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Torture and Modern Government


Opinion article by Mehrangis Kar; source: Rooz Online

The latest news on torture in Iran is related to attorney Javid Hootan-Kian who has been imprisoned and tortured because as the defense attorney for Sakineh Ashtiani he strived to free her from facing execution through stoning in the Islamic republic of Iran. In another part of the world, human rights organizations in the United States have been providing news agencies with their latest reports on merciless acts of torture committed at the Guantanamo prison. In both of these cases, human rights are brutally violated. They both indicate that torture continues under a modern accountable government as it does under a traditional and an unaccountable regime. The efforts of United Nations organizations have not succeeded in changing this picture in countries where governments cover their acts of torture under the guise of “protecting national interests.” But what does differentiate the behavior of governments in this regard is their definition of “national security.” If the definition is so wide and loose that it includes the legal defense of a woman sentenced to death by stoning and whose defense attorney is himself charged with acting against the security of the regime and national security then one must certainly reappraise that definition.

Torture - by Touka Neyestani

By promising to close Guantanamo prison, Barak Obama attracted many voices and votes. And five years since his pledge, which he has not fully accomplished, he continues to be incessantly grilled about his promise while he demonstrates his desire to fulfill his commitment. These days this pressure has resurfaced in the media and human rights organization as the American public demonstrates its displeasure with the state of the prison.

Now let’s take a look at how things look like in Iran and how its leaders treat the issue. Even a cursory look at the conversations and talks of the presidential candidates who dream of winning the public vote, none of them have uttered a single sentence regarding what the young attorney revealed about torture, illegal activities in prisons, executions, etc as he had witnessed while being wrongfully incarcerated. Of course there are those who occasionally talk of the rights of prisoners or detainees and make some token gestures about the house arrests of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi. But none of them have the courage to echo the words of the young attorney out of fear of what the editor of Kayhan newspaper Hossein Shariatmadari may accuse them of. They cannot even mention that many honest and educated Iranians are behind prison bars for defending the rights of their compatriots. Looks like torture and injustice that take place in Iranian prisons are not worth mentioning by the presidential hopefuls who have lined up to take their residence in Tehran’s Pastor Avenue, the presidency. Even the economic plight of Iranians, the dismemberment of people’s body parts through inhuman and senseless punishment and hangings are too insignificant to be mentioned in the campaign. Discussing any one of these issues would be crossing the red lines creating by the supreme leader of the land, they have come to believe.

So out of fear for being rejected by the Guardians Council, these presidential candidates prefer to engage in direct and indirect personal attacks against each other and thus avoid making any pledges to the people whose votes they desire.

While one cannot and should not overlook the atrocities that are committed against human beings across the globe, one cannot underestimate the editorials and articles that are published in the American media over Guantanamo where the writers hold their government responsible for such acts in the prison which gets them in trouble with prominent political, judiciary and police officials. They do this and call for the closing of the prison regardless of the consequences. This is what freedom of speech is about. It is the power of people. A free press is what the citizens of modern states have attained through hard work whereas Iranians who are on the brink of hunger cannot even dream of it. Those who rule Iran today and who came to their positions because of the revolution of the Iranian nation panic and fear such achievements in other countries and so deny their fruits, calling them “propaganda against the regime and national security.”

But among the presidential candidates in Iran, there is one exception who has risen above the shoulders of others. He has sent message to the prisoners through media interviews as he announces that his students had all been in prison at one time. Ghasem Shole Saadi knows the pains of the Iranian people whose sufferings have been pushed to the sidelines because of the regime’s deliberate creation of economic crisis. It is uncertain how the regime will deal with him, but whatever his fate, the voice of the sufferers will gradually add up.

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