New Iran human rights project launched

Arzhang Davoodi

A new, hard-nosed human rights campaign has been established in Washington to expose the Iranian regime’s human rights crimes and to give voice to the victims.

The Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) announced the launch this week of the Iran Human Rights Project, what it calls “a multi-tiered program designed to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its record of human rights violations, exposing its abusers and facilitators, and giving voice to its victims.” (Pictured: Iranian political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi)

According to the FDD, the Iran Human Rights Project will:

  • provide scholarly and investigative research and documentation of Iran’s human rights abuses, including those committed or sanctioned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), the Basij, the al-Quds Force, Iran’s terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iranian-backed terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere;
  • document international companies that selling equipment and technology to Iran used by the regime for human rights abuses, and the role of the IRGC and other entities designated by the U.S. and foreign governments in the purchase of this equipment and technology.
  • identify policy options for the United States, foreign governments, and the policy community, including human rights sanctions, legal action, political pressure, and other tools to be used against human rights abusers and the companies facilitating such abuses;
  • publish op-eds and news articles to serve as an open-source evidentiary foundation for policy and third-party action; and,
  • conduct briefings with policy makers and opinion leaders in Washington, Ottawa, Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, and other capitals.

“FDD’s Iran Human Rights Project will serve as resource for those in the policy community at home and abroad who are committed to holding Iran’s rulers accountable for their abuses of basic human rights,” said Clifford D. May, President of FDD, a non-partisan think tank whose work on Iran is regularly utilized by government officials and the media.

“FDD’s project sends a message to the brave Iranian human rights advocates working to create a democratic and free Iran that their voices are being heard and supported,” May added.

Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of FDD, who spearheads FDD’s work on economic sanctions against Iran, added that he was heartened to see the U.S. government increase its focus on Iranian human rights issues. “The momentum in Congress is building,” asserted Dubowitz. “Both sides of the aisle understand that moral suasion and economic pressure, while important, are insufficient to change the pattern of the government of Iran’s human rights abuses, incitement to commit genocide, and pursuit of nuclear weapons. More can be done legislatively to broaden and strengthen sanctions and enforce existing ones.”

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) that Congress passed and President Obama signed into law in 2010 requires the President to prepare a list of Iranian government and other officials who have been responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran since June 12, 2009. Individuals on the list will be ineligible for U.S. visas, their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen, and their financial transactions and imports within U.S. jurisdiction will be restricted. Under this law to date, ten Iranian human rights abusers have been sanctioned.

“To have a chance at impacting the Iranian regime’s calculus, economic pressure in the form of sanctions must be coupled with tougher human rights sanctions that don’t let facilitators act without consequence,” Dubowitz said.  “The Obama administration must be required to investigate all credible evidence of human rights abuses and not merely to report on them.  In particular, Congress needs to ask why top Iranian officials like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have not been sanctioned for human rights abuses and for the crime of incitement to commit genocide.”

Recent reports indicate that Iran executes opponents of the regime on the average of one every eight hours. Iranian officials are also guilty of incitement to commit genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (December 9, 1948) to which Iran and the United States are state parties. A petition was released in 2008 signed by numerous prominent international jurists and human rights experts entitled “The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent Petition.”

FDD’s experts in the Iran Human Rights Project include:

Reuel Marc Gerecht, FDD senior fellow, was formerly an Iran specialist in the Directorate of Operations in the Central Intelligence Agency. He is the author of Know Thine Enemy:  A Spy’s Journey into Revolutionary Iran, The Islamic Paradox, and the forthcoming, The Wave: Man, God, and the Ballot Box in the Middle East. He has written frequently on Iran’s Green Movement in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Weekly Standard, and other publications.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, FDD senior fellow is one of Europe’s leading experts on the IRGC’s human rights abuses and its involvement in the Iranian economy. Based in Brussels, Dr. Ottolenghi has written on Iranian human rights abuses and on international companies facilitating this abuse. Dr. Ottolenghi extensively documented and briefed the E.U. on the use of Western-bought cranes by the Iranian regime for public executions as early as August 2007. His most recent book, Iran: the Looming Crisis outlines a comprehensive architecture of sanctions against Iran and documents Iran’s systematic and widespread abuses of human rights.

Benjamin Weinthal, an FDD research fellow based in Berlin, is an investigative reporter who has uncovered efforts by European companies to circumvent sanctions, exposed the extensive trade relations between Europe and Iran, and written on Iranian human rights abuses against Iran’s persecuted gay and Baha’i communities.

Michael Ledeen is an internationally renowned scholar whose insights into the workings of the Iranian government have been a critical part of the policy discussion for decades. He is a highly regarded expert on Iran’s Green Movement and maintains close ties to opposition groups inside Iran. Dr. Ledeen served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Defense Department.  He has also served as a special adviser to the Secretary of State.

Claudia Rosett, FDD’s journalist-in-residence, is an award winning investigative reporter, with three decades of experience as a reporter and editor on foreign affairs, including 18 years at the Wall Street Journal.  Her work includes award-winning and groundbreaking reporting on foreign dissidents, U.N. corruption, the war in Chechnya, China’s Tiananmen Square uprising, and North Korean labor camps.

Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, is a German-Iranian scholar based in Berlin.  Dr. Wahdat-Hagh’s work focuses on the threat of Iran as well as violations of human rights and minority rights.

Khairi Abaza, FDD senior fellow, focuses his work on Middle Eastern democratic reform movements, Iranian sponsored violence and abuses in the Arab world, and the training of women activists in the region.  Mr. Abaza worked for ten years in Egyptian politics including as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and secretary of the Cultural Committee of the Egyptian Wafd Party.

Tony Badran, FDD Research Fellow, focuses his work on Iran’s state and terrorist proxies, with a specific focus on Lebanon, Syria, and Hezbollah, and Iranian-sponsored human rights abuses in the Levant.

The Iran Human Rights Project will soon be announcing additional experts and advisors. The project also maintains strong ties to numerous Iranian human rights activists and groups.

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