Iran. According to
Countryaah website, the power struggle continued during the year
between supporters of reform around President Mohammad Khatami and the conservative clergy led by spiritual leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In November, Parliament supported
Khatami's proposal to reduce the power of religious courts
as well as the powerful Guardian Council's right to approve
political candidates. The Twelve Council has veto power, but
had not taken a position on the proposals in December.
The biggest student protests since 1999 erupted since a
university teacher and veteran of the Iraq war, Hashem
Aghajari, was sentenced in November to death for blasphemy.
In June he had called for reforms of Islam and not to
blindly follow the priests. The students also demanded a
referendum on the future of the Islamic Republic. The
protests continued despite Khamenei saying the verdict would
be reconsidered. In early December, Aghajari's lawyer
appealed against the death sentence, which seemed open to a
Dozens of newspapers were banned and journalists and
other opposition prisoners were imprisoned during the year.
Public executions also occurred, despite criticism of the
strict application of Islamic law. In July, a Revolutionary
Court sentenced 33 members of the Freedom Party, Nehzat
Azadi, to prison. The party would also be dissolved, it was
called. Newspapers were banned in July from writing that
Jalaleddin Taheri, a Ayatollah in Esfahan, had resigned from
office in protest against the reforms.
The year was marked by intense diplomatic exchange. In
August, Khatami became the first Iranian head of state to
visit Afghanistan since 1979. At the beginning of the year,
the United States had called on Iran to extradite supporters
of the al-Qaeda terror network who had fled Afghanistan. In
August, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister stated that Iran
handed over 16 Saudi al-Qaeda men despite the knowledge that
the United States would take part in the hearings.
In October, I understood that the country would not
oppose a possible attack on Iraq if it was preceded by a UN
Security Council decision.
Russia and Iran agreed in July on increased economic
cooperation. Russia would, among other things, help build
nuclear power plants, which the US has criticized. In
January, US President George W. Bush branded Iran, Iraq and
North Korea as the "axis of evil" that sought to develop
weapons of mass destruction. In May, Khamenei condemned the
United States and the forces in Iran who advocated a dialogue
with the United States.
In June, the EU opposed the United States by offering
a trade agreement in exchange for regular talks on
counter-terrorism and other issues. Khatami visited Austria
in March and met, among other things. EU foreign policy
spokesman Javier Solana.
In early December, the Guardian Council decided to give
women more opportunity to divorce after stopping such a
proposal in September.
Northwest Iran was shaken by severe earthquakes in April
and June. In June at least 230 people died, and as in April
tens of thousands became homeless. After doubt, Iran also
received US aid through the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF.
Despite tightening and lifting the sanctions, the human
rights situation in Iran worsened from 2013. In the first 14
months of Rouhani's tenure, 599 Iranians were executed.
Public whipping and limb amputation continued to be
performed - some of them in public. In March 2014, the UN
Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Council's
special rapporteur for Iran, but Iran denied him and other
council representatives entry into the country. In October,
the human rights situation in Iran was analyzed by the Human
Rights Council, as part of the regular 4-year inspection.
The council started by criticizing that even the points Iran
had promised to improve after the previous inspection in
2010 had not improved. Iran declared that it would not
answer the charges in 2015 first.
In 2015, when Israel failed to hamper Iran-West tension,
it instead formed an anti-Iranian alliance with the most
reactionary states in the Arab world with Saudi Arabia at
the forefront. The aim was to weaken Iran's security policy.
This was achieved through massive economic and military
support for the rebel groups in Syria (which fought the
Assad regime supported by Iran) and by war against Yemen. In
the Western media, the latter war was referred to as a
deputy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, the
reality was that Yemen's Houthie rebels did not receive
military support from Iran. Finally, in January 2016, Saudi
Arabia beheaded the country's most prominent Shia imam along
with 46 others.
But Iran was not just facing an aggressive Israel and
Saudi Arabia. In Washington, both Republicans and Democrats'
most important presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
promised in January 2016 that they would reinstate the
sanctions regime against Iran if they won the US
presidential election in November. Tod's lifting of
sanctions against Iran on January 16, sanctions were still
in effect in a number of US states, which threatened, in
particular, European major banks with sanctions if they
established relations with Iran.
In March 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council
renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to investigate
the situation in Iran. However, Iran continued to impede
access by the rapporteur and other UN human rights experts
to the country. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
conducted its 3rd and 4th periodical investigations into
Iran, criticizing the country's continued executions of
minors and the implications for the mental health of
children witnessing public executions. The Committee also
criticized discrimination against girls, girls of religious
and ethnic minorities, gay (LGBTI) children and the low age
at which girls are generally punished in the country.