Few countries boast the size, history, culture, and mystery of Iran. Most Americans have relatively little knowledge of Persian or Iranian history, which is compounded by the diplomatic rift that has existed between Tehran and Washington since Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. This is truly unfortunate, as the western media tends to (and not without truth) report on the human rights atrocities committed by the Iranian justice system. What is missing however, is also a nuanced understanding of the country as a whole and how it participates in the world today. Two stories this week seem to highlight this duality. The first is one of tragedy and brutality. The execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari by hanging occurred at dawn on Saturday morning. After a final visit with her mother, Ms. Jabbari was executed in the confines of the infamous Evin Prison; for the alleged murder of a man who had attempted to rape her. A man who was also linked to the state security apparatus. Iran’s record on human rights’ violations are extensive. Whether the jailing and maltreatment of political and social activists; the harsh punishments for drug-related offenses, or those unlawfully held-or disappeared; Iran is regularly cited as one of the most extreme Islamic states. However, most Americans don’t know that the United States would technically be barred from EU membership, if it sought it, because it still possesses the death penalty in many states. And that during the governorship of George W. Bush, Texas’ executions of the mentally-ill was only second to Kazakhstan. Further, Iran’s bellicose stance toward the United States is routinely cited as part of their portrait as extremists, yet the country is surrounded by (literally) multitudes of American intelligence and forward operating bases (to say nothing of black sites). To illustrate this, I found this handy map:
Boy…wonder how those “homeland-security-build-the-fence-send-them-illeagals-back” peeps would feel about Canada and Mexico being awash with Iranian military installations. If the US’ response to 9/11 is any testament, I think it’s safe to say the only thing that would be left on planet Earth are cockroaches, cheez whiz, and Cher.
Despite the atrocities committed by the Iranian government against its own people, other forces are at work. Iran is and has legislation that implements everything from organ donations, family planning, transgender surgery, drug rehabs, and stem-cell research. While many of these debates remain hot-button issues in the United States, Iran has been implementing at the behest of their Supreme Religious Council.
As the march of IS further brings the Us and Iran closer over a common enemy, it will be interesting to see if the States will reconsider their official stance. Perhaps there may be a way to further encourage certain tracks by lifting the sanctions. Tragically, for people like Reyhaneh that day is already rendered meaningless.
Title photo credit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29769468