Noteworthy Statement by the Cambodian Ambassador in Iran

In August 2010, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong paid an official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Diplomatic relations existed since 1992. The visit in 2010 had the announced goal to sign an agreement on petroleum cooperation. A petroleum agreement should bring Iranian oil experts to Cambodia. In addition, the promoting of trade, tourism, and investments were also hoped for.

On 27 May 2011, The Cambodia Daily reported that the Iranian Foreign Minister told Madame Yus Makana, the Cambodian ambassador, that Iran could assist in road and dam construction, and proposing also further cooperation in scientific, economic, and parliamentary matters.

There was, however no information that the expected oil agreement was signed.

While in 2010, the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs was quoted to have criticized the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council, now it was reported that the Cambodian ambassador to Iran “backed Iran’s stands on human rights issues.”

I tried to find what others say about human rights issues and Iran. There are the engaged critics, and there is an adopted official UN position. I could not find any quotable text describing Iran’s stand on human rights. Any lead from readers is welcome.

But in March 2011, I had written in The Mirror, on the occasion of the World Day against Cyber Censorship:

World Day Against Cyber-Censorship

The fight for online freedom of expression is more essential than ever. By creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom. In countries where the traditional media are controlled by the government, the only independent news and information are to be found on the Internet, which has become a forum for discussion and a refuge for those who want to express their views freely.

However, more and more governments have realized this and are reacting by trying to control the Internet. Never have so many countries been affected by some form of online censorship, whether arrests or harassment of netizens, online surveillance, website blocking or the adoption of repressive Internet laws. Netizens are being targeted by government reprisals. Around 117 of them are currently detained for expressing their views freely online, mainly in China, Iran and Vietnam.”

Whoever was following events in Iran over the last couple of months will remember the international concern for an Iranian woman to be stoned to death – and that even the President of Brazil at that time, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had participated in the international appeals over the 43 years old Iranian woman Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, by offering his country as a refuge, a move which raised hopes her life would be spared, as Brazil is considered an ally of Iran in some ways. A defense lawyer involved had called it an unjust trial and a sham conviction. Later, the stoning was suspended, but she may still be executed by hanging.

Stoning has a position in Iranian law:

Sexual offenses may be punished by stoning regardless of the gender of the accused, but the method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (so that her breasts cannot be seen); if a person to be stoned escapes, they will be be free. Since it is easier for a man to escape, this discrimination mostly leads to the death of women.

As additional background information, the following report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center Silencing the Women’s Rights Movement in Iran elaborates:

This report examines the Islamic Republic’s attempt to dismantle the women’s rights movement leading up to and following the 12 June 2009 presidential election. Members of the movement – from part-time volunteers to world-renowned human rights defenders – have been faced with a stark choice – cease their activism in order to protect themselves, their families and livelihoods, or continue their activism at the risk of facing criminal allegations, arbitrary arrest and detention, interrogation, torture and even death. Many have fled the country.

Finally, the UN Human Rights Council voted, on 24 March 2011, 22 to 7 to establish a Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Iran. “One hundred eighty women’s rights activists signed a letter to the present Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, urging her government to support the Resolution, which Brazil did.”

Nevertheless, as the report in The Cambodia Daily, quoted above says, the Cambodian ambassador to Iran “backed Iran’s stands on human rights issues.”

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