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Iran Foreign Minister Says ‘Human Rights Need To Be Respected’

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a representative of the government that is widely regarded as the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, boasted that he was “a human rights professor” and that “human rights need to be respected.”

Zarif told interviewer Lyse Doucet:

I’m a human rights professor. I have taught human rights for over thirty years, so I have concerns about human rights. I believe human rights need to be respected. I believe human rights for us, is a security requirement, not a moral nicety. It’s a security requirement.

Earlier, Doucet had commented, “Europeans are also saying to you: what about eight environmentalists who’ve been in prison for the last year? The Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. And I know the Europeans are saying, ‘We cannot finance environmentalists in Iran if environmentalists are going to jail.’ Even Iranian officials have said there is nothing against them. Can you assure people here that there will be justice in this case and many others?”

Zarif attempted to deflect by shifting the subject to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “Hold on. As I said, Your excellency I think concern for human rights, after Khashoggi—“

Doucet interrupted, “Not just concern but action.’

Zarif interjected, “After Khashoggi —“

Doucet: “Let’s leave that to the side.”

Zarif: “Why should I?”

Doucet responded, “When the Saudis are in this chair I’ll ask the Saudis.”

Zarif: “Why should I? You are still selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. Why should I set aside Khashoggi? Hold on.”

Doucet persisted, “Tell me about the eight environmentalists.”

Zarif patronized, “I’ll talk about the environmentalists. Let us put this charade away, this hypocrisy away.”

Doucet: “We all here, all of us, have condemned the terrible crime, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi … Your partners here want to know about your human rights record.”

Zarif: “Let’s walk down together; let’s not take the high moral ground because you certainly don’t have it. Let’s walk don together. We in the government don’t control the judiciary (audience laughs) We have our complaints about — hold on, hold on —“

Doucet: “You have an elected president who promised Iranians better freedoms, including human rights.”

Deutsche Welle commented:

Before he addressed the human rights issue, according to Deutsche Welle, Under questioning from moderator Lyse Doucet, Zarif eventually addressed human rights issues in Iran, specifically the arbitrary detention of eight environmentalists, but not before indulging in some whataboutism: His first response was underlining Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and then insisting, to some open laughter in the hall, that the Iranian government had no control over the country’s judiciary.

As recently as February 7, Progetto Dreyfus, an Italian-speaking Middle East watchdog, condemned Iran’s record on human rights, tweeting, “Modern democracies respect human rights. Iran does not!” Progetto Dreyfus added that since the Iranian Islamic Revolution 40 years ago, , “from that moment [on the] theocratic regime has executed thousands of people, women and minorities that are still repressed.”

Speaking last week at the Warsaw Ministerial Working Luncheon, Vice President Mike Pence stated, “The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, it persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gay people …”

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