On October 31, 2014, the members of the Iranian delegation took their seats in the Human Rights Council Chambers at the United Nations in Geneva, facing the representatives of many nations and members of various NGOs to respond to the UN Periodical Review, which had made recommendations to improve human rights in that country. Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights and advisor to the chief of the judiciary on international affairs, who was leading Iran's delegation, read from a text that claimed Iran was, more or less, the garden of Eden. He claimed that in his country, there were no political prisoners, no torture, no arbitrary trials, and no disregard for women’s rights and religious minorities. It was as if the Iran he spoke about was another Iran in another galaxy; it was certainly not the Iran that I was born and grew up in and spent two years as a teenage political prisoner. Iran has the highest number of executions per capita in the world, where torture is commonplace, and even juvenile offenders are put to death.
"It was as if the Iran he spoke about was another Iran in another galaxy"
IN 1982 WHEN I was arrested, two men dragged me into a room, tied me to a bare wooden bed, took off my socks and my shoes, and lashed the soles of my feet with a length of industrial cable made of heavy rubber. Why the soles of the feet? Because our nerve ends are in our feet; with every strike of the lash, my nervous system would explode, and then it would be magically put back together, and I would be wide awake for the next strike. After a while, if the devil had appeared and offered to take me home if I sold him my soul, I would have. I signed every document they gave me without reading them. I confessed to everything they wanted me to confess to. Torture is not designed to get information; it aims to kill the human soul.
By saying that torture did not exist in Iranian prisons, the members of the Iranian delegation who sat in front of me at the UN were basically telling the world that my cellmates and I did not exist, that many of my teenage friends were not buried in mass graves in Iran. I took a deep breath and tried to swallow the nausea climbing up my chest.
What the representatives of the IRI failed to tell the world was the truth:
1. In Iran, the minimum age of marriage for girls is 9 years. There are two kinds of marriage in Iran, and in one of them, which is known as sigheh, a girl as young as 9 can be married off to a man in just a few minutes and has no rights whatsoever; sigheh also comes with an expiry date.
2. The testimony of a woman is worth half of a man.
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3. The testimony of a member of a religious minority is worth half of a Muslim.
4. Muslims are not allowed to convert to any other religion in Iran; if they do, according to the law, they would be considered apostates and could be put to death.
5. The Bahai are not recognized by Iranian law as a religious minority and are banned from even going to school. About 100 members of the Bahai faith are now in prison in Iran only because of their faith.
6. Iran is not a democracy even though it has elections. The Supreme Leader of Iran, who is Ayatollah Khamenei now, can veto the decisions of the parliament, the judiciary, and the president. The Supreme Leader selects the presidential candidates, and the people are allowed to only vote for a candidate who has been preselected.
And the list goes on.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is lying to the world. They took the stage at the UN, whose Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, recently released a damning report of that country. The IRI has not allowed Dr. Shaheed to visit Iran. If Iran is truly a utopia, why not allow a UN delegation to inspect Iranian prisons?
AS THE IRANIAN government tells fictional stories to the world, journalists, members of religious minorities, including Christians, Bahai, Dervish, political prisoners, representatives of labour unions, and journalists languish in prisons. Let’s not forget them, stand up to their tormentors, and ask questions to expose the truth. What keeps political prisoners alive is knowing that the world has not forgotten them. Bombing never fixes problems in the long run. Iran should not be bombed, because murder never fixes murder, and evil never cures evil. What the people of Iran need is moral support, and eventually, they will find their way, even though slowly and painfully, to democracy.