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They “deserve” it

With Julie Bishop flying off to try and broker a deal with Iran to take back asylum seekers who have been refused refugee status, it is worth looking at the human rights record and conditions in Iran.

Since Iran’s crackdown against anti-government protests following the 2009 presidential election the human rights crisis in the country has only deepened. There is a broad-based campaign underway to severely weaken civil society by targeting journalists, lawyers, rights activists, and students. The number of executions has risen sharply since 2010, and authorities tightly restrict access to information by blocking websites, slowing down internet speeds, and jamming foreign satellite broadcasts. In March 2011 the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Special Rapporteur on Iran in response to the worsening rights situation in Iran, but authorities have so far refused to allow him access to the country.

In 2012, Iran carried out more than 544 executions, second in number only to China, according to Amnesty International, which reported that at least 63 executions were carried out in public. Crimes punishable by death include murder, rape, trafficking and possessing drugs, armed robbery, espionage, sodomy, adultery, and apostasy. Most of those executed were convicted of drug-related offenses following flawed trials in revolutionary courts.

Iran is almost certainly the world leader in executing juvenile offenders, putting to death 14 in 2014 and as many as 77 in the past 10 years. Iran also continued to impose new death sentences on child offenders last year. In total, at least 160 juvenile offenders are awaiting execution in the country, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported in February.

At least 40 journalists and bloggers were in Iran’s prisons in 2014, according to Reporters Without Borders. On December 28, 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly warned journalists and others against suggesting that Iran’s elections would not be free.

Dozens of other rights defenders, including prominent lawyers such as Mohammad Seifzadeh and Abdolfattah Soltani, remained in prison on politically motivated charges.

The government denies freedom of religion to adherents of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, and discriminates against them. On July 31, an Iranian daily reprinted a fatwa, or religious edict, previously issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, stating that Baha’is are part of a “deviant and misleading sect” and urging Iranians to “avoid” them. One hundred and fourteen Baha’is were in Iran’s prisons as of September 2013, according to the Baha’i International Community.

Authorities restrict political participation and employment of non-Shia Muslim minorities, including Sunnis, who account for about 10 percent of the population. They also prevent Sunnis from constructing mosques in Tehran and conducting separate Eid prayers. Government targeting of Sufis, particularly members of the Nematollahi Gonabadi sect, continued unabated. In July, revolutionary courts in Tehran and Shiraz sentenced members of the Nematollahi Gonabadi sect to terms of one to 10.5 years for their peaceful activities.

The government restricted cultural as well as political activities among the country’s Azeri, Kurdish, Arab, and Baluch minorities.

Iranian women face discrimination in many areas including personal status matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A woman needs her male guardian’s approval for marriage regardless of her age, and cannot generally pass on her nationality to her foreign-born spouse or their children. A woman may not obtain a passport or travel outside the country without the written permission of a male guardian. Child marriage, though not the norm, continues in Iran, where the law provides that girls can marry at the age of 13 and boys at the age of 15; and below such ages with the permission of a judge.

Amnesty International released a report raising concerns about the possible passage of two bills before Iran’s parliament that would further restrict women’s rights. One would prohibit voluntary sterilization as part of the country’s efforts to boost population growth and strengthen the place of what are deemed “traditional” families in society. The other would “further entrench gender-based discrimination, particularly against women who choose not to or are unable to marry or have children,” Amnesty said.

A day later, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, released his fourth report to the U.N. Human Rights Council describing the dire state of human rights in the country. His report cited the concerns about gender discrimination that Human Rights Watch and others had raised during Iran’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review, a review of every U.N. state’s human rights record every four years by the Human Rights Council.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.

Naser Naghdi, the head of Darou Pakhsh, which supplies about a third of Iran’s pharmaceutical needs, said he can no longer buy medical equipment such as autoclaves (sterilising machines), essential for the production of many drugs, and that some of the biggest western pharmaceutical companies refuse to have anything to do with Iran.

According to The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), social and economic conditions in Iran are quickly declining.

Unemployment and poverty in Iran are rising. The unemployment rate averaged 11.67 percent from 2001 until 2014.  Inflation is reaching record levels and the very low minimum wage means most citizens must take on several jobs just to survive. Workers also lack the right to organize freely and effectively. All of this is leading to an extreme income gap between the rich and the poor.

A recent report titled Measurement and Economic Analysis of Urban Poverty showed that between 44.5 percent and 55 percent of Iran’s urban population lives below the poverty line.

Furthermore, 46 percent of Iranian women ages 15 to 24 are unemployed, and the unemployment rate for young adults is twice that of the general unemployment rate. This means that the country is officially in an unemployment crisis.

And it seems that Iranians who are employed are powerless in pushing to increase pay, benefits and working conditions.

“Attempts in recent years to establish independent trade unions have been harshly repressed,” said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH. “Labor leaders have been imprisoned on charges including ‘acting against national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system.’”

Workers’ rights are often violated on religious, ethnic or political grounds. And the regime is particularly harsh to women in the workplace.

“Government policies marginalize women in flagrant contradiction of the universal principle of equality between men and women. Recent measures to overhaul population control policies in order to induce a higher fertility rate further deepen discrimination against women,” said Lahidji.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and its 1967 Protocol), to which Australia is a signatory, defines a refugee as:

Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

Considering that every asylum seeker, by their very action, could be considered critical of the regime, an offence which has seen many jailed, can Julie Bishop guarantee the safety of all these people should they be forcibly returned to Iran?

Tony Abbott said “we’ll be talking to the Iranian government about taking back people who are Iranian citizens because they deserve to be in Iran.”  I’m not sure that anyone “deserves” that sort of life but I am very sure that Peter Dutton should not be the person making that decision.

35 comments

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  1. passum2013

    I hope they Really appreciate This visit and Throw her in a cell till she wakes up to her self.

  2. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Does Abbott, who appears to have dual Anglo/Australian nationality, deserve to be in Australia?
    More pertinently, does Australia deserve to be lumbered with Abbott as a person, let alone as a PM?

  3. Poss

    OMG this government is disgusting is there no end to their disgraceful behaviour.

  4. miriamenglish

    I was struck by how many aspects of Iran that Abbott, Dutton, and Bishop would love to be able to impose upon Australia — religious discrimination, outlawing trade unions, imprisoning journalists who question the system, high unemployment (which gives employers total control over their workers), slowed and heavily censored internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offences, including homosexuality (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item). It’s natural that Abbott and his pals think asylum-seekers deserve to be sent back. Iran is like a wet-dream for Abbott and his fundamentalist conservatives. They love/hate the place. They love it because it is so much the pinnacle of their desires; they hate it because they’re using the “wrong” religion. If we’re not careful Abbott & Co would love to arrange the same fate for us here in our country.

  5. miriamenglish

    How strange. My posts aren’t turning up here. I’ll try one last time…
    I was struck by how many aspects of Iran that Abbott, Dutton, and Bishop would love to be able to impose upon Australia — religious discrimination, outlawing trade unions, imprisoning journalists who question the system, high unemployment (which gives employers total control over their workers), slowed and heavily censored internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offences, including homosexuality (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item). It’s natural that Abbott and his pals think asylum-seekers deserve to be sent back. Iran is like a wet-dream for Abbott and his fundamentalist conservatives. They love/hate the place. They love it because it represents so much that they want, and they hate it because they’re using the “wrong” religion. If we’re not careful Abbott & Co would love to arrange the same fate for us here in our country.

  6. miriamenglish

    I was struck by how many aspects of Iran that Abbott, Dutton, and Bishop would love to be able to impose upon Australia — religious discrimination, outlawing trade unions, imprisoning journalists who question the system, high unemployment (which gives employers total control over their workers), slowed and heavily censored internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offenses, including being gay (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that). It’s natural that Abbott and his pals think asylum-seekers deserve to be sent back. Abbott and his fundamentalist conservatives love/hate Iran. They love it because it represents so much that they want, and they hate it because they’re using the “wrong” religion. If we’re not careful Abbott and Co would love to arrange the same fate for us here in our country.

    (I tried posting this a few times, then twigged that a faulty spam-filter might be trashing it, so I slightly modified the words used. We’ll see if this gets through.)

  7. miriamenglish

    Testing to see if I can post here… I’ve tried posting a several variations of a comment here and they all fail. Let’s see if this shows up…

  8. miriamenglish

    That’s strange. It must be a broken spam filter rejecting my comment. I’ll try posting my comment sentence by sentence to work out what is triggering it.

  9. miriamenglish

    I was struck by how many aspects of Iran that Abbott, Dutton, and Bishop would love to be able to impose upon Australia.

  10. miriamenglish

    Iran has religious discrimination, outlawed trade unions, they imprison journalists who question the system, high unemployment gives employers total control over their workers, slowed and heavily censored internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offences, including being gay (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item).

  11. miriamenglish

    Iran has religious discrimination

  12. miriamenglish

    outlawed trade unions,

  13. miriamenglish

    they imprison journalists who question the system,

  14. miriamenglish

    high unemployment gives employers total control over their workers,

  15. miriamenglish

    slowed and heavily censored internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offences, including being gay (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item).

  16. miriamenglish

    slowed and heavily

  17. miriamenglish

    c.e.n.s.o.r.e.d

  18. miriamenglish

    internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offenses, including being gay (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item). It’s natural that Abbott and his pals think asylum-seekers deserve to be sent back; Abbott and his fundamentalist conservatives love/hate Iran. They love it because it represents so much that they want, and they hate it because they’re using the “wrong” religion. If we’re not careful Abbott and Co would love to arrange the same fate for us here in our country.

  19. miriamenglish

    How ironic. It is c.e.n.s.o.r.i.n.g posts that contain the word “c.e.n.s.o.r.e.d”.
    For ease of reading I’ll repost the whole thing in one piece:

    I was struck by how many aspects of Iran that Abbott, Dutton, and Bishop would love to be able to impose upon Australia. Iran has religious discrimination, outlawed trade unions, they imprison journalists who question the system, high unemployment gives employers total control over their workers, slowed and heavily c.e.n.s.o.r.e.d internet, women almost solely as birthing stock, death sentences for a wide range of offenses, including being gay (Cory Bernardi, especially, would love that last item). It’s natural that Abbott and his pals think asylum-seekers deserve to be sent back; Abbott and his fundamentalist conservatives love/hate Iran. They love it because it represents so much that they want, and they hate it because they’re using the “wrong” religion. If we’re not careful Abbott and Co would love to arrange the same fate for us here in our country.

  20. rossleighbrisbane

    Yep, Miriam. I just tried it and sense ard was in fact the victim of censorship!

  21. mark delmege

    Some of what you say is probably true and some of it irrelevant to human rights but Human Rights Watch and even Amnesty fall short of what they claim to represent. And I don’t want to deny abuses of human rights in Iran – and it is after-all a theocracy though I dare say it is quite a different country to what most people imagine especially after 36 years of sanctions and Western propaganda – all of which creates – purposefully – a set of unfavourable conditions inside Iran. And as far as I can tell what the law allows and what people do can be quite different things. That said Bishop traveling there to have refugees returned is an interesting step. Some probably, possibly the majority have legitimate claims to refugee status and this as we know is not something this government accepts from people who arrive here by boat – nor for that matter the last Labor Government. This bipartisan policy is something most caring people oppose.

    Films are only films after-all but people who want to move beyond the simple propaganda might care to watch the recent Iranian film ‘A Separation’ to discover that Iranian women are not the cowering backward oppressed individuals many would like us to believe.

  22. Jexpat

    There is a broad-based campaign underway to severely weaken civil society by targeting journalists, lawyers, rights activists, and students.

    Sounds exactly like Australia.

  23. Michael Taylor

    No censorship, Miriam. Just a sensitive spam filter. My apologies.

  24. eli nes

    With such a description of Iran who could not prove persecution?
    Surely, there is no suggestion that the government would change the relevant definitions of a refugee?
    Perhaps they have, quietly, re-introduced the language test from the old white Australia days?

  25. Kaye Lee

    mark,

    I don’t see Iranian women as cowering or backward but I do see them engaged in a tough struggle fighting for their rights.

    “Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, led an official delegation to the United Nations in New York to attend the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. In her March 11 speech to the commission, Molaverdi said that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has always had the empowerment of women and improving their status…on its agenda.”

    Molaverdi described the significant progress Iranian women have made in education and science, citing unilateral economic sanctions and violence against women as factors that have impeded the full realization of women’s rights. There was little in her speech to suggest that domestic factors — including Iran’s laws and policies — play a significant role in depriving Iranian women of real gender equality and empowerment.

    Just two days before the U.N. session, Iran’s conservative Kayhan daily, thought to be close to the Office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, published an article that showed just what Iran’s women’s rights activists are up against. The author questioned the wisdom of allowing an official delegation to attend events such as the U.N. commission, describing its notion of “gender equality” as “unacceptable to the Islamic Republic.” The article accused Molaverdi of “negligence” for participating in events that could damage Iran’s reputation and interests, and accused the 150 or so people who attended the session as representatives of Iranian groups of doing so without full and proper vetting by Iran’s security and intelligence agencies.

    Yet Kayhan’s attack also reflects the resilience and adaptability of women’s groups in Iran as they continue to challenge the state’s monopoly on the women’s rights narrative. While Iranian women lost some important legal rights after the 1979 revolution, their social and economic stature increased on average as they gained wider access to education, health care, and birth control. The image of the compromised and submissive woman engendered by Iran’s discriminatory legal system bears little resemblance to the private and public lives of many Iranian women today.”

  26. Kaye Lee

    Miriam,

    The comparison is scary.

  27. helvityni

    What has Australia done to deserve this government? Let’s make sure we educate our people better, so we’ll have no repeat Abbott-like leaders in the future.

  28. mark delmege

    Thanks Kay that seems a very reasonable response. The issue fits in well with a link I posted the other week from Voltairenet.org in an article by Thierry Meyssan on The Arab Civil War. Which explained how Western backed wars against Arab and Muslim countries have helped propel the most backward social forces to power in those countries and how the more progressive – as we see it – secular countries have been devastated by our interventions all to the loss of women rights. I can add also at a cost of many millions of lives. It continues today in Yemen with the US coordinating attacks by Saudi Arabia at great cost to the local people. It is unimaginable, to me, that ordinary people here would accept these policies and wars if our media – state and private – were to actually accurately report the facts on the ground. Whatever crimes the Iranian Government is guilty of pail into near insignificance when compared with what our side has/is doing in the name of Empire. Imposed wars and sanctions threaten civil rights in all their forms and often put back social progress decades. Certainly in some areas Iran has a way to go but I dare say Iran would be far less repressive without Western policies directed against them because they resist a path of Western domination. Australia’s role in all this as an American lackey will be well understood by whoever Ms Bishop talks to in Tehran. Though I doubt that she will concede even one inch. However there will be a good chance in that country that she will be met with by senior female government officials – something that would be unlikely in say Saudi Arabia – who our government consider a close ally.

  29. Kaye Lee

    Ayatollah Khamenei is not blameless here.

  30. Buff McMenis

    It cannot go on .. Humanity is becoming more and more insane when a country like Australia can send people to a country like Iran because some clothes-horse ideologue wants the people to think she is strong

  31. crypt0

    This Australian government, the Iranian government and the mob that runs Saudi Arabia … all good mates, eh?
    I believe Australia’s reputation precedes it around the world these days.
    Nice work Abbott ! (who appears to have dual Anglo/Australian nationality)

  32. silkworm

    If I remember correctly, Bob Carr said that 100% of Iranians seeking asylum in Australia were actually economic refugees. Julie Bishop, then, is only acting on the same intelligence that Bob Carr was.

  33. Harquebus

    If we were to combat and defeat religion, that is all religions, this and a lot of other global problems will disappear.

  34. miriamenglish

    Buff, humanity is actually becoming more and more sane. The actions of idiots like Abbott and his loony friends and the previous Labor government in victimising asylum seekers are really kinda normal and have been much worse in times past. That current politicians are regressing to the bad old days says more about politicians and politics than it does about modern humanity.

    Silkworm, when I lived in Melbourne I had a few friends who escaped from Iran before the religious “revolution”. They were very smart, gentle, tolerant, modern young men who worked together to create a computer shop when they settled here. I preferred to buy from them because they were always so helpful and knowledgeable. On a number of occasions they told me about their escape and what Iran was like before they left. Previously Iran was a modern country with all the things you’d expect of any Western country — universities, computers, men and women attending classes together where they would learn about science, technology, philosophy, and history, they had shopping malls where women and men wore Western fashions, at the beach men and women swam together, women wearing bikinis. (The burqa is not traditional dress for Iran.) The religious zealots seized control with guns and wrecked their society.

    What you hear about Iran now is people trying to resurrect their society from the damage brought on them by what is probably a minority of religious extremists. Those extremists gained power, it would seem, because of the corrupt way the West imposed the Shah’s dictatorial reign upon the country. If people want to escape Iran, then I say let us benefit from Iran’s loss — welcome them. If they are anything like my friends in Melbourne, they will be some of the smartest, nicest people anybody could hope to meet.

    If we go to war against Iran then I think we will be ensuring the religious extremists will gain a tighter control over the country into the foreseeable future. In my opinion sanctions are only workable if they are imposed upon luxury items. Hurt the rulers, not the poor bastards at the bottom. The longer sanctions against the mainstream population are kept in place the more poor grow up without access to education and good health and are easy pickings for religious indoctrination. This should be a war of ideas, not a war of guns. If we fight it with guns we will surely lose.

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