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Tweeting Rouhani Hasn’t Delivered Offline, Nobel Laureate Says

November 06, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government hasn’t delivered on the image of tolerance it’s created online by allowing postings on Facebook Inc. (FB:US) and Twitter Inc.’s social-media sites, according to Shirin Ebadi, an exiled activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Rouhani, who was elected in June after promising more freedom of expression and social liberties, regularly posts on a Twitter account that has more than 122,000 followers.

“But the more important thing is after connecting with the people and listening to them, are they going to accept what the people ask or no?” Ebadi, president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, said in an interview yesterday in New York.

More than 200 people were reportedly executed between June 14 and Oct. 1, twice as many as in the same period a year ago under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to an October report that Ebadi’s organization presented to the United Nations General Assembly. The reformist Bahar newspaper was closed last week and its editor detained under “hefty” bail for publishing an article that ran counter to the state interpretation of Islam, Ebadi said.

Ebadi, 66, is a former law professor at the University of Tehran. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, she has been in exile in London since protests in 2009 in which dozens of people were killed and thousands detained after a disputed presidential vote.

While the West focuses on reining in Iran’s nuclear program, hundreds of political prisoners are being denied basic rights, Ebadi said in the interview.

‘Easy to Talk’

“It’s easy to talk, but it’s not that easy to prove what you claim you can do,” she said. “I hope that they deliver on the promises, but up to today they have not.”

Ebadi said the world shouldn’t be fooled by Rouhani’s pledges of moderation, as “things have not changed” and have actually worsened.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said Oct. 23 in an interim report to the General Assembly that the government has ignored his repeated requests to visit the country as part of his probe.

Shaheed expressed alarm at the “spate of executions” carried out in the weeks after Rouhani’s election. The Iranian mission to the UN criticized the interim report as a politically motivated, “non-objective and counter-productive exercise.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in United Nations at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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