Ahmadinejad and Human Dignity

By The Hon. David Kilgour on October 26, 2011

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told Iranians that Israel’s existence is counter to the “dignity” of all nations. What, however, is the condition of dignity across Iran?

In mid-March, the UN Human Rights Council voted for the first time to appoint a special investigator to monitor Iran’s record. The resolution, co-sponsored by governments from every region of the world, passed 22 to 7.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report expressed “serious concern” about Tehran’s record: “...increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists.” Ban deplored the persecution of Iranian minorities, including Arabs, Armenians, Azeris, Balochs, Christians, Jews, Kurds and Baha’is.

Under Iran’s constitution, key members of the government, parliament, judiciary and military must be Shiites, leaving everyone else as inferior, facing harsh treatment whenever they practise their faiths openly. Kurds are barred from teaching the Kurdish language in regional schools. Sunnis must not build mosques in Tehran.

Middle East/North Africa Uprisings

Paul Salem, director of the Middle East Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observed about events in the Middle East and North Africa: 'There are new revolutions and heroes to look up to ... and Iran is passé … Iranian officials, as well as leaders of Iran-backed Hezbollah ...have taken a selective approach to the uprisings, cheering the movements in Egypt and elsewhere as an 'Islamic awakening,' while rebuking unrest in Syria as a plot by Israel and the West."

An opinion piece in the Anatolia Daily (Turkey) by Nir Boms and Shayan Arya noted that Ahmadinejad demands UN intervention for the UK riots, but not for the tragedy continuing across Syria, with a now estimated 2600 civilian protesters killed. They added, “...Turkey informed a UN Security Council panel that it seized a second cache of weapons that Iran was attempting to deliver to Syria, in breach of the UN arms embargo… Today there are over 2000 political prisoners in jail (in Iran) and the crackdown continues.

Since most (are)...  activists tracking human rights violations, it is very difficult (tracking) all the prisoners ...Nevertheless one human rights coalition, ‘Iran: All Rights Reserved?’, produced a list of nearly 650 prisoners ... sitting in jail while Ahmadinejad goes to give lessons to the UN.”

Institutionalized Misogyny

In 2010, Amnesty International observed: “(Iran) ...discriminates against women from top to bottom.  Women are absent in any of the senior, decision-making posts...”

Neda Agha Soltan became a symbol of Iran’s long history, culture and principled people. Her murder by a militia sniper on June 20, 2009 still haunts the world.

Iran’s penal laws are contrary to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (not ratified by Iran), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Significantly they also elicit protests from Islamic legal experts – both Shi’ite and Sunni. While most countries are banning the death penalty, Iran still punishes by cutting off tongues, hands and feet, gouging out eyes, and stoning to death.

Ahmadinejad Record

Since 2005, Ahmadinejad has outdone most Iranian presidents since 1979 in imprisoning peaceful protesters, torturing prisoners and escalating the execution rate. Karim Sadjadpour also of the Carnegie Endowment asked in the Washington Post some of the tough questions he should face in New York. Here’s a sample: “The anti-government protests in Iran on June 15, 2009, were significantly larger than any in the Middle East this year, yet you referred to the protesters as ‘dust and dirt’. Do you regret using that term?”

Nuclear Weapons

Having concealed its enrichment program for 18 years, Tehran recently announced that it has begun producing nuclear energy. On Sept. 2, extracts from an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report revealed increasing concern about “the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations,” including " ... the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”  Describing its information as "extensive and comprehensive", the agency added that "many member states" had provided evidence.

The UN Security Council has already imposed four rounds of sanctions for its refusal to freeze its enrichment efforts. Six governments are negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Nuclear proliferation is uniquely troubling because Ahmadinejad threatens Israel with nuclear destruction. Consumed with hatred, the regime could use nuclear weapons.


The Canadian Irwin Cotler, chair of the International Responsibility to Protect Coalition (IRPC), warns that Iran is on an “execution binge”, a “wholesale assault on the rights of its own people…It now leads the world in per-capita executions, many of which are in secret, taking place after arrests, detentions, beatings, torture, kidnappings, disappearances, and brief trials in which no evidence is presented.”

International sanctions must be both enforced and internationalized. Russia and China, which initially supported the UN sanctions resolution, are instead increasing business with Iran. We cannot engage in negotiations with Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and combat the nuclear threat while simultaneously ignoring, marginalizing and sanitizing its other threats to world peace. In the short term, the most effective thing the international community can do is to enact and enforce tough oil and gas sanctions.


The responsible international community should:

•    Call for the creation of a special tribunal by the Security Council to deal with atrocities by Tehran officials.  This request has already been sent to the 192 member countries of the International Bar Association.

•    Urge the U.N. to adopt a resolution regarding the issue of women’s and girls’ rights in Iran.

In short, we must stand in robust solidarity with the struggle for human dignity everywhere across Iran. Iranians want democracy; with probably the largest street demonstrations in the region, they in fact initiated the democratic revolution in the Middle East in June of 2009.



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