Iran’s Hypocritical Attitude Towards the US Protests

ByNorah Alsubaie

All United Nations (UN) member states, committed to upholding its charters and conventions, have the right to object to human rights violations in any UN member state. Ironically, a state like Iran with a horrific human rights record, including executions, arrests, torture and suppression of protests, rebukes a state like the United States for a particular human rights violation, despite the fact that the  perpetrators were brought to justice.

Once US citizens took to the streets in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by some police officers, Iran started to blatantly criticize the US administration over the killing and the police methods deployed in dealing with the demonstrators.  “They kill people in an open crime, and they do not offer an apology while claiming (to support) human rights,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said. “This is nothing new. This is the American nature. This is what Americans have been doing to the whole world,” he added. Apparently, Khamenei and Iranian officials forgot their countless violations and crimes that they have committed against the Iranian people since they took power in 1979. To entrench their power, they formed the notorious ‘Death Committee,’ whose prominent member was Ebrahim Raisi, the current chief justice of Iran. He has called on the United States to stop human rights violations while turning a blind eye to his unforgivable crimes against Iran’s opponents that he killed and imprisoned in 1988. According to statistics, there are more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.

Iran has gone wild with its human rights violations; the Iranian government has tortured, kidnapped, systematically oppressed, arbitrarily arrested, and beaten its opponents and those who protest against its policies. They are arrested on fabricated charges such as “plotting,” “fighting God,” and “corruption on earth.” Thousands of Iranians, whether minorities demanding their rights or opponents and protesters criticizing the government’s policies have been killed.  To cite a few examples, many Iranians were killed and arrested during the protests in 1999 and 2009. Around 22 people were killed, and 3,700 others were arrested  during the 2017-2018 protests. Finally, the November 2019 protests in response to the government hiking the price of gasoline resulted in 230 deaths.  

If we want to accurately review the number of executions and arrests committed in Iran, we need to study an enormous volume of authentic documents issued by international organizations. This article takes into account the number of executions carried out by the Iranian government in a single year. For example, in 2018 around 507 Iranians were sentenced to death following unfair trials.  Amnesty International reported that 51 percent of all recorded executions in 2017 were carried out in Iran, while 60 percent of all executions in the Middle East were carried out in Iran.    Iran currently ranks second in the world for the number of executions carried out.  The massive number of human rights activists subjected to kidnappings and torture inside inhumane prisons has become well known. Moreover, Iran is one of the world’s top countries for the number of immigrants escaping repression in their homeland.

Iran’s hypocrisy was not only expressed by government officials but also by the media. The IRGC-run Tasnim News Agency posted on its homepage a statement by  Reporters Without Borders which  rebuked the US police in how it dealt with the  protesters following Floyd’s death.  The IRGC-run agency has never published reports, whether domestic or international, nor official or non-official statements which castigate the Iranian government’s violation of human rights since it came to power. The murder of a 14-year old girl, which continues to inflame Iranian public opinion, has fallen on deaf ears in Iran.

Iran’s reaction to Floyd’s killing shows the provocative contradictions in the position of the Iranian government. It blatantly rebukes the US police force for its mistreatment of protesters — even though the police officer involved in the killing was charged with Floyd’s killing while it uses excessive force to silence opponents and crush protests. The Iranian theocratic political system came to power in the 1980s   via popular protests but now it severely represses this type of popular expression. The government’s armed militias have used excessive force to crack down on political activists who protested Iran’s intervention in the Iraqi and Lebanese protests which broke out in 2019.

People abroad sarcastically reacted to the statements issued by Iran’s media and officials concerning the US protests, while at home the Iranian people were outraged by the government’s crackdown on protesters. The Iranian people still hauntingly recall the horrible and terrible scenes of November 2019. The Basij systematically repressed protesters who were beaten and shot dead, while many were arrested, imprisoned and tortured. The police officers involved in killing Iranian protesters have never been brought to justice. Around 230 Iranian protesters were killed within only four days based on a direct order from Khamenei. How does he defend human rights  in another country while he deprives his own people of their rights and orders the country’s security forces to “crush” them?

 Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian lawmaker, accused the Iranian government of having double-standards. Though Iranian decision makers are fully aware of their country’s notorious human rights record, they still blatantly criticize other countries over the same violations for political motives.  They attempt to convince the Iranian people that security, whether for  developed or developing nations, is a key priority. Further, they argue that international organizations should stop accusing Iran of violating human rights and pay attention first to human rights violations in  free countries such as the United States.  Iran not only violates human rights but also claims it is a country where there is freedom to deflect international attention away from its own violations.

Well, some argue that the Iranian government is exploiting the US protests to complicate the political realities in the United States to hinder the US president from being elected for a second term — hoping for a new US administration that would return to the 2015 nuclear deal.  Following the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s regional expansionist plan, in January 2020, in response to the Quds Force’s repetitive attacks targeting  oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf, the Iranian government’s key bargaining chips have started to dwindle.  Further, Iran had attempted to gain leverage in the region via instructing its proxy Houthi militia to attack oil tankers in the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait, and instigating its militias  in Iraq to strike US troops. The Iranian reactions to Floyd’s death reveal that  Iranian decision makers are not aware that the US protests are inspiring the Iranian  people who are  frustrated due to   deteriorating socio-economic conditions — resulting from their government’s domestic polices and regional adventures. Iran’s economic crisis has deepened due to the coronavirus outbreak, US economic sanctions and international isolation. A massive public uprising now seems imminent over the government’s poor performance in managing the coronavirus crisis.

Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Norah Alsubaie
Norah Alsubaie
A researcher at the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah)