Iranian Presidential Candidates Have Long History of Human Rights Abuses

Jun 18, 20240 comments

Among the six political figures nominated by the Ministry of Interior as the final candidates for the presidential elections, five are familiar faces from the conservative party, and one is from the reformist faction. A brief look at their political backgrounds reveals how each of them has been involved in human rights violations. In this article, we review instances of human rights violations by these presidential candidates based on data from human rights organizations.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a former Revolutionary Prosecutor and Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Intelligence during the early years of the Islamic Republic, played a significant role in human rights violations. His involvement in the execution and murder of political prisoners is particularly notable. In 1988, he was part of the infamous “Death Squad,” a three-member delegation formed by Ruhollah Khomeini. Their task was to investigate the situation of political prisoners and determine whether they should live or die. The Death Squad’s decisions were swift and often based on brief interrogations. Thousands of prisoners were executed that summer, with Pourmohammadi defending these actions. He referred to the victims as “vampires” and justified the executions as God’s judgment. The exact number of prisoners executed remains unknown, but the impact of this dark chapter in Iran’s history continues to reverberate.

Saeed Jalili, a prominent figure within the Islamic Republic, wielded significant influence as the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for six years and as the Supreme Leader’s representative for thirteen years. Throughout his tenure, the council under his leadership approved repressive measures, including internet shutdowns, filtering, and the house arrest of Green Movement leaders, citing the preservation of national interests and the Islamic Revolution.

Jalili defended the house arrest of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, attributing it to their alleged attempt to foment a “new sedition” akin to the events following the 2009 elections. He justified this action by accusing them of inciting unrest inspired by the Arab Spring, aiming to destabilize the regime.

Moreover, during nationwide protests in 2017, 2019, and 2022, which resulted in casualties and mass arrests, Jalili upheld the actions of security forces, even in cases of protester executions, arguing for the preservation of order and security.

Jalili’s staunch defense of the regime’s actions underscores his role in upholding its authority and suppressing dissent. His tenure marked a period of intensified repression, characterized by the curtailment of civil liberties and the use of force to quell opposition voices.

Alireza Zakani, during his tenures leading the Basij Student Organization and as Tehran’s mayor, Alireza Zakani faced accusations of violating citizens’ rights. In 1999, he was implicated in the violent attack on Tehran University dormitories, resulting in student injuries and at least one death. As mayor, Zakani enforced strict hijab regulations, deploying “Hijab Enforcers” to monitor women’s attire, neglecting marginalized groups like homeless transgender individuals.

Zakani’s involvement in human rights abuses led to his placement on the UK’s economic sanctions list in 2023, particularly for infringing on freedom of expression and women’s rights. Despite not admitting direct involvement in student beatings during the July 9 events, as head of the Basij Student Organization, he commanded forces present during the attacks.

Under his leadership, Tehran’s municipality employed 400 Hijab Enforcers, tasked with enforcing hijab compliance in metro stations, with Zakani endorsing the measure as necessary for public service areas. His stance on hijab sparked controversy, as evidenced by a banner promoting hijab published by the municipality in April 2024. Zakani’s history of rights violations and authoritarian tactics underscores his controversial legacy in Iranian governance.

Seyyed Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a four-term member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, has consistently supported bills infringing on Iranians’ civil and human rights. Associated with the hardline “Front of Islamic Revolution Stability,” he has justified the suppression of protests, alleging unfounded accusations against demonstrators.

During his tenure, he championed restrictive legislation like the “Protection of Users’ Rights and Basic Applications in Cyberspace,” limiting internet access, and the “Plan to Protect the Sanctity of Chastity and Hijab,” enforcing mandatory hijab. He also endorsed initiatives like the “Comprehensive Plan for Population and Family Excellence,” further violating women’s rights.

Hashemi defended the 2019 Mahshahr massacre, alleging protester sabotage, and labeled the 2022 protests as “cultural sedition” instigated by “global arrogance,” aiming to undermine religious beliefs. He justified harsh measures against protesters, labeling them as rioters and attributing unrest to separatist agendas.

Throughout his career, Hashemi’s actions have consistently curtailed freedoms and perpetuated government interference in citizens’ lives, reinforcing hardline ideologies and suppressing dissent.

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a senior official within the Islamic Republic regime, has faced allegations of serious human rights violations in Iran. Serving as the commander of the Air Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and later as Chief of the Law Enforcement Force, Ghalibaf has been accused of directly participating in or overseeing violations of citizens’ rights, including freedom of expression, the right to protest, and women’s rights.

During his tenure as Chief of the Law Enforcement Force, Ghalibaf’s subordinates were implicated in arbitrary arrests, interrogations, and torture of journalists, media activists, artists, intellectuals, and political and civil activists. He also played a direct role in suppressing protests, confirming his involvement in the suppression of the July 1999 student protests, where at least two students were killed, and many others were arrested, tortured, and injured.

Additionally, Ghalibaf oversaw the implementation of a moral security plan aimed at pressuring women to comply with mandatory religious hijab, restricting their freedom of dress, and other social rights. He emphasized the importance of moral security and the responsibility of government institutions, including the Law Enforcement Force, in enforcing it.

Ghalibaf’s actions during his tenure in various positions raise serious concerns about his involvement in human rights violations in Iran.

Masoud Pezeshkian, in his position as a Member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Vice Speaker of the Parliament, and Chairman of the Supervisory Committee on Representatives, has neglected to address the record of delinquent representatives. He has also played a role in approving the credentials of a representative previously found guilty of sexual harassment. Salman Khodadadi, the representative of Malekan in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison during the seventh term of the parliament due to serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault. As a result, upon his re-entry into the eighth term of the parliament, he faced opposition from some representatives, including two female representatives, in the approval of his credentials. However, according to BBC Persian, the direct support of Masoud Pezeshkian played a significant role in the approval of his credentials.