When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office a little over two years ago, most Western nations were gaga over his smile and almost giddy over the fact that Iran now had a kinder, gentler, more liberal leader. But two years on, the reality on the ground shows that nothing changed, in fact it got worse.
On Wednesday, Iranians celebrated the 36th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran. That’s the day Iranian students seized control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. They held 52 American diplomats and citizens – as well as America itself – hostage for 444 days.
Thousands of young Iranians took part in the state-sponsored demonstrations this week, chanting the familiar “Death to America” epithet.
President Hassan Rouhani told the crowd, “The U.S. embassy takeover formed the foundation of the country’s independence and fight against the arrogant powers by Iran,” echoing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rhetoric against what he calls “global arrogance.”
Demonstrators burned U.S. flags, while praising Khamenei and holding up posters mocking President Obama and the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
When Rouhani took office a little over two years ago, his engaging smile convinced many he would be a very different head of state than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Worse than Ever
But despite his friendly smile and empty campaign promises, an analysis published earlier this week paints a different, but not surprising, picture of Iran’s human rights record in the two years since Rouhani took office.
In it, Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, cites a New York Times report quoting U.N. human rights expert Dr. Ahmed Shaheed.
“Iranians are worse off than during the era of Mr. Rouhani’s polarizing and relatively conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Amadinejad,” he wrote in his 26-page report.
According to Shaheed, Iran executes more people per capita than any other country in the world.
“Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions,” the report states.
“This spate reportedly accelerated at a further staggering rate during the first seven months of this year,” he explains. “At least 694 individuals were reportedly executed by hanging as of 15 September 2015, including at least 10 women and a juvenile.”
Netanyahu Wasn’t Duped
A little over two years ago, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Washington for New York, he told reporters he would “talk facts” to the U.N. General Assembly.
“I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles. One must talk facts and one must tell the truth,” Netanyahu said.
A few days prior to their meeting, President Obama called to congratulate Rouhani, marking the first time a U.S. president called an Iranian president in more than three decades.
Today, despite Iran’s unending threats to the United States and Israel, the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran has been signed. The Obama administration and other world powers appear eager to do business with the Islamic Republic, irrespective of its state sponsorship of terrorism and human rights abuses.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, November 5, 2015.