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Iran’s forgotten prisoners

A former prisoner in Iran appeals for human rights not to be forgotten when the nuclear talks start on Feb. 18.
A protestor holds a portrait of Iranian trade-union activist Mansour Osanloo during a demonstration against the Iranian governement in front of the Iranian embassy in Ankara on November 21, 2009. Mansour Osanloo is  reportedly serving a prison sentence in Iran. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

With great interest, eyes around the world are watching the beginning of Iran’s nuclear deal and its exclusion from the peace conference on Syria. While these are indeed important developments for the entire world, the protection of human rights is a more relevant issue for the average Iranian.

Just this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted to the country’s human rights “problems and shortcomings,” restating that his new boss, President Hassan Rouhani, has promised to address them. Concrete changes have yet to take place, in part because as Zarif stated, it is a process of “consensus-building, not an immediate issue” and “not everything is in the hands of the executive branch.” The widespread arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens for exercising rights protected under international law and systemic torture have made it an immediate issue for many of us, however. As some 900 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners remain holed up in deplorable, inhumane conditions in Iran, every day matters. I know this feeling of urgency. I was one of those prisoners.

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