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"No Big Difference between Iran and ISIS"

"The international community must aim at strategic and long-term alliances based on common values. I do not think there is a big difference between ISIS and the Iranian authorities... The Iranian regime cannot be part of a long-term solution." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Neuroscientist and spokesperson for Iran Human Rights (IHR).

The international community tries to solve the most immediate problems without taking into account the long-term effects of their policies. ... As long as the Iranian authorities do not have the popular support of their people, they cannot be regarded as reliable partners." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, a Norwegian-Iranian neuroscientist who left Iran together with his older siblings in the early 1980s, is the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights (IHR). The organization was started about 10 years ago as a network of defenders of human rights, and in recent years has developed a broad network inside Iran.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam (center) speaks at a protest against Iranian human rights abuses, in 2013, in Norway. (Image source: Anita Nyholt YouTube video screenshot)

"We receive reports about the human rights violations, especially the death penalty, from many prisons across the country," said Moghaddam in an interview with the Gatestone Institute.

"Every year we publish an annual report on the death penalty in Iran. About 50% of Iran's execution cases included in the report have not been announced by the official sources. We only include the cases that we manage to confirm through two independent sources. It is a difficult task, but important. People who send information about the human rights abuses can be persecuted and get heavy sentences.

"We went to Pakistan as refugees and two years later, we were sent by the UN to Norway. At that time, Ayatollah Khomeini had closed the universities and expelled most of the scholars and students (including my sister) if they were not regarded as 'loyal' to the Islamic Republic.

"This, and the indoctrination of schools, which tried to brainwash children, made our father consider sending us out for a short time until the situation changed.

"At that time no one believed that a theocratic system with medieval laws could rule a relatively modern country such as Iran for more than few years. So most Iranians who left Iran at that time believed that they would be returning home after few years."

After 35 years, however, the human rights of Iranian people are still being destroyed daily at the hands of Iranian mullahs.

"We have observed a dramatic increase in the number of executions since the election of Mr. Rouhani," says Moghaddam.

"According to our reports, the number of executions has increased by 30% since Rouhani became president. On average more than two people have been executed each day since his election.

"The main change since the start of Rouhani's presidency is Iran's foreign policy towards the West.

"Their rhetoric has changed. But human rights have not improved."

Under this "moderate" Rouhani, human rights have, in fact, become far worse.

In addition, even though Iranian state authorities call for "Death to America" -- not a statement "for internal consumption" -- and call for Israel to be "wiped" off the map, the Obama administration is working on a deal to give these dictators nuclear weapons.

Moghaddam has some warnings to Western governments negotiating with Iran:

"No dictators without popular support are reliable partners in any deal. The Iranian regime is led by the same people as 30 years ago. The system has not changed. They have the same constitution. They have just become weaker and, after the elections of 2009, they have lost some of their most loyal supporters. It is important to keep in mind that at the present moment, the first priority of the Iranian authorities is their survival.

"The regime's biggest threats are the young people. One day, anti-West slogans help them mobilize popular support and extend their survival and the next day, improving the relations with the West helps them to keep in power. In general, one should not trust dictators without popular support: their only principle is to extend their own survival."

As for Iran's dealings with the ISIS, Moghaddam says:

"The international community must aim at strategic and long term alliances based on common values. I do not think there is a big difference between the ISIS and the Iranian authorities regarding their values and their lack of respect for human rights. The Iranian regime cannot be part of a long term solution."

In an article Moghaddam wrote for the Iran Human Rights Review, he argued that the death penalty in Iran does not aim to fight crime; it is just an instrument to spread fear.

"Today we have more violent crimes and drug trafficking in the country than 20 years ago. So there is no evidence that the death penalty helps preventing crimes and the authorities are well aware of that.

"IHR has studied the execution trends in the last 10 years and we see that there is a meaningful relationship between the number and timing of the executions and the political events in the country. The executions decrease a few weeks before the presidential elections when the eyes of the international community are on the events inside the country and when the authorities want to give some hope to people in to increase their acceptance. The execution numbers increase when the authorities expect protests, or right after the protests. Execution numbers increase as the regime's need for spreading fear among the people increases."

According to Iran Human Rights, Iran is the country with the highest number of public executions.

But, says Moghaddam, "Human rights in general and the death penalty in particular are not among the priorities of the international community."

"This view is extremely short-sighted. The international community tries to solve the most immediate problems without taking into account the long-term effects of their policies.

"The maximum result the international community can achieve from the nuclear negotiations is a temporary nuclear agreement. But as long as the Iranian authorities do not have popular support and feel threatened by the people, they cannot be regarded as reliable partners.

"A democratic Iran where human rights are respected is the only sustainable solution. When the authorities have popular support and feel stable, they do not have the need to interfere in neighboring countries or pose a threat to anyone. This can only be achieved by more international focus on the human rights situation."

Uzay Bulut is a journalist based on Ankara, Turkey.

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