In June 2013, Iranians elected moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who introduced a new Citizens’ Rights Charter. But citizens’ rights groups did not receive it with enthusiasm.
This video series on citizens’ rights in Iran explores through interviews with experts and witnesses the ways in which Iran has protected or breached those rights since it signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1968.
The final episode looks at Iran’s 2013 presidential election, President Rouhani’s introduction of his Citizens’ Rights Charter, and the state of citizens’ rights in Iran today.
Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, a former adviser to Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, says Iranian authorities were unable to engineer the 2013 presidential election as they had wished, and that Hassan Rouhani won by popular support. This was an important step in realizing Iranians’ right to free elections. While various branches of the Iranian state continue to violate citizens’ rights, he says, the executive branch under Rouhani does not participate in such violations to the same extent as the previous government under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even so, Amir Arjomand says, it is Rouhani’s duty to uphold Iran’s constitution, and he should reveal any obstacles he encounters in doing so.
Ali-Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, a reformist in Iran’s Sixth Parliament and a former political prisoner, says researchers, academics, and students have continued their struggle for citizens’ rights despite such obstacles as the impeachment of Iran’s reform-minded minister of higher education, Reza Farajidana, in 2005. He also predicts that the Ministry of Culture’s new censorship policy, which concentrates on a work's content and not its author, will permit partial publication of some previously banned books. He suspends judgment of the Rouhani administration and says reformists should continue to press their demands.
Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, says that the legislation Rouhani has so far presented to parliament in the name of civil rights is simply a political gesture. The Iranian government, she says, is a signatory to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and should, therefore, fulfill its international obligations.
Abdolkarim Lahidji, lawyer and President of the International Federation for Human Rights, argues that thanks to efforts made both inside about outside Iran, and to a revolution in information technology, people in Iran are aware of their own civil and human rights. Lahidji says that protestors’ “Where is My Vote” slogan in 2009 demonstrated that awareness. In coming years, he says, Iranians’ civil and legal demands will increase, and no regime can ignore such demands forever.
Hedayat Matin Daftari, a lawyer and the grandson of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, argues that under Iran’s current constitution, no change will ever be possible. Any kind of charter or declaration on citizens’ rights, even if issued with honest motives and good intentions, will not remedy the situation of human rights in Iran. Iran’s leaders, he says, believe human rights contradict Islamic laws. He argues that Iran needs constitutional changes, which cannot be achieved without the consent of the supreme leader. Therefore, the Iranian people remain in limbo.
Farrokh Negahdar, a leftist political activist and a former member of the Organization of Iranian People's Fadaian, says Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter is an act of acknowledgment. Rouhani, he says, is demonstrating that he has heard the demands Iranians have tried to convey to the government. Rouhani has responded that he will “try” to fulfill those demands. As an example of Rouhani’s efforts, Negahdar cites Rouhani’s reaction to news that a radical fundamentalist group called Ansar-e Hezbollah intended to parade on the streets and enforce Islamic dress laws. Rouhani responded that this was illegal and would be stopped.
Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher and former political prisoner, says that the Islamic Republic manipulates public morale and uses points of public controversy to distract the population from questions of freedom or social reform. The Islamic Republic, he says, tries to focus public attention on imaginary foes, such as Green Movement protestors, journalists, intellectuals, feminists, and foreign powers. Although Iran has imprisoned and tortured such people as enemies of the state, he says, many of them still serve their country with generosity.
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