All of the six approved Iranian presidential candidates have failed when it comes to assessing their human rights report cards, says Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. Their record is “unacceptable” and, consequently, the Guardian Council has left voters with no option other than choosing between bad and worse, she adds.
In a recent interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights, Ebadi singled out incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and his conservative challenger Ebrahim Raisi for strong criticism of their human rights records.
She lambasted Raisi for his role in condemning thousands of prisoners to death while they were already serving prison terms.
Ebadi was referring to the state-sponsored execution of political prisoners across Iran, which started on July 19, 1988. The executions went on for five months. Amnesty International recorded the names of more than 4,482 prisoners who disappeared during the executions. However, the exact number has remained unclear.
Human rights activists have labeled the executions a massacre and a political purge without precedent in modern Iranian history either in terms of its scope and the subsequent cover-up.
“Raisi has a black record in human rights. Nobody will ever forget his role in the late ’80s killing of young prisoners and burying most of them in unknown and unmarked graves,” Ms. Ebadi said.
This isn’t the first time Raisi has been accused of having a hand in the mass executions. However, he has never responded to the widespread accusations, which have earned him the title of Ayatollah Massacre.
Raisi is a mid-ranking cleric who currently presides over Astan Qods Razavi, a tax-exempt, religious financial empire in Iran. Several analysts have said he is Rouhani’s main challenger and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the May 19 presidential election.
Rouhani’s Far-From-Stellar Record
“Sadly, the incumbent president, Rouhani, and other presidential candidates cannot pass the test of human rights. They are all failures when it comes to that,” Ebadi said.
Referring to statements by Rouhani denying his government’s role in arresting political dissidents and blaming the judiciary for it, Ebadi noted that the Intelligence Ministry has been the main plaintiff in legal cases against political and human rights activists.
“I hold Rouhani responsible for the unlawful actions taking place in the Intelligence Ministry because it is a part of the cabinet under his supervision,” Ebadi said. “The least he could do is explicitly admit he has no authority over his own Intelligence Ministry. So far, he hasn’t. Until he does so, he is responsible for every Intelligence Ministry violation of law, including the incarceration of people based on false and biased reports of the ministry.”
Books and Press Hangman
Ebadi was the first the first Iranian and female Muslim to win Noble Peace Prize, and was forced into exile in 2009 due to ongoing threats of imprisonment. She did not elaborate on the other presidential candidates’ human rights records. She did call the Islamic Coalition Party nominee, Mostafa Mirsalim, “the executioner and hangman of books and the press.”
Mirsalim, an engineer educated in France, is a hard-line conservative politician. He served as culture and Islamic guidance minister from 1994 to 1997, a tenure that was characterized by strong conservative Islamist tendencies and a shutdown of almost all so-called reformist or independent newspapers. He is currently an appointed member of the influential Expediency Discernment Council.
Ebadi also referred to Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the other prominent candidate challenging Rouhani, as the man behind the highly questionable distribution of millions of dollars’ worth of municipal land among those close to the ruling conservative faction.
Ghalibaf, a former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps general and police commander-in-chief, has been mayor of the capital, Tehran, for the past 12 years.
In attacking all of the presidential candidates’ human rights records, Ebadi did not mention two contenders by name: the reformist current Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri and Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, former deputy president and head of the Physical Educational Organization from 1994 to 2001. He is described as having centrist positions.