Kaveh Taheri: What, in your opinion, is the cause of the surge in executions and arrests in Iran?
Shabnam Assadollahi: The executions seem to be politically motivated. According to data gathered by the United Nations, Iranian officials have pushed for the execution of those they see as a threat to their system. Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani's, promises of bringing "dignity" and hope to the nation, freeing political prisoners, promoting civil rights, and bringing moderation for Iranians, were broken almost immediately upon his taking office. Not only have the promises made by Rouhani to the UNHCR never been kept, but since Rouhani took office last August 2013, executions, persecution and human rights violations have significantly increased. According to the Latest report by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN human rights rapporteur, ever since Rouhani became the president of Iran, the surge in executions has given Iran the world's highest death penalty rate per capita. Dr. Shaheed reports that at least 852 individuals, including eight juveniles, were executed since June of last year. "He (Rouhani) is unable to address the issues, unable to arrest this trend, to convert his promises which spoke to arresting this trend into action," Shaheed said.
Shaheed also expressed alarm about the pretexts for executions in Iran. "We have seen a person executed for making a donation to a foreign organization." The surge in executions shows that Rouhani has failed to deliver on campaign promises to improve the human rights situation in his country, a year after taking office.
Shaheed also said that has been "shocked" by the hanging of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari, convicted of murdering a former intelligence officer she said had tried to sexually assault her. Shaheed said that he had repeatedly raised with Tehran questions about the fairness of her trial.
While the international community is focused on getting nuclear deals with Iran, it is easy to ignore the fact that Iran is also one of the world's worst human rights violators. When the constitution of a country and the law of the land are based on Sharia and Islamic law, inequality between men and women, Retribution Law, execution for being enemy of God (Mohareb), death by hanging, there is little hope of anyone condemning these acts.
Since Hassan Rouhani (right) became the president of Iran, the surge in executions has given Iran the world's highest death penalty rate per capita.
Taheri: In what ways do you feel that the international community and the West could facilitate improvement of the human rights situation in Iran?
Assadollahi: After Rouhani became President of Iran, the U.S administration of President Obama, and the EU, under the pretext of diplomacy, took advantage of just engaging in "negotiations" to bring economic advantages to all three parties. The U.S. and private Western businesses, as well as the regime of Iran, took advantage of sanctions loosened by the U.S. to sell to the freshly-opened market. And Iran, absolved of sanctions, kept developing the nuclear program and increasing centrifuges as well as receiving billions of dollars.
As for the West, when the Iranian regime accelerated its nuclear program, people went the usual route, from being concerned to being indifferent to being complicit. The U.S. did not bring up the issue of human rights -- or even releasing innocent prisoners.
The West seems so desperately eager to give Iran nuclear capability -- perhaps from the pressure of business lobbies and perhaps out of Obama's panic-stricken need for a "legacy." What Obama does not realize is that if he does let Iran acquire nuclear capability, his "legacy" will be just like that of Britain's Neville Chamberlain -- a laughing-stock, who held up a piece of paper he thought assured peace with Hitler.
The U.S. and West should not accept any compromise on shutting down Iran's nuclear-weapons program. It should not allow Iran any opportunity to blackmail the West into a compromise on the pretext of Iran "helping" to fight the Islamic State [IS]. United States Secretary of State John Kerry, cordially invited Iran to play a role in arresting the momentum of IS in Iraq and Syria: "There is a role for nearly every country in the world in turning back the militants and debunking their ideology, including Iran," he said. But Iran's leaders, who are Shiite, would be happy to fight ISIS, who are Sunni, anyway. Or, even better, let the West fight ISIS for them.
If Iran's regime, with its open record of duplicity, continues to be appeased by the Obama Administration and the P5 + 1, any "deal" will only destabilize the Middle East -- and the West, as country after country will also feel obligated to acquire nuclear weapons. Ironically, Iran's nuclear weapons would also be used strengthen the very terrorist jihadist groups Iran has been funding all along – the ones the West is supposedly trying to counter. And if Iran is able to have nuclear-tipped missiles pointing at Berlin, Paris and London, it would not even have to use them. The threat would be enough.
The responsibility for disastrous results from any negotiations will lie at the feet of the P5 + 1 (the five permanent member of the UN Security Council plus Iran) in general, and U.S. President Barack Obama in particular. Another nail in the coffin of his totally failed foreign-policy legacy, starting with his embarrassing "reset" button with Vladimir Putin, a former member of the Soviet Union's secret police (the KGB), then his even more embarrassing promise of "more flexibility" with Medvedev.
Taheri: Do you think that the sanctions are effective against the Iranian regime, and will they help improve the human rights situation in Iran? Or are they just hurting the people?
Assadollahi: The Iranian regime together with its lobbyists and apologists, such as the National Iranian American Council [NIAC] in the U.S., continue their attempts to influence the Obama Administration to relieve sanctions and permit concessions to allow Iran to acquire its nuclear capability. Negotiations keep being delayed, foiled and extended by Iran, no doubt to run out the clock while it finishes acquiring nuclear capability. Concessions -- including billions of dollars in sanctions relief -- keep being given by the P5 + 1, for what?
To Iran's supreme leader, Seyed Ali Khamenei, this burlesque just makes Obama and his administration look weaker by the day. And each concession only reinforces that perception.
Even more disturbing is that many people inside Iran have alerted the U.S. Administration for over three years about more — other -- industrial facilities secretly being built in Iran; these have not been declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
So far, all the intelligence provided from within Iran has been willfully ignored by the Obama Administration. At this point, it is not possible to believe that this information is being ignored out of ignorance. That leaves the West's motivation about being so accommodating to Iran pointing to one conclusion: the successful influence of Iran's pro-nuclear lobbyists, whatever that might have entailed, combined with commercial interests exerted by individuals or companies already counting the millions they will gain from doing business with Iran.
Iran's human rights atrocities are being fanatically ignored by the Obama administration in favor of sitting down at the negotiating table with those who are causing them. The U.S. does not seem to realize, as the former Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky said, that a country that does not treat its own citizens well will probably not treat is neighbors well, either.
On November 5, 2014, Kerry stated that, "It's easy to prove to the world Iran's nuclear plan is peaceful." No, Iran's nuclear plan is not peaceful. You do not need centrifuges and enriched uranium for peaceful nuclear energy. This is another of the Obama Administration's lies, from "You can keep your doctor, healthcare plan, it will cost less, not a smidgen of corruption;" the Benghazi movie, the IRS, and now his apparent bid to control the internet through the FCC. If you want the government to control your internet, you can move to China.
The regime of Iran needs to know that the international community is serious and Iran's human rights abuses will not go unnoticed. But clearly the P5+1 are not serious. They eliminated the only non-military means of inducing the Iranian regime honor its international obligations: they lifted the sanctions.
As the Honorable John Baird, Canada's minister of Foreign Affairs stated,
"All who have long despaired about the Iranian regime, want to believe that Iran is genuinely committed to positive change. But we do not have the luxury of being naive, nor do the Iranian people, who have suffered for far too long under the regime's nuclear ambitions. Human rights, particularly executions, are actually getting worse under his watch and at the hands of Iran's so-called Minister of Murder. Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action, nor are they an effective mask to disguise the old hatred. That's why I'm deeply skeptical about Iran's intentions. Until we are given real reasons to trust their words, Canadian sanctions will remain in full force. I believe there remains a strategic problem with the very nature and conduct of this belligerent regime—a regime that oppresses with terror at home and sponsors it abroad. And until the Supreme Leader's words and actions produce the human rights that the Iranian people deserve, or until he ceases his sponsorship of terrorism abroad in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, Canada will remain skeptical of the regime's intentions."
Taheri: What is your perspective on future U.S. negotiations with Iran and on human rights, as a result of the recent election victory by the Republicans, who now hold the majority of seats in both the House and Senate?
Assadollahi: I am a Canadian citizen and live in Canada, but I closely follow the U.S. policy in Iran and the Middle East. But in the U.S., Republicans and the Iranian-American community have been extremely helpful in bringing Iran's horrific human rights record to the forefront. Senators Mark Kirk and Marco Rubio introduced Iran Human Rights Accountability Act of 2014, not only to crack down on Iranian human rights abusers including Khamenei and President Rouhani, but also to support the Iranian people's hopes one day to have a democracy.
What does the P5+1's desperation to get a nuclear deal "at all costs" say to the modern-day Iranians rotting in Evin prison? Or to the young social-media generation who took to the streets in 2009 after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election? President Obama left these Iranians questioning — apparently correctly — the United States of America's commitment to their cause.
Taheri: Finally, how do you foresee the future prognosis for improved human rights in Iran?
Assadollahi: The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to arrest journalists, members of student organizations and labor unions, lawyers defending dissidents, members of minority faiths and cultural groups, and civil rights activists. Iran ranks second only to China in number of executions. In the execution of juveniles, it leads the world. Gender discrimination continues to deny women educational, legal and professional opportunities. Public events, such as sports matches, remain segregated.
The permanent and peaceful solution to this crisis is something that only Iran's democrats -- now being silently murdered in the Iran's prisons -- along with the help of the free world, can change. We just saw in the U.S. how tired they are of being lied to by government operatives who call them "stupid." Together, they can and will bring human rights back as a crucial value. When human rights are denied in one place, they can soon be denied every place.
Shabnam Assadollahi is a Canadian expert on human rights, who has worked extensively helping newcomers and refugees resettle in Canada, and has distinguished herself as a broadcaster, writer and public speaker. While her primary interest focuses on the Iranian community and world events effecting women and minority communities in the land of her birth – she also advocates for the emancipation of women and minority religious communities worldwide. A resident of Ottawa, she is active in community affairs including cultural, educational and humanitarian activities.
Kaveh Taheri is a journalist specializing in human rights.
 Qanon-e Ta'zir (Discretionary Punishment Law). Ta'zir laws dealt not only with criminal law but this law gave judges the authority to execute and imprison those found guilty of crimes such as "declaring war on God" (equivalent to treason/terrorism) and "plotting with foreign powers." It also gave them the power to sentence as many as 74 lashes to those who "insult government officials," "convene unlawful meetings," sell alcoholic beverages, fix prices, hoard goods, kiss illicitly, fail to wear the proper hijab, and 'lie to the authorities."
Qanon-e Qisas (Retribution Law) This law codified other aspects of the sharia. It subdivided crimes into hadd - those against God - and those against fellow beings, especially other families. Some punishments are mandatory; others, discretionary. "Based on the notion of lex talionis, the Qisas Law calls for 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life', unless the victim or his/her family forgive the perpetrator, and/or accept compensation for the death/injury (blood money). In 1991-1994, Iran combined all of these laws into the unified "Islamic Penal Code".
 India and China Ignore US Sanctions Against Iran; Iran; USA Secret Talks Nuclear Deal Talks; Iranian Nuke Deal an Islamist Victory; Iran's State Media Agency, Iran's State media agency Press TV Reports that France BNP Paribas accused by US of ignoring Iran Sanctions
 September 20, 2014
 The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky.
 May 2014.