(Original article can be found at niacouncil.org)
Washington DC - New developments in Iran's foreign policy have yet again allowed its human rights violations to go widely unreported. As of July 15, the BBC had reported Iran plans to stone "at least" eight women and one man for various sex crimes, ranging from adultery to incest and prostitution. The lawyers representing the women have warned that all nine people could be executed at any moment despite a 2002 moratorium on stoning ordered by Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. It is believed that at least three people have been executed by stoning in Iran since the supposed suspension.
Various human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have protested Iran's use of stoning, calling it a "grotesque punishment" as it maximizes suffering and unfairly targets women, who are more likely to be illiterate and may sign confessions without legal representation.
Coverage of Iran's scientific research has been specifically directed towards its pursuit of nuclear technology. Much less controversial and infinitely more impressive has been Iran's reputation in the realm of HIV research and prevention. This favorable opinion of Iran's medical work is largely a result of brothers Drs. Arash and Kamyar Alaei who have been working for over 20 years to combat HIV in Iran and the world specifically against spread from drug use, a debilitating epidemic amongst Iran's population. However, Iran's recent apprehension and refusal to charge or release the brothers has significantly injured this promising bridge with the international world.
According to Joe Amon, HIV/AIDS program director at Human Rights Watch; "Iran's HIV/AIDS program has been acclaimed internationally for seriously addressing the AIDS epidemic," "To fight AIDS effectively, the government has realized that it must engage in global efforts to combat the disease, work with civil society, and confront taboo issues, including sex and drugs. The detention without charges of the Alaei brothers has a chilling effect on all of those efforts."
Until their recent imprisonment, the brothers had worked extensively with Iranian government and religious leaders to educate Iranians, with special programs directed at youth prevention and prison care. Their incarceration comes only two week before Dr. Arash Alaei was to unveil Iran's HIV program at the International AIDS convention in Mexico. As to what exactly this does to Iran's embattled human rights record, Amon was unequivocal, saying that Iran "cannot be considered to be making progress if it is blatantly violating the human rights of two if its most valuable activists in this area."
According to Dokhi Fassihian, member of the National Iranian American Council's Board of Directors, "these human rights violations must end. Iran's human rights record must be brought to the forefront of public attention."
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