Iran’s president dismisses criticism amid deadly protests

As street protests in Iran grew deadlier, President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday accused the West of double standards on human rights.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Raisi sought to deflect international outrage over the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of Iran’s so-called morality police last week. They reportedly arrested her for not fully covering her hair.

Raisi also used the speech to insist that Iran is eager to revive the ailing nuclear deal aimed at preventing the country from developing a bomb, but questioned whether the US is a trustworthy partner in any agreement could be.

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

“Human rights belong to everyone, but unfortunately they are trampled on by many governments,” Raisi said. He pointed to the suffering of stateless Palestinians and the detention of migrant children in the US, separating them from their families.

The Iranian government has claimed that Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, died of a heart attack after she was detained and taken to a “re-education center” to teach her how to dress properly. Iran forces all women to wear headscarves that cover their hair and other clothing that is considered decent.

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

Her death sparked protests in numerous Iranian cities, some involving women who set their scarves on fire. On Wednesday, seven people were reportedly killed in the demonstrations as security forces cracked down on the protesters.

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

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

But President Trump backed out of the deal in 2018, saying it hadn’t gone far enough to restrict Iran. Tehran has resumed enriching uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons. With the election of Joe Biden, the US began indirect negotiations with Iran via European signatories to revive it.

These talks have been repeatedly stalled by demands from both sides. Iran is seeking the lifting of US economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

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

“We only want one thing: keeping the promises,” said Raisi.

Biden, who also addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, said the US also wants to get back into the deal. But he said Iran must live up to its commitments, which included allowing the UN regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to conduct comprehensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Though Tehran is also part of the 2015 deal, it recently tried to keep inspectors away from some of its facilities.

“The United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Biden, who also offered support for protesters in Iran, who he said were trying to “secure their basic rights.” Iran’s president dismisses criticism amid deadly protests

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