Human Rights in Iran: An Interview with Dr. Ahmad Alavi
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
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.
Alavi, please tell us your impressions of the conference.
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
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
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?
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
He spoke of improving conditions and stated that
in total there are only 70 political prisoners in Iran. Can you elaborate on
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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