Few would argue the need for law and order in a society as crucial to providing publics safety, standards of conduct, and a reliable justice system. As a means to achieve good public organization, there is an agreement between government and the public. In doing so, this may require the sacrificing of some freedoms, personal and organizational, to achieve a semblance of governance, but to what degree? When does the balance between governing and the governed become fraught with abuse? Iran is one such nation where there is an imbalance favoring the government at the sake of the people governed. As a means to establish and maintain “good order” for a muslim-majority population, there are established acceptable lists of desired behavior along with the punishment for failing to adhere. The “violations” often go beyond the typical criminal acts (thievery, fraud, defamation, vandalism), and are justified as necessary to protect religious morals as documented by Human Rights Watch. Some of these include but are not limited to:
- Adultery (Lashings, Death)
- Homosexuality (Death)
- Enmity Against God
- Co-ed activities
- Speech/Reporting (questioning or documenting government)
- Dress code/attire
- Eating during Ramadan
- Consuming alcohol
These “infractions” to good muslim order garner much more punishment than what most societies would deem proper. While common criminal activity is expected to be punished, the type of punishment levied on the population for criminal activity far outweighs the gravity of the infraction. Some of the punishments incurred have been dubbed medieval, archaic, and inhumane by organizations such as Amnesty International who research and account for violations of established human rights norms. Some of the punishments that have been reported and documented as having been inflicted are as follows:
- Public Hanging
- Forced Blinding
- Electric Shock Therapy
Though all these punishments are unfortunate, it becomes even more egregious knowing these harsh treatments are done to children as well. Written in their law, children who are molested may also be lashed if thought to have given consent. Children who may be experimenting with their sexuality are both punished and may receive upwards of 74 lashings. Something as simple as reporting an inaccurate number in the newspaper has garnered severe punishment from the government.
Considering these punishments have been ongoing, organizations like HRW and Amnesty International were concerned that the Obama administration willingly and knowingly made the “Iran Deal.” The government already committed these atrocious acts, and as a result of warming relations, the government would receive previously frozen assets that would give them more monetary freedom to continue their repressive and abusive form of government. Where would the incentive be to correct the behavior? From a realist perspective, the Iranian government is doing what it must to maintain the type of nation it deems proper. It is doing so under the premise of committing to the nation’s best interest. The Obama administration used the same logic as with Cuba, that perhaps warming relations with the US would eventually influence social change in both countries. I find that highly unlikely for Iran; Cuba has a better chance of progress since it’s not using the guise of religion for its purposes. The Trump administration very vocally has admonished Iran’s human rights violations, but no formal actions have been taken yet to make good on his campaign rhetoric. There is definitely more to follow; more deaths, unjust punishment, and continued oppression.