The list goes on and on

Human rights in an inhuman regime


The list goes on and on
by Reza Mohajerinejad

Ahmadinejad made his annual trip to New York to appear before the United Nations. The seats where the U.N. General Assembly members should have been, quickly emptied in protest again this year when the fraudulent president took to the stage. Yet, this alone isn’t enough of a message of support for human rights for Iran. Later Ahmadinejad met with Larry King as he has in years past. I waited, just as I have each time Western media has interviewed Ahmadinejad, to hear answers to the hard questions: “What is Iran doing about human rights?” “How can you justify the torture and murder by your government of your own people?” Again, Ahmadinejad didn’t have to answer these questions.

This continues to work in Ahmadinejad’s favor. Prior to becoming president Ahmadinejad was largely unknown, but after his first trip to the U.N. he became famous for his outbursts. In truth, Western media has helped Ahmadinejad to become a familiar face to the entire world. He loves the attention he’s gotten by his ignorant tirades. He uses the attention he gets from Western media to keep the opposition to the Islamic Regime under control. He’s become something of a diversion that keeps the world talking about his outlandish claims instead of focusing on the real issues. He brings an entourage of some 200 people with him to the U.S. every September—each of them receiving visas to travel to the U.S. while thousands of political Iranian refuges are in holding camps outside of Iran waiting months and sometimes years for a visa to a country where they won’t be imprisoned.

News about what is going on internally in the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t often make it to mainstream Western media, and so the faces of political prisoners wasting away in prisons in Iran today rarely become noticeable to the global community. For those of us who have faced the tyranny of the Islamic regime that has controlled our country for the last 31 years, however, the faces of those currently imprisoned haunt us every day. We find it difficult to participate in activities that normal citizens enjoy without a certain feeling of guilt that innocent members of our country are being tortured day in and day out without notice from the outside world.

Human rights is all too often avoided when we speak of Iran from the Western perspective. Nuclear arms takes center stage, and there is good reason for concern on this issue. I believe that any country that can torture its citizens, that uses methods of punishment like lashings, amputation of body parts including eyes and tongues, and practices capital punishments as inhumane as stoning and suspension hanging where the prisoner is lifted via a crane, extending the time it takes to expire, should rightly so be kept from acquiring nuclear weapons.

What disturbs me, however, is that in the discussion of nuclear arms in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the opposition movements within the country are often forgotten. Members of any one of these groups, including members of the student movement, women’s movement, or labor activists, if captured, suffer the worst abuses against human rights. In the Islamic Regime, being suspected of disagreeing with the government can land a person in solitary confinement between hours of brutal interrogation and torture for days and months and even years. Those who speak out, like student leader Majid Tavakoli, face cruelty that is unimaginable. Tavakoli gave a speech at Students Day in December of 2009, and ended up with an eight year sentence, convicted of intent to act against national security, insulting the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the government-selected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Human right activists like Shiva Nazar-ahari are sentenced to six years in prison and 76 lashes. Long-time activist for secular democracy, Heshmat Tabarzadi, faces being imprisoned for as long as the government chooses to hold him. Young activists like Bahareh Hedayat and Milad Asadi continue to languish in Islamic Republic jails.

The list goes on and on, yet finding information in English about what has happened to these political prisoners is difficult at best. The fact that two nights ago again the cries of “death to dictatorship” were heard throughout the city of Tehran as citizens continued to protest the current regime, is no longer making headlines in Western news.

My point in all of this is that human rights cannot take a backseat when we talk about how to deal with the Islamic Republic. When we discuss the possibility of war with Iran being “back on the table” there is little mention of these abuses against humanity. Yes, the potential for nuclear holocaust must be dealt with, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the current situation in Iran. The accounts of torture are horrific. The extortion by the government in the cases of political prisoners whose families are forced to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars for the release of their loved ones, is a lucrative model that the Islamic Republic isn’t going to give up easily.

All too often we focus on the past when looking to the future. In the case of the Islamic Republic, we must focus on the present. We have to bring the images of the faces of those who have disappeared without a trace to the attention of the world, and we must not forget that basic human rights are non-existent in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Reza Mohajerinejad is one of the student activists and organizers of the 1999 Student Movement in Iran known as 18 Tir. His book, Live Generation, is available on


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more from Reza Mohajerinejad

Today U.S. sanctions 8 Iranian officials for human rights abuses

by Helenah on

Today the U.S. sanctioned 8 Iranian officials for human rights abuses. Maybe now the U.S. is not totally ignoring it.




Love of liberty: Western governments highest priority is...

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

their own national interests, and not the human right issues at a third party country. However western governments , are influenced and react to their constituents public opinion. So here is the value in a demonstraion in London, DC, Paris, Rome, etc  and public shows of support with Iranians at home. In fact since last year, the public awareness of westerners about the appaling state under which Iranains live has amazingly been increased. This is translated in some of the actions we see taken against Iranian regime. Just look at the publicity around the stoning case. Look at the way Ahmadi is ridicukled each time he opens his mouth.

We owe this mostly to the martyrs of last years uperising in Iran...


I think one thing people

by LoverOfLiberty on

I think one thing people tend to overlook is the possibility that the Western governments overlook or downplay the human rights-related aspects relating to Iran because they want to get better terms when negotiating with the Iranian regime.

The side effect of this somewhat inconsistent approach, at least from my perspective, is that in carrying out such a policy, those Western governments also help legitimize the Iranian regime and, consequently, the Iranian regimes actions towards the Iranian people.

If you ask me, the Western governments need to get off of that "sacrifice human rights in exchange for better terms" fence they have been straddling for many years since I think it is in the West's long-term strategic interest that Iran becomes a state in which human rights are guaranteed and are strongly defended. 

Alborz Irani

Good Job

by Alborz Irani on

Good job Mr. Mohajerinejad, I like the article and all points you said. Hopefully you keep writing about Iran, I like to read your articles in Major american papers.


The only way to influence

by alimostofi on

The only way to influence change in the current stand off with the regime, is to refer to them as "the regime", anywhere we speak of them.  That is easy to do, and everyone must do it. 

Once the regime is seen as a separate entity and is clearly identified, it can then be manipulated .  At the moment the word "Iran" is associated with the regime, and they get away with representing Iran.

Next, and perhaps more important ,is to not give them too much exposure.  The people who represent Iran properly should be put on TV and the rest of the media.

Finally the media themselves should be scrutinized for their bad behaviour.  Our problems are more with the reporters than the regime.  Amanpour et al should be through some hard questions.


Ali Mostofi




This is a excellent

by vildemose on

This is an excellent article. You should try to submit it to major news papers in the US.

By now, It should be crystal clear for everone that the US prefres the theocracy/mullahs over an independent, progressive and secular government to keep Iran backward and weak.

For that reason, we should not expect any help from the US media or government.


your least informed vistor sees a different battlefield : Najaf

by bushtheliberator on

 dear Mr. Mohajerinejad,

  I share your disappointment that the heroes of Iran's struggles are unsung in the West. But remember this : Westerners were aware of Stalin's horrors,read "Cancer Ward", and idolized those who resisted behind the Iron Curtain>>>but 60 years of Western condemnation of the totalitarian USSR did NOT cause its fall.

The USSR fell rather peacefuly to its own folly & rot.

I don't believe any war,or military action is comimg from the West

I don't believe the IRI is going to evaporate, or that the importance of Islam in Iran will decline. Absent a civil war, the public opinion that matters in Iran is not in the West...It's Iran's Moslems.

It seems easy enough to make the case that the IRI fails both republicanism,& Islam.The sharpest arrows come from Najaf.

Another generation of the IRI, waiting for Beards to be replaced would be much nicer pathway than a war.There's no guarantee that post-war Iran will come out nearly as well as Iraq has progressed.


Good work Reza

by farokh2000 on

Very good point Reza but you are missing the fact that the West is not interested in any kind of Human Rights. They would have to lead by example, if they did.

Look at the thousands of people they are killing in Iraq, Afghanestan and Pakestan, in the name of " War on Terror", which is a front to cover their own crimes and occupy other Countries and steal their resources.

They are NOT interested in Human Rights. AN is their own puppet and creation to have an excuse to stay in that area forever and suck blood from poor people who have geography and resourses.


West doesn't care about Human Rights in Iran

by didani on

Neither Larry King/Amanpoor/Charlie Rose challenged ahmadinejad on the issue of human rights, none allocated even 10 mins of their time to discuss Shirin Ebadi’s list of human rights violations in Iran as she did in her Press conference yesterday in NY that went largely unrecognized (was briefly referenced on this site yesterday).Just like Iraq and Afghanistan, west is only after a dictatorship in Iran (IRI fits the  role perfectly) who is also their puppet (this is what west is working on). Human Rights is our issue not US's issue.

A democratic country that recognizes human rights would not recognize the right of a foreign country to steal its resources (mainly oil in Iran).