On Tuesday, the Iranian regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, made his international debut by delivering a virulent virtual speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He characterized US sanctions on the regime, which were instated for its nuclear adventurism, as “oppressive.” And, he opined that “the United States’ hegemonic system has no credibility.” Such remarks carry no serious weight, obviously. But they do demonstrate an emboldened attitude on the part of Tehran after the West’s, and particularly Europe’s, failure to adopt a decisive policy vis-à-vis Tehran’s rogue behavior.
The Iranian people frequently ridicule the mullahs for their unmatched shamelessness and outrageous remarks. At no point was this impudence clearer than when Raisi claimed that the US sanctions against the theocracy were “crimes against humanity.”
That is certainly rich coming from a figure lambasted by the Iranian people and global human rights organizations as a crime against humanity for his key role in the 1988 massacre.
Since Raisi’s installment as the mullahs’ president, there have been ringing condemnations and increasing calls by human rights organizations for his prosecution for committing crimes against humanity and genocide. In 1988, he was part of the “Death Committee” in charge of murdering over 30,000 political prisoners. The victims were buried in unmarked secret mass graves, and to this day, their families are forbidden to even hold funeral ceremonies or memorials for them. Most of the victims were members of the main democratic opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). The victims’ families have been seeking justice for the past 33 years.
The culture of impunity that has reigned in Tehran for criminals and human rights abusers has allowed the rise of a mass murderer to one of the most senior positions in the clerical regime. As the global rights group Amnesty International declared, “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”
The lack of international investigations into Raisi’s role in the murder of thousands of innocent civilians has emboldened the regime. Europe’s silence in this regard is deafening and shameful. Before being installed as President in a rigged election, Raisi’s record is replete with egregious human rights abuses. As the prosecutor in Hamedan and Karaj provinces, he oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners. And as the Judiciary Chief, at least 1,500 people were shot dead in the streets. Thousands more were subjected to imprisonment and torture in November 2019, Amnesty International wrote.
Instead of being given the pulpit in international forums, Raisi must be named, shamed, investigated, and prosecuted. European powers should not lend legitimacy to mass murderers in the interest of petty commercial deals. That would amount to betraying the values and principles for which millions of Europeans sacrificed their lives to uphold.
Raisi is on the US sanctions list because he is a serial human rights abuser. Yet his recent trip to Tajikistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit was a stern reminder to the international community that it has failed to live up to its obligations.
Similarly, Raisi’s address to the UN General Assembly is the continuation of the culture of impunity practiced by the West. It provided Raisi with an opportunity to shamelessly claim that it is not him but others who are committing “crimes against humanity.”
What’s past is prologue. The regime has construed concessions and conciliation as signs of western weakness. The right policy is to look the theocracy in the eyes and to decisively confront it.
As cruel as the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 was, offering a forum to those who committed crimes against humanity and genocide to spew their venomous vitriol, as was the case with Raisi’s address to the UN this week, is a disgrace, to say the least.