It is not the Iranian nation's fault is Sunnis cannot have a mosque in Tehran, if the Bahai minority are persecuted and if members of the Dervish community cannot worship God in their own spiritual, ceremonial, way. If a Sunni mosque in the holy city of Mashhad is razed to ground level overnight, Dervish temples also turn to debris in the holy city of Qom.
Political activists, regardless of their religion, anywhere in Iran are subject to arrest and harassment. Human rights in Iran can be violated, it depends on the particular judge presiding over the case.
Mistreatment by the Iranian judiciary does not only target ethnic or religious groups; recently, an appeals court upheld the sentence of sociologist and human rights activist Saeed Madani, in a move that stunned the whole nation.
Madani has been sentenced to a six-year imprisonment (two years in Evin prison in Tehran, and four years in exile in the Bandar Abbas prison, as well as to 10-year exile in Bandar Abbas, 1,500 km away from Tehran - his hometown).
Interestingly, exile in prison does not exist in Iranian law but it is frequently exercised by Iranian judges to punish the prisoner's families by making it problematic to visit their loved ones.
The punishments for challenging the ruling system in Iran don’t differentiate between Sunnis and Shiites. When it comes to social and political activities, the judicial system's fairness is always under question. This can play a major role in a person’s destiny.
Execution in Iran
According to the U.N., Iran takes second place, after China, as one of the world' stop executioners.
In 2013, 624 people in Iran were executed without having first been through the proper judicial process. According to the U.N., this year has already seen 80 executions in Iran. It is a chilling number, especially since many have not had lawyers or fair trials.
The Insurgent group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took credit for kidnapping five Iranian border guards almost month ago, The group, which operates between the border of Iran and Pakistan, claims to be defending the rights of Iran's Baloch community, who have long been economically deprived for being Sunni and condemned Iran for supporting the Syrian government.
While the public is sympathized with the people, whose rights have been violated, they condemned the kidnapping of border guards.
Two weeks ago, a prominent tribe in Iran- the Bakhtiari- protested over a TV series- Ancient Nation. Bakhtiti people, who mainly live in the southwest part of Iran, claimed to be insulted by the series and demanded an apology and its suspension. A Bakhtiari family in the series is depicted as corrupt, nouveau riche and associated with the monarchy. A huge crowd in Ahvaz, capital of the oil-rich Khuzestan province, gathered in front of the governor’s office demanding an apology from the state broadcasting company. Other protests have been reported in neighboring provinces. Social media in Iran responded to the Bakhtiari’s demands and the nation sympathized with their claim. The series was suspended and the national TV executive made a public apology. While the Bakhtiari’s case was somehow solved by public outcry for apology, his can the case of the frequently kidnapped soldiers be dealt with?
The U.S. State Department reported Thursday that an increasing number of governments were suppressing political opponents and restricting freedom of assembly. In Iran, there has been no measurable improvement in the bleak human rights situation since Hassan Rowhani became president in August, the State Department said. The report noted that there had been little progress on human rights under Rowhani.
“There have been some steps, as the release of some political prisoners last fall, but over all I would say the situation remains poor,” said Ms. Uzra Zeya, the senior State Department official who supervised the preparation of the report. She added that among other abuses, the report detailed “allegations of torture, political imprisonment, executions in the absence of due process, which have gone up under this government, harassment of ethnic and religious minorities.”
While there is a hope that Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) may strike a final deal over Iran's nuclear program in the summer, we should keep an eye on President Rowhani's attempts to improve human rights in the meantime.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard