Senator Kirk Urges President to Designate Iranian President, Chief of Staff as Human Rights Abusers


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today urged President Obama to designate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and other senior Iranian government officials as human rights abusers pursuant to current U.S. law and executive order. 

Mashaei is expected to arrive in the United States as early as tomorrow to attend Iranian New Year ceremonies at the United Nations.

 Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei
“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and other senior Iranian government officials are directly responsible for and complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing the commission of serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran on or after June 12, 2009,” Senator Kirk wrote in a letter to the President.  “I urge you to designate these individuals as serious human rights abusers pursuant to Executive Order 13553 and the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.”
In remarks delivered today on the Senate floor, Senator Kirk read from reports by the United Nations Secretary-General, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding the deteriorating state of human rights in Iran.

On Monday, the United Nations Secretary-General issued an interim report on the human rights situation in Iran.  According to the Secretary-General, “Since the last report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly dated 15 September 2010, the human rights situation in Iran has been marked by an intensified crackdown on human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, journalists and government opponents.”
Senator Kirk’s complete floor remarks can be found below.  The letter he sent to the President is attached. To see a video of Senator Kirk’s floor speech, visit .   

Remarks by Senator Mark Kirk
March 17, 2011

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.
We understand that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (Es-fan-dee-AR Ra-HEEM Meh-sha-EE) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff – will be arriving in the United States as early as tomorrow.
Mr. Mashaei is a close friend and trusted advisor of President Ahmadinejad.  Their kinship began in 1982 when President Ahmadinejad was governor of Khoy in West Azerbaijan and the Intelligence Ministry appointed Mr. Mashaei to the security team in the Kurdistan region next door.  Since then, Mr. Mashaei has been a member of Ahmadinejad’s inner circle.
The world knows of President Ahmadinejad’s public incitement against Jews and Israel – most infamously with his pledge to wipe Israel off the map.  But the world may not know the virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views of his trusted advisor.
In 2008, Mr. Mashaei told Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, “The corrupt and criminal Zionist regime is harming not only the Arab and Islamic world, but humanity in its entirety…in order to save humanity from its different crises, there is no other way other than the limiting of Zionist influence on human society, because the root and origin of most of the world’s current crises are related to Zionism.”
Shortly after the discredited Iranian presidential election in June 2009, Mr. Mashaei was appointed Presidential Chief of Staff – after a very brief and unsuccessful attempt to serve as the first Vice President of Iran.
Since then, the persecution and repression in Iran has steadily increased.  Thousands of peaceful protesters, dissidents and activists have been detained.
Let there be no doubt – Mr. Mashei, like his President, is directly responsible for human rights abuses in Iran.  He should not be granted a visa to enter the United States – and he, like his President, should be designated under U.S. law as a human rights abuser in Iran.
Mr. Mashaei’s visit will come just four days after the United Nations Secretary-General released an interim report on the human rights in Iran.
The report states, “the human rights situation in Iran has been marked by an intensified crackdown on human rights defenders, woman’s rights activists, journalists and government opponents.”
“Concerns about torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials continue to be raised by UN human rights mechanisms.”
Additionally, “discrimination persisted against minority groups, in some cases amounting to persecution.”
“A worrying trend is the increased number of cases in which political prisoners are accused of Mohareb (Mo-HA-reb) – or enmity against God – offences which carry the death penalty.”
At least 22 people charged with Mohareb have been executed since January 2010.
Journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and lawyers continue to be arrested or subjected to travel bans.  Blogs and websites are restricted and now more than 10 national dailies have been shut down for refusing to toe the official line.
Concern remains over a lack of due process rights and the failure to respect the rights of detainees.
Particularly, “concerns were expressed at routine practice for incommunicado detention, use of torture and ill-treatment in detention, use of solitary confinement and of individuals without charges.”
Finally, “concerns were expressed in public about people sentenced to death often do not have access to legal representation and their families and lawyers are not even informed of the execution.” 
The report continues to detail the Iranian persecution of religious minorities, especially the Baha’i.  The report notes concern for six members of the Baha’i community arrested by officials from the Intelligence Ministry in the months of June and July 2010 – and the seven Baha’i community leaders recently sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Regarding Iran’s persecution of its Kurdish minority, the report notes: “Members of the Kurdish community have continued to be executed on various national security-related charges including  Mohareb. At least nine Kurdish political prisoners, including Jafar Kazemi (Ka-zeh-MEE), Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei (A-gah-EE) and Ali Saremi (Sa-reh-MI) were executed since January 2010, and several others remain at risk of execution.”
And regarding Iran’s persecution of Christians, we read: “Reports also continued to be received about Christians, in particular converts, being subjected to arbitrary arrest and harassment.”
The Secretary-General’s report follows others by our own State Department and human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
While we expect the State Department to release its 2010 country human rights reports on March 25th, these are a few highlights from the 2009 report on Iran.
“Security forces were implicated in custodial deaths and the killings of election protesters and committed other acts of politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings, and rape.”
“The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning, amputation, and flogging.”
 “Authorities responded to all the demonstrations with raids on opposition activists’ offices.”
“Some prison facilities, including Evin Prison in Tehran, were notorious for cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government. Authorities also maintained „unofficial” secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system where abuse reportedly occurred. The government reportedly used white torture especially on political prisoners, often in detention centers outside the control of prison authorities, including Section 209 of Evin Prison.”
“The government threatened, harassed, and arrested individuals who posted comments critical of the government on the Internet; in some cases it reportedly confiscated their passports or arrested their family members.”
Amnesty’s 2010 report on human rights in Iran starts with the following summary:
“An intensified clampdown on political protest preceded and, particularly, followed the presidential election in June, whose outcome was widely disputed, deepening the long-standing patterns of repression. The security forces, notably the paramilitary Basij (Bah-SEEJ), used excessive force against demonstrators; dozens of people were killed or fatally injured. The authorities suppressed freedom of expression to an unprecedented level, blocking mobile and terrestrial phone networks and Internet communications. Well over 5,000 people had been detained by the end of the year. Many were tortured, including some who were alleged to have been raped in detention, or otherwise ill-treated. Some died from their injuries. Dozens were then prosecuted in grossly unfair mass ‘show trials.’ Most were sentenced to prison terms but at least six were sentenced to death.
“The election-related violations occurred against a background of severe repression, which persisted throughout 2009 and whose victims included members of ethnic and religious minorities, students, human rights defenders and advocates of political reform. Women continued to face severe discrimination under the law and in practice, and women’s rights campaigners were harassed, arrested and imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and at least 12 people died in custody. Detainees were systematically denied access to lawyers, medical care and their families, and many faced unfair trials.”

In its 2011World Report chapter on Iran, Human Rights Watch writes:
“Iran’s human rights crisis deepened as the government sought to consolidate its power following 2009’s disputed presidential election. Public demonstrations waned after security forces used live ammunition to suppress protesters in late 2009, resulting in the death of at least seven protesters. Authorities announced that security forces had arrested more than 6,000 individuals after June 2009. Hundreds-including lawyers, rights defenders, journalists, civil society activists, and opposition leaders-remain in detention without charge. Since the election crackdown last year, well over a thousand people have fled Iran to seek asylum in neighboring countries. Interrogators used torture to extract confessions, on which the judiciary relied on to sentence people to long prison terms and even death. Restrictions on freedom of expression and association, as well as religious and gender-based discrimination, continued unabated.”
The report continued: “Authorities systematically used torture to coerce confessions. Student activist Abdullah Momeni (Mo-meh-NI) wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in September describing the torture he suffered at the hands of jailers. At this writing no high-level official has been prosecuted for the torture, ill-treatment, and deaths of three detainees held at Kahrizak (Kah-ri-ZAK) detention center after June 2009.”
 We cannot allow these violations to go unnoticed.  Nor can we continue to turn a blind eye to the countless prisoners of conscience fighting for basic human dignity in this brutal dictatorship.
It’s time we take a stand for people like…
Nasrin Sotoudeh (Nas-REEN So-too-DEH), detained for her work as a human rights lawyer, women’s rights activist, and defender of children who face capital charges;   
Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki (Ho-SAYN Ro-na-GEE Ma-lay-KEE), detained for his work as a blogger and human rights activist. He has been refused medical treatment for kidney failure;  
 •      Fariba Kamalabadi (Fa-REE-ba KA-ma-la-ba-dee)
•      Jamaloddin Khanjani (Ja-MAL-oo-deen Kan-ja-NEE)
•      Afif Naeimi (A-feef Nay-ee-MEE)
•      Saied Rezaie (Sa-EED Reh-za-EE)
•      Behrouz Tavakkoli (BAY-rooz Ta-va-KO-lee)
•      Vahid Tizfahm (Va-HEED Tiz-FA-him)
•      Mahvash Sabet (MA-vash SA-bet)
All detained for their leadership in the Baha’i community.
As of today, the precise whereabouts of opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi , and their respective wives Fatemeh Karroubi (FA-te-mah KA-roo-bi) and Zahra Rahnavard (ZAH-ra RAH-na-vard), remain unknown following their arrest and detention in February.  Meanwhile, according to international human rights organizations, the whereabouts of hundreds of Iranians, including journalists and political activists, arrested just before the February 14th opposition protests remain unknown.
To each of them, I echo President Reagan’s words: “I came here to give you strength, but it is you who have strengthened me.”
As we approach the Iranian New Year celebration of Nowruz, it’s time for the President to demonstrate this administration’s commitment to the Iranian people’s struggle for human rights.

 We know that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and other senior Iranian government officials are directly responsible for and complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing the commission of serious human rights abuses against the people of Iran on or after June 12, 2009.
Pursuant to Executive Order 13553 and the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, the President should designate these individuals as human rights abusers and reaffirm our core American values – freedom, democracy and human rights.