Iran vs. Democracy and Human Rights

By: Sara Akrami and Saeed Ghasseminejad

Democratic governments function as role models for authoritarian regimes and provide freedom and dignity in different aspects of life for those citizens living under authoritarian states.

As long as the priority of democratic governments is the establishment of freedom and democracy rather than financial gain, then the roots of authoritarianism will gradually dissolve throughout the world, and equality and justice will replace authoritarianism.

Democratic governments can help oppressed people achieve their goals for democracy by pressuring the authoritarian governments in the international arena, by supporting democratic elections and referendums, and by offering financial and political help to opposition groups and social movements who work for regime change against these governments.

One of the most significant examples of authoritarian governance is in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite its inhumane and terrorist nature, it has remained in power for 32 years. The wrong policies of western countries, including the United States of America, especially under the Obama administration, have helped the Government of Iran remain in power and continue to not only violate the process of peacemaking in the Middle East but to also endanger the safety of the entire world.

Although it is true that Iran does hold elections, generally these elections are not free. While elections are one of the key indicators of democracies, democratic states should promote them in Iran where free and democratic elections are restricted. In this way, Iranian citizens with different political ideologies would be able to express their ideas through their votes and representatives.

Although the danger of fraud exists during elections in Iran, democratic governments can prevent this by sending international organizations to supervise the elections. If democratic governments are vigilant about the promotion of democracy in Iran, then the eventual outcome will be greater rights and freedoms. After the 2009 election in Iran, when thousands of dissidents of the government were protesting on the streets of various cities of Iran, the West missed its best chance to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, Obama was sending amicable message to the ruthless supreme leader of Iran.

Another way that democratically organized states may force Iran to change its behaviour is isolation in the international arena. Since the Islamic Republic of Iran has the worst human rights record, democratic governments can pressure this regime into admissions about its human rights violations and reveal embarrassing truths about its policies and attract the attention of international organizations, such as Amnesty International and the United Nations that work to promote justice and freedom.

Once altered, these organizations can monitor human rights practices and try to keep torture and execution to a minimum. Consequently, when Amnesty International and the United Nations send their representatives to Iran for inspection and publicize the cases of violations against human rights to the whole world and attract the attention of individuals, the Islamic Republic of Iran will receive extreme pressure from the world and will stop practicing inhuman treatments against the Iranian citizens.

Also, the judiciary is used throughout the democratic world to uphold justice and ensure that every individual receives a fair trial. An international court, such as the International Court of Justice in Hague is a useful way to keep the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable for their policies and actions.

Economic sanctions can be used to persuade the Islamic Republic of Iran to alter its behaviours as long as the Iranian citizens are not suffering because of these. Western countries which have oil-rich trading partners like Iran can impose a trade embargo on the regime and thereby pressure its leaders into adopting more democratic practices. In fact, a common response from democratic nations and the international business community is to sever economic ties with Iran.

A further approach that democratic governments can take toward Iran is to offer tangible and intangible support to the growing social movements and opposition groups who work for regime change. Since the most certain way to spread democracy in Iran is eliminating the regime rather than trying to reform it, political opposition groups and social movements play an important role.

When democratic governments support labour movements, women’s movements, student movements, and different opposition groups who truly work to achieve democracy and freedom for their country, Iranian citizens will be persuaded to join these groups for government change.

Consequently, when the vast majority of people show their objection to the current government through their demonstrations and other political activities, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no choice except to step down from the position of power. In other words, it is more effective when government change in Iran is brought about by the Iranian citizens rather than by military invasion of foreign powers.

Since the Iranian people have been forced to live out their lives under the tyranny of the Islamic Republic of Iran for 32 years, democratic nations of the West, including the United States need to take seriously their responsibility to promote fair human rights practices.

Democracies are well-positioned to improve human rights condition in authoritarian nations like Iran since they are able to promote the democratic model by setting excellent example and by offering support to social movements and opposition groups within these countries. Strong democratic role model that will encourage political change from within authoritarian regimes is more likely to bring about lasting political change than external military forces.

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