sharia,” he said last week. An international spotlight on the situation in Iran would strengthen pushback against the hardliners who champion violence and abuses.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Iranian authorities are sensitive to criticism of human rights. This is largely driven by Iran’s ambition to be recognised as a regional leader.

The very nature of the revolution drives this impulse. Three decades ago, it was Iran – not Washington – which spoke of regime change. The victorious revolutionaries sought to export the revolution to neighbouring countries with the aim of recreating the Middle East in their own image.

Tehran’s efforts failed abysmally. No other country followed Tehran’s lead, and by the early 1990s, it was clear that Iran’s own revolution was in trouble. Iran was broke, war-torn, isolated, and starved of international investment. A leader it was not.

Reacting to these realities, Tehran adopted a new approach. Rather than exporting the revolution, Iran should become a model Islamic state that others would aspire to emulate.

But countries aiming for leadership roles have no choice but to safeguard their records. Just as the Iranian government’s violent reactions to election protests further de-legitimised it at home, international focus on Iran’s abuses will serve to weaken its regional leadership credentials.

Tehran knows this. This is partly why Tehran spends diplomatic capital seeking to water down resolutions condemning its human rights record at international bodies. It is also why it is quick to deflect attention from its own record by criticising Washington’s abuses and Israeli violations.

Contrast this to the behaviour of North Korea or Myanmar, which mostly ignore condemnation of their human rights records.

Criticism of Iran’s human rights record should not be confused with interference in Iran’s internal affairs. As a signatory to numerous conventions, Iran has a legal obligation to uphold human rights – and the international community has an obligation to speak up when it fails to do so.

Tehran’s sensitivity about its record makes it vulnerable. Rather than focusing purely on new sanctions – which more often than not hurt the people rather than the government – the international community must bring Iran’s human rights abuses into focus.

The writer is co-founder of the National Iranian American Council. This commentary was first published in the Financial Times.


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Comment by eroonman

by Catmandu on

I am a Westerner.  While generally cognizant that Iran's human rights track record is dismissal (at best), I would submit that most Westerners are ignorant as to the extent of the abuses.  We tend, perhaps through our governments and media, to instead focus on the regimes and their impact as to US and NOT the tyranny and abusive actions they take against their own people.  I bless Trita Parsi for bringing this to light.  It may be obvious to you, eroonman, but I assure you that it is NOT obvious to most in the West, particularly the U.S.  Perhaps if more people like Trita take the steps of making this information available to the world, the world will eventually respond to end what has taken place the past 31 years. Hell on Earth, indeed, and in the West we simply cannot fathom such atrocities.  Really.  10 hangings a day?  That just doesn't fit into our paradigm of our world.  Our world cannot imagine that on any level.  It is outside of our consiousness.  So, keep blasting away and keep telling the world.  God bless you all - I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.  May God be with you.


Excellent VPK: In the vein

by vildemose on

Excellent VPK: In the vein of your argument for a 'big tent', NIAC detractors should tone down their rhetoric and show some restrain now that we have Trita Parsi doing what we asked him to do.

Please give hims some credit. Ensafe dashteh bashid to ro khoda... 




by vildemose on

 leader of the nascent Iranian revolution.??



Not personal

by Rastgoo on

NIAC is an Iranian-American PAC that has done an outstanding job representing the views of its members.  Trita Parsi is the president of NIAC and not the leader of the nascent Iranian revolution.  He has never claimed to be the sole representative of the Iranian community nor walk on water.  Why is it that to us Iranians our leaders have to be infallible?  He has done an excellent job at promoting Iranian-American interests and if he hasn't been as forceful as you might have liked him to be in the human rights arena that gives you no right to be disparaging towards him.  Deep down the NIAC detractors on this blog come across as arrogant and un-democratic (yes very much like Bush).


Trita Parsi is insultingly out of touch...

by eroonman on

Focusing on Human Rights in Iran is like objecting to the Jewish extermination of the Nazis. It's stupidly obvious! Everyone already knows about it! (AHMAGH!)

Since the beginning of this godforsaken period of Iranian history, now 31 years and going strong, there have been no less than an average of over 10 hangings per day! So pointing out the latest 2 is pretty much indicative of just how far up your rectum your head actually is.

So, I hope I've illustrated just how asinine your comment and entire article that you've so kindly allowed us to see was published elsewhere (I wonder when you will actually stoop to speak to us directly?) is. The piece is insulting at worst. Especially after your about-face on your theories on how the US should engage Iran here and negotiate there, I find it highly amusing that at your very dim witted end, you've now decided that the obvious desperate point you feel you need to make about Iran is human rights!

If anyone cared about Iran's human rights record, they would have damn well done something about it during one of these past 31 damned years.

So once again, you blast your fart of an idea into the breeze. No wonder!

Wow! Human rights! What a concept!

Go back to school, and please pay better attention this time, maybe in your second PHD you'll actually learn something!

Better yet, switch majors! There are so many other fields you could actually be useful in. I suggest you'd be great at Sports Medicine.

PS If publishing an original piece in this pub is not up to your standard, stay out completely, we don't need to read your regurgitated crap from other lesser pubs. And I am sure you don't need your ass handed to you every time you utter yet more useless words.

Prayer: God deliver us from our own self appointed pundits. Lord, show them the uselessness of their ways, and how little we think of them, sothey'll stop it. Lord, guide them to a safer less damage causing place, where they can't hurt the process with their ill-placed, ill-thought, ill-conceived notions on how stuff actually works in the world that you have created for us, imperfect as it may be. And Lord, I would not smite them so much, but I would definitely smack them 'up side the head', for your hand is sorely needed here, if just to get their attention and to stop them from continuously comitting the sin of vanity.


VPK. Thx. Takes one to know one

by Hovakhshatare on

As for the rest of it. Quite frankly I do not wish to waste any more time on Trita/NIAC ever again. I regret commenting on reflex to what I consider to be his usual nonsense & self service. 

If we were sitting over a beer I would explain but I think many including myself and others have addressed this on many blogs. I respectfully disagree with those of you who consider him of any value but negative and consider it destructive to unity and purpose; but respect those opinions nonetheless.


The flaw

by Mehdi on

If one assumes that one needs to "fight" the regime, then we will have a "game." Both side are now trying to prove each other wrong. Then you get resistace from the other side.

But if one approached the "regime" from a viewpoint of "help to improve," and if one was truly sincere, then one would not really get any resistance.

Misunderstandings always get in the way. People tend to not have trust in people that they don't know.

The more we work to isolate Iran, the more we get resistance from Iran. Naturally we become more and more "the enemy."

If anybody really and honestly wants to improve human rights situation in Iran, they MUST avoid lining themselves up with US/Israel/West conglamorate.

For example, if a group approached IRI and told them that they wanted to make Iran the model for other countries and that it was necessary to pay attention to certain things in order for that to happen, the IRI would be all ears. But when a group approaches them and tells them that Iran must match a standard set by Iran's enemies, well, you get resitance.

Currently, I don't see even ONE "human rights" group that is not simply the voice of Western powers, or does not have ulterior motives. Let's hope one will show up soon.


Trita Parsi

by XerXes. on

I agree with you in most of your argument but Iran doesn't care about Human Rights. People who own the power are the harshest and carry the most savage mentality than the milder Muslims. You can see that they are going to say the Human Rights abuses are belittling Islamic Laws and interfering with Iranian Internal Policies.

I somehow still agree that sanctions are bad and work to isolate Iran, which is against open markets and against people's benefits. But focusing on Human Rights, although sounds logical, will be absolutely pointless and waste of energy.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Middle ground

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Dear Friends,

We need to remain united in the face of IRR propaganda as well as our own anger. Most of us want the same thing: Iran to be free and prosperous. We differ in approach as how to get there. We should define a spectrum which will fit under a single tent and work together. To me  that should include any person who loves Iran and is committed to a free and secular Iran.

We are never going to get 100% agreement on the methods.  But in-fighting is bad. I know that the position of NIAC has been questioned by some people. Many of them are people whom I respect and call friends. I do not believe they are "War Mongers". They are good people who hold a different position than NIAC does. 

If we go for "my way or the high way" we have failed before we even start. Before we move on we should try democracy ourselves. We can get together on IIC; have a debate on what position to take arrive to a middle ground and then do it. Now that would be real democracy and proof that we are able to work together.


I agree with VPK

by MM on

While VPK listed the original intent of NIAC, some members (including me) have asked NIAC, and Trita in particular, to get more involved to voice outrage about the shameless atrocities committed by IRI, and they have been responding to the membership in the past few months. 

We have also asked NIAC to raise concerns with the American legislators, the WhiteHouse and the public to help the people of Iran.  As far as sanctions, I also agree with NIAC's position to target IRI(G) resources and leave the people alone.

If you want to spread a particular ideology, whether you are a secularist, a monarchist or a reformist, etc., you have venues to engage you inner desires.  If you want to get more involved with the politics/human rights in Iran, please join several organizations that are out there, including IIC. 

So, let's stop name-calling and whatever you have thought about NIAC's affiliation, let's welcome NIAC to the ranks of the green umbrella. 

Thank you.

Anahid Hojjati

Dear VPK, you bring up good points about NIAC and IIC

by Anahid Hojjati on


Dear VPK, I have to get ready to go to demonstration from 12 noon to 2PM in San Francisco at front of Pelosi's office but thanks for your comments.  I also invite people to join IIC.


Amnesty thanks NIAC!

by Mahasti23 on

It is really amazing how the anti-NIAC coalition of warmongering MKO/Monarchist and neo-cons have tried to depict NIAC as if it doesnt do any work on human rights.

Well, rest assure, it is not the MKO or Reza Pahlavi who are an authority on human rights. it's Amnesty. 

And what does Amnesty say? Well, the co-sponsor events with NIAC, work closely with NIAC - and even THANK NIAC on their website. Please note that Amnesty doesnt thankRajavi, Pahlavi or any neo-cons.


That ought to tell you something about the people behind the campaign to destroy NIAC. The last thing they care about is human rights.

Thank god the Iranian American community has niac to fight off these destructive elements in our community - and the neocons who are trying to divide our community.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

International Iranian Council needs you!

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I mentioned that NIAC is an internal USA lobby group. IIC on the other hand is an international group specifically devoted to human rights in Iran.

If you want to make a real difference please join IIC. We need members. We need people to join us and give us the strength and unity required to fight for human rights in Iran. All it takes is a few clicks in FB and you are in. It will take time to make progress but we need to start somewhere and IIC is a good beginning

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I am a member of NIAC. I have been very conflicted over their positions. I am glad Mr. Parsi has come out to condemn the actions of IRR. It may be a bit late but better than never. 

To me NIAC is mostly an Iranian American lobby. Its job is to represent its members point of view. They are done a number of good things. These include: 

  • Opposing racist anti-Iranian legislation in the USA.
  • Fighting to preserve the Persepolis treasure.
  • Generally making the Iranian voice heard.

They have also been fighting against sanctions. Why: probably because up to now most the membership opposed sanctions. Things are changing though. The Iranian diaspora does not have a static point of view. Many of us hoped that IRR was reformable. Now I and many others have decided it is not going to improve on its own. In fact it has become a military dictatorship. As our point of view changes so should the positions of NIAC. if so that would make it a responsive lobby group.

I suggest more people join NIAC and push for a more forceful pro human rights stance. Otherwise if people don't join it is unreasonable to ask them to change. Get it and register your points.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear Mahasti

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

Perhaps youcan't read, or perhaps you pretend to be a retard for political reasons, but if you want to see what Parsi and NIAC have done on human rights over teh past few years (which clearly is more than what you, MEK, Pahlavi and Bush have done combined), then take a look here:

Please do not put MEK in the same sentence as Hovakhshatare. The MEK are traitors while Hovakhshatare is a patriot. Heck even Bush is more honorable than the MEK and I am no fan of Bush.  When you make these ridiculous statements you destroy your own credibility. MEK are a gift to IRR because they get to label anyone they don't like as "MEK". 

The good news is that we are not stupid. We clearly see the difference. Here is your logic:

  • A is opposed to IRR 
  • B is opposed to IRR
  • Therefore B = A

This is not logic it is nonsense. Your name calling does not help either. How dare you call my friend a "retard". You are bankrupt of ideas and resort to school yard insults.

David ET


by David ET on

I suppose Trita is talking to himself when he says :"We must not ignore human rights in Iran"

Many have been telling him for years to "not ignore human rights in Iran" while he was the one ignoring !   

 On the other hand I must add that after 2007 (after 27 years of IR!) and after he signed the petition to Stop Child Executions he did start to address IR's human rights violations more often.

But better sooner than later and we must take what we can . We need unity and green has many shades and rainbow has many colors.


Keep up the good work NIAC

by Rastgoo on




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I honestly cannot understand for the life of me why these people criticize Trita Parsi.  This guy has done more for the Iranian-American community in the USA than anyone else that I’ve known in my 30+ years in this country.  Why the detraction?  Is it because he is against the military-industrial complex and the so called war on terror?  Anyone with a clear mind can see that it was all about oil and Israel.  Why the commotion that he is in favor of rapprochement between the US and Iran?  Why not?  Just look at the positive impact that the Iranian Diaspora has had on the current revolutionary situation in Iran and multiply that by a thousand fold should there be rapprochement.  Don’t underestimate the power of the satellite programming that is beamed into Iran or the thousands of Iranian ex-patriots visiting Iran yearly.  I really wish that someone would write clearly what NIAC has done to deserve all this?  Is it because they stand up to AIPAC and the Israeli lobby that wants to bomb Iran?  Surgical bombing?  Sure just look at Lebanon a few years ago.  How Israel “surgically” destroyed so much of their infrastructure!  Do you want the same to happen to Iran?  Do you want bridges, airports, roads, electrical generation facilities ….be destroyed in that impoverished country?  You call yourselves Iranians?  Are you afraid of Iran having a nuclear weapon when Israel has over 800!  Don’t get me wrong I’m not in favor of nuclear weapons in the hands of the usurpers in Tehran, but at the same time enough is enough.  What Iran is doing under the banner of IAEA is within the bounds of the international law.  All the criticism stems from 30 years of a loud mouthed, pretentious regime that has terrorized the world and its own populace.  Don’t you understand that Cuba is less than 90 miles from the USA and it has been under economic sanctions for 40+ years and guess what nothing has happened except to add to the misery of the impoverished Cuban masses?  Sanctions are only going to hurt the Iranian people, not the likes of Rafsanjani who has already amassed billions of dollars outside of the country!  Just who do you care about?  Do you care about Iran not fragmenting into “Istans”?  If you don’t care then by all means follow your neo-con train of thought.  If you care about Iran and Iranians stop justifying the means to reach your end.  We all want this murderous Iranian regime to be overthrown.  But the people are already doing that.  They don’t need American embargos or Israeli bombs to get there.


Trita and NIAC:  Please keep doing what you’re doing.  Your detractors are few but very loud. 


Thank you Mr. Parsi for speaking up against the violation of HR

by Bavafa on

in Iran again.  Lets hope the West/East and UN not forget about Iranian people.  They never seem to forget about $$$ related things that benefits them but not HR I guess.



Here We Go Again!

by Ahura on

Dr. Trita Parsi under the banner of NIAC has advocated normalcy of relationship between USA  and Islamic Republic of Iran while IRI has continued to execute thousands of political dissenters, has supported international terrorism, has undermined USA war on terror, and has clandestinely pursued development of nuclear weapons. Now that USA and allies are ready to impose sanctions and impede IRI from developing the atomic bomb Dr. Trita Parsi has resumed his rescue effort of that theocracy by advocating no sanctions but requiring IRI to uphold UN human rights’ guidelines. This is the same thing that IRI wants, namely no sanctions that can undermine its hold of power on Iran and Iranians, but mere talks on human rights issues that IRI can easily deny and obfuscate.

The argument that IRI cares about its international image cannot be further from the reality.  In fact IRI is a rogue state oblivious to the world opinion and only concerned about preserving its rule in Iran, which it plans to guarantee by acquiring nuclear weapon. A proposition that cannot be accepted by USA and its free world allies.  In dealing with IRI the human rights issues should be augmented to the sanctions but not replace them as Dr. Trita Parsi advocates.


take a chill pill. mahasti, Trita, whatever your name is

by Hovakhshatare on

and stop smoking whatever, as your attack accusations are all hallucinations. As are most of your comments and non-retardations.

You signed up not to support but deride others. It is here to see.

If you can't take it, then stop dishing it out. Else, you'll have a heat stroke.



Yes, I registered to praise a great article!

by Mahasti23 on

Hovakhshatare - yes, I registered after I read the article to praise it, because it's a great article printed in a great paper, Finnacial times. perhaps you registered 3 years ago to slam others and just be destructive, but I registered to support something constructive.

Perhaps youcan't read, or perhaps you pretend to be a retard for political reasons, but if you want to see what Parsi and NIAC have done on human rights over teh past few years (which clearly is more than what you, MEK, Pahlavi and Bush have done combined), then take a look here:

You don't intimidate me. You can attack me like you attack Parsi, like you attacked Mossadegh, like you attacked Mandela, like you attack Obama. But youwon't intimidate me and we won't back down.

I am so sick and tired that even though I fled the Islamic Republic,the mentality of the Basij is still with us here in the US...


Dear mahasti23, you registered 24 minutes ago just to praise

by Hovakhshatare on

this blog and deride critics? Really cute. Or it this an altered ego of Trita or one his groupies?

And you must remember your own article where you used the words HR in some inert context. Trita does not have any record on this so lets not make one up. If he supports it now great. he can get in back of the line as the follower he is. 


Thank you Dr. Parsi!!!

by Mahasti23 on

Thank you - this is a great piece and very well timed. It is indeed a shame that the UN hasn’t done anything yet - and incidentally, I haven’t seen any of your detractors do ANYTHING for the people of Iran!

If they are so pure, why didn’t they write this article? Why is it that all
they can do is to constantly harass you, but they themselves never do anything constructive?

I hope these "countrymen" of ours don't get you down. Keep doing
what you are doing! There are so many Iranian-Americans that support you and are holding your back.

Btw, I remember reading an op-ed by you in 2005 I think, which also focused on human rights. Is there a reason why you seem to prefer to publish human rights op-eds in European rather than American media? It's probably the smart thing to do, mindful of America's own record, but wasn't sure if that was a deliberate strategy by you.



thanks Trita

by MM on



Really Trita? did you just wake up? Or winds have changed?

by Hovakhshatare on

 "rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Iran" ???? And you just noticed after 31 years? 

"Tehran’s sensitivity about its record"!!! That's precious. 

Fariba Amini

human Rights must always be observed

by Fariba Amini on

Dear Trita,

We focused on Human Rights for many many years. At least in the last 20 years.  If others had done the same, maybe the IRI would not have dared committed so many crimes and legitimized them.

I am glad NIAC Is now taking a stand, but Human Rights should be observed at all times not just in a specfic period.





The $64,000.00 question

by Fred on

While the lobbyist, his own description of his group, see the below link, is big on sloganeering he is short on solutions.

The lobbyist is on the record advising full commercial and diplomatic relationship with the current Islamist “administration” going as far as asking and getting positive feedback from the UN ambassador of Ahmadinejad to his articles and activities, all public record.

The lobbyist and the Islamist nuke lobby have always downplayed the danger of nuke in the hands of the Islamist Rapists and in its place advocated the sane world giving assurances and sharing the Middle East with the mullahs, again all public record.

The lobbyist and the other connected lobby--their connection is in the person of a cofounder of one is also the treasurer of the other—advocate lifting the weak sanctions and taking any and all punitive measures off the table.

In light of the nonexistent “reform “after eight years of Khatami which the lobbyist backed, in light of Islamist Rapists refusing to engage the sane world in talks ( Obama’s extended hand of friendship dangling for over a year with no taker) which the lobbyist backed, in light of their accelerating their weaponized nuke program (Obama’s description) which the lobbyist dismisses as a nonissue, the $64,000.00 question is what does the lobbyist propose to do about his new found interest in the 31 year practice of gross human rights violations by the Islamist rapists?  Just “bear witness”?




“I have reported my activities on Capitol Hill to the signatories of the petition, which has resulted in the formation of a small but active Iranian lobby group”