Human Rights in Iran

Subordinated to a Successful Realpolitik

20/02/2017 | 18:00 - 20:00 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only


Category: Iran, Human Rights

The conclusion of the Iran nuclear treaty in July 2015 and its entry into force the following January had a significant impact on both German and European politics vis-à-vis Iran and with regard to media coverage of the Islamic Republic. Human rights issues have shifted out of focus in favor of economic interests. What is the reality of the human rights situation in Iran, and what effect does the conclusion of the treaty have on the country? What does it mean for German and European foreign policy toward Iran? These were some of the questions of an expert panel discussion organized by the DGAP’s Middle East and North Africa program in cooperation with the Middle East and International Affairs Research Group (MEIA).

Prior to the Iran nuclear treaty, the majority of Western media reports on Iran’s domestic and foreign policies had been highly critical. In the same vein, the vast majority of German and European foreign policy-makers had been critical of Iran’s support of terrorist organizations and other internationally destabilizing actions as well as the regime’s dire human rights record. Ever since the deal was concluded, however, the focus has shifted to lucrative trade and investment opportunities. The panel discussion sought to shed light on the currently subordinated human rights situation in Iran, with a focus on restricted political participatory rights, freedom of expression, and religious freedom.

The panel consisted of three experts who examined the current human rights situation in Iran as well as the impact of the nuclear deal and assessed German and European policies toward the Islamic Republic. It was argued that the Iranian regime’s core value approach subordinated human rights to national security concerns, while at the same time blurring concepts of military and societal security. Even though the 2013 new penal code and the 2015 new procedural code have improved some of the previous shortcomings of the Iranian National Security Law, it continues to have major drawbacks, which render it subject to abuse and arbitrariness. 

There was broad consensus that the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated since the conclusion of the nuclear deal. A point of controversial debate was to what degree one can attribute this development to the shift of Western priorities, which saw a decrease of criticism of the Iranian regime in an effort not to jeopardize the new rapprochement. At the same time, there was agreement that calls for the repeal of the nuclear deal, as voiced by US president Donald Trump, were not helpful. Instead, the nuclear deal was also seen as a chance for Western countries to regain influence through their renewed political and economic relations with Iran. The country’s elites recognize the economic importance and competitive advantage of Western countries, particularly with regard to technologies and knowhow, the experts argued. To demonstrate the positive impact external pressure can have, it was pointed to the success of a strong international campaign that had called for the release of minors on death row in Iran. The experts warned against new sanctions that would only strengthen the hardliners.

About thirty-five guests attended the event. The discussion took place under the Chatham House Rule. 

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