Argo, Iran, and the Bomb
In the Oscar award-winning movie Argo, we get a glimpse of the brutal nature of the Iranian regime during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. We see mock executions, public executions on building cranes, and sense the climate of intense fear created by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Now, 34 years later, the human rights situation in Iran is even worse, and the regime is frighteningly closer than ever to developing nuclear weapons. How, one might ask, is this possible in the 21st century, and what can we do about it?
The answer is simple: We must overcome indifference.
Even with the advanced technology of 21st century communications, most citizens of western democracies- including the United States- are either unaware or not focused on the horrific human rights situation in Iran. There is no excuse for this, as the information is everywhere.
Canada’s former Minister of Justice, Professor Irwin Cotler, has been a leading international figure who has worked to bring attention to the issue.
In his article, “Iran’s Pervasive and Persistent Assault on Human Rights,” Cotler wrote: “We have been witness to the imprisonment of the entire Baha’i leadership… the imprisonment and silencing of more journalists, bloggers, and filmmakers than any other country; the persistent and pervasive assaults on the women’s rights movement and the imprisonment of its leaders…”.
According to the February report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, “…there continue to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
The report expressed concern about “the widespread use of torture” by Iranian authorities, and provides extensive and sickening details of the use of rape and sexual abuse in Iranian prisons as a means of intimidation.
It also highlighted something we glimpsed in a gruesome scene in the movie Argo: the use of public executions on building cranes. According to the report, of the 489 executions that took place in Iran in 2012 at least 58 were public executions from cranes.
Given this abysmal human rights record, it should come as no surprise that Iran has provided direct support to its close ally, Syria, in the brutal repression of the popular uprising that has cost the lives of over 70,000 civilians.
And let there be no doubt: A nuclear-armed Iran would feel emboldened to do even worse.
Iran’s repeated threats to the destruction of Israel must also be seen as a fundamental human rights issue. The people of Israel have a right to live without being repeatedly threatened with annihilation by a regime that pursues the development of nuclear weapons in clear defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
How does Iran get away with this?
With a few exceptions, the American and European news media has not adequately reported the horrific human rights situation in Iran. It doesn’t help of course, that the Iranian regime is so hostile to free speech that foreign reporters must risk their lives to enter the country.
One issue is often overlooked: In spite of its abysmal human rights record and sponsorship of terrorism, hundreds of major multinational companies continue to do business in Iran including major brand names like Nissan, Mazda, Ericcson, LG and MTN.
These companies provide the regime with an image of respectability that it does not deserve, and a business as usual atmosphere that has diverted attention from Iran’s egregious abuses of human rights.
As American citizens, we cannot escape our share of responsibility for the ongoing human rights tragedy in Iran.
Since Iran is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. government has imposed tough sanctions that prevent most American companies from doing business in Iran. Unfortunately, many Americans continue to buy the products of the foreign companies who do business in Iran and invest billions of dollars in these same companies. Through these actions we are unintentionally condoning the brutal behavior of the Iranian regime.
Yet, we have the power to make a difference.
Just as students on American college campuses in the 1980’s refused to drink Coca Cola because of the business it did in apartheid South Africa, the American people have the power of the pocketbook. We can send a much different message to the world: No more business as usual with Iran.
The important lesson of the true story retold through the movie Argo comes from the shining examples of Canadian Ambassador Kenneth Taylor and CIA Operative Tony Mendez. It shows how the lives of innocent people who are in danger can be saved by a few courageous individuals who refuse to remain indifferent.
If there is to be any hope for a diplomatic solution to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, then we must overcome indifference and work to economically isolate this brutal regime.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Citizen-activists can log onto www.uani.com and send messages to urge companies to end their business in Iran.