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Money, Nukes, and Human Rights

Money, Nukes, and Human Rights

As Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that brought the current system of government to power, there are two topics dominating headlines on Iran: their less than always transparent nuclear program and their human rights record. And both are the target of possible economic sanctions in the coming days and weeks.

The threat of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program is nothing new, although it appears that the UN Security Council is nearly ready to finally impose them. In the past, Russia and China have been the main barriers to effective sanctions, though it appears that Russia is now ready to back a sanctions regime. That still leaves China, which recently stated that it would prefer a diplomatic solution and has remained silent in terms of whether it will use its veto to stop any possible sanctions. While far from a done deal, it appears that the international community is finally making some headway in terms of how to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, though of course it remains to be seen whether it is effective.

However key lawmakers and activists in the West are also making headway in pushing for economic sanctions against Iran’s worst human rights abusers. The US already announced the freezing of assets belonging to four companies and one individual with links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Although the official reasoning behind the sanctions is the belief that the Revolutionary Guard is the force spearheading the country’s nuclear program, they are also the leaders of the crackdown on dissidents and the anti-government Green Movement. Such sanctions thus provide a way for the US to target two issues with one stone without alienating members of the Green Movement.

Meanwhile, new editorials on the importance of paying attention to human rights in Iran have been filling the pages of Western newspapers. A debate before the Human Rights Council on Iran’s human rights record is currently scheduled for next week, with high hopes from some that it will bring new light to the deteriorating situation vis-à-vis pro-democracy activists and dissidents.

Regardless of the outcome of these events, one thing is clear: in a week where the Iranian government hoped to own the spotlight for celebrations of its revolution, the world is far more focused on the Iran of today instead of the Iran of 1979.



Kimberly J. Curtis

Kimberly Curtis has a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor from American University in Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of The Women's Empowerment Institute of Cameroon and has worked for human rights organizations in Rwanda and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @curtiskj

Areas of Focus: Transitional justice; Women's rights; Africa