Ivan Sheehan

On Tuesday the International community will recognize International Human Rights Day and reaffirm the fundamental truths enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Five days later, world leaders will gather to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of former South African president Nelson Mandela at his ancestral home in the Eastern Cape.

With the unforgiving spotlight on human rights issues and the moral courage of those who speak truth to power, it promises to be a difficult week for despots the world over.

No more so is this the case than in Tehran where the clerical elite promotes the modern equivalent of South Africa’s Apartheid era violence and exclusionist policies.

Since the interim nuclear accord reached in Geneva last month, the regime’s merry apologists and paid hands in Washington have been busily spinning tales of moderation and reform that belies the available evidence.

Consider the following: The Iranian people are consistently ranked among the least free in the world in indexes of civil and political liberties. Composite scoring of corruption data places the country’s public sector in the bottom tier in terms of transparency. And indexes of economic freedom note that Iran is among the least economically free countries in the world.

A leading human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, provides troubling data to document the regime’s discrimination against ethnic minorities, human rights abuses, arbitrary and extrajudicial detentions, torture, and executions.

A thirty-four year history of violence also places the regime’s leaders – including President Hassan Rouhani – among a select group of modern tyrants and state sponsors of terrorism.

Is it any wonder then that U.S. appeasement on the nuclear issue is being viewed through the prism of the agreement at Munich?

Congress should use this week’s focusing events to push the White House to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to freedom and the protection of human rights by highlighting the apartheid like conditions in Iran and by pushing the administration to explain why the U.S. should compromise such principles to strike a deal with Tehran on the “right” to uranium enrichment.

Members of the House Foreign Relations Committee will get a crack at Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday when he testifies on the administration’s interim plan to provide Iran with relief from sanctions in return for pledges to scale back on it’s nuclear activities.


Ivan Sheehan

Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the graduate programs in Negotiation and Conflict Management and Global Affairs and Human Security in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.