Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism

By Reza Afshari | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Official Responses to the United Nations
Countering the Charges of Violations in the 1980s

In their earlier responses to the UN’s inquiries, reports, and resolutions, the Iranian regime’s diplomats vacillated between ideological/religious exaltations and outright denials that were sometimes expressed in a calmer, bureaucratic language. Perhaps the most salient feature of the first period (1980s) was the use of inflammatory rhetoric, denouncing the United States and its European allies for sponsoring critical resolutions on human rights violations in Iran. The hysteric Islamist political discourse for domestic consumption largely shaped the diplomatic responses to the international community.

Two examples will suffice to show the tone of the official responses in the early years of the Islamic Republic. One was meant to counter the charge that the Islamic Republic used boys not yet mature enough for military service, in its human wave attacks against the Iraqi aggressors. A diplomat expounded on the virtue of suffering and martyrdom: “It was an honour for their country that those young people had become sufficiently mature to understand the seriousness of their country’s situation. Their heroism and enthusiasm were based on the notion of martyrdom, which materialists were unable to understand. Martyrdom formed part of the ideology of the struggle by the Iranian people against imperialism and colonialism, as had always been the case in the Muslim world.”1

Most likely the language remained incomprehensible to his Western interlocutors and international human rights monitors. A more bureaucratic response that contradicted the first one came from Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, rejecting the allegation that the use of children in the war was “an established practice or one that is encouraged by the Government.” The practice was an honor, but the government did not encourage it! The second response was meant to counter the charges of torture: “Detainees, and more particularly persons imprisoned for espionage,

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