Iran Human Rights - Senate Adjournment Speech, Tuesday 26 June 2018

 I rise to join with Senators Williams, Paterson and Moore to give my support to the grand rally for Iranian democracy, which will take place in Paris, France, this Saturday, and to stand in solidarity with tens of thousands of people, including politicians from all over the world, who will converge on Paris to unite in their resolve for a free and democratic Iran. This resistance comes on the back of decades of human rights violations. Since 1981 more than 120,000 civilians have been arrested, tortured and executed by the clerical regime, including the murder of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The United Nations has passed resolutions condemning Iran's human rights abuses on some 64 occasions. The UN has also reported that Iran leads the world in executions per capita.

I want to highlight, in particular, the determination of Iranian women who have been arrested and imprisoned for their activism in support of basic human rights. For almost four decades, women of Iran have protested against laws making the wearing of the hijab compulsory, but in the last six months the world has witnessed an upsurge in these protests. Courageous women, known as the Girls of Revolution Street, in Tehran are removing their hijab in public and holding it up on a stick as a peace flag. Women across the country are wearing white hijabs or other white clothing on Wednesdays as part of the 'White Wednesday' campaign. Social surveys show that most of Iran's population oppose the mandatory wearing of the hijab for women. Yet such a simple action is one that takes incredible bravery in the country of Iran. International media has reported that in February alone police arrested 29 women in Tehran for participating in these protests. One woman, 31-year-old Vidal Movahed, was photographed protesting in December last year. The photo went viral. She was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. These protests are a small thread in a tapestry of rising unrest across Iran against the breaches of human rights and lack of freedom for Iranian people that has gone on for far too long.

In the last six months there have been protests in 140 cities across the country, while, in response, some 8,000 people have been detained and more than 50 protesters have been killed on the streets or in custody. Just a week ago, prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has defended some of the detained women, was arrested in her home and told she will be imprisoned for the next five years. Amnesty International has condemned her arrest as 'the latest example of the Iranian authorities' vindictive attempts to stop her from carrying out her important work as a lawyer'. Nasrin has now paid the price of losing her freedom for doing her job defending citizens' rights and protecting human rights. Yet it is not the first time Nasrin has been jailed for her activism. In 2010 she was imprisoned for three years for her own work that included representing political prisoners and young people who had been sentenced to death. Despite that, she has continued her courageous fight for justice and for human rights. At this time of such unrest in Iran I think it is important that the international community demands the immediate release of Nasrin.

I also wish to condemn the recent execution of Mohammad Salas, an elder of the Iranian dervish community. He was executed for political reasons. I urge the Iranian government to stop these executions and release all the political prisoners, of whom 30 per cent are women. I also urge them to abolish the oppression of women, including the compulsory wearing of the hijab. Iranian people are calling for greater democracy and for fundamental human rights to be respected. Australians should stand with them. We should use our voice at the table of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which we now sit on, and we should join with allies at the UN to do so. We in this parliament, in this Senate, are certainly sharing our voice, on both sides of politics, to show that we stand with the Iranian people for a free and democratic Iran when we stand for their fundamental human rights.