Opinion: Ireland can respond to the human rights violations in Iran with meaningful political action, but the will to do this seems lacking

By Vittorio Bufacchi, UCC and Aida Younesi

Having lived through Nazism as a young Jewish woman, and having experienced statelessness because of it, Hannah Arendt knew all about totalitarianism, and the injustice it spawns. She also understood the immeasurable power of solidarity. In 1967, she wrote "truth has a despotic character. It is therefore hated by tyrants, who rightly fear the competition of a coercive force they cannot monopolise".

By the time she wrote these lines, Nazism had been defeated by truth, but totalitarianism lives on. There are still many tyrants in the world today, which is why Arendt’s writings remain relevant.

Here's a truth about Iran today: its ruling theocracy is a despotic, brutal regime that is not afraid to inflict unspeakable violence, both physical and psychological, on its own people. Here’s another truth: the people of Iran will not stand for it anymore, and will not stop until there is real, substantive change. These truths are hated by the current totalitarian regime in Iran.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, Dr. Mahya Ostovar, Lecturer at theUniversity of Galway in Business Information Systems, on the latest protests in Iran

The death of Mahsa Amini on September 16th, at the hands of the regime’s 'Morality Police', while in police custody, was the spark that lit Iran’s revolutionary fuse. The 22-year-old's crime was to have worn the jihab, or headscarf, improperly. Her Kurdish name was Zhina, but she was not allowed to use it in Iran. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the government has forced families to pick from a list of approved names for their children, one of Iran’s many laws to the detriment of ethnic minorities. We will henceforth refer to her as Zhina Amini, as a mark of respect.

No one could have anticipated the impact of this single death. In the wake of Amini’s death, many women and men took to the street, in defiance. Many women took off their hijabs, in performative acts of civil disobedience. Many also cut chunks of their hair in public, in ecstatic rebelliousness.

The Iranian authorities, and their three fearsome police forces, responded with more arbitrary brutality and merciless violence. Six weeks since the start of the protests, thousands of people have been arrested. No one knows exactly how many deaths have been caused by the regime, but it is believed to be in the hundreds, including 23 children, some as young as 11 years old. Totalitarianism is predictable in its inhumaneness.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ News, Iran intensifies crackdown on anti-government protests

Iran’s protest movement is first and foremost a women's movement, led by women. However, it would be a mistake to think that these protests are about a hijab, or merely about women’s oppression under Iran’s theocracy. They are also that, but much more besides. These protests are about structural injustice and persistent human rights violations.

University students Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi, both 22, are serving 16-year prison sentences in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where political prisoners are kept. That’s the same prison that was inexplicably set ablaze on October 15th, killing at least eight inmates and causing serious injuries to many more. There is mounting speculation that the Iranian regime is responsible for this deliberate accident.

Fortunately, Younesi and Moradi were not amongst the victims of this tragedy, but they could easily have been. On August 4th, Amnesty International took up the case of Younesi and Moradi, the latest victims of a grossly unfair system that will punish anyone for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly, or because of their families’ real or perceived links to opposition groups.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ 2fm's Game On, CNN's Don Riddell on how several of Iran's World Cup-bound footballers are adding their voices to the protests

It is now seven weeks since the death of Amini, and the protests across Iran show no signs of abating, notwithstanding the climate of fear instilled by the regime. Every night, the demonstrations continue - and every day, the regime’s crackdown on protesters becomes more vicious. While these events unfold, the international community is looking on.

There are two options open to Ireland in response to the escalation of human rights violations in Iran, First, to make a remonstration to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian ambassador, Masoud Eslami, was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs on October 20th for a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. While this is to be welcomed, one wonders whether this meeting would have taken place had it not been reported in the Irish Times only three days earlier that Iran was supplying war drones to Russia.

Ireland has the means for meaningful political action. The problem is it lacks the political will to side with truth against tyranny.

Apparently, the murder of innocent people and children in Iran was not a sufficient condition per se for a meeting with the Iranian ambassador. Ireland needs to take a stronger position on this. Unless the Iranian regime ceases perpetrating human rights violations, Ireland must suspend its diplomatic ties with Iran. In August 2021, Ireland re-established a Diplomatic Mission in Tehran and is committed to re-opening an Irish Embassy in Tehran in 2023.

Secondly, Ireland is an elected member of the United Nations Security Council, a position which will expire on January 1st next. There is still time for Ireland to take a leading role on the international stage to put pressure on Iran to respect the human rights of all Iranians, notwithstanding ethnicity, gender, religious and political beliefs, or sexual orientations. Ireland has the means for meaningful political action. The problem is that, for now it lacks the political will to side with truth against tyranny.

Dr Vittorio Bufacchi is Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at UCC. He is an Irish Research Council awardee. Aida Younesi is the sister of political prisoner Ali Younesi. She lives in Ireland.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ