Iran Brief: Amnesty Report Highlights Mistreatment of Political Prisoners – July 22, 2016

Domestic Politics

Amnesty Report Highlights Mistreatment of Political Prisoners: A new Amnesty International report claims that Iranian authorities regularly mistreat political prisoners by denying them medical care. The report found that prison staff often withhold medical treatment to punish, humiliate, and intimidate prisoners. Withholding medical care is often used, Amnesty reported, to coerce prisoners into making false confessions. The 45-page report also underscores the role of Iran’s judiciary and prison administrators in preventing prisoners from receiving adequate access to medical care.

Iran Blasts Ban Ki-moon for “Biased Report”: Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami, Tehran’s provisional Friday Prayers Leader, criticized [Pr] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonclaiming the report about Iran’s missile program is “biased.” In the report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran’s ballistic missile launches “are not consistent with the constructive spirit” demonstrated by the signing of the Iran nuclear deal.” The report, which comes only months after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps conducted missile tests, emphasized that Iran had not engaged in activities “related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Khatami further emphasized to a large crowd attending Friday prayers that “The issue of our missile is neither related to the UN secretary general nor to the JCPOA,” further lambasting the Secretary General for being influenced externally and ignoring human rights violations of other countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani at Risk of Being Sidelined by Hardliners as 2017 Elections Approach: Amidst slow economic progress following the nuclear deal passed one year ago, President Hassan Rouhani may be sidelined or pushed out of office as hardliners gain traction. Supporters of the president claim that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is attempting to limit the president’s authority. An unnamed Iranian official underscored that the “political infighting has intensified in Iran” and that it would “deepen further until the presidential election next year.” The official further expressed “serious doubts” that Rouhani would run for a second term in next year’s presidential elections.

Iran analyst and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sadjadpournoted that “Khamenei’s ideal set-up is to have weak presidents who can be held accountable for the frustrations and economic malaise that many Iranians feel,” adding that Khamenei could survive “without the admiration and social media likes of Iran’s urban sophisticates, but not without the loyal support of 150,000 Revolutionary Guardsmen and their Basij henchmen.”

Trial Begins Over Saudi Embassy Burnings: The closed trial for 21 individuals suspected of raiding Saudi diplomatic missions earlier this year – following Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr – began this week. The suspects, accused of “disturbing the public order and damaging embassy buildings,” allegedly ransacked and set on fire the Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad. One of the protesters at the trial stated that he “didn’t know the protest did not have a permit” and is “regretful [of breaking] the heart of the Supreme Leader.” President Hassan Rouhani urged the courts to take action against the protesters and called for “transparency” in the trial.

Foreign Policy

Iran Denounces Bahrain Ban on Shia Opposition GroupIran criticized Bahraini authorities this week following the dissolution of al-Wefaq, the country’s main opposition political party. Since June, Bahrain has increasingly cracked down on opposition activists, including by arresting prominent activist Nabeel Rajab and by stripping top Shia cleric Isa Qassim of his citizenship. Iran’s state media quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying that the decision to dissolve al-Wefaq National is unconstructive and would pave “the way for those who are after non-civilian approaches.” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, also tweeted his displeasure at Bahrain’s recent treatment of the country’s opposition, writing “Alarmed about developments unfolding in #Bahrain. Urgent international attention is essential to avoid another catastrophe in our region.”

Economy

Iran Vets Foreign Companies to Develop Oil and Gas Fields: Following plans to issue tenders for the exploration of oil deposits in the south, Iran has started vetting dozens companies that may be eligible to develop Iran’s oil and gas fields. Ali Kardor, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said the list of companies would be published soon, but disclosed that “Not all foreign companies active in oil industry can partake in Iran’s tenders, so only those international companies that meet NIOC’s standards will be chosen.” Alleviated sanctions after the nuclear deal has enabled Iran to pursue trading partners across Europe and Asia. NIOC’s Executive Director for International Affairs, Seyyed Mohsen Ghamsariclaimed that already the “volume of Iran’s oil deals with European countries exceeds that of [the] pre-sanction era,” adding that “Iran has now retrieved 80 per cent of its previous market share in Europe.”

Media

Cartoon Credit: Gary Barker