By Mani Mostofi
This week at the United Nations, Trinidad and Tobago has a critical opportunity to reassert its reputation as one of the strongest human rights defenders in the Caribbean. Nations that prioritize human rights must make their voices heard when the United Nations General Assembly adopts a human rights resolution on Iran, one of the world’s most flagrant human rights offenders. For Trinidad and Tobago especially, this will be a chance to cement its position as a leader in its region by strengthening its support for the global human rights movement.
Last year, Trinidad and Tobago took a big step in the right direction when it supported human rights in Iran and voted in favor of the resolution at the General Assembly. Surprisingly, this year Trinidad and Tobago did not vote for the resolution on human rights in Iran at the committee level. Still, Trinidad and Tobago has an opportunity this week to vote yes on the same resolution as it moves from committee to the General Assembly itself.
Many human rights defenders hoped that with a new president and renewed international engagement born out of the nuclear deal with the P5+1, Iran would be on path towards human rights reform. But so far that has not happened, and likely will not happen without the persistence of the international community. Trinidad and Tobago should not remain silent.
The latest report from the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran—an internationally mandated expert whom Iran has repeatedly refused permission to enter the country—reveals just how dire the human rights situation in Iran has become. In the last two months alone, Iranian authorities have jailed 15 members of the Baha’i religious community, sentenced two poets to prison and 99 lashes each, arrested 5 reformist journalists, and banned female musicians from preforming in a symphony.
Moreover, just this month, Iran confirmed its status as the world’s top official executioner of juvenile offenders after two men were re-sentenced to death for crimes committed before they were 18 years old. Indeed, authorities have executed four juvenile offenders, three boys and one girl.
And on top of all that, women’s rights in Iran are just as shameful. By law, women in Iran are restricted from going certain places and from working certain hours, and are required to seek their husbands’ permission to travel, work, and attend university. Women aren’t even allowed to watch live sporting events such as volleyball or soccer.
Yet, despite these problems, Iran refuses to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms. Iranian authorities have fully or partly rejected the majority of the recommendations on civil and political rights made by the international community during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Moreover, no special rapporteur, the United Nation’s mandated human rights experts, has been aloud to visit the country in a decade. This is why the continued attention of the international community, including Trinidad and Tobago, is so pivotal in ending Iran’s pattern of violations and noncooperation with the UN.
Trinidad and Tobago must not pass up this chance to reinforce its status as a regional and global human rights role model; it must assert that the Iranian people too have inherent dignity and worth. Standing up for human rights abroad can solidify the image Trinidad and Tobago projects globally and increase international engagement, as well as make a difference in real people’s lives.
Mani Mostofi is a lawyer and the director of Impact Iran, a coalition of organizations promoting human rights in Iran.