Hard Times for Iran’s Spokesman

opinion article
June 24, 2012
Mehrangis Kar
Legally the foreign office (or department of state) of every country is responsible for protecting the rights of the country’s nationals abroad. In that light, soon after Saudi Arabia executed 5 Iranian nationals in Riyadh, the spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry Ramin Mehmanparast said in a press conference that “The Iranians who had been convicted on drug trafficking charges in Saudi Arabia were deprived of their rights to defense counsel, access to a translator, consular access, while Iran had made efforts to stop the execution of their death sentences, ” and added that “Saudi Arabia should know that the execution of Iranian nationals would have political repercussions for it which would be pursued through appropriate authorities.” Now that the five, or by some accounts eight Iranians, have been executed, the question remains how is Mehmanparast going to follow up on his threat or promise. On what human rights basis is Iran going to follow this up? The Iranian government lacks the political capital because it has left itself no friends around the world, let alone any credibility in the human rights field.
Mehmanparast’s remarks did not make people happy and in fact his comments were ridiculed. Some even asked what planet he was on and pointed the finger on the executions that Iran regularly carried out and the treatment drug suspects received at home: defense counsel; due process; human rights. Does the spokesman realize that just a few blocks from his conference podium lies attorney Abdolfattah Soltani serving a long prison term for his human rights activism? Has he even heard of the others, say Nasrin Sotudeh? Does he know who Seifzadeh is? Does he know of the innocence of Narges Mohammadi?
How can one expect the foreign ministry to intervene in the execution of Iranians abroad when the Iranian judiciary hangs people in public and ridicules the protests of the world community against its practices and violations? Only when human rights are respected inside Iran can the regime stand up for the same rights of its nationals in other countries.
The Saudi’s and Iranian could have reached some arrangement where the execution of these five Iranians would have been averted. But does Tehran even have such skills?
Does Mr. Mehmanparast realize that his threat to go to international “authorities” to seek redress for the execution of Iranians by the Saudi government will take the Iranian government to the very same forums where Iranian people have for 33 years been filing their complains of mistreatment by the Tehran regime? If Iran’s foreign ministry recognizes these international human rights forums, then why does it denounce them when it is condemned by them or hangs onto Islam to save it?
This spokesman speaks with his eyes closed. He exaggerates. He is forced to pay lip service to what his superiors tell him just to keep his job. He is a troubled man. How does he expect the Iranian nation which has no domestic forum to complain to about the injustice that is inflicted on it by the regime to believe in his promises of pursuing the injustice done to its co-nationals in Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere?
Following the executions in Riyadh, a member of Iran’s Majlis security committee proclaimed that he would summon the foreign minister for his “sluggishness” over the case but would it not be better if he spent more time on reviving the Article 90 committee of the Majlis which is tasked to deal with public complaints of government, including judiciary, injustices. There is no doubt that the foreign ministry is sluggish in its work for Iranians outside the homeland, but this inaction is related to the zeal with which Iran’s judiciary executes, imprisons, tortures and destroys the life of Iranians. Does the member of the national security committee know that national security is threatened when those who question injustice in Iran are executed by the judiciary and groups that complain when supervisory bodies are neutered are shuttered and its members imprisoned?
Iran and Saudi Arabia both deal with drug trafficking and drug abusers in the same fashion. Add to that the confrontational relations between these two governments whose consequence will be more innocent lives lost.
The responsibilities of the foreign ministry are greater than those outlined by the angry Majlis committee member. Its job is to devise a rich foreign policy, a domain that no longer contains the national interest and where the lives of Iranians are lost not only in Iran and Saudi Arabia but may get smeared in other countries as well. Has the time to review these policies been lost to the planners and policy makers?

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