Repression intensifies in Iran

30 November 2012 - 02:39 By Sapa

A UN committee has expressed concern about ongoing human rights violations in Iran.

The General Assembly's Third Committee called upon Iran to stop such violations, release prisoners of conscience and open its doors to international rights monitors. South Africa is one of 68 states that abstained from yesterday's vote, which was passed 83 to 31.

The resolution noted Iran's alarming use of the death penalty, the systematic targeting of human rights activists, journalists and bloggers, and the "pervasive gender inequality and violence against women". It also expressed concern about continuing discrimination against minorities, including the persecution of Iranian Bahais.

The resolution was the 25th on human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the committee since 1985. Its length and specificity reflect the international community's alarm about increasing violence against Iranian citizens by their government, the principal representative of the Bahai international community to the UN, Bani Dugal, said.

"The atmosphere in Iran continues to worsen for citizens," Dugal said, adding: "If your viewpoint is different from that of Iran's authoritarian regime, you are in grave danger."

She said: "For the Bahais, who are Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, there has been persistent and worsening persecution at the hands of the government and its agents.

"That has been accompanied by violence and an intensification of pressure aimed at disrupting Bahai life."

More than 115 Bahais are currently behind bars for their religious beliefs, and hundreds more are in the legal system waiting to hear their fates, Dugal said.

Director of the South African Bahai Office of External Affairs, Tahirih Matthee, firmly expressed the need for Iran to change its culture of oppression towards all the people of Iran and to uphold the values and human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which it is a signatory, so that Iran can flourish with respect from all its citizens and the world over.

The text of the resolution, which was put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 42 other countries, also calls on Iran to better cooperate with UN human rights monitors, particularly by allowing them to make visits to Iran, and asks the UN secretary-general to report back next year on Iran's progress at fulfilling its human rights obligations.