Independent, ۱۹ February 2005
Condoleezza Rice has given assurances that a military attack by the United States on Iran “is simply not on the agenda at this point”.
But notwithstanding Rice’s disavowal, recent statements by the Bush administration, starting with President Bush’s State of the Union address and Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments about a possible Israeli military attack on Iran, are reminiscent of the rhetoric in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
And Rice herself made clear that “the Iranian regime’s human rights behaviour and its behaviour toward its own population is something to be loathed.”
American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of promoting human rights. No one would deny the importance of that goal. But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause.
The situation for human rights in Iran is far from ideal. Security forces harass, imprison and even torture human rights defenders and civil society activists. The authorities attack journalists and writers for expressing their opinions and regularly shut down newspapers. Political prisoners languish in jails. Superfluous judicial summonses are routinely used to intimidate critics, and arbitrary detentions are common.
But Iranian society has refused to be coerced into silence. The human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level; civil society activists consider it to be the most potent framework for achieving sustainable democratic reforms and political pluralism. Indeed, readers might be surprised to know how vigorous Iran’s human rights organisations are. Last autumn, when security forces unlawfully detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent Iranian organisations like the Centre for Defence of Human Rights, the Association of Journalists for Freedom of Press, and the Students Association for Human Rights campaigned for their release.
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