On July 3, Mr. Pierre Sané, the founder and president of the Imagine Africa Institute, former UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, and former Secretary General of Amnesty International was among the distinguished speakers at the international conference that addressed the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran.
The meeting was held at the headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Auvers-sur-Oise, on the outskirts of Paris. With decades-long expertise in human rights advocacy, Mr. Sané touched on sensitive topics like the deafening silence and inaction of the international community concerning the grave human rights violations in Iran.
The full text of Mr. Pierre Sané follows:
Good afternoon, everybody. Dear friends, dear participants, dear former colleagues.
Biographies are about the past. But my biography, the Future, is actually being written by my daughter, who is a human rights defender and who is an attorney in law. She was invited by a conference in December 2016 to give an address on the massacre of 1988, impunity, and the need for accountability.
Today, she is working in Kyiv in the office of the prosecutor going after war crimes being committed, I hope, on all sides. She is also a lawyer working with the refugee camps in Bangladesh with the Rohingya refugees trying to secure judicial assistance for some of the refugees. And last week, she was in the Congo.
So, therefore, my biography is just starting now with my daughter, and hopefully, we will continue to breed a very dynamic human rights family.
Human rights are in crisis again. In the 1990s, when I was at Amnesty International, we thought we were living through the worst times in human rights. We had the genocide in Serbia. We had a genocide in Rwanda, endless wars in Africa, ending with the invasion of Iraq, followed by decades of war on terror with all the violations of human rights that those conflicts generated.
But it seems that that past was not that terrible when we confront what is being developing since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine. But throughout all those events, upheavals, and gross violations of human rights, it seems that Iran continued to remain the graveyard of human rights, the graveyard where human rights violations are taking place, almost amidst the indifference of the international community.
When it comes to human rights violations, I was just reading again this morning the latest Amnesty International report. Iran ticks all the boxes: massacres, torture, execution, and forced disappearance, violence against women, confiscation of freedoms and public liberties, brutality of repression.
But it seems that there are complexities in organizing international solidarity, especially among progressive movements. And I talk from the perspective of a progressive organization, being myself not just a human rights defender, but an old Marxist.
Among those organizations, it seems that we have some hesitation to criticize Iran, to criticize an Islamic revolution in the midst of widespread Islamophobia. So, there is a hesitation there. There is a reluctance to be seen to join hands with Washington and the West when the Iran government is deploying anti-imperialist rhetoric and posture. And there is also suspicion about the colored revolutions manipulated by Western powers to achieve regime change.
Crimes against humanity looms large over Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration as President of Iran today. We continue to call for him to be criminally investigated for his role in past and ongoing crimes against humanity related to #1988Massacre.https://t.co/PrRbGhCanG
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) August 5, 2021
So, because of all these reasons, it seems that there is hesitancy amongst the global progressive movements to really join hands with the Iranian freedom fighters. But to me, this is confusing, because we are talking about human rights violations. And when we talk about human rights violations, we talk about victims, whoever the perpetrators are.
When we talk about human rights violations, we talk about international human rights law that binds all governments irrespective of their ideology. When we talk about human rights violations, we talk about universal rights that apply to all members of humanity. And the last time I checked, the Iranian people were still members of humanity.
So irrespective of the context, irrespective of the geopolitical development, we cannot, because of politics, sacrifice our duty of solidarity to all those who are victims of human rights violations and to all those who are fighting for a human rights regime. And that starts by the end. That starts with the end of impunity.
There cannot be human rights if impunity is allowed to prosper. And the end of impunity is the basis for international solidarity, which is nothing more than the expression of our obligations towards other fellow human beings. There are no human rights if there are no human obligations. Solidarity is the key. And we showed it, how solidarity was successful in ending apartheid in South Africa, in ending the military dictatorship in Latin America, in bringing an end to the Vietnam War. It is indeed time that we step up the solidarity for the struggle for human rights in Iran.
To conclude, I would submit that the Iranian Resistance needs to reach out to governments in the global South, not just in the West, to argue their perspective, to inform, and to win the argument. The progressive movement must be vigilant in the face of global geopolitical rearrangements.
For 50 years, human rights were hampered by the east-west divide. We are now witnessing a new divide between the West and the Global South, especially with the rise of the BRICS. We have to pressure the BRICS to articulate their commitment to universal human rights and use that commitment to screen any new application.
Yes, the progressive movements now must prioritize Iran alongside the human rights movement. When resistance is based on justice, freedom, and equality, it will win because it becomes the embodiment of the people. And no government can win the people.