President Putin is a danger to humanity: Karim Lahidiji 

Editor in Chief of the Oslo Times,Hatef Mokhtar in conversation with the president of the FIDH, Karim Lahidji in Paris on Wednesday, 1 October

Karim Lahidji President of the International Federation for Human Rights and a recipient of the Human Rights Watch Award in 1990 is a renowned author, who was  born in 1940 in Tehran.

A  founding member of three organizations-The Iranian Lawyers Association, the Iranian Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, and the Office of the Iranian Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners– that were outlawed by the Islamic regime in 1981

 Due to his efforts in protecting Human Rights and his growing popularity, the government of Iran felt threatened by him and he was forced to go into exile, and 1982 he took refuge in France.

The following year In 1983, he founded the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LDDH), a member organisation of the FIDH, for which he serves as president. In 1997, he was elected Vice President of FIDH and a couple of years later he was voted the President of FIDH. FIDH is a  Worldwide human rights movement and an international Not for Profit Organization with 178 organizations operating under it in over 100 countries.

During his short visit to Paris, the Editor-in-Chief of the Oslo Times International News Network, Hatef Mokhtar, met with this exceptional 74-year-old, human rights activist who has fearlessly and relentlessly worked in protecting the rights of all global citizens.

In a brief yet exclusive interview with The Oslo Times, Lahidji dissects the reason why Iranian citizens are deprived of their rights in Iran, condemns Russian aggression against Ukraine and talks about  the growing hate towards the Islamic community in France. The excepts below are a concise version of the intriguing talk that followed:

What  is the situation of human rights in Iran?

The situation in Iran has not been really good, for a good many years. This is because the high ranking government or the Supreme Leader as we call him, has no respect for human rights and is not willing to take any positive step towards securing the rights of every person living in Iran. So, until the government takes an interest in protecting human rights issues in Iran,  there really is no way forward.

The high-ranking government officials and the Supreme leader should respect the freedom of its people, journalists and the media, then only then we can take a step forward. Every person should first be treated equally if Human Rights is to flourish in Iran.

Just meeting up with UN officials  and giving a good speech, in favor of human rights does not make one a good leader. The situation in Iran is very dire, because the words of the leaders there, are mere words that they neither believe in nor practice what they preach. In reality, there has been no development in the human rights sector in Iran. The supreme leader of Iran does not want to see progress in Human Rights issues and I believe he is a dictator

Despite what people think. the president I has no power in front of the supreme leader and it’s the Supreme leader who holds the all the powers in Iran.

The reason behind this is that it is commonly believed that the Supreme leader has been selected by god himself. Iran is a Republic nation just for namesake  as no one stands higher than the Supreme leader, who holds all political powers. Therefore, the regime in Iran is very Hippocratic.

President Karim Lahidji expressing his views on media freedom in France

President Karim Lahidji expressing his views on media freedom in France

What is the freedom of expression in France like?

When u look at the law in France, you find that it is pretty liberal and we very much practice the freedom of expression and media freedom. But you still cannot it compare it to the kind of freedom they practice in USA.

USA practices complete freedom and there is no obstruction to the freedom of expression no matter how sensitive the issue is you can still talk about it without causing a felony. This is why I feel, media freedom in the United states of America is incomparable to media freedom elsewhere.

Though media freedom in France is free, and we can raise just about any issue under the sun there are a few issues you cannot talk freely about, for instance, the Holocaust. If such an issue is raised it is considered a sin or rather a crime. However  despite a couple of extremely sensitive issues which may hurt people of different communities and ethnicities freedom of expression  is freely practiced.

Now coming to Russia, how do you  view the situation of Human Rights in the Russian Federation?

I just have four words for it- Horrible, Dangerous, Unacceptable, Painful

What is your view on President Putin?

He is a danger to humanity.

Do you consider him a dictator?

President Putin is worse than a dictator, because he manipulates all the circles of democracy for example according to the constitutional laws in Russia, no one can run for the president’s office twice so after serving at the office the first time he made one of his own people the president and then came back into presidency .

Media freedom in Russia is state controlled and the situation is getting direr. Civil Society and Non-Governmental-Organisations have very little or no say at all in issues regarding the state, human rights and freedom of expression. The government’s view is considered an ultimatum. Putin is still playing by the same rule as he did when he was in KGB.

Let me now talk about Russia‘s aggression in Ukraine, as a  human rights activist, the kind of violent behaviour that is being practiced by Russia under the leadership of Putin ,is against international principles as such acts of violence against another nation’s sovereignty  destabilizes the entire region, and because of that we strongly condemn this kind of behaviour.

Today, we have received information that Russian militants in the intelligence service are  being sent into Ukraine and these people are infiltrating the local community, so this  a very serious matter, which needs to be looked into immediately.


Coming back to France, what are your views  on Religious freedom in France?

religious intolerenceDespite enjoying full freedom  of expression, there is an attitude of mistrust against Islam and the Muslim community here. Though France is home to a Muslim minority of approximately 6 million people, according to a few public polls nearly 74 percent of the French population consider  Muslims and Islam as a threat to national integrity and are taken as incompatible with the French Society.

This kind of  hatred against the Muslim community exists and is being  fueled by religious extremists here.

Which extremism group are you talking about?

I am talking about the National front. This new wave of extremism is spreading to all parts of Europe.  The group’s confidence is being fueled by laws such as the anti-immigration policy.

 What are your views on the Gaza crisis?

If I am to talk about the war between Gaza and Israel, I would like point out that we are against life lost on both sides, we condemn the war from both sides. We feel both Israel and Palestine need to come to a lasting compromise. We condemn this war because it is against humanity. We also condemn Hezbollah, who keep launching rockets into Israel. All this violence is leading to the loss of innocent lives.  From our

All this violence is leading to the loss of innocent lives.  From our side, this is a sheer act of violence and it be stopped. I strongly feel that  anyone who kills people even if it is under the name of self-defense  it is not acceptable. We, therefore, believe that negotiations and solutions through peaceful talks is the only resolution that has the power to solve such a crisis.

 Central_AsiaWhat do you have to say about Media Freedom in central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkeministan?

These countries do not necessarily have a good record in terms of  human rights and the freedom of expression.

So, are they a dictatorial regime?

No, they aren’t ruled by dictators but it is more of an authoritarian regime, which is practiced as a the only system of governance.. These countries even after years of independence are still passing through the post-USSR period and are still going through a transition. I think for these countries to become truly democratic nations, they will need to embrace media freedom, freedom of expression and practice democratic values, like the  respect for humanity and civil society. If they succeed at this then they will have taken a positive step towards democracy. This transitional period is, therefore, a very critical period, as these countries slowly emerge from a territorial regime.

If they succeed at this then they will have taken a positive step towards democracy. This transitional period is, therefore, a very crucial period, as these countries slowly emerge from a territorial regime. For these countries to break free from such inclinations towards Russia, it is very important that they make efforts in practicing democracy. If not then these countries will move towards becoming dictatorial regimes.

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