No deal was reached in Vienna regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. Instead, the parties agreed to a seven-month extension to reportedly build upon the momentum of the previous year’s diplomacy. While the Iranians take advantage of additional time to further expand their nuclear infrastructure, perhaps it’s time that the world learns the truth about the so-called partners with whom the United States and its P5+1 counterparts have been engaging in “diplomacy.”
As an American woman, my voice counts. And as a firm believer in the principles of freedom and democracy, it is both my right and obligation to set the record straight on Iran’s human rights violations and unveil the mistreatment of Iranian women. Especially as the United States, part of the P5 + 1 group of six world powers, extends the deadline to reach an agreement to disband Iran’s nuclear weapons program once again. I think it is important to recognize who we are negotiating with and why the U.S. cannot back down from our no-nuclear-program-for-Iran position.
We already know that Iran is the world’s most powerful state sponsor of terrorism, with a record of providing financial and operational support to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. And we already know that Iran has spent years stonewalling peace-seeking Western powers such as the United States at the negotiating table, and casting deceptive smokescreens over United Nations nuclear weapons inspectors.
Yet, to truly understand the magnitude of Iran’s lack of morality is to expose the systematic violation of basic human rights of its very own people, with a disturbing focus on its brutal treatment of Iranian women.
Most recently, heartless violations of women’s rights have seeped into some global press coverage. Over the last few months, a woman by the name of Rihanna Jabari was executed for killing a man as he tried to rape her. Young women have been victimized through acid attacks. Three women were arrested for dancing without wearing their veils, and a British-Iranian woman was arrested for the crime of trying to watch a volleyball game.
But what the world seems to have forgotten is that these are stories about “average” Iranian women, who are dealing with the everyday challenges and struggles of life in a highly misogynistic society. Since President Hassan Rouhani, the so- called “moderate,” rose to power in August 2013, the regime has focused tremendous efforts to ensure that strict Islamic dress code is enforced, including veil coverage.
In addition to the ongoing oppression of Iranian women, violations of human rights persist. In Iran, political dissidents are persecuted. Executions of Iranians have accelerated. Human rights defenders are regularly rounded up and jailed — their voices crushed. Gays are hanged. Dignity is denied. A completely hopeless way of life awaits young Iranians who simply seek basic human rights. With over 60 percent of Iran’s population of 73 million under the age of 30, the next generation’s future seems abysmal under Tehran’s current leadership.
This grim forecast is only reinforced by recent statistics concerning the surge in executions since President Rouhani took office. This increase is particularly startling, primarily since Rouhani vowed to improve Iran’s horrific human rights record when he began his presidency. What he says is one thing; the reality is quite different. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, so far there have been 70 more executions in 2014 than during the same comparative time frame last year under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s leadership.
Clearly, Iranian leadership is guided by a platform of spreading terror abroad, while simultaneously terrorizing its own citizens at home.
The Western powers have a choice. They can choose to succumb to more of the same from Iran — deceptive lies concerning Iran’s militarized nuclear weapons program. Or they can choose to take a strong stand against a terrorist regime with shocking human rights violations and ensure that Iran’s capacity for acquiring nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles is curbed once and for all.
Ample time has been exhausted through diplomatic channels and economic sanctions imposed against Iran.
Not enough time has been spent directly removing the threat. The time is long overdue to ensure that Tehran does not have the ability to terrorize America, its own people, or any other country in the world. The very notion that the world’s most destructive weapons would be under the command of the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism and abuser of human rights is unacceptable.
As a champion of democratic principles and values, this is America’s chance to choose the path toward peace and stability by insisting that any agreement with the Iranians makes America and our allies around the world safe. We must prevent Iran from silencing America’s voice of reason.
The longer we procrastinate and extend the deadline for an agreement, the more time Iran has to develop its nuclear weapons program. This must end, and it must end now.
Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost of Touro University, represented Nevada’s 1st Congressional District from 1999 to 2013.