An Iranian bill permitting men to marry 13-year-old girls confirms Hassan Rouhani is not a moderate

Supporting a resistance movement led by Iranian women is the logical step forward

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Recent reports of the Iranian Parliament passing a bill including a clause that will legalise and permit men to marry 13 year old girls is shocking and deplorable. It is a serious breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet another UN treaty and convention completely ignored by the Iranian regime.

This bill should come as no surprise. The Iranian people have suffered greatly under the rule of a theocratic dictatorship since its inception in 1980. In late April this year, the unelected Guardian Council reinserted the barbaric punishment of stoning to a draft bill after stoning to death was omitted as the explicit penalty for adultery. That amended draft penal code also permits execution of child offenders and other abusive practices. Now the same powerful council are to review this newly adopted law by the Iranian Parliament. It would be naïve to think the council will reject it.

This new law is another terrifying chapter in the dark policy manual of the Iranian theocracy that for the last three decades have not only deprived its own people from their basic human rights but also tried to control their everyday lives by imposing arbitrary restrictions on their everyday lives. The Iranian theocracy decides how the Iranian people must dress, what they are allowed to read, watch or listen to by imposing suppressive measure with religion as the justifying pretext.

The primary victim of Iran's rulers has been Iranian women, who are literally considered second class citizens under the current Iranian constitution.

Let there be no doubt Iranian society is outraged by this new law. If protest rallies were permitted, people would be protesting this despicable bill that will “legalise paedophilia”. Sadly, the reality in Iran is that you cannot openly challenge the ruling elite's medieval policies. However many brave Iranians do just that, in defiance of the regime and at great personal risk to themselves.

We should not forget that the current head of Iran's judiciary, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, is accused of being one of the men responsible for the massacre of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988. His predecessor, Sadeq Larijani was put on the EU sanctions list for bearing responsibility for systematic human rights abuses and signing off sentences that included floggings, amputations, the dripping of acid into the eyes of the convicted, stoning, executions by suspension strangulation, the execution of juveniles and public executions where prisoners were hung from bridges in front of crowds of thousands.

Yet Iranian officials claim Iran is one of the world's most democratic countries and that is respects its citizens basic human rights, while at the same time they refuse to permit the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed to visit the country to assess the situation of human rights in Iran in accordance with his mandate.

Therefore we who enjoy freedom of speech and societies based on the rule of law and democratic principles should be more vocal and step forward to support the Iranian people in their endeavours to have the same rights that we take for granted in the West. It is of paramount importance that western governments and diplomats do not allow the oppressors in Iran to represent themselves as the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people. We should not forget that since the Iranian revolution, the Iranian regime has been condemned for its serious and systematic human rights violations in a combined total of over 50 resolutions in the General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

But above all, this new bill shows the new Iranian President is not a moderate. It further shows the threat from Iran is not limited to its hard line pursuit of nuclear weapons. Despite Rouhani's latest charm offensive in New York as the voice for moderation in Iran and his attempt to address international concern about the country's nuclear programme, the number of executions in Iran (many in public) has risen by the day.

The west should therefore embrace and support an alternative that offers a solution to all threats that are posed by the current Iranian regime, from its domestic human rights abuses to support for terrorism to its quest for nuclear weapons capability. Such a solution exists and is stipulated in the ten-point plan for a future Iran presented by the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Mrs Maryam Rajavi. This plan elaborates on the vision for a future Iran that is free, democratic and secular. An Iran that is committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, participation of women in every aspect of the political, social and economic arena and the abolition of the death penalty. An Iran that is the force for good and peace in the Middle East and not one that pursues weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.

That is why I and my colleagues in the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom support Mrs Maryam Rajavi's ten-point plan and the NCRI's quest for implementing these changes in Iran. As Mrs Rajavi said in her speech to a gathering of Iranian exiles in Paris following the deceleration of Rouhani as the new President in Iran, “In the absence of freedom of expression and human rights, without releasing political prisoners and recognizing freedom of political parties, without ending the aggressions of the regime in Syria and Iraq and without completely stopping the nuclear weapons program, nothing will change in Iran.”

Empowering and supporting the Iranian Resistance that is the sole regional opposition movement that is led by women, who are the prime victims of the current Iranian regime, represents the most viable and sustainable solution to prevent this appalling new bill.

Baroness Turner of Camden was Deputy Speaker of the British House of Lords until 2008 and she is currently a leading member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.

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