How the Iranian Regime Uses Islamic Law to Justify Violating Human Rights

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Hiding behind the “word of god” allows the Iranian government almost complete freedom when it comes to oppressing and imprisoning Iranian citizens

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The state of human rights in Iran has been a topic of criticism for decades. With punishments amounting to death through torture and executions, Iranians are left with little room to challenge their rulers. The regime uses its strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam as a convenient tool to justify violating human rights, which has granted it free reign to abuse its authority and oppress Iranians.

The Ministry of Interior Security and other intelligence functions have banned human rights groups, civil society groups, and independent political parties. Media censorship is common in Iran, with foreign satellite television channels and social media being blocked, including Twitter, Telegram, Facebook and even YouTube, effectively cutting Iranians off from the rest of the world. Protesters are arrested and political prisoners are kept under house arrest with no charges or trial.

This violation of the freedom of expression, association and assembly is further perpetrated by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which forbids journalists from citing non-governmental sources, claiming they are trying to stop the spread of fake news and internet rumors. Several journalists covering COVID-19 were arrested on the charges of spreading propaganda and causing public unrest.

Arrest is a dangerous risk for Iranians fighting for their human rights. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are not uncommon in the regime’s handling of dissidents and citizens during interrogation. Detainees are subjected to beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, stress positions, floggings, electric shocks, and forced administration of chemical substances. The regime has increased its use of abusive tactics by hiding it with Islamic laws and misinterpreting them, claiming that a person who disrespects authority in turn disrespects Allah.

Furthermore, the criminal justice system does not offer a fair trial for the accused. Defendants are treated with hostility by the Revolutionary Court judges, who take accusations made by intelligence and security functions as pre-established fact. The right to a fair trial is violated systematically by the regime, which conducts many trials behind closed doors. Detainees are forced to confess by way of torture and ill-treatment. These forced confessions are broadcast on state television prior to trials, and are used as evidence in court, even after they are retracted by the defendants. There are no Islamic laws that support this kind of treatment, but the regime presents the defendants’ crimes as committed against Allah, and base their convictions on religion all the same.

Authorities regularly detain people in undisclosed locations and conceal their fate from their families. The victim’s families are threatened with arrest if they inquire after their whereabouts. With many trials conducted covertly, there is no way of knowing what happens to these missing detainees. Hundreds of people have died in custody, and prison facilities are overcrowded, do not have adequate food and water, and lack basic sanitary facilities.

Law-abiding citizens are also affected by the regime’s mistreatment. Islamic law is used to oppress women and girls, including forcing them into marriage and not allowing them divorce, inheritance, employment or political office. The police enforce these discriminatory laws, such as mandatory veiling, using harassment, torture and violent attacks. Women are subjected to this treatment under the guise of protecting their morality and modesty in accordance with Islam. Child marriages are still prevalent in Iran, as men have almost total authority over the lives of their daughters and granddaughters. Men who kill their children and wives, who can be as young as 14, are protected through impunity.

Freedom of religion and belief is largely absent, as the regime imposes codes based on their strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam on all Iranians, regardless of religious beliefs. The authorities reject the right of those born to Muslim parents to convert to other religions or become atheists. Individuals fighting for this right risk the charge of apostasy and an unfair trial.

Ethnic minorities such as Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Kurds, Baluchis, and Turkmen face widespread discrimination. Their access to education, adequate housing, employment, and political office is limited. The members of minority groups who speak up are detained and subjected to the Iranian criminal justice system.

It was generally assumed that the state of human rights would improve with the Islamic Republic’s rise to power, as it promised to protect Iranian citizens. However, this has since proven to be untrue. Governmental functions work to oppress citizens by citing an obviously misinterpreted version of Islamic laws. The regime’s religious front allows it to easily eliminate those who oppose its rule, all while justifying it as Allah’s will and the Islamic way. 


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