Skip navigation

Motion: Iran and Human Rights

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise on behalf of the Greens to support the motion put before this place by the Hon. Mira El Dannawi, and I thank her for doing so and for her work with the community. The Iranian Revolution of 1977-79 was the first in a series of mass popular civil insurrections that would result in the overthrow of authoritarian regimes in dozens of countries over the next three decades.

Unlike most of the other uprisings that would topple dictators in Latin America, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, the result of the Iranian struggle was not the establishment of liberal democracy but of a new form of authoritarianism. Through mass arms transfers from the United States, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi built one of the most powerful armed forces ever seen in the Middle East. His American-trained secret police, the SAVAK, are thought to have successfully terrorised the population into submission during the next two decades, through widespread killings, torture and mass detentions.

By the mid-1970s, most of the leftist liberal nationalists and other secular opposition leaders had been repressed through murder, imprisonment or exile, and most of their organisations banned. It was impossible to suppress the Islamist opposition as thoroughly, however, as it was out of mosques, among the mullahs, that much of the organised leadership of the movement against the Shah's dictatorship emerged.

Despite providing rhetorical support for an improvement in the human rights situation in Iran, the Carter administration continued military and economic support for the Shah's increasingly repressive regime, even providing fuel for the armed forces and other security services facing shortages due to the strikes. Under enormous pressure, the oil workers returned to work but continued to stage slowdowns.

Late in November, the Shah's nightly speeches were interrupted when workers cut off the electricity at precisely the time of his scheduled addresses. Massive protests filled the streets in major cities in December, as oil workers walked out again, and an ongoing general strike closed the refineries and the central bank.

Despite thousands of unarmed protesters being killed by the Shah's forces, the protesters' numbers increased, with as many as nine million Iranians taking to the streets in cities across the nation in largely non-violent protests. The Shah fled on 16 January 1979, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile two weeks later. He appointed Mehdi Bazargan Prime Minister, thus establishing a parallel government to challenge the Shah's appointed Prime Minister, Shapour Bakhtiar.

With the loyalty of the vast majority clearly with the new Islamic government, Bakhtiar resigned on 11 February. The regime had shifted far to the right by the spring of 1981, purging moderate Islamists, including the elected president, Abolhassan Banisadr, and imposing a totalitarian system.

On 12 September 2022, Mahsa 'Jina' Amini, who I will call Jina Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Saqqez, Kurdistan Province, who had travelled to Tehran alone with her family, was detained on charges of 'mal-veiling' by a branch of the regime's security forces tasked with suppressing women, particularly in relation to their attire. Jina was transferred to a police station to obtain her commitment to the regime's misogynistic laws. While in custody she was beaten severely by agents of the state security forces and later died in hospital due to skull fractures.

Following this tragedy, waves of anti-regime protests broke out in Iran, starting on 16 September 2022, initially in condemnation of Jina's murder. By December 2022 the uprising had spread to at least 300 cities in all 31 provinces of the country, including many universities and high schools. On some days during this period at least 60 locations in Tehran alone flared with protests.

The uprising formed in protest to the regime's killing of Jina in an unplanned and somewhat spontaneous way, but it really is a reflection of an organised resistance across Iran, a resistance with deep social and political roots in fighting the suppression of popular demands for the past 40 years by the mullahs' rule.

The killing of Jina acted as a spark that exploded the powder keg of Iranian society. This explosive state has its roots in extensive sociopolitical suppression, egregious violation of citizens' human rights, economic ruin, high commodity prices, poverty, unemployment, hunger and environmental disasters emanating from corruption and mismanagement, among many other factors. As put by Dr Saba Vasefi, a scholar journalist, the young woman's death was a physical manifestation of a deep, national, decades-long pain. Her quote reads:

Mahsa [Jina] Amini’s murder burst open this four decades of problems in the throats of thousands of Iranians traumatised by the ruthlessness and the authoritarianism of the Islamic Republic.

It has now been over a year since the death of Jina Amini, and Iranians continue to face terror and violence under the current regime. This is not a new behaviour of the Iranian regime. In 1988 Iranian authorities, acting under the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, summarily and extrajudicially executed thousands of political prisoners across the country. They executed between 2,800 and 5,000 prisoners in at least 32 cities across the country.

Today, over 10 people each week are put to death in Iran. Think about that: 10 families ripped apart at the hands of a brutal state, often for doing no more or less than speaking up for democracy, speaking up for freedom. In 2023, executions in Iran hit an eight-year high of some 834 people, and by the end of March that year already 95 executions had been recorded. Imagine all those that have not been recorded.

Too many innocent Iranians have lost their lives, have been repressed and have been silenced, and too many families have grieved and felt loss and pain under this regime. The endless persecution of peaceful protestors continues as we are here today in this council. Iran's so-called morality police still arrest women for not acting in accordance with interpretations of the law. They still place people within environments that lead to their torture and to their murder.

After the recent death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranians again find themselves in a perilous period. Heading to another general election with anticipated low voter turnout, this will be a significant challenge for the regime at a time when its public legitimacy is at its lowest.

Everyday Australian Iranians across the country are working, they are giving their time, labour and energy to ensure that the cause of democracy, of freedom for women, and life in Iran is something with which this government has to contend. The Greens stand in solidarity today with protestors across Iran and with communities fighting for the rights of women. The world will be a better place when Iran is free and its people live under a democratic republic in peace with its neighbours and with the world.

The Iranian people have shown us that the path to this ideal is necessarily through the popular abolishment of the present regime. The least we can do is stand with them in these places of democracy and remove the impediments that appeasement policy in the West has created towards this goal for far too many decades. With that, I commend the motion.

Continue Reading

Read More

Motion: Zonta Club

May 17, 2024

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: It is my absolute pleasure to support this motion that the Hon. Reggie Martin has brought before us today in support of the fine women of Zonta. Indeed, over the years I have had quite a bit to do with...

Read more

Motion: Eurovision Song Contest

May 17, 2024

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move: That this council notes that South Australian band Electric Fields are the first duo to represent Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest and wishes them every success. It is my absolute pleasure to move this motion today that...

Read more