Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Protecting the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf, Iraq

In 2008 the General Assembly received a report on Iran (which can be found on page 69 of this link).

It outlines some of the history and the present reality of life in a much misunderstood country, and seeks to offer some reflections on some of the key issues facing the international community. These are still very relevant two years later.

The report paints a picture of a society which is perhaps more complicated than the media might suggest. The stereotypical idea of an Islamic Republic may make some in the West think immediately of places like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban. But Iran is a diverse and complicated society. As well as recent reports of a women sentenced to death by stoning, Iran also reportedly has the most number of bloggers per head of the population. Repression and expression, seemingly, coexist, though not always peacefully.

Inside and outwith the country, political dissidents and groups work to bring human rights protection to Iran, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Attacks against the Bahá’í community in Iran have caused an international outcry by religious leaders.

Another situation that I’ve just recently become aware about are the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  There are reports that the Iraqi authorities wish to disperse the camp and deport the dissidents back to Iran, where they face fear of persecution, torture or even death.

Campaigners are trying to put pressure on Iraq to make sure that the human rights of the Camp Ashraf people are respected. One group, the International Committee for the Third Option, is campaigning for greater international attention for the situation in Camp Ashraf and are calling on the international community to do all it can to help them.

Whilst the politics are complicated – Iraq is now a functioning sovereign state with its own legal and human rights institutions. How best does the international community intervene in its domestic affairs?

For the Church, it is to pray, for peace, and for reconciliation. It is also important that we don’t forget that just because the Iraq war is now over all the problems and issues are no longer our concern.

The issues of human rights, justice and dignity are often taken for granted in Scotland. For the people in Camp Ashraf and their supporters, however, they are matters of life and death.

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