Los Angeles Times

Leader defends Iran amid protests

The president tries to deflect outrage over activist’s death by criticizin­g U.S.

- By Tracy Wilkinson

UNITED NATIONS — As street protests in Iran turned increasing­ly deadly, President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday accused the West of maintainin­g a double standard on human rights.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Raisi attempted to deflect internatio­nal outrage over the death last week of a 22year-old woman in the custody of Iran’s so-called morality police. They reportedly arrested her for failing to completely cover her hair.

Raisi also used the speech to insist that Iran was eager to revive the moribund nuclear deal aimed at preventing the country from developing a bomb, but questioned whether the U.S. could be a trusted partner in any accord.

It was a rare appearance in the West by Raisi, a hardliner who became Iran’s president about a year ago.

“Human rights belongs to all, but unfortunat­ely it is trampled upon by many government­s,” Raisi said. He cited the suffering of stateless Palestinia­ns and the detention of migrant children in the U.S., separating them from their families.

The Iranian government has maintained that Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd, died of a heart attack after she was detained and sent to a “reeducatio­n center” for instructio­n on proper attire. Iran forces all women to wear headscarve­s that cover their hair as well as other clothing considered to be modest.

Amini’s family insists she was healthy and had no heart condition. The government has ordered an investigat­ion.

Her death touched off protests in numerous Iranian cities, some involving women torching their scarves. On Wednesday, seven people were reported killed in the demonstrat­ions as security forces moved to crack down on the protesters.

“Iran’s security forces will continue to feel emboldened to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for defying abusive compulsory veiling laws, if they are not held accountabl­e,” Diana Eltahawy, Middle East deputy director for Amnesty Internatio­nal, said in a statement. She also demanded an independen­t investigat­ion and criticized Raisi being given a world stage amid what she called Iran’s abuses.

In other comments, Raisi said his government had a “great and serious will” to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a landmark internatio­nal accord brokered by the Obama administra­tion and six other countries. It substantia­lly reduced Iran’s atomic energy program and was designed to prevent the country from developing a bomb.

But President Trump walked out of the deal in 2018, saying it didn’t go far enough in restrictin­g Iran. Tehran resumed enrichment of uranium, a key component in nuclear weapons. With the election of Joe Biden, the U.S. entered indirect negotiatio­ns with Iran through European signatorie­s to the deal in an effort to revive it.

Those talks have been repeatedly stalled by demands from both sides. Iran seeks relief from economic sanctions that the U.S. imposed and that have crippled its economy.

“We have before us the experience of America’s withdrawal” from the deal, Raisi said. “With that experience and this perspectiv­e, can we ignore the important issue of guarantees for a durable agreement?

“We only wish one thing: observance of commitment­s,” Raisi said.

Biden, who also addressed the assembly on Wednesday, said the U.S. also wanted to reenter the deal. But he said Iran had to meet its obligation­s, which include allowing the U.N. Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency to conduct extensive inspection­s of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Though also part of the 2015 deal, Tehran has recently attempted to keep inspectors away from some of its installati­ons.

“The United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Biden, who also offered support for the demonstrat­ors in Iran who he said are seeking “to secure their basic rights.”

 ?? Mary Altaffer Associated Press ?? PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi accused the West of double standards after a global outcry over the death in Iran of a woman who did not completely cover her hair.
Mary Altaffer Associated Press PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi accused the West of double standards after a global outcry over the death in Iran of a woman who did not completely cover her hair.

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