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After nuclear talks, will Mousavi and Karroubi get a chance to talk?

It is not only the nuclear issue that will improve Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, they must work on improving their human rights situation too

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

For much of the world, Feb. 14 is a day to celebrate love, but in our region two incidents makes this day a little different. Rafiq Hariri, the popular prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in 2005 and three years ago, two of Iran’s former presidential candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, were placed under house arrest.

In Lebanon, the public paid tribute and marked Hariri’s death with love. However, in Iran, the house arrest of both leaders as well as Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, cannot be publicly discussed or questioned.

On Feb. 14, the U.S. State Department issued a call to release the three political figures who have been under house arrest since 2011 without having any formal charges levied against them.

The three were placed under house arrest in response to their calls of support for the Arab Spring uprisings. Earlier on Feb. 14, Amnesty International also called on Iranian authorities to “immediately end the arbitrary detention” of the opposition figures.

Interfering in Iranian affairs

In response, Masoumeh Afkhami, spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, said the U.S. was interfering in Iranian affairs. Another reaction came from Iran’s head of parliament, Ali Larijani, who said that such matters have to be discussed and reviewed by Iran’s National Security Council. “The government has the authority to take the right decision,” Larijani said.

Afkhami further criticized human rights in the U.S. and its treatment of Afghan civilians and the total support that has been given to the Israelis despite their poor treatments of Palestinians.

It seems that remembrance of both Mousavi and Karroubi is now practiced exclusively by intellectuals and political activists. Why has the public been silent for three years?

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Of course, we can find human rights abuses all over the world and in many Muslim countries but how can Iran justify the inhuman act against the elderly Karroubi and Mousavi?


Meanwhile, in Lebanon

While in Lebanon people marked the death of Hariri with flowers and visits to his tomb, Iranians did nothing to protest or pay respect to Mousavi or Karroubi. It seems that remembrance of both Mousavi and Karroubi is now practiced exclusively by intellectuals and political activists. Why has the public been silent for three years? Why did they stop demanding the release of these prisoners?

Could it be the high cost of living and all the daily difficulties that have made people forget about the two political figures? Or perhaps the regimes’ brutal confrontation with protesters in 2009 has led to them being quiet?

Iranian people may no longer care for the green movement led by these two figures, but for sure no one likes seeing three citizens being held under house arrest for three years without charges just because some of the hardliners dislike them. If these high profile figures can be threatened so unfairly, what could happen to the average unknown sympathizer?

Ayatollah Hassan Ali Montazeri

Arguably, the most famous person in Iran to serve house arrest was Ayatollah Hassan Ali Montazeri, a senior cleric who was placed under house arrest for six years. In 1997, after openly criticizing the authority of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Montazeri was placed under house arrest under the pretext of protecting him from hardliners. He was finally freed from house arrest in 2003 after “more than 100 Iranian legislators” called on President Khatami to free Montazeri. Some thought that the government lifted the house arrest to avoid the possibility of a popular backlash if the ailing Montazeri died while in custody.

On Dec. 19, at the age of 87, Ayatollah Montazeri died. Hundreds of thousands of mourners and supporters from across Iran turned up at his funeral and turned it into a massive protest against the regime.

It is not only the nuclear issue that will improve Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, they must work on improving their human rights situation too. Human rights, democracy and civil rights are as important as the other issues and now all eyes are on President Hassan Rowhani to see what he will do with the case of Karroubi and Mousavi and other political prisoners once he has finished with the nuclear talks.

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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

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.