Tackling Iran’s culture of violence

The Islamic Republic of Iran was born out of a revolution, hallmarked by random acts of violence justified in the name of religion, as a means to access independence, human rights and freedom. Soon after its victory on 10 February 1979, nascent institutions began to promote an ever-expanding policy of arrests, torture and execution, resting on a body of vague laws and codes, that breed violence as the dominant feature of the state structure and culture in Iran.

Thirty-five years later, the judiciary continues to use other vague charges, including ‘acting against state security’, ‘propaganda against the system’ and other vague laws and concepts that accommodate the conservative faction and clerics as a condition to block access to civil rights. This phenomenon leads to violent tensions between the increasing monopolisation of power amongst a few and the deprivation of the most basic rights for a significant portion of the population, particularly among women, children, and ethnic and religious minorities.

In effect, the Islamic Republic’s machinery can be described as a surveillance state that shows no regard for civilian life. As a result of a rational calculus, its policies generate a cycle of violence that have, in turn, gradually shifted cultural values and consequently bred domestic violence and contention.

At a time when the international community is focused on the issue of security symbolised by the nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic authorities, the new issue of Iran Human Rights Review published by the Foreign Policy Centre, edited by me and Shadi Sadr, seeks to draw attention to the underlying problem that affects both access to nuclear energy, as well as Iran’s more universal challenge, the systematic and ongoing violation of human rights.

The aim of the issue is to raise questions, encourage further consideration and highlight to explore new approaches to international relations with Islamic Republic officials with the aim of replacing the current policy of violence against women, religious, sexual and ethnic minorities, that is at the heart of a considerable portion of Iranian codes and laws, such as the penal code, as well as state organs, such as the Islamic Republic Guards Corps and Baseej Forces, with measures that lead to a primacy of non-violence.

It is hoped that by shining a spotlight on the culture of violence, the issue will remind decision makers that human rights is not a soft issue for a few zealous citizens. The epidemic nature of violence in the form of gross violations of the rights of children, youth, women and men living in the Islamic Republic implies that human rights should be at the heart of international relations, negotiations and policies regarding the Islamic Republic. Looking at the examples of South Africa or Argentina, it is only when universal human rights take the place of violence that states are able to commit to security at national and international levels.

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Tahirih Danesh is a human rights researcher and documenter specialising in the case of minorities in Iran

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