Night Letters

A Blog Written By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

International Community and Human Rights in Iran

How can the international community further contribute to the realization of Human Rights in Iran?

Various people have presented me with this question over the past few months and I know that it is a one of the questions from today’s audience as well. I will therefore take advantage of this opportunity to initiate a discussion with you regarding the answers to this question. As you know, the realization of Human Rights on any corner of our humble earth requires a number of essential elements:

1. Acceptance of HR as a universal principle

2. Expanding and strengthening a Human Rights centered culture.

3. Establishing and strengthening human rights monitoring organizations not affiliated with the government.

4. The presence of a diverse spectrum of citizens who both in their core beliefs and in their actions, as well as citizens who through their obligation are committed to the realization of Human Rights.

Bearing in mind our limited time today; I will address each one of these essential elements.

1. HR as a universal principle: This important element has not been sufficiently addressed, lending it to the potential for misuse and mischaracterization. Imagine that every government on Earth would say we have our own special human rights. One claims an Islamic Human Rights, the other a European HR, and yet others African HR or American HR. As a result, for example, an Islamic country can refuse to enforce HR on the grounds that it contradicts Islamic HR. Or the European nations could refuse to enact HR on the grounds that it is American HR, etc… Will there be anything left of HR as a principle that is accepted by all countries? If we want HR to succeed, then we must make it a priority to prevent the erosion of the universality of HR. We must stand firm against interpretations that aim to undermine and fracture the universality priniciple. (though some Islamic countries are not even loyal to their own version of Islamic HR, which they themselves have long advocated. For those of you who would like to know more about this, I refer you to the reports of the Commission on Islamic HR in Iran).

2. Human Rights centered culture: We can only fulfill the promise of HR when we have a culture built upon HR principles. We can only achieve this goal when we interpret our traditions and culture within a framework with HR as our core principles; and we must marginalize any cultural tradition that takes us away from those principles. A HR centered culture will lead to a HR centered society and ultimately, to a government reflects the will of that society.

3. Non-Governmental HR Monitoring organizations: One actor in any HR dialogue is always the government. It is the government that must be sought after to fulfill its HR obligations and the government that resists these calls. Calling on a government to implement HR requires the presence of various monitoring organizations unaffiliated with the government. Only truly independent organizations can hold governments responsible. The most effective way to hold the government accountable is a public campaign orchestrated through these monitoring organizations. A group of like-minded and committed citizens working through these organizations will be far more influential than individual voices. These organizations should be supported, though supporting them does not mean allocating funds for this purpose. It is enough to look at the result of this funding coming from the governments of the USA and the Netherlands in the past year and a half. Have these funds brought anything but headache for activists within the country [ie. Iran]? As we speak, many of my activist friends and colleagues within Iran, men and women from the journalistic community, suffer under the blade of ongoing prosecution from a government accusing them of using these funds.

4. The presence of a diverse spectrum of citizens committed to Human Rights as well as those obliged to pursue its implementation. The implementation of human rights requires the presence of active committed citizens, just as a functioning democracy requires citizens committed to democratic ideals. This continuous effort of implementing HR requires people who are true believers of HR principles and incorporate them into their actions. As well as people who may find HR in contrast to their own beliefs, but are committed through their obligation to protect and respect it. Now that we have covered these four elements, we come to the heart of the topic for today. What is the role of the international community in this process? The biggest atrocity against HR comes from three sectors. First: nations who are ignorant of HR. Second: nations who are ignorant of HR. Third: the governments who are violating HR. Since the international community is comprised of both governments and nations, all, without exception (both governments who are advocating HR and nations who are demanding these rights from their governments) bear a heavy responsibility.

In light of this discussion, the international community can contribute to promotion of human rights in Iran in the following ways:

• The international community should not allow HR to cease to be universal.

• In Practice, the International Community must prioritize promoting HR in various cultures.

• The International Community must maintain the independence of international HR monitoring organizations. The international community must be sensitive to and show a serious reaction towards, any violation of HR, without any exception due to geography, or superpower status. These sensitivities should make no distinction between Iran and Israel….Iraq or Darfur. The greatest services to the countries that are violating HR are excuses like Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo. Although, all active parties and governments should know that the violation of HR in one country does not provide license to violate these rights in another.

• If the International Community is serious about HR, it must not enter into any political, economic relationship, with out taking into consideration the HR track record of the country in question. When challenged on this front, some governments note the quantity of their statements condemning HR conditions in a violating country. Is there any value to these statements when at the same time lucrative commercial agreements between both sides? Recent history shows that the answer is negative.

Although it is unfortunate that in today’s world, HR is misused for political gains, we must focus on injecting more humanism into its discourse. Because the Universal Declaration of HR is a humanist document, not a political one.

I am sorry to state that many of us wait for victims of HR abuses to arrive on the scene before we raise our voices, and even then there are discriminations on whose behalf we advocate.

In conclusion, if a nation can reach consensus on human rights as its humanistic principles, to know their rights and to demand them, then no government can ignore these demands, no matter how much it may resort to violent means of repression and imprisonment.

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

March 26, 2007

Princton University NJ

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2007 by in Lectures.

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