On December 21 , 2010, the UN General Assembly approved a draft resolution condemning the human rights violations in Iran. The One Million Voices for Iran campaign welcomes this resolution as a clear signal that the voices of Iranian people being subjected to daily human rights abuses are being heard by the international community.
When the draft resolution was approved in November 2010, Drewery Dyke, Iran researcher for Amnesty International, announced the vote on Twitter: 80 for, 44 against, and 57 abstaining. News spread rapidly across the internet and no doubt will be covered widely in the weekend newspapers. The resolution is expected to be approved and implemented in December, and managed to pass despite intense lobbying from the Islamic Republic.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s human rights council, attempted to file a No Action Motion (NAM) to prevent the vote from occurring. Voice of America reported that Larijani demanded the NAM vote on the grounds that the UNGA did not have the jurisdiction to pass the resolution. Larijani blatantly took advantage of the fact that he was permitted entry into the United States to lobby against the resolution and attempted to undermine the integrity of the UNGA. This is a blatant abuse of the democratic principles of the United Nations.
Eight individual government officials are already under US State Department sanctions; prohibited from obtaining travel visas to the United States due to their role in government-sanctioned human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. No other countries have yet passed these necessary humanitarian sanctions, which bar those individuals within the Iranian regime responsible for human rights abuses from travel and freeze any assets held in the respective country.
The One Million Voices for Iran campaign organizers ask the United States to expand the existing ban on travel and freezing of assets to include more officials of the Iranian regime, including Mohammad Javad Larijani. As the head of its human rights council and an advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Larijani has repeatedly denied that atrocities are occurring Iran, despite documented and published evidence. Additionally, the campaign calls on UN member nations and other countries to target individual officials of the regime by banning their travel to and freezing all assets held in their respective countries, targeting them specifically in protest of their documented human rights abuses and demanding the release of all political prisoners.
The UNGA resolution is the latest in a growing list of positive actions taken against the Islamic Republic’s continued human rights abuses. Each positive measure is a response to calls from grassroots movements rather than any capitulation to lobbying from political groups. Despite their claims, these groups do not appear to be representing the people of Iran’s demands as much as they are representing their own ideology and pushing an agenda that may be detrimental to freedom and a hindrance to justice.
These positive actions include:
- the United States sanctioning responsible individuals and calling for the release of political prisoners;
- the European Union’s September 2010 resolution on the human rights situation in Iran
- human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights calling for the release of political prisoners
The One Million Voices for Iran Campaign welcomes the resolution and sees it as a signal that the United Nations is finally acknowledging the voice of the Iranian people. We will continue to press for increased humanitarian measures demanding full respect for human rights and the creation of an international criminal court to bring those responsible to justice.
One Million Voices does not speak alone when calling for these measures. We have listened to the demands from inside Iran’s horrible prisons and they are our mandate. What began with political prisoners calling for the recognition of their rights and Majid Tavakoli writing about his yearning for the “enemies of democracy and freedom and human rights” to be unveiled has expanded. Political prisoner Heshmat Tabarzadi called for Supreme Leader Khamenei to be brought before the international courts. Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, who has been tortured in prison, thanked U.S. officials for the September 29 humanitarian sanctions and asked all human rights defenders to push for an international tribunal.
One Million Voices is not alone in this effort. Other human rights activists, including Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and women’s rights activist Shadi Sadr have called for increased humanitarian sanctions and the establishment of an international criminal court. On November 9, Ebadi spoke before the UN and called for increased humanitarian sanctions. In an interview on 11 November after collecting the Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law, Shadi Sadr said sanctions for human rights violations is a difficult road, but an achievable goal. Inside Iran, journalist and activist Mohammad Nourizad has complained to the Supreme Leader about the horrific torture and human rights abuses, and is now implicating the Intelligence Ministry and the judiciary. Mohammad Mostafaei holds Khamenei responsible for all human rights crimes and violations in his 16 November blog post.
Dozens of international organizations, associations and committees have shown their support for imprisoned journalists, unionists, teachers, lawyers and human rights activists in Iran, as well as those who have escaped from Iran after being subject to arrest, torture and brutality. On November 18th, jailed journalist Koohyar Goudarzi ‘s mother dedicated the award she accepted on his behalf to the mothers of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran and across the world.
As 16 Azar (7th December), known in Iran as Students’ Day, approaches, Iran Green Voice (Rahesabz) is promoting international action to support students in Iran. Among their aims is “supporting international sanctions against state officials who have engaged in systematic human rights abuses and violations against the Iranian people.”
After the crackdown following the 2009 election, people in Iran and activists throughout the world placed their hopes in the UN. When they failed to act, many were left wondering how to pursue justice and support Iranians in their push for freedom. It is becoming increasingly evident that the most effective way is to first target those officials responsible for human rights abuses, and then establish the means to bring them to justice in international criminal court.