Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Maintaining Freedom under Pressure, The Biggest Challenge for the States

This piece focuses upon the effect of economic, political and other sorts of pressures on violation of human rights in a country and particularly discusses the situation of freedom in the west and Iran. The extent of pressure on Iran will be noted and the veracity of Western nations’ claims of defending human rights in the world will be evaluated.

I start with one question and then begin my analysis. Is freedom situation in Iran worse than the situation of freedom in the west? Here is an introduction to my formula of analyzing a country’s freedom conditions. In this formula we examine these two factors:

1: how much pressure the country is (or feels to be) under. It includes economic, political, military and many more pressures.

2: the country’s ideology and the government’s perception of the world affairs. Being Liberal, Communist or Islamist can affect how governors tackle with different circumstances. It`s important to know how does a government think about freedom of speech, is it an intrinsic or extrinsic value for them?

we will see that the extent of pressure on a state is in direct relation with its maintenance of freedom of speech and etc.

First: the state of freedom in Iran

I agree that the situation of freedom in Iran is awful. Websites blockade, widespread censorship and insufficient freedom of speech are only the tip of the iceberg. The controversial presidential election which followed by massive protests and even left some dead is the most recent evidence of violation of human rights in the country. Actually there are few people in our society who do not associate Iran with restriction of freedom. I don’t want to question this assumption in this piece because it takes more than one article to unpick prejudices regarding Iran.

Second: The extent of pressures on Iran

In these thirty years (more and less) Iran has been under strong economic and political pressure which was mostly imposed unfairly. They may sometimes have deserved it but there were also many times which we deprived them from basic rights with no legitimate reason.

Political pressure:

As I have mentioned in my other articles, when it comes to Iran, everything becomes controversial. The well-known US embassy seizure is one of them. The incident had a major role in imposing economic sanctions on Iran. Although It is quite unacceptable to seize an embassy which is a territory of a nation (although it’s becoming more normal as we see the reenactment of Israel embassy seizure in Egypt) but Iranians claim that the embassy was a spying center and that US was trying to overthrow the then young revolution through a coup d’état.

the US had overthrown the earliest middle-east’s democracy (Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh) long before the Islamic revolution in Iran and made every effort to help the Shah of Iran to remain in power while the absolute majority of Iranians were supporting Ayatollah Khomeini against Pahlavi dynasty. If seizing US embassy is seizing the territory of America, Americans had seized the opportunity of having the first regional democracy from Iranian long before the hostage crisis.

After the revolution the US tried to hijack the revolution by orchestrating another coup but failed. Americans had buttress support of Saddam Hussein against Iran in The eight year war which left Iranians with thousands of martyrs (as they call it) and lots of damages to their economy. This full support of Iraqi dictator added another reason for a distrust which has been lingered to this point.

The most recent example of political pressure on Iran is the baseless accusation of Saudi Arabia Ambassador’s assassination plot which no international court has confirmed its relation to Iran (yet) nevertheless has been easily pinned on Iranian by our media and it may stick in our mind until we accidentally bump into the authentic sources to realize there is no strong proof attached to the allegation.

It seems impossible to me to portray a comprehensive image of the extend of political pressure on Iran in these thirty years (in this piece) which was mainly imposed on Iranians because they sought their independency from big powers in the west and east.

Economic pressure:

Following the US embassy seizure by Iranian students, The United States responded by freezing about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold and other properties. The effects of sanctions in Iran are immeasurable but to give it a try we can start with expensive basic goods and an aging and increasingly unsafe aircraft fleet. “According to reports from Iranian news agencies, 17 planes have crashed over the past 25 years, killing approximately 1,500 people.” This is itself sufficient to understand the pressure but you may want to surf the Web to get more information on the issue.

It may worth mentioning that the European Union has been critical of most of the U.S. trade sanctions against Iran and Some EU Member States have criticized ILSA as a “double standard” in U.S. foreign policy, in which the United States vigorously worked against the Arab League boycott of Israel while at the same time promoted a worldwide boycott of Iran.

It seemed strange to some commentators that the US government was angry with the first democracy in the region but as time went on they became convinced that Americans had no interest in supporting democracy in Muslim majority countries where people see the biggest ally of Americans in the region as the biggest enemy of Islam. If it wasn’t for dictators, American governments haven’t been able to maintain the security of the only Zionists state in the world until now.

Military pressure:

US had a great role in the eight year war against Iran which caused fundamental damages to the young revolution. they have killed Iranian civilians like as Iran Air Flight 655 incident (which left all 290 passengers dead, 66 of them children and the perpetrator rewarded later for “act of heroism”) and attacked Iran’s neighbors which is interpreted as a security threat to the country and they have trained, armed and supported terrorist groups like as Jundallah and MKO to kill Iranian civilians (the laundry list goes on).

Misunderstanding over Iranians

There is a trend in our media which aims to demonize Iranian Governments and tends to portray them as it would be impossible to associate them with any positive feature. Violation of Women and minority rights, practicing Sharia Law and inadequate freedom of speech in Iran are the oft-repeated news in our media, but we failed to understand the situation in Iran because we didn’t pay attention to the people`s will and culture.

Actually the overwhelming majority in Iran has accepted the sharia law to be practiced in their country. If people want to put Sharia laws in action who has the right to oppose them? We can just show them our path and respect their response. It’s funny though that we are demonstrating the value of our ideas by waging wars in the region, launching missiles and targeting civilians by drone attacks and yet we expect them to follow our ideal ideas!!

Blood-money for women was half of that for men in Iranians’ interpretation of Sharia Law (before 2003) and women themselves had voted in favor of Sharia yet we compare them with our culture and thus misinterpret the situation in Iran. There is a whole range of other examples which we misjudged Iranians. in the following pictures you can see the rally in support of Iranian regime which has been held annually since the revolution throughout the country from north to south and east to west. the population which gathers every year is estimated to be more than 10 millions (only 5 millions in Tehran).

So, until now we understood that Iranians have been under great economic and political pressures and their culture is different to ours and what seems limitation to us might be freedom in their eyes.

Tehran 22 Bahman (11 February 2010 ) Rally :

Third: The extent of pressure on Europe and the US:

When Iranian protesters went to the street of Tehran and were repressed by riot police and vigilantes we didn’t hesitate to criticize Iranian governments for violation of human rights. We didn’t think it may happen for us one year later and challenge our claims as protectors of human values. It seems double-standard to Iranians to see that they were being criticized harshly in western media for what westerners are far worse (in their eyes) and yet their media take silent fasting when it comes to Europe or the US. We are witnessing repression of protesters, massive arrest and more shockingly we see people get killed and tortured by police and yet few media are covering the news. Twitter and Facebook ban was what we lashed out Iranian for and now it is being justified by our politicians effortlessly.

One dead protester was enough for us to question the legitimacy of Iranian government and we didn’t miss the opportunity to exaggerate about their reaction to their people. I have lots of examples for this double-standard toward Iran but I think it needs another piece to cover all of them so I think one example would be enough here. I want to compare British government reaction to Tehran’s and London’s unrest.

The left ones are Britain and the right ones are Tehran.

   

Tehran municipality spokesman said (two years ago) that the recent unrest in Tehran caused over four million dollars of damage to premises and vehicles of the city. It includes burning buses, cars and many more. This report excludes burned banks and shops which I couldn’t find its related sources on the internet.

Now this is what David Cameron thinks of Iran’s presidential election:

David Cameron, who addressed the assembly shortly after Mr. Ahmadinejad, said: “He didn’t remind us that he runs a country where they may have elections of a sort but they also repress freedom of speech, do everything they can to avoid the accountability of a free media, violently prevent demonstrations and detain and torture those who argue for a better future.”

It’s striking how he condemns Iran for similarly what happened in Britain Unrest in which he said:

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organized via social media,” Cameron said. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.”

It’s clear that in his idea, what happened in Iran (banning twitter) was “repressing freedom of speech” while the same measures by Britain government to ban social media is preemptive and justifiable.

He (David Cameron) continued: “We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

in this piece (Google, a case for internet regulation) Myriam Francois (an Oxford PhD student and my favorite writer) points out that Google had received six requests from the British government and police to remove 135 videos for “national security” reasons. she voices concerns over how increasingly the government (of UK) wants to know what British internet users are browsing. in the report which she is referring to Google revealed how UK outpaced other countries in terms of requesting disclosure of user-data and removal of items and contents from the internet.

Here is a short list of what we condemned in Iran and happens here concurrently. The link that follows each one is an example of what we saw recently in West.

1- Repressing protesters

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/sep/25/occupywallstreet-occupy-wall-street-protests

http://www.publicintelligence.net/the-business-of-supressing-protests/

2- Blocking Websites and Media’s censorship

http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/governmentrequests/map/

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-08-11/tech/london.riots.social.media_1_social-media-facebook-and-twitter-blackberrys?_s=PM:TECH

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kEeB9peED8

http://wakeupfromyourslumber.com/blog/heydrich/british-govt-seeks-ban-presstv

http://gigaom.com/2011/10/27/looks-like-congress-has-declared-war-on-the-internet

3- Arresting, Killing and torturing civilians

www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/world/europe/06greece.html

http://wsws.org/articles/2011/oct2011/wall-o28.shtml

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14668770

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/26/americas-barely-tamed-brutality

And there are many more examples, you just have to Google “crack down on wall street protesters, UK police brutality or Greece protesters being killed” and find out more.

So as time goes on and Western states feel more pressured under economic recession we see more similarities between Iran and us (in the west). It seems natural now if we hear that protesters got killed in the UK, US or Greece and the only difference between us and Iran is the Media tool which we use to suppress people’s voice and to hijack their movements.

We are criticizing Iran for censorship of ideas and yet nobody dares questioning Holocaust here. We are criticizing them for helping terrorists groups like Hezbollah and yet we are the biggest supporters of Israel. So, what do we criticize Iran for that we haven’t done worse?

The truth is that we have a question in politics which aside from media sensationalism and slogans has been remained unanswered and that is “How can we tackle with unrests and revolts without violating human rights?”

The second factor which was about ideology’s role in promoting freedom will be discussed in the next piece in the future. It’d be very kind of you to let me know your views on this piece. Thanks