Rights Lawyer Says Citizenship Rights Charter Is “Distraction”
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, lawyer Khalil Bahramian, who has represented many political prisoners, said the draft Citizenship Rights Charter is just a distraction for the public.
“I believe that by preparing the draft Citizenship Rights Charter, Mr. Rouhani is trying to say that whatever violations have been committed against citizenship rights have occurred because we didn’t have these rights. This is, in fact, whitewashing past events and creating distractions. Ayatollah Khomeini presented an Eight-Article Directive on citizenship and human rights. The Constitution also addresses citizenship and human rights, beginning with Article 19. When Mr. Shahroudi was Head of the Judiciary, he approved a very strong and effective Citizenship Rights Law in 15 articles. Therefore, Mr. Rouhani’s Citizenship Charter is nothing new and my impression is that it is mostly intended to distract the people,” Khalil Bahramian told the Campaign.
Khalil Bahramian has represented a large number of political and social activists such as Ahmad Batebi, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, Hamed Rouhinejad, and Shirin Alam Hooli. He also represented two Kurdish political prisoners, Farzad Kamangar and Shirkoo Moarefi, who were executed on charges of moharebeh (enmity with God). Khalil Bahramian was arrested himself in May 2010, and in February 2011, Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to one-and-one-half years in prison and a ten-year ban on his legal practice on charges of “propaganda against the regime,” and “insulting the Head of the Judiciary.” Bahramian appealed the decision and is still awaiting the outcome.
“I believe Iranian society’s current need is not for a Citizenship Rights Charter; rather, society needs our existing laws enforced, which are ten times more complete than the proposed draft Charter. Over the past years, state officials have not enforced citizenship rights in the Constitution but have neglected them, implementing instead what has been the exact opposite of citizenship rights in society. Therefore, if the Rouhani administration wishes to do something positive, instead of re-writing the Charter, it should prepare the groundwork for the enforcement of the existing Constitution,” Bahramian told the Campaign.
“Respecting and enforcing the law by the government and the Judiciary are above re-writing the law. The important thing is its enforcement; otherwise, we have it written down already. Members of the Judiciary must learn that they have an obligation to respect the rights of the Iranian people. This is why, for example, they cannot attack a citizen’s home during the night, beat him up, and arrest him without a specific charge,” he added.
Asked what changes should be made in the proposed Charter under the Rights of the Ethnic Minorities section, Bahramian told the Campaign, “I believe that the Iranian people, like the people of other countries in the world, should be treated the same. Specifying the Azeris, the Kurds, the Baluchis, and the Arabs achieves nothing but to create distractions in the public mind. The collection of all these ethnic groups comprises the Iranian people and they should all have equal citizenship rights regardless of their ethnic background.”
Khalil Bahramian said he is in favor of the elimination of the death penalty in the Citizenship Rights Charter. “As a lawyer, I oppose the death penalty and I would like to see charges such as moharebeh (enmity with God) and Qisas (retribution), which lead to the death penalty, eliminated. I also wish for the elimination of the words ‘ethnicity’ and ‘religious minority’ which cause division in Iranian society. I wish for the Iranian Citizen to be called ‘human’ in the Citizenship Rights Charter,” Bahramian said.
Asked whether one can be hopeful about the enforcement of the Citizenship Rights Charter, Mr. Bahramian said, “Whoever is concerned about his or her life and that of their children’s should be hopeful. I, too, am hopeful that Mr. Rouhani is able to find guarantees for the enforcement of the Charter, but I doubt it. The forces opposite the Rouhani government are a lot stronger than him. If Mr. Rouhani can only solve the nuclear energy issue to push the demons of war off of the Iranian skies, it will be a big job in itself and we will be very grateful to him. As Iranians, we are happy about his presence and the small changes he has made on the international relations level and the diplomatic rhetoric he has assumed.”