The science fiction movie Minority Report portrays a criminal justice system where citizens are arrested based on their foreknowledge of a pre-crime yet to be committed. Only this is no longer fiction. It is now an actual reality in the Islamic Republic of Iran. They indeed set the bar high for human rights abuse.
On Oct. 24 2016, Golrokh Ebrahimi, the wife of activist Arash Sadeghi, was sentenced to spend 6 years in the notorious Evin prison for a fictional story opposing stoning that was never published! How did the authorities find out you may ask? This is where it gets interesting. In Sep. 2014 Golrokh and her husband Arash were violently arrested by “unknown men” from the nefarious Revolutionary Guard. The guards broke down their residence’s front door without a warrant and confiscated their personal belongings. On their laptop they found a fictional story condemning stoning in which an imagined character burns the Koran in protest as they witness the stoning of a woman. In a judiciary style true to the Islamic Republic, Golrokh was immediately sentenced to 6 years in prison for a fictional story that the “judge” believes would have been an insult to the supreme leader if it “were” to be published. Let me repeat. That’s 6 years in one of the worst prisons in Iran for only “imagining” a story which remained unpublished on a personal laptop that was illegally confiscated.
Today her husband Arash Sadeghi is in critical condition after an ongoing lengthy hunger strike which has surpassed 40 days in protest to his wife’s ridiculous sentence. Arash himself has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on similar absurd charges such as “spreading propaganda against the regime” in a phony court. He was denied access to a lawyer and his facebook private messages were presented by the prosecutor as evidence!
Unfortunately this is the reality behind the rosy picture the cunning Islamic diplomats have tried to portray outside Iran. The face of a “moderate Islamic regime” that jails it’s citizen for a story that was never published. That has no tolerance for anyone who may challenge the immense corruption that has crippled the society and economy ― albeit it even at a fictional idea level. In a power struggle among the different regime factions, news of million dollar embezzlements (or at times even billions!), massive financial and sexual corruptions, and even serious environmental destruction are the norm. Yet no one ― not a single authority ― has been held responsible in the very same judicial courts that hands out severe sentences routinely. Corruption is not the enemy of the Islamic Republic. It’s what makes it stronger. What threatens it is the existence and imagination of people like Golrokh, who as many other Iranians, dare to be human in the supposedly Islamic Republic. The regime masquerades as a legitimate state where the will of the republic is an Islamic regime. Nothing is further from the truth. For those of us who have experienced it, it is an extremely shrewd version of ISIS that has learned how to suppress efficiently, violently, and silently over the past three decades while convincing the world otherwise. It is the reason why we witness such harsh treatment of Iranians by the regime that goes unnoticed in the rest of the world. At least with ISIS everyone knows where they stand.
The recent Iran nuclear deal has only emboldened the Islamic regime to increase their brutality both within and outside the Iranian borders without fear of consequences or repercussions. We have witnessed a rise in the intrusive rhetoric of the Islamic regime in addressing their neighbors, more direct military meddling in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen witnessed by the utter destruction brought to the people of these nations on a daily basis. As for what goes on with in Iran itself ― well ― you can imagine. Or wait! Don’t even imagine because you may end up in prison like Golrokh!
Human rights remains the single most important issue absent from all dialogue between Western countries and the Islamic Republic, often set aside for more expedient security, economic, or policy interests. People of Iran continue to suffer as diplomats in the West chase a mirage of peace in what is tantamount to a hostage situation for the Iranian people which has spanned well over 30 years. As is evident from world affairs today, this is a problem that if not addressed in Iran can engulf the whole neighborhood ― and perhaps beyond.