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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 941

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (21:11): I commend the member for Fremantle on her motion on human rights abuses in Iran and agree with much of the sentiment expressed by the member for Higgins. Parliamentary colleagues, we all recall the stolen Iranian elections of 2010, a fundamental offence to all democrats around the world. We should have known that day when suddenly, in an abandonment of all precedence, the Iranian ministry of the interior picked up the ballot boxes in Iran and suddenly a government that was so unpopular, by contrast with the candidates who were popular, was the subject of a reversal of all predictions happening particularly in certain regions. We remember the images of young people in green attire, protesting against the corrupted and rigged elections. Since that time the Iranian regime, led by Supreme Leader Khamenei and his grotesque President Ahmadinejad, has perpetrated systematic abuses of human rights against the Iranian people.

The crackdown on dissidents and human rights activists has been so intense that last month alone we saw journalists Saeed Madani, Parastoo Dokouhaki, Marizeh Rassouli, Mohammad Soleymaninia, Sahameddin Bourghani, Fatemeh Kheradmand, Arash Sadeghi, Ehsan Houshmand and Hassan Fathi detained. Seeking to consolidate its power over the Iranian people, the ayatollah regime of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have engaged in what the United Nations has described as:

… practices that amount to torture, cruel, or degrading treatment of detainees, the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards,—

the abuse of—

the status of women, the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and the erosion of civil and political rights, in particular, the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society actors.

Late last year I rose in this House to speak about the crackdown on human rights activists in Iran, including the shocking report that an Iranian actress, Marzeih Vafamehr, had been sentenced to jail and 90 lashes for a film that had been in part critical of the regime. It was a film that had an Australian connection, being supported by an Australian film authority. One of the few creative sectors left in that benighted country has been its film industry. I also spoke of the political science student, Payman Aref, who was jailed for a year by the regime and received, shockingly, 74 lashes for criticizing the president. These abuses are characteristic of a regime intent on crushing any opposition to its right to rule. Of course, we have all known over the last years of its terrible abuse of people of the very gentle Baha'i religion. Perhaps the most disturbing human rights violation perpetrated by this regime is that women and under age people, some as young as 16 years of age, are executed despite Iranian laws outlawing this. It is a regime that employs the dreadful Basij—thugs, who are very much like the SA in 1930s Germany—to beat and torture members of the public, to stab the famous young Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, who bled to death in the square after the 2009 elections.

Charges against victims of Iranian regime include the fact that President Ahmadinejad accused people of warring against God. This is one of the so-called terrible crimes practised by dissidents that have led to executions. We must remember that those in power in Tehran are not representative of the great Persian civilization, of its peoples history and of the current generation. We mourn for them and for the ancient civilisation which is being defamed by this outrageous regime.

Ahmadinejad has also detained opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Bloggers and journalists are constantly detained, imprisoned and denied proper treatment. The power of the regime is manifest not only at home but also through its use of fanatical stooges in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and in Gaza, Hamas. We have seen the violence over the last few weeks in Syria, Iran's ally. We see precisely the tactics the Iranian regime has used against its own people in Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards have been used as snipers to gun down civilians in the streets of Derra, Homs and Alleppo. It is incumbent upon all of us confronted by this Ba'athist and Iranian butchery to remember the great words of Vaclav Havel:

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

We have a responsibility, as men and women in parliament, to speak out against these injustices and stand up for the voiceless. (Time expired)