Defenders of Human Rights Center Warns the UN High Commissioner: Prevent Total Destruction of Iranian Civil Society
A prominent non-governmental organization dedicated to the defense of Iranian political prisoners, the Center of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran, whose members are some of the most distinguished attorneys in the country, has sent a letter to the United Nation’s High Commission of Human Rights, asking her to interfere and prevent the destruction of Iranian civil society. Shirin Ebadi, head of the Center, and attorneys such as Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and Nasrin Sotoodeh are some of the attorneys affiliated with the Center who have been arrested or have faced obstacles in their work through pressure from security forces over the past several months.
Members of the Center have written a letter to Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating: “Unfortunately, during Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the crackdown and confrontation with civil organizations has intensified and many civil organizations have become vulnerable to security-political and judicial attacks. This policy was put on the agenda of security-military organizations during the first term of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Offices of these organizations were illegally sealed, their members were arrested, and many were summoned, interrogated, and threatened. Unfortunately, during the recent presidential elections and following public protests, the government violently confronted the protesters, causing turmoil in Iran’s political atmosphere and security forces intensified their oppressive and violent encounters with such people-driven organizations. These people-driven organizations had no role in the events following the elections and they were engaged in their civil activities far from political actions.”
The letter states: “The protest events after the elections and the agitated state of the society were seized as an opportune moment by intelligence organizations to use this time for an intensified and complete crackdown on civil organizations. In other words, the post-election events served as a catalyst for an accelerated and heightened suppression process and destruction of Iran’s civil society.” As a civil organization, the Center of Defenders of Human Rights has been active for several years in Iran and has been treated unkindly by the regime despite its dedication to the rule of law. After the post-election events, three Center members and 12 members from the National Peace Council were arrested, several of whom remain in prison and in limbo. Other members are also under continuous pressure to resign from their membership in this organization, and government security organizations continue to apply pressure and unbearable deprivations on them. Center members have been given a chance to announce their resignations or else they would be arrested.
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had a meeting with Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian delegation, during the recent Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran in Geneva on February 15, 2010. During this meeting, Javad Larijani invited her to Iran, and Ms. Pillay accepted the invitation for 2011. The Center of Defenders of Human Rights continues: “Organizations focusing on human rights, women’s rights, students, journalists, and critical political parties which were under security pressure prior to the elections, became the main targets of suppression after the elections, and this is an immoral abuse in political conduct. The suppression of organizations is now so far reaching that even government organizations and parties inside the regime are also included in it and this demonstrates a powerful will within the current government to destroy civil society.”
The letter to Ms. Pillay continues: “The number and power of civil organizations in each society displays the degree of realized democracy and human rights and establishment of civil society in that country and without a doubt, a society without civil organizations in contemporary times points to dictatorship in that society. More importantly, in societies which do not have civil organizations, whenever there is dissent, public behavior becomes unpredictable and in the absence of people-driven organizations, uncivil behavior is promoted, which is a serious plight in any society. With this preface, we would like to bring an important point to your attention, which is the fact that at this time Iranian society is going through a very risky and sensitive time. Evidence shows that members of Iranian civil organizations are in prison and under unbearable pressure, and those who are not in prison are under security pressure and face frequent summons, threats, dismissal from work, etc. Civil activists are neither rioters nor do they seek violence in the society; conversely, they try to calm down an agitated society, choosing civil and peaceful means and even teach the society to avoid and prevent violent actions. Therefore the main question here is what is the rationale behind the government’s imprisonment and abuse and mistreatment of these individuals? This question has only one answer and that is the government’s will to destroy Iranian civil society through applying pressure, abuse, and mistreatment of civil activists.”
The Center of Human Rights Defenders has said that years of enduring the difficulties and sufferings of a nation for building a civil society is an important achievement on which they cannot close their eyes so that wrong and ungenerous policies of a government can destroy it, bringing on regrets over the destruction. In ending, the Center members said: “We, the defenders of human rights, ask you according to your best ability within the United Nations, to prevent the Iranian civil society’s destruction. The first action we expect is a serious effort to release all activists of civil organizations, political parties, conscience-thought organizations, social, economic, and human rights organizations and removing the seals from their offices and freeing their activities within the legal framework of the country.”