IRAN has chosen “the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism”, its President, Hassan Rouhani, said on Friday, after he was re-elected with 57 per cent of the vote.
Videos on social media showed young people celebrating the result. Most of the country’s voters were born after the 1979 revolution. President Rouhani’s main rival, Ebrahim Raisi, is a judge who helped to sentence thousands of political prisoners to death in the 1980s.
Although he has been hailed by many as a “moderate”, President Rouhani continues to face criticism from human-rights groups, including champions of the country’s Christians. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has identified a “deterioration of human rights” (News, 24 July 2015) and reported the continued arrest and imprisonment of Christians. Amnesty International estimates that at least 567 executions took place last year.
On Monday, it drew attention to the case of a “prisoner of conscience”, Maryam Akbari Monfared, who was threatened with an additional three-year prison term after writing open letters “seeking truth and justice for her siblings who were extra-judicially executed in 1988”.
The director of the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK, Laila Jazayeri, said on Wednesday that, given the absolute rule of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, “elections do not really mean anything. . . People don’t have their own real candidates, and real opposition cannot participate.”
Iran was “warmongering in the Middle East”, she said, and there had been an “escalation” in the “persecution” of Christians and other religious minorities since President Rouhani had been first elected, “despite his promises to respect their rights”.
Speaking during his tour of the Middle East, President Trump, has repeatedly criticised Iran, and has called on it to stop its “deadly funding, training, and equipping of terrorists and militias”. President Rouhani, responding swiftly, argued that regional stability could not be achieved without Iran’s help: “Who fought against the terrorists? It was Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Russia. But who funded the terrorists? Those who fund terrorists cannot claim they are fighting against them.”
In 2015, President Rouhani secured a deal on Iran’s nuclear capacity with the United States (News, 24 July 2015). It has been described by President Trump as “one of the worst deals ever signed”.