White House Calling On Iran To Abide By Laws That No Longer Exist
A week after turmoil erupted in Iran over the presidential elections in that country, President Barack Obama finally issued an official statement on Saturday calling for the Iranian authorities to respect the rights of the people who have rallied and marched in Tehran to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. But Obama’s demands may be a long shot from being fulfilled since the current government there has eliminated most laws protecting freedom of speech from its books.
“We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights,” Obama said in his statement.
The White House should know, however, that freedom of speech and assembly are not equal in Iran. Since Ahmadinejad got into power, laws protecting freedom of speech have been taken out from the Iranian constitution through the parliament. This according to Reporters Without Borders:
The media restriction includes the banning of satellite television, student publications, books, newspapers, or magazines from criticizing the government, and filtering and limiting the materials available on the Internet.
What better example of this than what happened to Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, a university student who was jailed for expressing his political views on his blog. According to a CBS News story published in October 2007, the Iranian government has always engaged in suppressing and penalizing anyone who speaks out against the government by threatening and jailing them.
Here is a snippet of the story on what happened to Mirebrahimi:
The Iranian government went to extremes to suppress any coverage of the incident within its borders, and to punish those who reported on it. For two months, Mirebrahimi was kept handcuffed and blindfolded.
The CBS story also mentioned Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian with Iranian background who was jailed and raped for trying to photograph Tehran’s jails. She eventually died in prison.
The suppression of freedom of speech in Iran has always been condemned by humanitarian and journalist organizations. Reporters Without Borders has named Iran, “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.”
However, the Iranian government can be held accountable for violations to freedom of assembly. Freedom of peaceful assembly it’s actually in Iran’s books. Amnesty International on Friday reminded the Iranian government on a press release about it:
Peaceful assembly is expressly permitted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a state party. Law enforcement officials must use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty. They must not use firearms unless strictly unavoidable and in order to protect life. Law enforcement personnel must exercise restraint, minimize damage or injury and respect and preserve human life.
Laws that no longer exist to protect people’s rights is perhaps the most dangerous thing to any civilization. In this case, perhaps the US government should call for the restoration of laws that used to protect people’s right to speak and report freely. Calling for the enforcement of laws that don’t exist makes us look a bit, uninformed.