Two years ago, when Iran’s uprising was still very much in the streets, everyone outside Iran was very much involved with the nuclear business. When the protestors were being beaten, arrested and even killed in the streets, the European politicians as well as the Americans were so glad to come back to the negotiation on the nuclear issue with the Islamic Republic giving them the exact legitimacy that they sought at that time. Anything has come up afterwards, like what Hillary Clinton recently said to excuse their reluctance at that very proper time was completely out of the question.Exactly two years ago, Shabnam Sohrabi, mother of a six-year-old girl, was run over by a police car on Ashura demonstration, while the international community had nothing to do except releasing some very beautiful but useless statements. Obviously, the nuclear issue was much more important than human rights issue.
Thanks to the orchestrated efforts of Iranian civil society mainly in exile, in collaboration with international human rights community, many things have happened since then. Some of Iranian officials who were involved with gross human rights violations have been faced with the restrictive measures like travel ban and freezing of their assets. The UN Human Rights Council appointed a special rapporteur to investigate and report on human rights situation in Iran. Therefore, until about two months ago, it seemed the international community had shifted the priorities to deal with the Islamic Republic from its nuclear program to human rights’ developments or at least, had given the same priority to human rights as the nuclear program. But once again, Iranian people experienced another reversal when the hardliners in Israel started a new round of “bomb Iran” policy and the hardliners in Tehran welcomed them back. Thus while the international community is occupied with the question of “war or sanctions,” no one seems to care if Islamic Republic takes this opportunity to embark on another bout of human rights violations.
I am not surprised that while the whole world which last year was so concerned about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s life, the woman who was sentenced to death by stoning, today does not care at all about the new penal code which is about to pass in Majlis (Iran’s parliament) and would affect the lives of uncounted Iranian women, making hundreds of them another Sakineh. One can see this inaction in the few feedbacks to Justice for Iran’s statement to urge pro-human rights states and organisations to do something to stop passing the new penal code in Iran.
The new penal code is the latest but unfortunately not the last example of how in the absence of international attention Iranian government has taken this opportunity to institutionalize gender discrimination and human rights violation more than before. If the new penal code passes, as in the old one, the testimony of two women is worth that of one man. A nine year old girl continues to have criminal responsibility and if she were to commit a crime, she will be dealt with as an adult. The monetary value of physical harms inflicted (diya) for a woman would be half that of a man. Even more tragically, if a Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian woman loses her leg in a car accident, the amount of the monetary damages awarded to her will be a quarter of that awarded to a Muslim man in the same circumstances.
Beneath the heavy shadow that the nuclear issue in Iran is casting upon the international community, human rights situation is being faded. While those human rights activists as well as the other civil rights activists who are not already in the prison, have been put under such a pressure to make them passive and isolated or force them to leave the country, the international community remains negligent.
To me, as an Iranian human rights lawyer, this is what the world looks like: a soccer field where either Israel or Islamic Republic throw a ball onto the field to start an unwanted and unpredictable game and the others, not only the governments but also the civil society activists, follow the ball instead of playing their own games; being too reactive instead of proactive. This time, the probable war is the ball that everyone is following while what is going on in Iran in terms of human rights is being forgotten. Therefore, we Iranians are suffering another setback which pushes us back to the square one, having to start from where we were two years ago.
As long as the international community continues with its double standards applied to nuclear energy and the violation of human rights, and until the subject of human rights does not position itself as a priority, Iranian government’s oppression will easily continue, in the sense that, the international community, not only does not strengthen the democratic movement, which is the wish of the people of Iran, but by inaction it somehow supports this violence.