Afkham-Zibakalam

Tehran University Professor Sadegh Zibakalam (Right), and Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham (Left)

The following is a translation of Tehran University Professor Sadegh Zibakalam’s letter to Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham, responding to her statements on the latest report of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

In the Name of God
Madam Marzieh Afkham, Spokesperson

Foreign Ministry

Greetings. Your Excellency’s statements in response to the contents of the latest report of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, was both astonishing and at the same time regrettable. They were astonishing because you called the report “unscientific” and “unfair,” and accused Ahmed Shaheed of “failure to follow international principles and standards,” claiming that the report is “far from the truth” and prepared under the influence of “a will beyond and outside of the UN human rights mechanisms.”

It was regrettable, because for years, such reactions [by Iranian officials] to human rights reports about Iran have become acceptable, and I had hoped that at least in the new administration, to witness some changes in this area. But it seems that your administration also intends to continue using the same old refrains and the same old responses, and better said, the same old sophistry, the same old justifications, and the same old pretexts and excuses in reaction to reports of violations of human rights in Iran.

Of course, compared to our other officials, the rhetoric you use has improved drastically. Those gentlemen describe Dr. Shaheed with adjectives such as “showman,” “clown,” “puppet of super powers,” “actor,” “servant (of arrogant powers),” “lackey (of Western powers),” and such. At least you have never used such rhetoric about the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. [However,] you also call Ahmed Shaheed’s reports “inaccurate,” “false,” “biased,” “loaded,” “one-sided,” “fabricated,” “adapted from unknown, anti-revolutionary, hostile, and hypocritical sources.”

You, too, believe that the Special Rapporteur and his reports are “inspired and affected by instructions and pressures from Western and Zionist powers,” and generally regard the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for monitoring the situation of human rights in Iran as a “political conspiracy” by Western powers against the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

You, too, consider human rights a political tool in the hands of Western powers, used against us due to our desire for independence on one hand, and our insistence on Islamic standards on the other. You, too believe that the West has double standards in its application of human rights, and while maintaining silence and complacency against violations of human rights in friendly and allegiant states, would use it as a tool of pressure against us. Other than using polite language, there is one other difference between you and other officials. At least I have never heard you claim like other officials that “Western countries lie about human rights, and many of them are the worst violators of human rights in their own countries.”

Madam Afkham!

It does not take a lot of effort to demonstrate the invalidity of many of your and other officials’ claims against the Special Rapporteur. And I also doubt that both you and many of them really believe in the responses you provide. For example, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed’s reports usually add up to dozens of pages, and in them he names specific individuals whose civil rights have been violated in different forms in Iran—real individuals with real names and addresses, birth certificates and national ID numbers.

How is it possible to refer to those human beings and what happened to them as “unrealistic,” “lies,” “fabricated,” and strictly “based on foreign-based opposition sources?” How many of the hundreds of cases of violations of human rights in Iran have we been able to demonstrate as “lies” and “fabrications?” And to what extent is the claim that, “we are accused of violations of human rights by virtue of observing Islamic laws” based on reality? How many cases in which Iran has been accused of violations of human rights have you and our other officials been able to prove that the real problem was that we wished to observe Islam?

It so happens that many of Mr. Ahmed Shaheed’s reports demonstrate that “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” aside, if we had observed our own laws, we would not be accused of violations of human rights. Additionally, appointing a practicing Muslim to monitor human rights [in Iran] was [itself an] observation of this important point, so that Iran would not be able to accuse the Rapporteur of attempting to replace Islam with Western secularism, [and] that he wishes to replace Islam with Western beliefs, criteria, and standards, etc.

Madam Afkham!

One of the common responses we have provided to reports of violations of human rights in Iran has been that “Westerners use human rights as a tool. They keep quiet vis-à-vis violations of human rights in their allegiant countries, and conversely, because we are independent, because we are not dependent on the West, and only because we wish to follow Islam, Western countries accuse us of violations of human rights.” First of all, this is not the case; other countries in which human rights have been violated have [also] been criticized.

But let’s imagine that other countries have not been criticized, and that Iran is the only country that has been criticized, due to its revolutionary stances. Madam Marzieh Afkham, does absence of criticism of other countries justify violations of human rights in Iran? The fact is, even if in all of the almost 200 member states of the UN, human rights are violated, and Western countries keep silent against all of them, violations of human rights in the 201st country are still unjustifiable. Madam Afkham, no country can shrug off the responsibility it has to observe its citizens’ civil rights on political, revolutionary, and ideological justifications.

Sadegh Zibakalam

March 21, 2015