London, 12 Feb – Ms. Asma Jahangir, a leading human rights lawyer and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran has died at the age of just 66.
Jahangir was born in Lahore in Pakistan during the sixties and became the first woman in the country to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan.
She has been described as a fearless activist and one that has put herself at great personal risk in her pursuit for human rights. Despite threats and pressure from opposition, Jahangir always stood for what she believed in.
Her work has been recognised both nationally and internationally and she has made a great contribution to the cause of human rights. Jahangir has also received several major human rights awards. As well as fighting for human rights, Jahangir has put great effort into the field of rights for women, the protection of religious minorities and the elimination of bonded labour.
In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council re-established the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2016, Jahangir was appointed Special Rapporteur – the second since its re-establishment and fifth in total. Her first report was presented to the Human Rights Council on 13th March 2017.
As Special Rapporteur, Jahangir was responsible for monitoring and investigating human rights violations in Iran and was charged with transmitting urgent appeals and letters to the Iranian government. She had the task of engaging publicly regarding issues of concern and she was to submit reports to the General Assembly and Human Rights Council. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur is charged with visiting Iran and engaging with the relevant stakeholders.
Most significantly, especially for the people of Iran, Jahangir included the complaints of families of those killed during the 1988 massacre in the report. She was the first UN Rapporteur to do so.
In October last year, Jahangir said that she was deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses in Iran including the violations of freedom of speech and the rights violation of ethnic and religious minorities. She also expressed her concern regarding the arbitrary detention of dual nationals.
Her comments came during her first address to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The Iranian regime did not take kindly to her comments and insulted her and put her integrity into doubt by saying that she was taking part in a “political charade”.
At the United Nations General Assembly, the regime’s representative, Mohammad Hassaninejad, said that Jahangir’s accusations were “unrealistic”, “totally political against Iran” and “biased”. He said: “We denounce the appointment of the country-specific Special Rapporteur… , no country should change its way of life because of Western dictation.”
We can only be thankful that Jahangir was brave enough to make the regime’s crimes known. It is thanks to people like her that the people of Iran know that they are not alone. We owe it to Jahangir to continue fighting for human rights and democracy in Iran.