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Human Rights in Iran: An Interview with Dr. Ahmad Alavi

By Saeed Soltanpour - Translation: Shahriar Zayyani
Interview with Doctor Ahmad Alavi, Professor of Economics and Researcher at the Swedish University, about the conference on Human Rights in Iran in Sweden's Parliament

Dr. Alavi is a member of the Committee of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran, and a part of the global network of Iranian Human Rights activists in Europe and North America. He attended this conference on behalf of this network. The major Political parties and organizations taking part in this symposium consisted of: The Social Democrat Party, The People's Party (the middle right wing), The Left Party, and The Greens Party, as well as the Organization for Worker Education as participants, Amnesty International, the 'Olaf Palme' Organization and finally The trans-Swedish Iranian Union, which played a key role in the preparation and organization of this conference. The conference took place on Friday November 26 in the Parliament, in English as well as in Swedish. On Saturday November 27, a session was held in Persian in the presence of Iranians.

Dr. Alavi, please tell us your impressions of the conference.

This conference featured the participation of Ms. Leili Pourzand (Lawyer Women's Issues researcher), Soudabeh Arghavan (Political Prisoner), Professor Sa'id Mahmoudi, Dr. Ne'mat Ahmadi (Lawyer), Dr. Khosro Shakeri and Mehdi Khanbaba Tehrani, and me. We each gave our views for twenty minutes to the members of the parliament, followed by a question and answer period.

What was your speech about?

First I introduced the global network of activists, which is a non-governmental organisation which consists of independent associations in various countries, made up of volunteers who follow the problems of Human Rights violations in Iran, in depth.
We believe in Human Rights as a paradigm and believe that our people have the right to benefit from all the points of the global charter of Human Rights.
The next portion of my talk was about the current constitution and its two-faced approach when dealing with people. For instance, it is repeatedly mentioned in the constitution that civil rights are allowable as long as they do not interfere with the laws of Islam (Shari'a). After the speech in April 2000, of the Supreme Leader (Khamenei), about the conspiracy of the newspapers, a movement of closing down newspapers was initiated, and continues to this day.
In the following portions, with statistics derived from internal media sources, I discussed the various systematic flaws and violations of Human Rights in Iran.

What is the role of Sweden in helping with the condition of Human Rights in the world? Can Sweden, which is a small country in comparison with England, France and Germany, have a noticeable effect?

As a country, it has a limited role, but as a country which is recognized in the world for its adherence to principles of humanity, it has an important role in the issuing forth of resolutions and condemnations. Formerly, Sweden used to play the same role in the U.N., that Canada has played in 2003 and this year in discussing and drawing up the draft for the resolution on violations of Human Rights in Iran after the murder of Zahra Kazemi. It is very important that a country, whose reputation carries weight and credit, takes the first steps, so that it can be effective in getting votes.
Therefore the role of Sweden for the Islamic Republic is very important. Sweden has comprehensive economic relations with Iran and since it is beneficiary of a solid economic foundation, and pays due diligence to Human Rights, it can have a pronounced effect on the respecting of Human Rights in Iran.

What is Sweden's stance on violations of Human Rights?

Until the 2nd of Khordad 1376, and the election of Khatami, we did not have any mutual understanding with Sweden regarding the violations of Human Rights in Iran. After the 2nd of Khordad, Sweden began to suffer from bi-partisanship and as a result lost the opportunity in taking the first step to remedy this. They lacked decisiveness. This conference will be effective in bringing awareness to Swedish politicians.

Has Dr. Ahmadi's speech on "Human Rights have improved in Iran" caused much debate? What is your view?

On Saturday, Mr. Ahmadi did not participate in the ceremonies. This was because in a radio interview he came under a lot of fire, which in my belief was going a bit too far, especially because most of the critique came from the very people who had invited him. And it also seemed that his remarks were not having much of an effect on the participants or the political atmosphere of the conference. It is my belief that, as a lawyer, Mr. Ahmadi should apply legal literature to the case of Iran. Although he claimed not to be representing or advertising for any particular political tendencies, it seemed from his words that he was leaning in a specific political direction.

He spoke of improving conditions and stated that in total there are only 70 political prisoners in Iran. Can you elaborate on that?

First of all the conference was about the violation of Human Rights in Iran, not about its transformations in the future. And he was participating in the event as a legal defender for political prisoners and a lawyer. Another point that he was arguing was that there are only 70 political prisoners and that there are laws, they are just not being executed. However, in our view, it is not only in the case of political prisoners that the Human Rights are being violated but rather for everyone, including normal prisoners, and including violations of children's rights and women's rights among other problems. And secondly, those are in the positions of authority are defending lawlessness and law-breaking.
If in a country Human Rights are exercised, it's not as if a magnificent feat is accomplished, it is the least than can be done and it must occur as a natural phenomenon. In many countries the implementation of Human Rights is a normal and natural affair, and people are not given rewards for it. Observing Human Rights is a duty. So his discussion about the improvement of conditions of Human Rights was non-topical and he should have focused more on the aspects of violation of the rights instead. It is the job of governments to defend their actions and the Islamic Republic (by their own description) does not lack in this. If a system tortures a political prisoner (physically or psychologically), this torture is the result of a system. For instance the torture of prisoners in the ministry of information, or torture of those accused of drug trafficking in order to get confessions, these are also violations of Human Rights. The cutting off of hands and public hangings of youth are also violations of the Human Rights charter and we do not see any improvements in these areas. Apparently he did not see any problems with these violations and with the behaviour of the government; because he did not make any references to these points.
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... Payvand News - 12/13/04 ... --

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