Why Iran’s regime is terrified of growing focus on its human rights record

In a session of the so-called Supreme Council of Human Rights Staff, regime officials expressed their concern about their human rights record catching up with them. Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei chaired the meeting which, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, and five cabinet members: Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abollahian, Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, Culture Minister Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, and Justice Minister Amin Hossein Rahimi also attended.

To no one’s surprise, this list of infamy consists of six officials who have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the EU for violating human rights.

The challenges regime is facing in the human rights domain were the topic of discussion. But this wasn’t a session about how to improve the human rights situation in Iran but how to deal with the backlash the mullahs are facing regarding its abysmal human rights record.

Ejei talked of “the rush of human rights conditions being imposed” on the regime that the enemies “are preparing the grounds to make human rights decisions” and pressuring the regime. Ejei then stressed that the regime should not have a “passive approach” in the human rights domain and must take on an “active and offensive” posture.

Shamkhani also lamented that the regime was under fire for human rights violations and suggested expanding and empowering the so-called “human rights staff.” Vahidi talked of the need to put behind the “previous passive approach”. And Esmaili said that the regime must shift from “defense to offense.” on human rights matters.

The question is, what is the regime worried about, and why are its officials suddenly scrambling to make these remarks on the human rights situation in the country?

Here are a few events that are worth mentioning:

• The ongoing trial of Hamid Noury, a former deputy prosecutor in Gohardasht and Evin prisons, involved in the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners. Noury’s trial has become a window into the regime’s four decades of crimes against humanity.
• A resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the U.S. Government to endorse the formation of an international commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre.
• The 68th resolution by the UN General Assembly condemning the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses.
• A UN workgroup warning about the 1988 massacre and calling for an independent investigation into this crime against humanity.
• Dozens of protests by Iranian expats in different countries, highlighting the regime’s human rights abuses and calling for accountability.
• Continued rallies inside Iran, especially by the mothers of protesters killed by the Iranian regime, calling for accountability on human rights abuses.

These are just a glimpse of the “attacks” and the pressure which have raised alarm. Led by the Iranian Resistance the Justice Movement has become a nationwide and global cause, bringing the regime to a point that it is thinking about “structural solutions” to the human rights issue.

What does the regime mean by going from “defensive” to “offensive” response? Obviously, this is not a regime that is willing to improve the human rights situation. The mullahs have maintained their hold on power through violence, arrests, imprisonment, torture, and executions. The minute they back down on these tools of power, their regime will be swept away. And in the current climate of Iran’s society, which is on the verge of explosion, any level of relent on human rights violations will lead to mass protests which would undermine the regime’s tenuous grip on power.

As such, the regime has no other solution than to intensify repression. But at this point, it has already played all its cards and the officials are also warning that their human rights violations will eventually become their own undoing.

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