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By Lord Alton of Liverpool
One hundred guards dressed in riot gear stormed section 350 of Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on the morning of April 17 with overwhelming force and malicious intent. Though the exact motives and details of the raid remain unclear, the carnage that ensued has been confirmed by a number of human rights organizations. Thirty of the inmates were injured, four so badly that they were taken to the hospital. Besides broken ribs and a heart attack, the prisoners were made to watch as their belongings were destroyed and 32 are currently suffering under appalling conditions in solitary confinement.
This violent incident makes two issues clear. The first is that the international community must take action immediately. Without pressure the regime is more likely to torture and abuse these prisoners. The second is that this action is simply the latest in a long saga of intimidation, abuse, terror, torture and murder – the international community has a duty to stand for change.
Mrs. Mayram Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran strongly condemned the regime’s prison raid brutality. Rajavi called for binding and effective resolutions to be immediately passed against the regime and urged the West to stand for their professed values. She stated, "Silence and inaction upon whatever pretext in face of the savagery by the mullahs ruling Iran is turning one's back on the principles and values that the United Nations was built to safeguard and that the European Union and the United States profess to defend."
Iran’s repeated human rights abuses receive little coverage – it is under the veil of moderation that these abuses hide and they deserve to be uncovered. The latest incident of abuse in the prison involved dangerous "criminals", criminals like Sa’id Metinpour. Sa’id’s horrible crime was belonging to Iran’s Azerbijani minority and promoting linguistic and cultural rights for the group, an act the regime described as "espionage" and "spreading propaganda against the system". The incident also included Hootan Dolati, whose crime was "distribution of propaganda" and belonging to a banned political group. For daring to freely express himself Dolati was sentenced to three years in prison and repeatedly denied medical treatment for his chronic heart condition.
With "enemies" like these, why are the U.S. and others entertaining the idea of making those in the regime our friends? Rouhani’s new regime, replete with moderation is clearly a façade.
Rouhani’s "moderate" tone contradicts his actions – a shocking number of executions, 700 in all, took place in Iran during 2013, two thirds of which occurred during Rouhani’s tenure. If Rouhani is to be considered an "improvement" from his Holocaust denying predecessor Ahmadinejad, he can only be considered so in the context of "improving" the efficiency of the regime’s repressive and murderous polices. Rouhani could be on a record pace of "improvement" in 2014, as he has already presided over a whopping 95 executions.
Abroad, mullah approved President Rouhani backs the same old policies, exporting terror around the globe. He continues to prop up the murderous Assad regime, and sponsor terror groups in Lebanon, Gaza and Egypt – even helping these groups carry out attacks in Thailand and throughout Europe.
Though many are able to console themselves by pointing out the regime’s transition to modernity, tweets and hash-tags tend to be a poor counterbalance to murder and oppression. And those Iranians living in the country aren’t even able to console themselves; after all, they’re banned from Twitter.
Mrs Rajavi noted that these prolonged and escalating abuses are emblematic of the regime’s tenuous state. According to Mrs Rajavi, "Executions, oppression and discrimination are the principal pillars of mullahs’ rule and any flexibility here will accelerate the trend in regime’s downfall." However, while this possibility may give hope, any change will not be easily won, change requires action and this action begins with recognition of egregious and sustained abuses as well as resolutions to prevent further violations.
The words of Ghandi, an expert in change and action, seem especially fitting: "A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."
*Alton, a cross-bench member of the UK's House of Lords, is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.
-- The article was first published in TheHill.com