In New York on Tuesday, for the 10th year in a row, the United Nations adopted a Canadian-drafted resolution demanding that the Iranian government live up to its human rights obligations as a UN member state. The resolution duly noted the regime's increasing resort to arbitrary arrest and torture, its continuing execution of political prisoners, its ongoing persecution of minorities, its discrimination against women and its thuggish restrictions on freedom of expression. The resolution carried, with 83 countries in favour, 31 opposed and 68 abstentions.
That's the beginning of a column in the Ottawa Citizen by Terry Glavin, in which he goes on to tell of the Iran Tribunal, 'a kind of people's court run by jurists and international law specialists' that is putting together 'a case for the prosecution of top Iranian officials on charges of crimes against humanity'. Terry details some of these crimes, and the experience of one woman, Shokoufeh Sakhi, who escaped to Canada in 1992. This passage caught my interest:
[A]mong the many obscenities the Iran Tribunal has had to inquire into, the "crime of silence" particularly defies easy explanation. The way Sakhi explains it, it is at least partly owing to the "complication" Khomeinism's crimes present to the cartoonishly simplistic politics of human rights activism in the West. "Those of us who survived, we have been given no space," Sakhi said. "Nobody wanted to pay attention to us, and we still have this problem."
Kaveh Shahrooz, a 32-year-old Toronto lawyer who serves in the role of prosecutor to the Iran Tribunal, has noticed this too...
"I get called a neo-con all the time, just because I raise these human rights issues," Shahrooz told me the other day. "The support we need has not been forthcoming. Whenever you bring up something like the government of Iran, people will say these governments do the things they do because of some kind of grievance they have with the United States or Israel. But that is just not true."
It is sometimes said (including by me) that the logic at work here is that of the 'enemy of my enemy'. According to this, the enemy of my enemy becomes, if not exactly my friend, then at least someone to be looked upon with a certain indulgence. But it occurs to me now that this can't be the whole story; because with a human-rights track record like that of the Iranian regime, you could turn the thing round and say that that regime must be the enemy of all who care about human rights, and so its enemies are to be viewed more favourably than they otherwise might. But no: the reactions described by Shokoufeh Sakhi and Kaveh Shahrooz somehow escape the pull of this line of thought. Must be that there are enemies and enemies. (Thanks: CT.)