The #ISIS threat and question of human rights in #Iran

Some of my colleagues believe that a nuclear deal with Iran is likely to improve the human rights situation there. A major reason which I often hear to justify this view is: by reaching a deal, the threat of a U.S attack against Iran will fall substantially, thus leading to Iranian politics becoming less security oriented, or as some say “securitized”. And the less securitized the political atmosphere in Iran is, the less the regime can abuse human rights.

Yes, but no.

Yes, a deal is likely to significantly reduce the chances of war with the U.S. But, Iranian hard liners are likely to find another excuse to replace the threat posed by the US to securatize Iranian politics: namely the threat posed by ISIS to Iran.

So when it comes to the question of human rights and post nuclear agreement Iran, the best scenario is likely to be short term improvements in human rights. Not much more.

Abusing human rights is an existential necessity for Iran’s hard liners who rule the regime. And soon after a nuclear deal with the U.S, the threat posed by ISIS is likely to give them another excuse to crackdown against human rights activists in Iran, again. They’ll be back to their old tricks in no time.

Iran: waiting for the next massacre?

Nothing like a crisis to bring people together. 

One of the positive consequences of the 2009 uprising in Iran was the fact that it brought Iranians living in exile together- relatively and comparatively speaking of course. The issue of human rights abuse in Iran gained a bigger prominence among them.

Now that the uprising has died down, focus on human rights abuses in Iran has subsided considerably. Another important fact which has pushed it off the agenda is the recent nuclear talks.

Kudos to Iranian human rights lawyer and the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Payam Akhavan for publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post today about this issue. The writers conclude:

The interim nuclear deal and diplomatic engagement with Iran are a welcome opportunity for change. But the world should ensure that human rights are not sacrificed at the altar of political expedience.

I for one do not think a nuclear deal will improve human rights in Iran. The regime in Iran lives from human rights abuses. It’s an existential issue for its leaders. Between all the different factors which keep the regime in power, the monopoly of force and its brutal use against its citizens is the biggest. Without it, the current regime which has been one of the worst in contemporary Iranian history could fall.

The question which Iranians in exile must ask ourselves is: are we going to wait for the next massive wave of human rights abuse like the one we saw in 2009 to put the issue of human rights on top of the agenda again?

The answer, depressingly so seems yes.

Why? because much to delight of the regime Iranians in exile remain as divided as before. There is no leadership.

In fact when it comes to democracy, some of the alternatives abroad are not much better. Without mentioning names, there are some so-called supporters of democracy in Iran in the West who much like the regime would love to shut the mouths of anyone who is “guilty” of disagreeing with their point of view. 34 years of living in Western democracies has taught them nothing about what democracy really means. Not just one such group, but quite a few.

No thanks. I don’t want your “democracy”.