Voice of America




The United Nations Human Rights Commission's recent resolution on Iran should be applauded. It continues the mandate of the U-N's special representative for Iran. That will help to keep the focus on Iran's serious human rights situation.

Notwithstanding the more moderate rhetoric lately emanating from Tehran, the Iranian government continues to deny citizens their most basic rights. The U-N commission rightly expressed particular concern over the widespread use of torture in Iran and such punishments as stoning and public execution. It also called attention to Iran's religious intolerance. That intolerance is especially harsh in regard to Iran's three-hundred thousand Baha'is.

In the past, Baha'is have been executed for their faith. And several imprisoned Baha'is are still threatened with execution. Iranian officials also harass or repress Christians, Zoroastrians, Sunni Muslims and Jews. Even Shi'ite Muslims who disagree with the Shi'ite clerical regime are not safe from persecution. A special court for Iranian clergy recently sentenced theologian Mohsen Kadivar to eighteen months in prison. Mr. Kadivar, a Shi'ite Muslim cleric and university professor, had criticized government policies and urged reforms.

Two years ago, Iranians elected Mohammad Khatami president. The choice was an unmistakable signal that the majority of Iranians want their government to uphold the rule of law and allow them greater freedom. Since taking office, President Khatami has taken steps to permit more freedom of expression. But others opposed to this have countered with arbitrary arrests, the closure of reform-oriented publications, and the murder of several dissident writers. The jailing of theologian Mohsen Kadivar is yet another attempt to silence the voices of dissent in Iran.

In recent years, the Iranian government has shown an increased interest in improving relations with other countries. But until Iran begins to show more respect for human rights, it is hard to see how much progress can be made. As the recent vote by the U-N Human Rights Commission makes clear, Iran's human rights record needs much improvement.

©Copyright 1999, The Voice of America

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