The Difference Between Iran and U.S. on Human Rights

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami recently took umbrage at the U.S. State Department’s complaints about Iran’s persecution of Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. She was recently issued a summons to appear in court, but the Iranian government refused to tell her what sort of charges she was facing.

This prompted the State Department to express “grave concern” over the court proceedings. Khatami struck back, citing the poor U.S. record on human rights at Abu Ghraib prison,

Now they [the United States] must respond to the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and their relentless killing of people in all parts of the world in the name of freedom and democracy and the support they provide to the brutalities and atrocities committed against the Palestinian people.

Abu Ghraib provides a nice counterpoint between how Iran and the United States handle human rights abuses that occur in prisons.

One of the ring leaders of the Abu Ghraib abuses, Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr., was recently convicted by a military court and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Contrast this with what happened to the murderers of Zahra Kazemi, a female reporter with both Canadian and Iranian citizenship. Kazemi was arrested on June 23, 2003 after taking photographs of a prison in Tehran. Kazemi was assaulted in prison, apparently by a prison official, and died of her injuries a couple weeks later.

Iranian officials first tried to claim that she had suffered a “stroke,” but later conceded that she had died as a result of a blow to the head which caused brain hemorrhaging.

Iran charged a security official with beating Kazemi to death, but he was acquitted. Iran’s official story today is that Kazemi was standing when she inexplicably fell to the ground, hit her head, and sustained the fatal blow that fractured her skull.


Iran’s Khatami raps US on rights. The BBC, January 15, 2005.

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