Thank you, in particular, to the Mission to Establish Human Rights in Iran, for honoring me today by allowing me to come before you to talk about human rights.
Since my election to the United States Congress in 1996, I have been deeply concerned about human rights. For many of you who live here in Orange County, you know that it is also the place where the largest Vietnamese live outside Vietnam. And, they too face in Vietnam the issue of human rights. Because of that, when I got to congress I formed the congressional dialog on Vietnam, and at the same time, I also joined the human rights caucus in the congress. As such, I am committed to establishing, monitoring, and insuring human rights throughout the world. Also, as a member of the house committee on the armed services, I have a very special interest in insuring that we find the peace process and peace in the Middle East region. But before we can have peace between nations, we must have peace within nations. And peace within a nation can only be established when the basic human rights of all of its citizens are recognized, valued, and protected. And I applaud you for all the work that you do on this.
Today has been designated as the Memorial Day to honor the Thousands of the prisoners of conscious, who were executed by the Islamic regime of Iran in summer of 1988. According to the documents made public recently, as many as 30,000 political prisoners were killed in 1988 alone. The executions were ordered by Khomeini’s fatva decree in the summer of 1988, which in part read that those who were in prisons throughout the country, are waging a war against God, and are condemned to execution. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately, and use whichever criterion that speeds up implementation of that execution verdict.
The mass murder of Thousands of political prisoners in 1988 must be recognized by the world as a crime against humanity. Even our own U.S. reports and the United Nations human rights reports site Iran for wide spread abuses on human rights, including assassinations, executions of regime opponents, in Iran and abroad. These reports note that President Khatami at his efforts to promote the rule of law has met repeated challenges from the hardliners within Iran.
In October of this past year, October 27, the State Department, the annual report that we put out on human rights, sited once again Iran as a country of particular concern. First to get the information of what is happening within that country, and secondly, when we review and we listen to, and we write down what those who have seen in their note, we know that human rights are abused in Iran today, and this must stop. In fact just this past April, when the human rights commission of the United Nations in a vote decided not to continue to investigate for this year the human rights abuses, there were many of us who were dismayed by that fact, because we know that it continues. And religious prosecution of all other religions, people who have been executed, who have been put in prison, who have had sentences of 20 and 30 years, whether you are of Bahaii religion or whether you are Jewish, or Christian. The attacks on your personal life, the insinuations, the way they go after the neighborhoods and people, this has got to stop and we must continue to work to paint the picture of what happens within Iran.
While human rights of most Iranians have been curtailed under the Islamic regime of Iran, it is women who suffer the most in Iran today. Particularly disturbing, is that discrimination is not only tolerated in that country, but also expressly supported by, and articulated in Iran’s penal code, civil code, and its constitution. In 1975 The Iranian government joined two of the treaties of the United Nations, the international covenant on economical, social, and cultural rights, and the international covenant on civil and political rights. But we know that the government of Iran, including its executive and legislative branches is responsible for properly ensuring those treaties, and they failed to do so today. These United Nations treaties forbid, in criminal offences, the execution of Juvenals under age of 18. However, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the maturity age for the execution of females is 9 years old. Or article 23 of part 3 of CCPR, declares that no marriage is legal without the presence and the mutual consent of the two parties interested. The Islamic Republic states that the guardian can marry off a Juvenal under his dependence up until the age of maturity, so a young woman can be married before 9 without consent.
And article 6 of part 3 of the CESCR these treaties of UN, recognize equal employment opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and guarantees favorable working conditions for all women. But as you know, Iran bans women from Presidency, from judicial positions, and even from the armed services. Article 12 of part 3 of the CCPR states that every citizen has the freedom of choice for resident and freedom to travel within the country and abroad. But for women, you cannot travel abroad unless your husband gives you permission.
Islamic criminal law is equally discriminatory towards women. As stated in article 209 of the law a woman’s life is valued only half that of the man. Say for example a convicted man has intentionally slain a woman, and the family wants him executed. To do this, they must pay to the family of the victim a defined sum of money that the victim’s family must pay to the assailant’s family for the physical damage, dismemberment, or the death of the assailant. And while the requirement of this payment is barbaric, what an injustice that one of yours dies and you must pay the other to get justice, but the insult is worse. Because in the case of a woman, the value of this payment is only 5500 US Dollars, but for a man is $11,000. So we are worth less in the eyes of that law. Or for example the Islamic criminal law evidenced in the amendment 1 of article 1210, which defines again the maturity of a young male at 15 lunar years, and that of a young female at 9 lunar years. What this does is it subjects women to 6 more years of ability for criminal liability. And think about for example the barbaric practice of stoning. If you are a male, and you going to be stoned, you are only put in a hole up to your waste. If you are a female, you are put in a hole past your breast. And remember, that if manage to escape during stoning, you are set free. So ladies, the men have the advantage in that half of their body is out of the hole; leading to a sure death of all women during the stoning process.
Now, throughout history what we have seen from repressive regimes is that the less communication there is, the easier it is for them to do these types of assault of human rights. That is where the freedom of press comes in. And as we know, there have now been 52 newspapers banned. Actually not banned, curtailed, put off the market for a while, suspended. But in the about 12 years that this has happened, none of them have ever issued another newspaper, or article. So effectively when you write something that the regime of Iran does not like, you are put out of business. And of course, in August 13 of 1998, the bill regarding press law of women was signed into law in Iran. Once again on women. The bill does not allow any criticism, advocacy in the press, of the laws regarding women’s rights. Supporting or defending the rights of women in that country in any publication is strictly banned, because they believe that such argument will create more contention and adversity between men and women. The bill bans all female images, text, or arguments for modifications of any existing law. And as a result, women’s issues can never be discussed in the press.
But I will tell you that I see some positives in the world of human rights. For example, the development of the computer is enabling us to communicate more and wider and faster. They cannot catch it all. And I have seen this whether it is in Cuba or whether it is in China or Vietnam. And I am sure that if we continue the push, we will also get more information, through the internet and more communication, to the people of Iran. In particular to give them hope that we are here and around the world, to help them in their struggle to achieve human rights.
We gather today to commemorate a dark chapter in human history. We can best honor the victims of 1988 massacre by focusing the world’s attention on the need for human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of collective bargaining. All of these rights are inherent to each and every person on this world. So what we do? We must get the word out. We must use that internet capability. We must look for world support. And I am very proud of the fact that our congressman from California Tom Lantos, the Co-chair of the human rights caucus did introduce House Resolution 504, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives, concerning the continuous repression of freedoms within Iran, and individual human rights abuses in particular to women. And I am proud to be a Co-sponsor of that resolution.
Those mass murders of 1988 must be viewed and recognized by the world as crime against humanity and we must bring those responsible to justice. Government officials and others, who have violated the human rights of the Iranian people, must be brought to trial. We know it will not be easy. We know that it is a difficult process. But we also know that under the provisions of Geneva Convention of 1949, there exists a process by which to hold those people accountable. And in the name of citizens of the entire world, who love freedom and who strive for human rights for all of mankind, I urge you to continue your work for human rights in Iran. Thank you for inviting me here today in your Memorial Day observance. I look forward to the day where we commemorate not a dark day, but where we celebrate a bright day. A day in which we siege true human rights in Iran.
Speech taken from http://www.mehr.org/sanchez_speech.htm.