The Janus Nature of Human Rights in Iran: Understanding Progress and Setbacks on Human Rights Protections since the Revolution

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Department or Administrative Unit

Political Science

Publication Date



Since the Islamic Revolution transformed Iran’s political system thirty years ago there have been significant violations of human rights including the right to life, the right to be free from torture, and other basic civil and political liberties. This essay examines the ebb and flow of human rights since the Revolution. Why has Iran consistently experienced a lack of political freedom and protection of human rights over the last thirty years and even during the Khatami presidency? Two reasons help explain this pattern: a specific and narrow interpretation of Islam and perceived domestic and international threats to the regime. Given the fact that human rights violations in Iran are less of a priority to many Western governments given the concern with Iran’s nuclear program, this essay explores possible approaches to seeing improvements in human rights via a modification of the spiral model.


This article was originally published in APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper