“The combination of Iran’s human rights practices, its weapons programs, its democratic deficit and its support for listed terrorist entities make it a special and dangerous case. Human rights abuses in Iran threaten the peace and security of people elsewhere. It must be tackled, not just for the sake of justice, but also for the peace, order, and good government of Western democracies….” — Iran Human Rights Review
Iran’s crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities, exacerbated by its anti-Western hate-education curriculum, is the most authentic reflection of the ayatollahs’ worldview and strategic vision. Moreover, Iran’s domestic fanaticism constitutes a most productive breeding ground of recruits for the global exportation of the Islamic Revolution.
This rogue domestic conduct has never featured prominently in the negotiation process between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
However, downplaying—or even whitewashing—the centrality of Iran’s domestic violence provides the ayatollahs with a robust tailwind, while generating a sturdy headwind to the battle against Islamic terrorism.
Furthermore, a focus on Iran’s domestic conduct would set the current negotiations on realistic—rather than make-believe—grounds. It would expose the built-in contradiction between the assumption that Iran is a potential “good faith negotiator” and the reality that Tehran is an epicenter of anti-U.S. violence, driven by a 1,400-year-old fanatic and imperialistic Shi’ite Islamic vision.
Such a focus could pressure the ayatollahs to reform their conduct, or it could serve as an effective lie-detector.
Legitimizing Iran’s ayatollahs and recognizing them as a regional and global power—while rewarding them with a diplomatic and financial bonanza—legitimizes the most intolerant branch of Shi’ite Islam, as displayed by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s domestic and regional policies since the 1978/79 Islamic Revolution.
Legitimizing Iran’s ayatollahs, who aim to bring to submission “heretic” Sunni Muslim regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) and the “infidel” West, which is led by “The Great American Satan,” undermines recent attempts by Muslim reformists to introduce a relatively moderate Islam in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco.
Legitimizing Iran’s ayatollahs—without preconditioning it upon an end to Iran’s rogue domestic conduct—deals a dramatic blow to Iran’s human rights activists and to the religious and ethnic minorities in Iran.
Iran’s suppression of human rights
The Iran Human Rights Review (ibid) adds: “The Iranian Constitution [ratified on Oct. 24, 1979 and amended on July 28, 1989] does not recognize human rights or fundamental freedoms as defined by international human rights covenants…. The rights of non-Muslims are not equal to those of Muslims, nor are the rights of women equal to those of men…. Since the 1979 establishment of the Islamic Revolution, a large number of discriminatory laws have been imposed on Iranian women….
“In Iran, there is no sovereignty of the people. Instead, the ‘Nation of God’ is subjected to full obedience to God and his representative, the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei who was preceded by Ayatollah Khomeini], who possesses an absolute constitutional authority…. Democracy is defined as the totalitarian and utopian unity of God, the Leader and Islamic nation….
“The [lifetime] Supreme Leader determines the rights of the entire nation, by controlling all branches of government in accordance with the strictest Shiite Islamic interpretation of all laws and regulations…. During the past 31 years we have witnessed punishments such as stoning, dismemberment, flogging and execution of ‘criminals’….
“Article 12 declares Iran’s official religion to be Shiite. Other Islamic sects are free to perform their religious rites according to their religious jurisprudence [as interpreted by the Shi’ite Supreme Leader]…. Three religious minorities [Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity] are free to exercise their religion [as interpreted by the Supreme Shi’ite Leader], but do not have the right to manifest or promote their religion. Conversion of Muslims to other religions is punishable by death….”
According to professor Wahabuddin Ra’ees of Malaysia’s International Islamic University and assistant professor Abdol Moghset Bani Kamal of Turkey’s Yildirim Beyazit University, “The ethno-religious minorities in the Islamic Republic have been subjected to violations of their fundamental human rights…. All non-Shiite citizens of the Islamic Republic, such as the Sunni Muslims [estimated at 10 million out of 85 million Iranians], Bahai [350,000 deprived of rights and privileges], Zoroastrians [35,000], Jews [8,500] and Christians [7,000] are subject to Shiite Islamic constitutional restrictions and interpretation, denied their own tenets of religion and ideology…. Discrimination against religious minorities [second class, protected population] is institutionalized…. They are obliged to strictly subscribe to the official Shiite ideology….
“The Muslim population of the Islamic Republic is divided into the followers of Shiite and Sunni Islam…. However, the rarely elected Sunni minority religious representatives are required to take an oath to promote Shiite religious values….”
Washington-based Middle East Institute reports that “there are 3-5 million Sufi Muslims in Iran. Contrary to Iran’s Ayatollahs, they don’t believe in coercive, intolerant, violent Islam, but in spirituality, mysticism, the sanctity of life and liberty free of dogma. The 90-year-old Sufi leader, Dr. Noor Ali Tabandeh, died (poisoned?) while under a two-year-house arrest. He was replaced by a stooge of the Ayatollahs….”
According to the Dec. 22, 2021 Saudi Arab News: “Non-Persian ethnic groups in Iran make up around 50% of the population, but [are] overwhelmingly marginalized…. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, ethnic Kurds, Arabs and Balochis have faced harsh crackdowns by Iran’s security forces…. The mostly Shiite Ahwazi Arabs [in the oil-rich Khuzestan province], the largest Arab community in Iran [2% of the population], face similar repression… [as are] Iranian Shiite Azerbaijanis, who make up at least 16% of the country’s population.
“Many Azeris are held in suspicion by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps due to their cultural and linguistic affinities with Turks, in addition to the sense of ethnic kinship they feel with the people of neighboring Azerbaijan…. Iran’s northwestern Kurds make up around 10% of the population…. Like other minorities in Iran, Kurds are not permitted to learn their native tongue in their own schools. Suspected members of one of the many Kurdish opposition groups face the death penalty….”
The bottom line
Can the United States afford to ignore the well-documented rogue domestic conduct of Iran’s ayatollahs, including hate education, which has been—since 1979—the most effective production-line for recruits to the Shi’ite mission of exporting the Islamic Revolution regionally and globally?
Can the United States effectively combat Iran’s rogue external conduct (e.g., terrorism, subversion, wars, proliferation of ballistic technologies and drug trafficking), while underestimating the critical role played by Iran’s rogue domestic conduct, which constitutes the roots of the Islamic Revolution?
Legitimizing Iran’s ayatollahs—without preconditioning it upon an end to hate education and domestic suppression and discrimination—betrays Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, pulls the rug from under all pro-U.S. Sunni Arab regimes, deals a severe blow to recent attempts to introduce a relatively-moderate version of Islam, and cripples the war on Islamic terrorism.
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.
This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.
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