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3/5/04 - IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS - 2004-03-05

An Iranian man named Mohsen Mofidi died recently, reportedly after receiving eighty lashes with a leather cord as part of an official punishment. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, Mr. Mofidi was accused of possessing a satellite dish and medicine containing alcohol. Amnesty International says he was also accused of fostering so-called “corruption” because his sisters apparently had boyfriends. Before the flogging, Mr. Mofidi reportedly spent four months in prison, where he became ill. The flogging was carried out despite his illness.

In its latest report, the U.S. State Department says the Iranian government’s poor human rights record has gotten worse. The report cites the July 2003 death in police custody of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer. She was killed by a blow to the head after being arrested for taking pictures at Evin prison in Tehran. Torture of detainees and prisoners by Iranian security forces is frequent.

Many hundreds of pro-reform demonstrators were arrested in June 2003. Many Iranian political activists, student leaders, and journalists remain in prison. There have also been reports of political killings.

Lorne Craner is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: “It’s another issue that we’ve tried to pursue, both in the [United Nations] General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights. Canada proposed the resolution on Iran. . .condemning these kinds of practices in Iran at the General Assembly last fall.”

The U-N General Assembly’s adoption of that resolution sends a clear message that people around the world recognize the plight of the Iranian people. Mr. Craner says the U.S. is working with other countries to hold Iran’s theocratic regime accountable for its human rights abuses.

The Iranian people have made it clear that they want change. But the unelected Council of Guardians has vetoed most reform legislation. This year, the council went ever further: it disqualified more than two-thousand candidates for controlled parliamentary elections, including many reform-minded incumbents. In response, record numbers of Iranians boycotted the elections.