Next Time You Interview an Iranian President...

I think reporters such as Fareed Zakaria and Charlie Rose should stop pressing the Iranian presidents on human rights issues, if they are looking for remotely convincing answers. If the objective of these questions is to embarrass or commit the presidents to action on behalf of the victims of the judiciary, then the questions should continue. But the repetitive questioning of the Iranian presidents about imprisoned or killed reporters, intellectuals, and political activists have always been met with the unwavering response that the authorities are simply enforcing the "laws" of the country, and that the judiciary is "independent." Neither of these answers are quite true or convincing.

The country's laws cannot serve as a good shield simply because the penal code of Iran is a variant of the same Sharia' laws advocated by all Muslim radicals across the world. Sharia' laws are inherently unfair to women, minorities, free thinkers, and any other people who are not in agreement with the official narrative of Islam. Inequality before the law has never been denied by the Iranian lawgivers. Although twice modified, the Islamic Penal Code still contains medieval punishments of lashing and stoning for social "crimes" such as fornication. The Civil Code of Iran does not validate the witness testimony of non Muslims in court, etc.

The independent judiciary described by President Rouhani in his interview with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, and earlier, by the former president Ahmadinejad, simply does not exist. At best, the judiciary is independent from the president's office. The Islamic republic's judiciary was semi-independent until the drastic changes were made to the Constitution in 1989, right after Ayatollah Khomeini's death, at the time when plans were being laid for the absolute power of the next leader. The Assembly of Leadership Experts was in charge. It was chaired by Seyed Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Khomeini's successor. The assembly revised the Constitution and put it to plebiscite. According to the revised Constitution, the judiciary was brought under the office of the Leader, and that brought the semi-independence of the judiciary to an end. The Leader appoints the chief of judiciary, and he appoints the judges. The chief responds to the Leader only.

My suggestion to the foreign reporters who have the privilege of talking to these dignitaries is to follow up their questions by asking things like "Sir, could you please explain the difference between the Iranian penal code, and the ones advocated by radical Muslim groups in Africa and the Middle East?" Also, when the presidents allege the "independence" of the judiciary, they could ask: "Who chooses the chief of the judiciary, and the judges?" Or "Sir, can I testify in court against a Muslim litigant, although I am not a Muslim?"

I am fully aware that the reporters may not want to ask those prickly questions. They don't want to lose the opportunity to have the man on their show again, or to lose their "access" and get banned from visiting Iran. I am only writing these words to show my frustration with those intelligent reporters who know, but simply ignore the right questions, fearing the consequences.