The International Federation for Human Rights this week raised the alarm over what it termed Iran’s deliberate denial of medical care to political prisoners, while other rights groups have protested the regime’s stepped-up crackdown on the Arab minority.
Nevertheless, Iranian women and civic activists are beginning to mobilize again with a visibility and verve not seen since the suppression of the Green Movement, observers suggest.
“Urban issues, pollution issues, environmental issues, women’s issues” — Iranians are forming groups to tackle the major problems facing the country, says Kevan Harris, an Iran specialist from Princeton University. “The universities now are back, full of student politics, so we are going through a wave of mobilization from below in Iran,” he tells NPR:
Rouhani has talked about creating more opportunities for the young, to reverse the flagging economy blighted by high unemployment, inflation and sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program. But women don’t yet see change, says Harris.
“The problem is that the backlash is not only coming from guys with turbans,” he says, referring to hardline clerics. Iran is a male-dominated society, he explains. “A lot of men don’t want women in the workplace, especially when they think it’s costing male jobs.”
But a revived civil society is likely to be confronted by an ideologically-driven regime, say analysts.
Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear program can only be understood by looking at all four dimensions of Iranian politics—power, ideology, norms, and communication, says Carnegie expert Cornelius Adebahr.
“Iran’s power dynamics and ideology are fueled by a fundamental antagonism with the West, making compromise in these areas unlikely,” he writes in a recent report. The Islamic Republic “does not accept all the norms governing today’s international system, but it claims to advance the aims of global nonproliferation.”
Recent aggressive actions could be designed to reassure conservatives that the regime “has not abandoned its ideological position,” says Prof. Meir Litvak, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and the director for the Alliance Center of Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Iran is sending a dual message, he says: the regime has not given up “its revolutionary ideological core beliefs, and if you don’ t want us to misbehave, you must make concessions,” he explained.
Can Iran improve its human rights? Can Europe help?
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2003, founder of the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights
Ladan Boroumand and Roya Boroumand, co-founders of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran (a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy).
Hosted by Andrzej Grzyb MEP (EPP, Poland) Vice-Chair Subcommittee on Human Rights and the European Foundation for Democracy.
Wednesday, 12th March 2014
16:15 – 18:00
Room S3.5, Louise Weiss Building, European Parliament, Strasbourg, France.