Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism

By Reza Afshari | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Darkness will roll back. The light will spread like silver. We await a golden
dawn.

—Iranian poet Simin Behbahani


Respect for Human Rights, a Precondition
for Cultural Discussions
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a proper response to the menacing presence of modern states. Notwithstanding the intense cultural debates, a universal human rights core exists as an accepted practice, from which no derogation is permissible on grounds of national security or culture. States that stood accused of violating this core have often and predictably resorted to denial and concealment, not to justification based on cultural norms and religious imperatives. A cursory inventory of human rights violations by states that include the Islamic Republic reveals that certain violations, largely of civil and political rights, regularly occur, irrespective of different cultural traditions. They include:
1. the right to life;
2. the right to freedom from torture or cruel and degrading punishment;
3. the right to liberty and security of person and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention;
4. the right to a fair trial;
5. the right to freedom of conscience, thought, and religion;
6. the right to freedom of opinion, expression, and the press;
7. the right to participate in the state’s political affairs; and
8. the rights of women to equal opportunities in public life.

Cultural and religious arguments cannot be credibly offered to justify derogation from these categories of civil and political rights, since all of

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