Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham Courtesy

As we speak, the international community is gearing up to make a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran at the expense of the human rights of the Iranian people. US State Department Spokesman Ned Price stated that the “US was seeing modest progress.” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian added: “I am convinced that we can reach a deal. I have seen progress in the last few days.”

But is making a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran at this time a good idea, given that the current president of Iran Ebrahim Raisi is known as the “butcher of Tehran,” who is responsible for murdering thousands of political prisoners?

Recently, I sat in on an Anti-Defamation League webinar “Inciting and Enabling the Mob: Social Media’s Role in Attacks on Minorities in Islamic World,” where Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies Iran program, stated, “The nuclear issue is more of a concern to the international community. They have monopolized the Iran issue to the detriment of human rights. The world decided that the people of Iran don’t matter as much as the nuclear issue.”

But, Nader feels that the international community is making a great mistake: “Human rights for all Iranians especially minorities should get exposure. Iran is going to experience massive unrest, especially as we come out of COVID. I do not believe that the Islamic Republic is capable of governing. It is collapsing in slow motion. There will be a lot more human rights violations.”

Religious Repression

Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, stated in the webinar: “Online hate is promoted by governments like the Islamic Republic of Iran. They use social media while limiting the access of their own citizens. They distort religion and demonize marginalized groups.”

Marjan Keypour-Greenblatt, who heads ARAM: the Alliance for the Rights of Minorities in Iran, noted in the webinar that Bahais, Jews and Christians are systematically repressed in Iran: “Anti-religious minorities campaigns on social media affect the real life of religious minorities. They use religion as a weapon and a justification for repression, creating division and oppressing the citizens of Iran.”

According to her, “Shia Islam is used to justify the apartheid laws applied to religious minorities and to silence dissidents. They are used to justify hate speech towards minorities and anyone against the regime. Social media and state-sanctioned media are harmonized and synchronized in many ways. It is echoed and reflected in different ways in social media outlets. They have real-life implications. They dehumanize and demonize the minorities as blood-thirsty demons. They call these groups villains and unpatriotic.”

Repression of Minorities

However, the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t just repress religious minorities, but also ethnic minorities. One of the ethnic minorities that is heavily repressed in Iran is the Kurds. In recent days, Zara Mohammadi, a Kurdish language teacher, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the crime of teaching her mother tongue.

Jila Mostajer, a member of the board of the Hangaw Kurdish Human Rights Organization, stated in an interview: “Zara was teaching the Kurdish language to people especially children in the Nojin Cultural Association as a volunteer for more than 11 years and was also the head of the organization. This NGO has done many other things besides teaching, including holding meetings and gatherings in Sanandaj, Kamvaran, Saghez and Baneh to promote the people’s awareness about their civil and national rights.” For this crime, she is going to waste away five years of her life in an Iranian prison.

According to Mostajer, the regime does not care that Article 15 and Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution permit the study of non-Persian languages in schools: “We are confronting a dictatorship that can arrest and even imprison people without any investigation or trial, so we should doubt any charges and evidence that the regime accuses in Zara’s case. There is no evidence that Zara has done anything against the law and her prosecution is based on the Security Force’s pressuring the judges to put her in prison. The regime is trying to suppress and deprive people of their rights, especially the ethnic minorities, in order to prevent the disintegration of the country.”

The Death of Free Speech

Of course, Mohammadi is not the only victim of this regime. Human Rights Watch just reported that the Iranian poet and writer Baktash Abtin died in Iranian custody: “Abtin, imprisoned on abusive national security charges, was put into an induced coma the first week of January after prison authorities allegedly delayed transferring him to an outside medical facility when he showed corona symptoms.”

“Iran’s justice officials bear responsibility for the death of Baktish Abtin, who should never have been imprisoned for his work,” said Tara Sepheri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “All prior government promises about investigating detention abuses ring hollow when prisoners continue to die in the face of the authorities’ utter lack of care for their lives.” Apparently, Abtin is the second political prisoner to die in Iranian custody this year.

If the mullah’s do not even the value the basic human rights of Iranian poets and writers, then one should definitely fear what awaits Mohammadi, who is Kurdish, in Iranian custody. The international community should also fear that this regime will oppress the people of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries across the world, if they care so little about the fate of a cherished Iranian writer and poet, who had the misfortune of getting COVID-19 in Iranian custody.

The international community should also not trust that this regime will abide by their side of any nuclear deal, as a nation that does not value the lives of their own people won’t value Western lives either. For this reason, the principle of mutually assured destruction won’t work with the mullahs. The world should stop ignoring human rights abuses in Iran and not pursue nuclear deals at the expense of the human rights of the peoples of Iran. The only way to deal with this regime is to keep applying sanctions, until the regime is overthrown by their own people.

You cannot compromise and make deals with the butcher of Tehran, without harming human rights and the dignity of man. For the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” But the crocodile will in the end come back to bite and that is why Chamberlain-like deals should never be made.

Rachel Avraham is the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Communication, Satellite and Cyber Minister under Netanyahu. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”