In an exclusive interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, lawyer and human rights activist Mehrangiz Kar analyzed the various problems with the draft Citizenship Rights Charter presented by Hassan Rouhani last November, saying it is a “hodge podge of things” that both repeats and contradicts the Constitution, and it needs a more careful review by law professors and students.
“This Charter wants to please the Grand Ayatollahs, the international human rights organizations, Mr. Khomeini’s supporters, Mr. Khamenei’s supporters, and Mr. Khamenei himself. Under such circumstances this charter is a hodge podge of things with no head or tail,” she said.
“Have those who expect people to provide feedback about this draft Charter ever thought to write it in such a way that it would encourage people to read it? For example, a citizen who has not studied law, and only likes Mr. Rouhani and voted for him, and who may all of a sudden want to read this Charter because of his affection for Mr. Rouhani, would not be able to read beyond the first few lines, in my opinion. Even though it is my job to read published documents and papers, I tried to read it several times but I couldn’t, until I finally finished reading it. It is full of repetition, slogans, and natter. In some parts it’s the same as the Constitution, in some parts it violates the Constitution; in some parts it’s based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in some other areas it is Mr. Rouhani’s personal ideals, and yet in other areas it cites other human rights documents,” said the rights lawyer.
“I don’t think ordinary Iranian people have any particular attachment to this Charter. It’s only political activists outside Iran or a few analysts inside Iran who interview or talk about it. Ordinary people are not vested in this Charter, they know it’s just slogans and they are tired of slogans,” Mehrangiz Kar said about what ordinary Iranians think of Hassan Rouhani’s Citizenship Rights Charter.
“When Mr. Rouhani says that he wants to guarantee citizens’ rights, he must remember that he cannot enforce this guarantee, just as Mr. Khatami couldn’t do it [before him], as the Iranian Constitution does not allow him to do it. He has not explained how he intends to guarantee it, either,” she said about the enforcement mechanisms of the draft Charter.
Discussing the contents of the proposed Charter, Mehrangiz Kar said, “In a part of the Charter, it is mentioned, ‘Citizens have the right to enjoy physical and spiritual health.’ There should be a limit to this writing project! To begin with, what is the meaning of spiritual health? How can spiritual health be created for a woman against whom all Iranian laws justify violence? How can the spiritual health of an Ithna Ashariya [Twelver] Shiite such as myself, whose family was destroyed without any reason, be created? Why should I and my children enjoy spiritual health at all? How can those who don’t have bread to feed their children enjoy spiritual health?” Mehrangiz Kar’s late husband, Siamak Pourzand, was a political prisoner and was forbidden from leaving Iran to visit his family until his death in 2011.
“Thank you Mr. Rouhani for thinking about the citizens’ spiritual health. But how are you going to provide this health? You would probably need to invite a discussion on what things other than economic issues are threatening the citizens’ spiritual health, in order to prevent it. Then Mr. Rouhani must glance at the situation of workers and women, for example, or remember that a bunch of lawyers are in prison not because they committed fraud or murder, but because they only defended the rights of other citizens,” she added.
“In the Charter it is written that ‘Citizens must enjoy a happy life…’ But how? At a relative’s birthday party for their child, the police raided the house and the father of the child had a heart attack and died because of the stress he felt. The father of the family was destroyed for a birthday party! Things like this have happened a lot and continue to happen in Iranian society. I was many times at parties in Iran when the police arrived and turned the people’s joy to sadness and worry. I can’t understand what Mr. Rouhani’s solution for such things and for guaranteeing happiness is, and what power the government holds to stop the police and other forces who violate the families’ right to happiness,” said Mehrangiz Kar.
“We already know who is obstructing the people’s happiness. But the Rouhani government should also determine who is obstructing the families’ happiness and confront them. One of my questions about this Charter is, how is this right to happiness provided and who is responsible for at times turning the people’s happiness into bloody events?” the human rights lawyer continued.
Regarding the Charter’s emphasis on eliminating discrimination, Mehrangiz Kar said, “We see discrimination all over Iran. For example, Baha’is are not allowed to work. Even low level laborers are dismissed if they say they are Baha’is, or women cannot become judges under this regime, and many other types of discrimination. Mr. Rouhani knows all of this, too. My question of Mr. Rouhani is, on what resources available to him, or on what resources he hopes to have, does he base his respectable efforts in this area? We will forgo the enforcement guarantees if he talks to us about his hopes at least. He should tell us how he can or how he wants to give people a good, happy life, free of discrimination,” Kar said.
“In certain areas, this Charter violates the Constitution. My question is, can a parliament pass laws that are not fully based on its Constitution, and that challenge that Constitution? In some other areas, it is an exact copy of that same Constitution. Really, how will this Charter be treated? This Charter cannot stand above the Constitution or become a re-approval of the same Constitution that was passed years ago,” she told the Campaign, referencing other problems with the Charter.
“Mr. Rouhani is carrying the flag of the people’s vote. He cannot forget many things and limit himself to his short-term memory like many Iranians. He is not allowed. He must remember that many people voted for him, many people did not vote for anyone, and some people voted for others like Mr. Jalili. He must also remember that there is a silent opposition group in that country, who holds more potential power than all the other groups. This group did not vote for anyone. Mr. Rouhani must review all his strengths and weaknesses. I’m not talking about his personal weaknesses, I am talking about the weaknesses of a society that has very bitter memories of this political system, but cannot get over its memories, and therefore remains silent. But this silence does not mean agreement and Mr. Rouhani knows this quite well. Based on all of these, if he still insists on having his Charter, he can have it,” concluded Mehrangiz Kar.