Human rights definition based on eastern and western cultures

At the conference „People, Freedom, Rights - Iran“ on the 4th of December 2010 in Cologne, the main argument of the Islamic Republic of Iran that states that human rights in Islam are different than ‘western’ human rights, has been refuted.

Human rights activist Akhtar Ghassemi from Cologne summarises the catastrophic situation of women in Iran in her article "Women's rights are human rights – phrases that are more often mentioned by women than men" (here the german version of her contribution).
Sadegh Nabatchian, representative of the International Committee In Defence of Students and Sufis of Iran from Stockholm, explained the importance of the student movement and the widely spread dervish culture in Iran.  He presented the brutal campaigns and actions of the regime in Iran against the dervishes and students in the last years. He said that both groups at first sight seem to have different approaches of life.  Students yield as intellectuals that observe the world by rational means, while dervishes are known for their spiritual practice and acting based on intuition and trust to God.  However, both have in common that they reject the principle of Velayat-e-faghi (Supreme Leader, belief in an absolute Authority, who is regarded as the delegate of God). This and the fact that both groups are open minded and informed citizens, makes them to a target of the regime, that only wants to prevail its interpretation of  islam,  politics and life style.

Sadegh Nabatchian, Akhtar Ghassemi

Freedom is more than just a right

From Paris, religion scientist and human rights expert Dr. Mostafa Azmayesh lively stressed on the fact that, during era’s after the origin of the Islam, the Koran was repeatedly explained by rulers in a way that fitted their model of power. Even nowadays, the same is happening for the regime in Iran and this doesn’t have much to do with the intention of the Koran.  Some shiite clergymen, on whom the regime relies, claim that Mohammed had favoured stoning. Azmayesh clearly stated, that we talk about certain passages in the Koran that describe how Mohammed mentions this as an example of tyranny and should not be considered as a guidance for his followers. Conclusion, stoning is a method of intimidation from old times that doesn’t have anything to do with Islam, even though it is mentioned under the name of Islam.
Dr. Azmayesh highlights the principle of freedom seen through the eyes of a Koran expert and a religious person. First he illuminates religious people’s conception of heaven and hell after death, where each individual soul gives account for their deeds on the material level. He points out that mankind is responsible for his actions, and therefore also must be free to act and decide, otherwise he or she cannot be made responsible. Without freedom, there is no choice.
On the opposite he described the world vision of the representatives from the regime in Iran, who see themselves as religious authorities and keep their interpretation of the Koran in a tight frame. So far they would believe in human rights, but just as long as they fit within the frame of their own interpretation. Azmayesh gave the example of Mohammad Javad Laridjani, human rights deputy of Iran, who claims on a regular base in front of the UN in Geneva or at other occasions, that cutting off hands, fingers or arms are Islamic punishments, that meet the legitimised human rights in Iran.

The regime in Iran is anti-Islamic and based on an anti-freedom system
Azmayesh explains that the Iranian regime is anti-Islamic, because representatives of the regime don’t believe in the principle of freedom: "Who neglects the principle of freedom and the right of freedom, who overrules citizens with religious and other narrow minded concepts or explanations, is acting against the substance of humanity."
Azmayesh objects to the concept of the existence of human rights within the frame of  Islam and outside of Islam. Human rights are of a universal nature. There are no human rights that agree with the Islam and human rights that don’t agree. He designs the Koran as being completely in agreement with the human rights and is even based on them. He held that he regime in Iran manipulates Islam and manipulates the Koran, to establish an anti-freedom system in Iran.
Azmayesh tells that the representatives of the regime are being seen as neither secular, nor religious, but as persons that do everything to manipulate everything and everyone and give all kinds of false pretexts in order not to respect citizen’s rights.

The secular and the religious should go hand in hand
Azmayesh called not only on secular oriented citizens to appoint themselves against the regime, but appealed, that all religious people have the responsibility, to raise their voices regarding the damage that the narrow minded interpretations of Islam against religion and Islam causes. He called upon all secular and religious people from all over the world to go hand in hand and act in a collective campaign to stop the situation in Iran, since the actions of the regime are against Islam and against human rights.

 Dr. M. Azmayesh, Prof. H. Bielefeldt

UN-rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
Professor Heiner Bielefeldt introduces first his mandate as UN rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief  appointed by the human rights council. He is performing this mandate as an independent expert for human rights questions as a volunteer and has started in August 2010. The base of his contribution to the conference are the international human rights laws, more precisely, the agreements about the freedom of religion and belief. Iran is a state that has signed the international covenant about political and citizen rights and is bound to these agreements.
Professor Bielefeldt explained freedom as being the starting point for human rights. Freedom contains the possibilities, both individually as commonly, to live by a certain conviction and also to change their conviction, convert, convince others or to be non-religious. He emphasised that human rights and freedom of religion create the possibility for each individual to develop their own worldview. The path leading to this wouldn’t be a long list with different religions to choose from.

Irans’ constitution doesn’t allow freedom of religion
Already in the concept of the Islamic Republic of Iran we can find an art of hierarchic list of allowed religions, what, says Bielefeldt, is already a violation of the international agreement about political and citizen rights.
Shia islam can be seen as the state doctrine, primary ranked. Some religions like judaism, assyrian christianism or zoroastrianism are allowed to have an existence as long as they remain in their niches, while groups like the bahai, protestant Christianism, Sunnites and Dervish are persecuted. Professor Bielefeldt gave some examples of cases about which the UN already communicates with the government in Teheran.

Real change must come from the inside
All speakers, secularly or religiously motivated, emphasized in their conclusion that the Iranian society can be supported by collective action.
Akhtar Ghassemi declined a dialogue with representatives of the regime completely. Professor Bielefeldt will have to stay in contact due to his role. With the help of legal proceedings (demarches) or by publications that respond to the heavy violations of the human rights in Iran, pressure will be build up.
A government is responsible for the compliance with the human rights and should be reminded of their obligation.
In the end the moderator of the event noticed that with many mystics in the orient one could find concern on human rights, without the words human rights being used by them. One of these mystics was Sa'adi, who wrote in one of his aphorisms: "When all ants would work together, they could beat the dragon."

"How can we help the Iranian civil society?" asked one of the visitors.

Conclusion from Continue informing the European society about the essence of the ideology. Continue mentioning the human rights violations in Iran. Continue taking care of the information stream towards the Iranians in Iran that are receiving false information from their regime. Continue supporting those who are devoted to peaceful and consistent change of the system in Iran. Bring secular and religious interest groups in a dialogue with each other to stop the absurd power games of the regime in Iran.
The following conference will be in Brussels on the 21st of January 2011. Soon the details to this conference will be announced. To register, please contact konferenz(at)