TitleTurning Human Wrongs into Human Rights in Iran

The courage to seek the truth

25 Feb 2010

■ Ramin Jahanbegloo

The right to truth is a notion that seems no more idealistic, but obvious to the basic human rights. In April 2005 the Commission on Human Rights debated and adopted the principles which are currently referred to as the ‘Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity’. According to article 2 of these Principles: “Every people has the inalienable right to know the truth about past events concerning the perpetration of heinous crimes and about the circumstances and reasons that led, through massive or systematic violations, to the perpetration of those crimes. Full and effective exercise of the right to the truth provides a vital safeguard against the recurrence of violations.” The right to know about human rights is also anchored in Section 6 of the United Nations ‘Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’. The right to know is not only an individual right, it is also a collective right, drawing upon history to prevent violations from recurring in the future. It is a responsibility to remember, which individuals and nations must assume, in order to guard against the perversions of history. In other words, the right to truth takes on value in the public sphere while remaining a private matter for the individual. Some people among you might say that the right to the truth is still a debated matter, but nobody will certainly deny its clear link to the concept of human dignity. Human nature would suggest that unpleasant memories and events should be forgotten, but while it is desirable to forget such events, it is equally important that measures be put in place to preserve such memories as they are part and parcel of human history.

Although we are not responsible for the crimes which were committed by the Iranian state, we are all responsible for the culture of violence which produced it

The unfortunate reality is that Iranian politics has been shaped and practiced for over centuries within a culture of violence that too often rewards unjust and criminal behaviors. This should capture our urgent attention. What causes this violence? Most responses start to list many things like religion, poverty, illiteracy, patriarchy and male tendencies. Most of us also believe that this violence is the result of greed for power among unscrupulous leaders. But the point remains that the unethical climate which produces past, present and future assassins in Iranian society is a familiar one. It is an unethical climate not because of Iranians who perpetrate violence, but because of Iranians who look at it as a normal process.
So the issue of turning human wrongs into human rights is partly to establish reparations and accountability of state crimes in Iran as political realm that has a capacity of producing and institutionalizing violence, but there is also question of producing and maintaining a moral capital among Iranian citizens as a promising foundation for responsible public action given the fragilities of public life in Iran. The international institution of justice and accountability in Iran is one of the institutional orders which can mediate and organize the effort of taming violence in Iranian society. This perspective of institutionalizing international humanitarian rights may serve to criticize not only current power structures in Iran, but also the basic capabilities of political and public violence in Iranian society. A structural change in the process of state violence in Iran is not only possible by gradually moving Iranian politics into the framework of international approach to justice, but also by demanding and educating Iranians to face their political traumas and revisit their historical identity as standard of responsibility. That is the reason why, if the “who” of democratic transition in Iran is certainly a complex issue, the “how” of this transition is even more problematic. As such, the process for nonviolent and democratic change in Iran is also a matter of Iranian people to have the courage and suggestiveness to seek the truth. Because when the truth is not given complete right, right cannot be completely truthful.

Tehran Review
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    تهران‌ریویو مجله‌ای اینترنتی، چند رسانه‌ای و غیر انتفاعی است. هدف ما به سادگی، افزایش سطح گفتمان عمومی در مورد ایده‌ها، آرمان‌ها و وقایع جهان امروز است. این مشارکت و نوشته‌های شما مخاطبان است که کار چند رسانه‌ای ما را گسترش داده و به آن غنا و طراوت می‌بخشد. رایگان بودن این مجله اینترنتی به ما اجازه می‌دهد تا در گستره بیشتری اهداف خود را پیگیری کرده و تاثیرگذار باشیم. مهم‌تر از همه اینکه سردبیران و دست‌اندرکاران تهران‌ریویو به دور از حب و بغض‌های رایج و با نگاهی بی‌طرفانه سعی دارند به مسایل روز جهان نگاه کرده و بر روی ایده‌های ارزشمند انگشت بگذارند. تهران ریویو برای ادامه فعالیت و نشر مقالات نیازمند یاری و کمک مالی شماست.