by: Asieh Amini

Shirin Ebadi protests against the G5+1 meeting with Iran in an interview with Radio Zamaneh

“The negotiations of the G5+1 with Iran were limited to nuclear issues, and the champions of human rights forgot that, as in other countries, the Iranian people have had their rights violated, which needs to be focused on in international negotiations about Iran’s situation.”

These are the words of Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate, as she protests against the outcome of the G5+1 meeting with Iran in Istanbul on April 14.

Ebadi told the Political Bureau of Zamaneh: “Nuclear negotiations should not overshadow the issue of human rights violations in Iran, and the West should not look out only for its own security at the price of overlooking the security of the Iranian people, because human rights is an international issue, and any country that believes in the tenets of human rights should support it.

“I and other human rights activists have said on many occasions that the West’s negotiations with Iran, especially those of the G5+1, should not be monopolized by nuclear talks, but rather human rights issues should also be on the agenda.

“Unfortunately, as soon as the G5+1 countries, who claim to be supporters of human rights and have issued several announcements in this regard, reach serious negotiations, they never mention human rights and do not pay any attention to the legitimate and legal demands of the Iranian people.”


Human Rights is not an Internal Issue

Shirin Ebadi challenges the assumption that nuclear issues are a potential international risk while human rights violations occur only within the country. She says: “Human rights are by no means just an internal problem; they reach beyond borders and are, in fact, an international issue.

“Whenever the Iranian government is reprimanded, it has two stock answers: first, that human rights are also violated in the West and especially in the United States (and they always conveniently forget to mention China).

“And their second answer is that the arrest of journalists and social activists, the oppression of free speech, the blocking of internet sites, censorship and human rights violations are domestic issues that do not concern other countries.

“However, in response to this assertion, we must stress that human rights is not an internal issue and is, in fact, an international matter.

“According to the very reasoning and logic that gives the Iranian government the right to protest cases of human rights violations in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, other countries, including the United States, have the right to protest against human rights violations in Iran.”


The Issue of Sanctions

The G5+1 met with Iran’s nuclear negotiators in Istanbul on April 14. Both sides have described the meeting as a success and are set to meet again in May in Baghdad. Ebadi comments on the meeting and the potential agreements between Iran and the U.S. to break the nuclear impasse, saying:

“No one except for political insiders is privy to the content of the Istanbul meeting. However, Iranian officials say that the negotiations have been constructive and sanctions will be removed. Two days before the meeting in Istanbul, U.S. Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton said in an interview that her side was prepared to give sufficient guarantees to the Iranian regime and that she was optimistic about the beneficial results of the negotiations.

“However, after Iranian officials got excited about the lifting of sanctions, the G5+1 announced that once the agreements are finalized and Iran capitulates, some months will still have to pass to ensure that Iran is not bluffing. With these calculations, the sanctions could be lifted in January of 2013.

“In other words, the only thing that is of concern for the negotiating countries is their own national interests, and the talks have been held with complete indifference to human rights issues.

“This should be especially said of the United States, since Hillary Clinton and President Obama have on many occasions announced their support for the people of Iran and human rights in Iran, but judging from their negotiations and interviews, it appears that these issues have remained on the level of mere talk.”

Ebadi comments on what will result from the lifting of sanctions, saying: “There is no doubt that the economic sanctions have vastly harmed the Iranian people, and the lifting of sanctions would hopefully give them some reprieve.

“But would it not have been more honest and honourable if, next to nuclear negotiations, the situation of human rights in Iran had been given some attention, and in addition to nuclear agreements, they would at least call for more co-operation between the Iranian government and the United Nations, so that Ahmad Shaheed, the special human rights rapporteur, would be given permission to travel to Iran?”


Possible Outcome of Human Rights Rapporteur’s Travel to Iran

Given the current state of human rights in Iran, would the rapporteur’s trip to Iran affect any meaningful change? Shirin Ebadi comments on this issue, saying:

“I know that Mr. Ahmad Shaheed’s trip to Iran will bring about no miracles. Just as the visits of the former rapporteurs, that is Mr. Galen DePaul and Maurice Capitorne’s visits, brought about no miracles.

“But even if his visit does not result in the release of political prisoners, it could improve their situation behind bars. Today there are no divisions in prisons based on the nature of the offences committed by the inmates; there isn’t appropriate space for the prisoners; they do not have sufficient basic facilities such as warm water, fresh air and other necessities.

“Even if the release of political prisoners remains out of the question, they can at least demand better conditions for them inside the prisons. But as we see, even these minimal demands are forgotten.”


“Is Iran Being Turned into Another North Korea?”

Iran’s sole Nobel Peace laureate concludes her statements by talking about Iran’s situation in the region and the political relations that overshadow internal issues and the oppression of the people.

“They may be trying to make another North Korea out of Iran, and this is of grave concern. When the peace ambassador for Syria travels to Iran in order to resolve the internal disputes in Syria and establish peace between Mr. Beshar Assad and the people of Syria, we should ask ourselves: why is the West giving legitimacy to Iran’s military power?

“Why should Mr. Kofi Annan go to Iran in order to mediate in the internal matters of Syria? This act legitimizes Iran’s interference in Syrian domestic affairs, and everyone appears to be fine with this.

“Such actions by those who are champions of international rights are inexplicable. They are basically saying that they accept that Iran, as a military power in the region, interferes in the political affairs of other countries. Such acts make us wonder if they are trying to make another North Korea out of Iran.”



[translated from the original in Persian]