March 13, 2012
The UN must do much more to stop human rights abuses
By Ebrahim Mehtari / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
For daring to oppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 presidential bid in my native Iran, I was thrown into prison, raped, tortured and left for dead on the side of a road.
My oppression is a sign of the Iranian regime’s weakness, something the international community must exploit as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week holds its first-ever debate on Iran’s record.
To share my story with the world — and to urge nations to pursue every possible tool to stop a regime that is devouring its sons and daughters — I will be testifying Tuesday at a summit of victims taking place adjacent to the UN session.
The decision before member states will be whether to renew the mandate of a special investigator into the worsening human rights situation in Iran.
Sadly, the world’s top human rights body turned a blind eye to the fundamentalist regime’s gross abuses during the crucial period of the 2009 crackdown. But it finally took action last March. Placing Iran on its watch list for the first time, the council created the post of an independent monitor. Ahmed Shaheed, former foreign minister of the Maldives, was appointed with a one-year term.
Regrettably, however, last year’s message to Tehran was blunted by the fact that only 22 of the 47 member states voted for the mandate (with seven against, 14 abstentions and three absent — and one country, Libya, unable to vote because its membership was suspended). Hardly a ringing endorsement.
This week is the first time that Shaheed will report before the council. Member states must make sure it is not his last by renewing his mandate — and this time by a broad majority that will resonate worldwide.
Exposing Iran’s abuses before the eyes of the world reminds the regime it fools no one with its lies and hypocritical preaching on morality and justice.
It is difficult for me to recount my story. But unless I share it — and unless good people listen and take action — hundreds and thousands of my fellow citizens will continue to be arrested, brutalized and executed.
That is why I have decided to take the podium this week at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, sponsored by UN Watch and 20 other human rights nongovernmental organizations, which will gather renowned rights activists who were victims of oppression and imprisonment.
In 2009, I worked on the presidential campaign of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist former prime minister, with the goal of reintroducing true morality into Iranian governance. When the regime hijacked the election, I was a blogger, spreading the word about the protest marches.
As a result, Iranian Revolutionary Guards abducted me at gunpoint in August that year. I was delivered to a secret prison somewhere east of Tehran, into the hands of the regime’s sadistic torturers.
That I was tortured is documented. Normally, when treating patients who are victims of regime torture, Iranian hospitals refrain from keeping records. In my case, however, the young couple that found me bloodied and battered presumed I had been the victim of common brigands.
After the hospital learned that I had been imprisoned, my medical report disappeared. But I managed to retain a copy, making me one of Iran’s rare victims with documentation of my torture.
I will distribute new copies of this chilling document at the summit, where other activist victims from around the world will be pressing the Human Rights Council to hear their harrowing stories as well.
My medical report documents cigarette-induced burns over my body, bruising from multiple beatings with metal flails and other objects, and slash marks and deep wounds on my legs and arms.
It also confirms I suffered injuries consistent with something known inside Iran as taaroz. For this, my interrogators used a baton, but I recall little else about the actual event because I passed out almost immediately, such was the agony. The West and international law know taaroz by another name: rape.
Iran denies carrying out sexual violence or torture in its prisons. But I will testify, from personal and profoundly painful experience, that these are lies.
My cell was a hellish place with a bloodstained floor and remnants of filthy, shredded sheets that earlier prisoners had used to wrap around their wounds.
Cameras rolled as my interrogators asked me for a signed confession while accusing me of such activities as “working with Facebook networks.” When the camera light went off, the torture began.
As the days passed, the camera light was more off than on, until I collapsed from my interrogators’ blows and apparently didn’t move again. Believing me dead, they took me out of the prison and dumped me in a ditch on the outskirts of Tehran.
Shortly thereafter, I fled the country, making my way to Turkey. It was there, in late 2009, that a Farsi-speaking man appeared, warning me in a whisper to remain silent about the violence done to me. Nevertheless, I chose to speak out in various public forums.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has long ceased to be either Islamic or a republic. The regime’s actions have turned many former friends — like me — into the opposition.
For the sake of the people of Iran, I urge the UN Human Rights Council to not only renew its scrutiny of Iran’s abuses, but to do so with a hefty majority.
Mehtari is an Iranian human rights activist who lives in Paris.