One of the worst examples we can identify as a conscious distortion of reality is the way in which the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its February-March 2020 five-year report on the Islamic Republic of Iran, lavished praise on the despotic regime. Pictured: Mohammad-Javad Larijani, representing Iran, during a discussion on a report of the Special Rapporteur on Iran's human rights situation, at the UNHRC in Geneva on March 12, 2018. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
There are times when even the most steeled among us are shocked by things others say or do. For example, people who insist against overwhelming evidence that Hitler and the Nazis were good people or that the Führer never intended to kill the Jews. Individuals who, again against a massive body of evidence, deny where the coronavirus began; or, though their numbers are relatively small, the percentages of Muslims who apparently still support the Islamic State (ISIS).
One of the worst examples we can identify as a conscious distortion of reality is the way in which the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its February-March 2020 five-year report on the Islamic Republic of Iran, lavished praise on the despotic regime. A majority (85%) of the countries contributing to this travesty of the truth made a mockery of human rights values by treating the Islamic Republic as a shining example of those values in action -- something, as we shall see, it has never been. According to UN Watch:
"This includes 49 countries that glowingly praised the theocratic regime, and another 46 that expressed some praise for Iran's alleged achievements."
The same authority cites several comments (with videos) from a range of supportive countries. Russia says: "We highly rate Iran's cooperation with human rights treaty bodies and openness for dialogue as part of the UPR (Universal Periodic Review)."
China also chimed in:
"We commend Iran's efforts to eradicate poverty, enhance social security, protect the rights of vulnerable groups & hopes Iran will continue to drive economic & social development to provide a solid basis for the enjoyment of all human rights."
Venezuela's comment is briefer but no different, taking the Iranian regime's claims at face value:
"We welcome the answers provided by the government [of Iran] during the review in which it confirmed the country's steadfast commitment to protecting human rights."
These statements might be fair were they directed at many of the Western democracies which usually display a commitment to human rights values. The large-scale human rights abuses of Iran's theocracy, however, have been on display for more than forty years, with little respite. It is hard to know where to start.
Iran has for many years carried out the second-highest number of executions in the world, after the vastly more populous China. Both countries have been putting to death political dissidents and members of ethnic and religious minorities for decades.
The regime's on-going abuse of women is also well documented, and ranges from restrictions on marriage, divorce and child custody to enforced wearing of the hijab, long imprisonment, floggings, and even frequent executions.
Iran's political dissidents in prison are treated harshly; freedom of expression and criticism of the regime are severely curtailed. Non-violent political opponents are often executed. The same is true of homosexuals. For 40 years, the Iranian government has made systematic use of torture in its prisons. Other extreme forms of punishment used in Iran are equally appalling:
- Execution by stoning
- Execution by hanging
- Execution by firing squad
- Execution by beheading
- Execution by throwing from a height
Last year, Iran executed seven children while another 90 children remained on death row Ironically, the UN special investigator on human rights in the country, Jeva'id Rehman, reported on the 2019 executions. That should not have been a secret from the UNHRC and is members. Under the regime, the death penalty can apply to girls as young as nine and boys of fifteen. Worse, the Iranian regime has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids such treatment.
The regime also persecutes its ethnic and religious minorities. The ethnic groups consist of Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), Lur (6%), Baluch and Arabs (both 2%), Turkmen and other Turkic tribes (2%), and other nomadic peoples comprising about 1% of the total population. Other minorities include Armenians and Assyrians, as well as an Afro-Iranian minority.
More grievous than the mistreatment of ethnic groups is the Iranian regime's persecution of its several religious minorities. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) wrote in its 2017 report:
"Since 1999, the State Department has designated Iran as a 'country of particular concern,' or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), most recently in October 2016. USCIRF again recommends in 2017 that Iran be designated a CPC."
It also stated that:
"During the past year, the government of Iran engaged in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused. Severe violations targeting religious minorities—especially Baha'is, Christian converts, and Sunni Muslims—continued unabated. Sufi Muslims and dissenting Shi'a Muslims also faced harassment, arrests, and imprisonment. Since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased."
In fact, severe persecution of religious communities, most notoriously the indigenous Baha'is, the country's largest religious minority, started in Iran with the foundation of Ayatollah Khomeini's clerical government in 1979. Baha'is have been executed, even for teaching children's morality lessons (dars-e akhlaq) -- more than 200 hanged or shot in the 1980s. Additionally, all their holy places have been demolished; many homes of individual believers have been destroyed; entire cemeteries have been bulldozed and corpses disinterred, including a major one in the city of Shiraz; ordinary Baha'is and leaders elected to national and local bodies have been imprisoned for long sentences in large numbers; Baha'i children are monitored in schools and young Baha'is are denied places in universities.
The hatred for Baha'is alone verges on the unhinged, yet the UNHRC sees no human rights failures in the country. What makes this situation strikingly worse is that, since its foundation in 2006, the UNHRC has condemned Israel more than all countries in the world combined. This, even though Israel has one of the world's finest human rights records. Israel does not use execution except for treason and crimes against humanity, and has only once done so. Israel, instead, protects women's rights; all its religious minorities (especially the Baha'is, who have their holiest shrines and world centre there), and is the only country in the Middle East with full freedom for homosexuals. Yet many people who boycott Israel refuse to boycott Iran. The irony is mind-boggling.
Denis MacEoin has PhD (Cambridge 1979) in Persian/Iranian Studies and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.