Commentary Magazine


Topic: Roxana Saberi

Encouraging the Mullahs, Not Iranian Democracy Activists

Roxana Saberi, who was locked up in Evin prison for 100 days, writes — pleads, really — for the West to take human rights seriously. She explains that on Sunday, five Kurdish political activists were executed. You might have missed it (I did) because, as usual, our government is mute. She argues:

If the international community fails to condemn such atrocities, Iran’s regime will continue to trample on the basic rights of individuals, many of whom have been detained simply for peacefully standing up for universal human rights. It is common for Tehran’s prisoners — including journalists, bloggers, women’s rights campaigners, student activists and adherents of the minority Baha’i faith — to be held in prolonged solitary confinement without access to an attorney as they try to defend themselves against fabricated charges such as espionage and “propaganda against Islam” or the regime.

She makes a key point: Tehran cares what is said about it in the free media and struggles to keep negative accounts from its own citizens. In other words, our quietude only aids in the regime’s repression. See, the West doesn’t care. How bad can things be if the Obama administration still wants to talk to us? Our silence both emboldens the oppressor and disheartens the oppressed.

Saberi makes an excellent suggestion:

As the international community focuses on Iran’s nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. When the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva next month, Washington and the European Union should lead calls for a resolution setting up a mechanism to investigate human rights atrocities in Iran during the past year. A bigger push should be made to send a U.N. special envoy on human rights to Iran and to aid Iranians, including the many journalists forced to flee their country out of fear of persecution.

But perhaps even more important than government efforts is the outcry of ordinary people worldwide. When everyday citizens speak out against Iran’s human rights violations, Tehran has a tougher time asserting that their calls have been masterminded by foreign governments.

But what are the chances that is going to happen? This administration let Iran into the Commission on the Status of Women with nary a peep. We continue to explain that sanctions are only a means to get the regime back to the bargaining table. The notion that we should undermine the mullahs or attempt to make the regime a pariah in the international community appears not to be under consideration. So rather than empower Iranian political dissidents and encourage journalists and activists, we encourage the mullahs to continue their reign of brutality. After all, if the West isn’t going to object, why not?

Roxana Saberi, who was locked up in Evin prison for 100 days, writes — pleads, really — for the West to take human rights seriously. She explains that on Sunday, five Kurdish political activists were executed. You might have missed it (I did) because, as usual, our government is mute. She argues:

If the international community fails to condemn such atrocities, Iran’s regime will continue to trample on the basic rights of individuals, many of whom have been detained simply for peacefully standing up for universal human rights. It is common for Tehran’s prisoners — including journalists, bloggers, women’s rights campaigners, student activists and adherents of the minority Baha’i faith — to be held in prolonged solitary confinement without access to an attorney as they try to defend themselves against fabricated charges such as espionage and “propaganda against Islam” or the regime.

She makes a key point: Tehran cares what is said about it in the free media and struggles to keep negative accounts from its own citizens. In other words, our quietude only aids in the regime’s repression. See, the West doesn’t care. How bad can things be if the Obama administration still wants to talk to us? Our silence both emboldens the oppressor and disheartens the oppressed.

Saberi makes an excellent suggestion:

As the international community focuses on Iran’s nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. When the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva next month, Washington and the European Union should lead calls for a resolution setting up a mechanism to investigate human rights atrocities in Iran during the past year. A bigger push should be made to send a U.N. special envoy on human rights to Iran and to aid Iranians, including the many journalists forced to flee their country out of fear of persecution.

But perhaps even more important than government efforts is the outcry of ordinary people worldwide. When everyday citizens speak out against Iran’s human rights violations, Tehran has a tougher time asserting that their calls have been masterminded by foreign governments.

But what are the chances that is going to happen? This administration let Iran into the Commission on the Status of Women with nary a peep. We continue to explain that sanctions are only a means to get the regime back to the bargaining table. The notion that we should undermine the mullahs or attempt to make the regime a pariah in the international community appears not to be under consideration. So rather than empower Iranian political dissidents and encourage journalists and activists, we encourage the mullahs to continue their reign of brutality. After all, if the West isn’t going to object, why not?

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