Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Human Rights Abuses in Iran are Severe

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Rooz Online English /

Joe Stork is deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1996, Mr. Stork co-founded the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP) and served as chief editor of Middle East Report. Rooz had talked with Joe Stork about the current situation of human rights in Iran.

Fariba Amini (Amini): Having been in this position for a number of years, how do you assess the current human rights situation in Iran?

Joe Stork (Stork):
I think the situation is terrible. Looking back, the state of human rights in Iran has been a problem for many years, a real crisis, even dating back to the Shah’s time. But I think the situation today is particularly bad because we are seeing the level of confrontation between the state, the government, and the very large sectors of population; it is quite severe. So I would say the scale of arbitrary arrests, though not unprecedented, is certainly bad. I don’t think we have seen certain phenomenon, such as show trials and so forth, stand out. They are similar to the 1980s when show trials were pretty common in the Islamic republic. The fact that we are seeing it again is very worrying.

Amini: Why do you think the regime is using such violent tactics? It seems to me the tactics are similar those used in the early days of the Islamic Republic. Then there were systematic mass executions and now the torture and killings seem somewhat random.

Stork: Well we can’t and should not compare the two periods. If you look at the different periods, (and I have worked for HR Watch since 1996, more or less coinciding with Mohammad Khatami's presidency) the situation today is very serious, the worst it has been. There have not been mass executions; there have been a number of unexplained deaths of demonstrators in the streets, as well as people who have been in custody and unaccounted for. We are probably talking about several dozen in total, as compared to hundreds in the 1980s, so I am not sure whether it is correct to make the comparison. In terms of killings, yes, it was a lot of worse, but that is no comfort today when you have this severe oppression going on and you have people challenging the regime, unlike 20 years ago. Iranians are challenging the abuses on a massive scale. (Read more...)