Iran is Holding the World Hostage with Its Human Rights Violations

As the Trump administration tries to rally the world to face off with the Iranian regime on the multitude of threats it poses to world peace and security, Tehran is using every tool at its disposal to prevent a unified global front from taking shape, The Washington Examiner reports.

Last week, Iran’s foreign minister tacitly threatened that Tehran would resume its nuclear program if European states doubled down on its ballistic missile program and terrorist ventures. This week, the regime tried a different tactic.

In a program broadcast on Iran’s state-owned TV, Ahmadreza Djalali, an imprisoned Iranian dual-national with Swedish citizenship, “confessed” to spying on Iran’s nuclear program for foreign countries. Given Iran’s history of extracting confessions from prisoners through torture and threats, it’s easy to deduce how reliable Djalali’s revelation is.

Sweden happens to be one of the nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council. Coincidentally, after U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley provided strong evidence that Iran was behind in a missile attack against Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on November 4, Sweden’s UN ambassador refrained from confirming that Iran was the culprit.

Djalali is not the only foreign national the Iranian regime is holding hostage and as a bargaining chip in its foreign policy. British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliff is also lingering in jail along with several American citizens arrested on dubious national security and espionage charges. Iran has a long history of using human rights abuses and hostage-taking to pursue its political goals. But its greatest hostages are its own people.

The rulers of Iran are well aware and acknowledge that the stark majority of the country’s population is yearning for regime change, and they’ve only managed to maintain their grip on power through sheer violence. Since the early 1980s, the Iranian regime has shut any form dissent down through incarceration, torture, and execution.

The most recent instance was the 2009 uprisings that followed Iran’s contested presidential elections. Unfortunately, the international community lack of interest in addressing Iran’s blatant human rights violations enabled the regime to crack down on the protests with impunity.

During the presidency of the self-proclaimed “moderate” Hassan Rouhani, there has been an uptick in the number of executions. That too has been largely ignored by the international community. However, the aspirations of the Iranian people for living in a free and democratic state have not lessened.

In a recently signed petition to the UN secretary-general, 30,000 Iranian citizens called for a probe into the mass murder of political prisoners in the summer of 1988. The event, which has become known as the “1988 massacre,” involved the execution of more than 30,000 dissidents in Iran’s prisons in the span of a few months. The executions were ordered and orchestrated by the highest authorities within the regime, many of whom continue to hold positions of power. The regime subsequently imposed a total media blackout on this crime against humanity, and the international community has refrained from further investigating the 1988 massacre.

“Human rights is the weak spot of the Iranian regime. The West’s silence on human rights in Iran has been a boon to the regime, which has taken advantage of it not only to continue its crimes against the Iranian people but also to threaten those countries as well.  A good place to start reversing course is calling for an investigation into the 1988 massacre and holding its perpetrators to account,” a member of the 1988 Truth Group, which has been documenting the massacre and organized the petition, told me on secure chat.

Prof Raymond Tanter, a former senior member of the U.S. National Security Council staff, wrote in a column for The Hill on Monday that human rights need to be incorporated into the United States’ National Security Strategy and the Iran Policy Review.

“First, bring the Ayatollahs responsible for mass murder to a global court to prosecute human rights violators. The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague is one place. The ICC is the court of last resort for the prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Second, have the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights create a special commission of inquiry. Third, implore President Trump to pay attention to human rights violations by the Ayatollahs. But, we should not forget about their ballistic missiles tests, as a state sponsor of terrorism, and creation of an Iraq that is a virtual satrap of Iran,” Tanter writes.

The biggest force of change in Iran is the people themselves. They oppose the terrorist meddling in the Middle East region and reject its extremist ideology. They’ve been its longest-suffering victims. Neither do they have any stake in the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

A focus on Iran’s human rights record will empower this force for change and weaken the regime’s grip on power both inside and outside the country. For Trump’s national security strategy to truly make a difference, we have no choice but to incorporate consideration of human rights. This will be a critical component of any firm global policy toward Iran.