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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The real way to work for change in Iran

posted by Jazz at 2/08/2005 09:59:00 AM

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As most people with at least one foot left in reality would understand, bombs aren't the answer. They rarely are. As we have seen recently, in addition to open Bush administration declarations that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb "under the guise of civilian nuclear power research", we are also hearing the litany of complaints about "human rights abuses" in Iran. In an attempt to correct the thinking of anyone who feels that the best path to human rights is at the point of a gun, Shirin Ebadi has published an editorial in the New York Times which clearly explains both the history of human rights efforts in that country and why invading them would set back those goals for decades. In case you are questioning what Ms. Ebadi's qualifications might be to speak to this subject, she is a native Iranian, the founder of the Center for Defense of Human Rights in Iran, and the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

First, she explains why progress is being made on human rights in Iran.
American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of promoting human rights. No one would deny the importance of that goal. But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause. Iranian society has refused to be coerced into silence. The human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level; civil society activists consider it to be the most potent framework for achieving sustainable democratic reforms and political pluralism.

Indeed, American readers might be surprised to know how vigorous Iran's human rights organizations are. Last fall, when security forces unlawfully detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent Iranian organizations like the Center for Defense of Human Rights, the Association of Journalists for Freedom of Press, and the Students Association for Human Rights campaigned for their release.

This outcry, in tandem with support from the international community and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, led to the release of detainees. In fact, so great was the criticism of the abuses committed during these detentions that some of Iran's most senior government officials came out in favor of releasing the detainees.

Dr. Ebadi next goes on to explain how a military invasion would work against the cause of rights activists, and how American hypocrisy isn't fooling anyone in that region.

Independent organizations are essential for fostering the culture of human rights in Iran. But the threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot these groups and put an end to their growth.

Human rights violators will use this opportunity to silence their critics by labeling them as the enemy's fifth column. In 1980, after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and inflamed nationalist passions, Iranian authorities used such arguments to suppress dissidents.

American hypocrisy doesn't help, either. Given the longstanding willingness of the American government to overlook abuses of human rights, particularly women's rights, by close allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, it is hard not to see the Bush administration's focus on human rights violations in Iran as a cloak for its larger strategic interests.

"The enemy's fifth column." Isn't that interesting? Particularly in light of the fact that I distinctly recall reading an entry at Power Line some time back describing anti-war activists with that exact same term.

Scene Two... Act One. The Broadway production of "George and Dick's Excellent Adventures in the Middle East" is getting ready to raise the curtain.