United Nations


Human Rights Situation in Iran

Tuesday 6thMarch 2018 (16.00-17.00 hrs)

Palais des Nations – Room XXV11

Dr Khayyeri, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Can I thank you very much for inviting me here today and for giving me the opportunity to speak about the human rights situation in Iran and the nationwide protests and uprising earlier this year. 

In Iran, the mullahs’ policy of velayat-e faqih, or absolute clerical rule, allows them to justify every horror, every medieval torture, every public execution, every act of terror, as the ‘will of God.’ For 39 years, since the Iranian revolution handed power to Ayatollah Khomeini, the clerical regime has ruled Iran with an iron fist, suppressing freedom and justice, abusing human rights and women’s rights and exporting terror.

On the 28thof December last year, Iran’s restless citizens finally signalled that they had had enough. The uprising, which began in the holy city of Mashhad, was initially sparked by protests against spiralling living costs, rising unemployment and increasing poverty. It quickly escalated into an angry confrontation with the government, spreading like wildfire to the capital Tehran and to some 140 cities across the country. 

Demonstrators chanting: “Death to Khamenei”, “Death to Rouhani”, “Reformists, hardliners, it is game over now,” “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Shame on you, mullahs,” have shown that this is an uprising against the regime itself. Their chants of: “No Gaza, No Lebanon, My Life for Iran ‘Death to Hezbollah” and “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead” have shown that they are sick of their wealth being looted to fund proxy wars and terrorists throughout the Middle East.

Top officials of the regime, including the Supreme Leader Khamenei himself, have admitted the role of the main opposition, PMOI, in leading and helping to spread the uprising. 

Rouhani also called President Macron to take action against the PMOI, who have their headquarters in Paris. Such remarks and confessions are indicative of the regime’s deepening concern at the growing role of the PMOI, who have rightly said that there is no prospect of reform within the Islamic Republic and that the only solution is complete regime change.

Iran is the most repressive country in the Middle East. It executes more people, per capita, than any other country in the world. 90% of all executions in the Middle East are carried out in Iran. More than half the population of 80 million is under 30. Around a quarter of young people are jobless, more in some harder-hit regions. Yet Iran is one of the most pro-Western countries in the Middle East. But they are ruled by a clique of elderly, bearded, misogynistic, homophobic and deeply corrupt mullahs, who have drained the country’s rich oil resources to featherbed their own lavish lifestyles and to fund their policy of aggressive revolutionary expansionism.

Of course the mullahs reacted to the uprising in their usual, time-honoured fashion, sending in the regime’s Gestapo, the IRGC, who gunned down dozens in the streets and arrested over 8,000 protesters, 16 of whom have so far been tortured to death in prison. In blind panic, the regime severed connections with Instagram and Telegram, to stop the protesters using social media to spread their message of dissent. The IRGC even created apps such as Mobogram, an unofficial Telegram fork and used malware embedded in the app to spy on, identify, threaten and eventually arrest the protesters who used Mobogram during the uprising. 

The malicious codes are undetected by the mobile users. If Mobogram is installed by an administrator of a Telegram channel on his or her phone, the hidden code allows the IRGC to gain full access to the entire list of that channel’s subscribers. Thousands of arrests have been triggered based on this malicious form of cyberwarfare. But the brutal crackdown has only served to deepen public hatred of the regime and to harden resolve for its ultimate overthrow.

On February 8th 2018, the regime announced the death by suicide in prison of a prominent and respected environmentalist, Dr Kavous Seyed Emami, who had been arrested on 24th January.

I do not see any way in which the current Iranian regime can survive. Millions of Iranians now live in poverty. There is rising inflation and massive unemployment, particularly amongst the young. Yet Tehran continues to pour billions into propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq, the ruthless Houthi rebels in Yemen and the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon. 

The Iranian people are no longer prepared to stand aside as the mullahs plunder their national wealth and turn Iran into a pariah state. The latest uprising has revealed the emergence of a courageous new force from within the heart of Iran’s long-suffering cities; a new force, prepared to struggle for their rights and to fight for freedom and equality. This new force has, I believe, the capability of overthrowing the theocratic regime. 

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign affairs – Federica Mogherini – has been a leading appeaser of the mullahs, often visiting Tehran to pay homage to the theocratic dictatorship. She has always remained silent on the question of human rights and the repression of women, however. It took her 5 days to issue a statement about the uprising, which was not even critical of the regime and as such was counter productive. 

Mogherini has successfully peddled the idea that is widely accepted in the West that Rouhani is some sort of moderate; a reformist, despite the fact that around 3,500 people, including 80 women, have been executed during his first four years in office. 700 people were executed last year alone, including women and teenagers. 

The EU should understand the true nature of the so-called justice system in Iran, where the current Justice Minister – Alireza Avaie - has been listed on EU and UK terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations. Indeed Avaie, only appointed in July last year as Justice Minister by Rouhani, is notorious for his well known role as public prosecutor in the city of Dezful in Iran’s Khuzestan Province in the late 1980’s, where he was personally responsible for ordering the hanging of countless political prisoners, including many teenagers and students, for alleged opposition to the oppressive rule of the mullahs. 

These hangings were an orchestrated part of the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, in one of the worst atrocities since the Second World War, a crime against humanity now being actively investigated by the UN. It was shameful to allow this criminal to address the UN Human Rights Council last week. 

As the arrests and violent repression continue, the international community must not remain silent. The United Nations Security Council must adopt punitive measures against the regime. They must hold to account the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre. Many of these murderers are still in positions of power in Iran today. The international community must demand the release of the thousands of protesters arrested during the recent uprising and issue strong warnings against any torture or execution of these prisoners. 

I call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Zeid al-Hussein and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, together with other relevant special rapporteurs in the UN to speak out strongly and publicly against the torture and killing under torture of the detainees in Iran. The UN must raise its voice against human rights violations in Iran and put maximum pressure on the Iranian regime to release these detainees.  

Thank you. 


Campaign for Iran Change (CIC)

Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)