A Retrospective on the Iranian Elections

Although Hassan Rouhani failed to deliver any of his first-term promises as the president of the Islamic Republic (I.R.) of Iran, he was reinstated by voters in the May 19 election.  Apparently, he was elected for a second term because the choice for the Iranian people was between bad and worse.  Further, he was more vocal this time around in criticizing his opponent, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, and making many electoral promises, mainly opening the doors to international investors, improving living and economic conditions, providing freedom and social liberties, dismantling the widely spread economic corruption in the governing system, and so on.  However, everything he and other candidates said and promised during the electoral campaign was basically designed to save the rotten regime from falling apart.  All candidates, moderates or fundamentalists, were and are regime insiders, and loyal to the supreme leader.

The presidential elections in Iran are processes that have been engineered by the regime every four years to motivate and bring the citizens to the polling centers on election day, and therefore mislead the international community into thinking that the I.R.'s president is elected by the people, that the process is democratic, and that the Islamic government is legitimately running the country.  But in reality, the presidential election is the same show every four years, only with different players.

The presidential election this time was also a fabricated competition between a so-called moderate cleric, Hassan Rouhani, and a fundamentalist cleric, Ebrahim Raisi.  The same scenario was played in the 1997 presidential election: a moderate cleric, Mohammad Khatami, was confronting a fundamentalist cleric, Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri.  Mohammad Khatami encouraged Iranians to vote for a great change, but in his two-term presidency from 1997 to 2005, he failed to deliver what he promised.  In his farewell address after eight years in office, he admitted that all these years, he was only a deliveryman and nothing else.

Unexpectedly, four years later, in the election year 2009, in the dawn of the Green uprising in Iran, the clergy in Tehran lost control of "presidential election" processes.  Therefore, the disputed presidential election in that year resulted in extensive nationwide protests that shook the foundation of the regime, initiating a brutal street shooting followed by a crackdown of demonstrators and mass arrests of innocent citizens by the dictatorial Islamic regime.  

Many people were killed while peacefully protesting the repression and brutality of the regime.  Hundreds disappeared and were likely kidnapped, thousands were detained and tortured, and some were put on fabricated trials to impress foreign reporters.  Initially, all these were ignored by the international community and freedom-loving people, and the U.S. president, Barack Obama, viewed these as internal issues.  However, the crying out of the Iranian people and intense advocacy by a few international and various domestic human rights organizations, and also by individuals including the secularist and human rights advocate Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late monarch of Iran, resulted in the Iranian case being put on the U.N. Security Council agenda as "the human rights issue in Iran."

Gradually, after a few months, a campaign formed by democratic countries that was initiated and led by Sweden.  The goal of this campaign was to overcome the political hurdles for achieving united action to control the misbehavior of the I.R. regime.  There was a desire to address resolutions on the human rights condition in Iran yearly, including any investigations conducted outside the country, and for resolutions to be guaranteed to have diplomatic support.  In late 2009, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) unanimously agreed to recognize the I.R. in Iran as a government needing a special rapporteur on issues of human rights to monitor and report its misbehavior and abuses to the UNHRC.

Finally, all those efforts resulted in the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) favorably voting to establish a monitoring system to report the situation of human rights issues in Iran in late 2010.  The passage of the resolution enabled the UNHRC to assign a rapporteur for the I.R. for the first time, and Ahmad Shaheed was overwhelmingly elected as the first special rapporteur for human rights in Iran.  The mandate of the rapporteur is established by the Human Rights Council and is subject to yearly renewal.  The intergovernmental process provides formal recommendations to the I.R. on observing international obligations and accountability of human rights violations in Iran.  This was a great achievement for the freedom-loving people of the world and a major victory for Iranians and human rights groups.  Since then, until the end of 2016, the UNHRC had extended Ahmad Shaheed's mandate every year to lend its special rapporteur the authority to report on the miserable human rights conditions in Iran.

Expectedly, the I.R. rejected and ridiculed the human rights resolution of the UNGA.  Its officials, including the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, questioned the level of professionalism of UNHRC experts and questioned if they were qualified to visit Iran.  The I.R. has continuously referred to the "Islamic Human Rights Charter" as its guide.  The Charter was adopted nearly three decades ago by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), of which the I.R. is a member.  The OIC declaration stated that "sharia" is the only valid document that Islamic nations must obey.  The rules of sharia clearly challenge and contradict the components of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Sharia denies the most basic of human rights, including freedom of expression, equality of men and women, and freedom of choice of religion.  Naturally, in the I.R., death has been the punishment for those not observing these sharia principles.

In addition, the I.R. has never allowed any international human rights organizations' rapporteurs to visit Iran, whose reports have been based mainly on interviews with those who had experienced the savage side of the I.R.  Its excuse is that Islamic beliefs and culture prescribe entirely different views and values regarding human rights.  The I.R. apparently believes that the UDHR is a document fabricated by infidel Western neo-imperialism, designed to change the beliefs and behavior of the Muslim population, and it has made considerable efforts to manipulate the free and democratic world into believing that Iranian society proudly rejects universal human rights.

A new special human rights rapporteur, Asma Jahangir, was appointed to replace Ahmad Shaheed for Iran in November 2016.  As was expected, immediately after her first report on the condition of human rights in Iran, foreign affairs officials in Tehran demanded that the UNHRC remove the new rapporteur because her mission is "politically motivated."

In her first official report about the I.R. on March 6, Jahangir stated that "all reports indicate a tight control over media workers and censorship efforts adding a high level of pressure over general citizens, indicating that democratic space is severely limited" (Radio Free Europe, March 2017).  Further, she voiced concern that "as of December 13, 2016, at least 24 journalists, bloggers, and social media activists were either in detention or sentenced to death for their peaceful activities."

In the March 6 report, Jahangir expressed her concern about the alarming level of executions in Iran, where she reported that at least 530 (567 according to Amnesty International) citizens were executed in 2016, and at least five of them were below the age of 18 at the times of their alleged offenses.  Additionally, she mentioned that 156 people have been put to death since the beginning of the current year, and that two of them were reported as juveniles.

Jahangir stated that she has received many reports regarding the I.R.'s systematic use of torture in detention centers across the country and its continued use of amputations, blinding, and flogging, as well as its use of prolonged solitary confinement for detainees.  According to her report, most people who are executed have been falsely convicted of only drug-related crimes, a label the regime automatically applies to any political activist who must be eliminated.

On March 13, at the 34th session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, Asma Jahangir described the situation of human rights in Iran as "alarming."  In a 40-page report, she accused the I.R. of numerous human rights violations.  Innocent citizens, mainly political opposition, religious minorities, and innocent journalists, are arrested on fabricated charges, and detainees face torture, abuse, imprisonment, and often execution.

The reaction of the theocratic regime to all these in mid-March 2017, expressed by the I.R.'s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, was that "Tehran does not recognize these reports" (Tehran Times, March 2017).  He added that Jahangir's reports, "like her predecessor Ahmad Shaheed's reports[,] have been prepared based on inaccurate and contrived information regarding the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic."

Now, President-Elect Hassan Rouhani, who has bragged about being a "moderate," has one of the darkest records in human rights issues, as mentioned before, according to the last report of the U.N. special rapporteur and Amnesty International.  He has presided over the highest rate of executions in Iran, the largest number per capita in the world, all in his first term.  That is only less than the well known massacre of the notorious summer of 1988, in which, within a few weeks, near 20,000 Iranians belonging to various opposing political groups were executed at the end of the Iran-Iraq war on a fatwa (religious decree) by Shiite clergyman Khomeini, the founder of the I.R.

The labeling of the I.R.'s factions as either "reformists" and "moderates" or "hardliners" and "fundamentalists," and a free and democratic election as claimed by the I.R., is nothing but a hoax.  The I.R.'s only interest is to save the regime as it is.  Human rights are never on its agenda.

Mansour Kashfi, Ph.D., is president of Kashex International Petroleum Consulting and is a college professor in Dallas.  He has over 50 years' experience in petroleum exploration, primarily in the M.E.  He is also author of more than 100 articles and books about the petroleum industry.

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