UK government should take the lead and demand accountability from the Iranian regime for its deplorable human rights dossier.
On Tuesday December 11, I participated in a conference in the House of Commons organised jointly by the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF) and Centre for Human Rights in Defence of Political Prisoners in Iran, to address the dire state of human rights in Iran. Joining a panel of cross party parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament and human rights experts, we all agree that while the Iranian regime’s increasing domestic repression required an adequate response by the UK government, especially in regard to the urgent need to stop imminent execution of 1000 prisoners on death row in Iran.
In my remarks, I chose to focus on the Iranian regime’s crackdown on relatives of members of the main Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) who live in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq.
After the uprisings in 2009 in Iran, the regime started to target the relatives of members of PMOI simply because the theocracy wants to break the opposition’s determination for a regime change. The oppressors in Tehran are paranoid by the PMOI’s ability to organise grass roots movement that dare to challenge this vicious regime demanding systematic change.
Kobra Banazadeh Amir-khiz, 58, is one of the latest victims of this intimidation campaign. She was arrested in 2008 together with her two brothers, Hamid and Asghar, at Tehran’s international airport on their way to visit relatives in Camp Ashraf in Iraq despite wanting to leave the country legally. Upon her arrest she was sentenced to five years prison by the Revolutionary Court to be served in Gorhardasht-prison.
Four members of her family including one of her brothers, Ali, have previously been executed by the regime. Mrs Banazadeh, suffering from different maladies and Hepatitis B, was blinded in one eye and is about to lose the sight on her second eye due to ill-treatment and torture. Despite her critical condition, the Iranian regime refuses to allow her to be admitted at hospital.
But mullahs’ persecution targets all families of Ashraf residents and the Iranian Resistance.
Also in prison is Mrs Banazadeh’s older brother Mohammad, 66, who was arrested two years ago only for speaking to his daughter in Camp Ashraf over the phone. That charge brought him a 5 year sentence in prison, which he now serves at the notorious Gohardasht-prison. Even his wife, Shahla Zarinfar, was held in detention for one year because she visited their daughter in Camp Ashraf.
We should bear in mind that the only crime this family has committed according to the Iranian regime is the fact that they wanted to contact their family members and visit their children in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.
This is totally unacceptable and utterly shameful behaviour. This is not a crime; it is fundamental right to visit your relatives wherever they are.
This sad story exemplifies the kind of repression the Iranian Resistance and the Iranian people have to endure. And the question is why? Why does the clerical regime resorts to such cruel and brutal persecutions, even as it knows it will spark international outrage? I mean anyone; even the most vicious dictators understand that hanging people en mass in public from cranes or stoning will spark outrage.
The answer is that the Iranian regime, incapable of instigating reforms, is becoming more desperate as they have never been able to satisfy the democratic aspirations of their own people. But above all the regime’s leaders know that they have to prevent democratic change by any means at any cost because they themselves will be its first victim as people will demand justice in a free Iran in future.
The mullahs understand this better than anyone that they will be held accountable for three decades of crimes and misery which they have brought for the Iranian people. Therefore they can only answer by killing, murdering and torturing in vain hope to stop or postpone the inevitable change in Iran whose time has come.
So what can we do in the West? Well, it will cost us nothing to create a political shield to protect the Iranian people and their Resistance by speaking up and back our condemnations with unequivocal demand for accountability for those responsible for systematic human rights abuses.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in a press release on 13th December 2012, marking the 40th day of the death of Sattar Beheshti, an Iranian blogger who died in custody due to severe torture, said, “once again the authorities have failed to deliver justice. The FCO adds in its press release that “the sacking of the head of Cyber Police, [the alleged security organ responsible for Mr Behshti’s death] will not stop the security and detention forces from operating with impunity. Systemic change is needed to bring about a more transparent and accountable system.
As these words are encouraging and welcomed, we should not rest on our laurels and be satisfied. When human rights abuses make the pillars of the Iranian regime, the international community must support and recognise the victims’ inalienable rights to change their fate, to protest and endeavour for a better future that does not involve public executions, floggings, amputations and stoning.
The UK government must show political courage and take the lead on international arena to demand accountability from the Iranian regime.
The next step by the UK government must indeed be to refer the dossier of Iran’s dismal human rights record to the UN Security Council to adopt binding measures to stop rights abuses in Iran.
These will have my full support, and I dare to say, the full support of majority of the British public.
Baroness Blood, a Member of the House of Lords from the Labour Party, is a prominent member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF) who is active in Women's issues, in particular Women's rights in Iran.