UK Foreign Policy Centre challenges Iran on human rights

30 November 2008

LONDON — The Foreign Policy Centre, a leading foreign affairs think tank in Britain, has published a new report on Iran titled “A Revolution Without Rights: Women, Kurds and Baha’is Searching for Equality in Iran.”

The report concludes that, although the world is focusing on Iran’s nuclear issue, the rights of women and minorities must not be overlooked.

Published as a pamphlet, the report was presented at a public program at the Houses of Parliament on 25 November, coinciding with United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The document evaluates the Iranian government’s compliance with its own constitution and looks at how the country’s treatment of women and minorities measures up to the international agreements it has signed.

UK Foreign Office Minister Lord Mark Malloch-Brown wrote the preface, describing the report as an “important contribution to the debate, and an important part of ensuring that improving Iran’s human rights record stays firmly on the agenda worldwide.”

“Iran consistently fails to meet the international commitments that it is signed up to,” he wrote. “It ignores its own laws and terms of its own constitution such as arbitrary arrest and the denial of due process. And it is increasingly – and worryingly – using vague, national security-related charges such as ‘acting against state security’ and ‘propaganda against the system’ against individuals who are exercising their right to peaceful protest.”

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The Foreign Policy Centre report challenges Iran to fulfill its obligations under international law and its own constitution, said Centre Director Stephen Twigg.

The launch of the report was held at Portcullis House in the House of Commons. Among those who addressed the audience were Member of Parliament Mike Gapes, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee; Baroness Haleh Afshar, professor of politics and women’s studies at the University of York; Iranian human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam; Drewery Dyke of Amnesty International; and Kaveh Mussavi, head of Public Interest Law, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford.

Highlighting particularly the ongoing persecution faced by the Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, Baroness Afshar said, “The treatment of the Baha’is is appalling, unacceptable and – in every way – not only against accepted human rights regulations but the ancient traditions of Iran, a culture that has always been characterized by tolerance.”

The presentation was chaired by former government minister Stephen Twigg, now director of the Foreign Policy Centre.

“This report challenges Iran to fulfill its obligations to its own citizens under international law and its constitution,” said Mr. Twigg. “We must support the tireless work of Iranian human rights activists working to bring change in their own country and make sure their struggle is not overlooked as the international community focuses on the nuclear issue.”

“International pressure really does make a difference in human rights cases,” said Ms. Afshin-Jam, who is president of the Stop Child Executions Campaign.