People in the Iranian capital Tehran celebrating their country's nuclear deal in Vienna. July 2015. Photo: AFP
LOS ANGELES—As Iran warms up to the outside world and years of sanctions are to be lifted by the United States and other western powers, Iranian Kurds remain wary and fear this would give Tehran carte blanche to continue its oppressive policies at home.
“Although those living in Iran see this as an opportunity to live under less economic pressure, the rest, mostly expatriates, are worried that as Iran becomes friendlier with the West, the government will be more violent in suppressing dissidents,” says Shahed Alavi, a Washington-based journalist.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ended its 12-year investigation into Iran’s nuclear weapons program this month, paving the way for lifting sanctions and normalization of relations with Iran.
Hajir Sharifi, a Kurdish human rights activist in Toronto echoed Alavi’s apprehension.
“This is a reasonable concern. Soon after clinching the nuclear deal, Iranian government launched two potential attacks against Kurdish political parties outside Iran, executed five Kurdish political prisoners, and detained several activists and journalists.” Sharifi told Rudaw.
Others believe it is too soon to give Iran full clearance as the country’s human rights record continues to rank among the worst in the world.
“The days of Iran acting suspicious are not over,” said Soraya Fallah, an activist in Los Angeles. “Two significant issues in Iran are ongoing: human rights abuse (capital punishment, persecuting dissidents, gender inequality, violating ethnic and religion minority’s rights and so forth) and IRI terrorism in MENA. The question remains whether IRI will enjoy impunity now because of the improved relationships.”
Tehran reached a nuclear deal with the P5+1 powers in July that limits Iran’s uranium enrichment activities for ten years and in return most economic and trade sanctions would be lifted.
However, human rights organizations list Iran as one of the worst violators of human rights where more people are executed per capita than anywhere else in the world.
In October the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for Iran, Ahmed Saheed said that Iran was executing people at an exceptional rate, reaching 1,000 people this year.
Human rights concerns aside, some believe that it is not easy to trust the regime in Iran and that the western powers are too optimistic in their dealings with Tehran.
“Iran's intention from the very beginning was suspicious; otherwise, they would not have searched and aimed for enriched Uranium in black markets and through hiring corrupt scientist from Pakistan and North Korea,” says Esmail Ebrahimi, an analyst in Canada.
Ebrahimi says that Iran may temporarily act reasonably under pressure but that it would resume its nuclear activities at the first opportunity.
President and Founder of Kurdish American Education Society in California, Adreshir Rashidi, thinks that Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power is still there but the nuclear deal has put Tehran on a tight rope.
“Iran's ambitions to become a nuclear power and a threat to its neighbors has been halted for the next few years, but not permanently eliminated.”
Rashidi concludes that as the West is getting on good terms with Iran, Iranians will have to count on themselves to bring about any change.
“The West due to its nuclear deal with Iran, in essence has delegated the need for internal change to the people of Iran. To bring about fundamental change to Iran internally, disfranchised religious and national minorities must impose their own sanctions on the regime, until the time the people of Iran are free to determine their own future peacefully,” he told Rudaw.