Iranian leaders use social media freely without censorship, yet the people are banned from doing so.
[Ehsan Hosseinzadeh | Fair Observer]
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is known for being a moderate politician. He tweets regularly on world politics and expresses his opinion freely via social media. Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, is also active on Twitter, which he uses to communicate with the rest of the world without censorship.
But there’s just one thing. Almost all social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in Iran despite people finding ways around this. Yes, Iranian leaders are allowed to use social media, but the people are banned from doing so. Why? Because, for the regime, Iranians cannot distinguish right from wrong and if they use social media it will cause them harm.
The Islamic Republic not only blocks social networks, but also many news websites, including Fair Observer, o prevent people from knowing the truth and gaining a deeper insight into the political situation of their country and the world. The regime also jams satellite signals to prevent people from watching foreign TV channels, as well as blocking many opposition websites.
Just last week, Zarif tweeted that US addiction to sanctions is out of control. But what is the regime’s addiction? Is it the addiction to censor websites, TV channels and social media? Is it the addiction to imprison human rights activists like Arash Sadeghi, who suffers from cancer and is not receiving proper treatment from the government? Or is it the addiction to oppress people while they protest peacefully? Wouldn’t it be better for Zarif, who often talks about democracy, to address these questions instead?
The foreign minister claims that Washington’s latest sanctions violate the human rights of Iranians — which is correct — but the Iranian government does not even respect the rights of its own citizens. The imprisonment of human rights lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh, Ghassem Sholeh-Sadi and Arash Keykhosravi are mere examples of the widespread oppression in Iran. Sholeh-Sadi and Keykhosravi were arrested in August after protesting peacefully in front of parliament and calling for free and fair elections, according to Amnesty International.
Zarif says the US government does not respect the rule of law. But what is definition of rule of law? The most significant feature of the rule of law is the independence of the judiciary, which is completely ignored in Iran. The head of the Iranian judiciary is appointed by the supreme leader through undemocratic means and stays in office for five years. The current head of the judiciary, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, is a hardliner who is famous for the violation of human rights. It is no surprise he is under US sanctions.
The minister talks about rule of law, but isn’t access to an independent lawyer part of this? Why did the Iranian parliament enact an article in criminal code to limit the rights of political prisoners to be granted an independent lawyer, instead making them choose from a list of lawyers selected by the head of the judiciary?
And isn’t freedom of speech an indispensable part of the rule of law and human rights? Yet this is something Iran has violated for decades. Human rights organizations can attest to this fact.
It’s clear that Zarif’s tweets are not based on facts. They are part of the political game that Tehran and Washington play without respecting the rights of Iranians.
This article was originally published on Fair Observer.
Ehsan Hosseinzadeh is an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist. He writes for national and international newspapers focusing on social, legal and human rights issues in Iran.