Human rights in Iran – how Australia, Europe and the USA are responding

A little over a week ago I met in my office with an Iranian man who is currently living in Brisbane. He is a widely published writer on science issues, and he has also written about the situation many Iranians currently face at the hands of their Government. He is trying to get protection from having to return to Iran.

When I was in Baxter detention centre a few days ago, I met with Iranian writer Ardeshir Gholipour whose situation has received a bit of media coverage. He seemed a very humble man – maybe even a little embarrassed by the specific attention he had received and repeatedly stressing that all the others locked up in Baxter were just as much in need of help as he. I also met some of the Iranian asylum seekers involved in the hunger strike prior to Christmas to assure them that many people were still working hard in support of them. Whilst some of them were clearly extremely despondent, it is amazing how well many of them are holding up, given what they have been through and the uncertain future they face.

There have been many reports of the Iranian Government cracking down on journalists and internet writers. To quote from this item in the Online Journalism Review, “in Iran, when reformist bloggers and journalists fact-check the government they are put in jail and their publications are shut.”

So what are some recent actions by other nations about human rights in Iran? The European Parliament recently passed a resolution denouncing the continuing human rights abuses in Iran.
The USA Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, gave her views about Iran during her visit to Europe. She is quoted in the New York Times as saying “I don’t think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or for the region. I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime’s human rights behaviour and its behaviour toward its own population is something to be loathed.”

In contrast, two years ago, the Australian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Iranian Government. The two countries agreed their “first priority is to work together to promote the voluntary repatriation of those Iranians currently in detention in Australia.” The MOU also enables non-voluntary deportation of asylum seekers back to Iran, something which occurred in at least one instance as recently as last month.

The MOU also established a Work and Holiday Visa scheme for “young Iranians and Australians to work and holiday in each others’ country.” Iranians wishing to make use of this have to gain the approval of the Iranian Government.

Despite a specific order by the Senate, the Australian Government refused to release the contents of the MOU – something I expressed annoyance about at the time.

For once, I wish the Australian Government would share the views of the USA Administration and stop trying to deport asylum seekers back to a country whose Government’s human rights behaviour and actions towards its own people is “something to be loathed”.

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