Jul 15, 2015

New Chapter with Iran: An Opportunity to Bring Human Rights to the Forefront?

The initial euphoria over the signing of a historic nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the world’s leading powers after nearly 12 years of stand-off will soon be overtaken by a reality check: What’s next for Tehran? The accord, which will prevent Iran from producing material for a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, is a long-awaited and unquestionable achievement; however, it will not yield long-term stability unless promptly followed by dialogue in other areas, most notably in the area of human rights. 

The sensitive nature of the nuclear negotiations with Iran has for years served as a reason – if not excuse – for Western governments and the European Union not to get too involved in anything that could be considered the internal affairs of the Middle Eastern theocracy. The predominant discourse encountered by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in its advocacy work for minorities in Iran at the European institutions has been that there is simply a lack of political ground for the EU to advance a human rights agenda with Iran before a nuclear deal has been reached. Meanwhile, Kurds, Azerbaijani Turks, Baloch, Ahwazi Arabs, and other non-Persian groups in the country continue to not only be deprived of enjoying their cultural and economic rights, but also arbitrarily arrested, forcedly disappeared and even executed for simply expressing their identity.

However, in light of the joint announcement made on 14 July 2015 by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, inaction can no longer be excused. During a recent official visit of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET) to Iran, in June 2015, the Committee issued a press release highlighting the prospects for increased economic ties that a possible nuclear deal could bring, but falling short of mentioning human rights.

In this context, UNPO calls upon the European Union to fully seize the historic momentum of the recently concluded agreement to not only focus on trade and investment opportunities which will certainly arise from a new phase of relations, but also make sure that the Union’s core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, become top priorities in the relations between Tehran and Brussels. Now, more than ever, time is ripe to insist that Iran uphold its national and international human rights obligations and put an end to the systematic persecution of minorities in the country. 

Photo courtesy of AP Images