The UN Human Rights Committee last week approved a Canadian-drafted resolution condemning the rights situation in Iran. It expressed concern over alleged torture, violent methods of punishment and discrimination against religions minorities.

There is widespread support for the measure, meaning it is likely to be adopted by the UN General Assembly and receive formal condemnation from the world body.

The resolution on rights comes at the worst possible time for Iran, as it battles to improve its image on the world stage and strengthen ties with the European Union.

Tehran is also struggling with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to avoid being taken to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme, which Washington alleges is cover for plans to build an arsenal of nuclear arms. Tehran denies the allegations, saying the programme aims to generate electricity.

War of words

“The conservatives have done a lot to tarnish the image of the reformers, at a time when the efforts of the reformers resulted last year in Iran being taken off the list of countries violating human rights,” said lawmaker Elaheh Koulaie on Monday.

Iranian students protest for the 
release of arrested colleagues

“It’s a victory for the conservatives … their methods and actions have succeeded in pushing Iran back to the situation before 1997” when reformist President Muhammad Khatami won his first term, she added.

Over the past years, around one hundred newspapers have been shut down, while numerous journalists, students and opposition figures have been jailed.

Leading intellectual Hashem Aghajari has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, while Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi died from a blow to the head received in custody for taking pictures outside a Tehran prison.

'Western plot'

Lawmaker Ahmad Shirzad said those who had jailed intellectuals, journalists and students and killed Kazemi must have been waiting for the UN’s rebuke.

“They gave oppressor media and Zionists the arguments for presenting Iran as an oppressive regime that violates human rights, opposes freedom of speech and is anti-democratic,” he shouted in parliament on Monday.

But conservatives slammed the UN resolution as further evidence of a western plot against the country.

The hardline newspaper Jonhouri Eslami accused reformers of “shameful connivance” in the resolution which would increase the “anger and hatred of the population against those who claim to be reformers”.