Ahmad Khatami, a senior Iranian cleric and a member of the Assembly of Experts that chooses the next Supreme Leader has warned Iranians not to fall into the trap of negotiating resolution of the nuclear issue with the United States. “If this issue is resolved, the [US] will raise the issue of human rights,” he said, explaining, “Today their problem is the nuclear issue, and when this issue is resolved, they will raise the issue of human rights and say whatsoever rights men have, women should have them, too.”
Almost two decades ago, I head Azar Nafisi, who would a few years later become a New York Times bestselling author, speak in Philadelphia. While in the rest of the Middle East women fought for rights they never had, she commented, in Iran they were fighting for rights that had been taken away from them. Alas, that is no longer true today, because many Arab states and Turkey have followed Iran’s path in stripping away women’s rights.
I only wish that President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cared an iota for human rights and defending Western liberalism. When they worked in the senate, they certainly did not and since assuming their executive branch positions, they have grown even more willing to dispense with any notion of caring for women’s rights, human rights, or individual liberty.
Even so, even if Iranian hardliners have less to worry about from this administration than they might expect, Khatami’s comments should be an important reminder that the problem with the Islamic Republic isn’t merely some diplomatic understanding, but rather a backwards ideology which has oriented Iran’s clerical leadership toward permanent hostility with not only the United States but also modernity.