Since his election in June 2013 the BBC, has consistently portrayed Hassan Rouhani as a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’, with the BBC’s profile of the Iranian president stating:
“Mr Rouhani says he wants to steer Iran towards “moderation”.”
Another profile tells audiences:
“His campaign slogan “moderation and wisdom” continued to be a theme at his inauguration in August.
Despite being very much part of the Islamic Republic’s establishment, his promises of reform, of working to ease sanctions, of helping to free political prisoners, of guaranteeing civil rights and a return of “dignity to the nation” drew large crowds when he was on the campaign trail.”
Whilst the BBC has never actually got down to discussing the nitty-gritty of Rouhani’s interpretation of ‘moderation’ and ‘reform’, two recent reports indicate that his agenda does not include human rights.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, published a report last week which includes examination of the ‘right to life’. Mr Shaheed found that the number of executions in Iran has risen under Rouhani’s presidency.
“At least 753 individuals were reportedly executed in 2014 (the highest total recorded in the past 12 years). This includes the execution of 25 women and 53 public executions. Nearly half of all executions — 362 — were for drug-related crimes (not including those drug related offenses that were also committed in conjunction with homicide crimes), which do not meet the internationally accepted threshold of “most serious crimes” required for use of the death penalty. In at least four cases the families of homicide victims provided pardons only after authorities implemented the death penalty by hanging. In these instances, authorities ceased the execution and lowered individuals after a period of suspension.”
He also found that minors were executed.
“The revised Islamic Penal Code, which came into force in June 2013, also provides capital punishment for juvenile offenders (unless the offender is found to lack the mental capacity to understand the nature of the crime or its consequences). Regardless of the revision, juvenile executions continue. Reports indicate that at least 13 juveniles may have been executed in 2014 alone.”
Another topic addressed in the report is freedom of expression.
“At least 13 journalists and bloggers have been arrested or detained since July 2014.31 As of December 2014, 30 journalists were detained, despite the release of at least eight journalists since July 2014 upon completion of their prison sentences.32 Charges include vaguely worded “national security” crimes, such as “propaganda against the system,” “assembly and collusion against the system,” “insulting the Supreme Leader,” and “spreading falsehoods with intent to agitate the public consciousness.” In September 2014, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld the death sentence for Mr. Soheil Arabi, a blogger convicted of sabb a-nabi (insulting the Islamic Prophet) for comments he allegedly posted on several Facebook accounts. He was also convicted of “insulting Government officials,” “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the system.” In its reply, The Government claims that Mr. Arabi “injured [sic] public religion sensation.” “
Persecution of Bahais and Christians is noted in the report and – in contrast to the BBC’s recent whitewashing of the issue – it also presents a grim picture of women’s rights in Iran.
“Recent legislative attempts made by the Iranian Parliament appear to further restrict the rights of women to their full and equal enjoyment of internationally recognized rights.”
A report on the death penalty in Iran was also issued last week by ‘Iran Human Rights’. That report notes a 10% increase in executions in 2014 compared to the previous year.
“Moreover, a comparison of the execution rates in the 18 months before and after the election of Mr. Rouhani shows a significant increase in the use of the death penalty after Rouhani’s election. There has also been the highest number of reported juvenile executions since 1990. In addition, Iranian authorities continue execution for non-violent civil and political activists.”
It is clearly time for the BBC to explain to audiences why it continues to describe the current Iranian president as ‘moderate’.