Opening statement by Professor Ashraf, CIRA Conference, May 7, 2005

CIRA Conference
Widener University
6-8 May 2005
Panel on Human Rights in Iran
May 7, 2005 11:00-12:30
The Opening Statement by the Chair of the Panel
Ahmad Ashraf

Our seminar this morning takes place only a few days after the release of an unprecedented statement by Ayatollah Shahroudi, the powerful Head of the Iranian Judiciary. In his statement, Mr. Shahroudi acknowledges that:

“Evidence indicates that the investigators in the detention centers violate Islamic and ethical principles to elicit confessions from those being accused of political offenses.”

Undoubtedly, this admission took place in response to the intense pressures by courageous human rights activists inside Iran, as well as the numerous protests and condemnations by human rights groups and international organizations outside of the country. The statement must be viewed, however, as only a partial victory for the cause of civil liberties and human rights in Iran as long as the rogue elements who engaged in such criminal activities have not been identified and brought to justice.

It is indeed unfortunate that the defense of human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities in Iran is at times exploited by those who are intent on advancing their own sinister designs and political agendas against the country. A case in point is the current efforts by some neoconservative elements in the Bush administration to induce, and then to react to, ethnic tensions among Iran’s ethnic minorities. The recent clashes in the Khuzistan, Baluchestan, and Azerbaijan provinces are, in my judgment, examples of such ill-intended efforts.

It is critical, I believe, that, in defending human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities in Iran, we do not unwittingly fall prey to such agendas. The defense of human rights in Iran and elsewhere in the world is far too important to be subordinated to political manipulations by those who, in the name of human rights, seek to advance their geopolitical designs against the country–including its dismemberment.