{mosimage}United Press International, By Baroness Gould of Potternewton: Iran under the mullahs is the only country in the world that continues to hang children, and it has an equally sinister track record over its treatment of women.

United Press International

UPI Outside View Commentator

{mosimage}LONDON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Iran under the mullahs is the only country in the world that continues to hang children, and it has an equally sinister track record over its treatment of women.

On Jan. 15, Amnesty International said in a report that nine women and two men in Iran are waiting to be stoned to death, adding that the "horrific practice" was "specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victims."

"The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women. Women suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards," Amnesty International said.

Rahele Zamani, 27, was hanged in Evin Prison in Tehran in December. Her 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter are now orphans.

At least 113,454 women were detained by state security forces for being "improperly dressed" over the summer in the Iranian capital alone, according to Tehran police chief Ahmad-Reza Radan.

Maltreatment of women is indoctrinated in the regime's ideology. The mullahs' Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said last July, "We are witnessing in our country that some women activists and some men are trying to play with Islamic laws ... in order to harmonize them with international conventions related to women. This is wrong. ... They shouldn't see the solution in changing Islamic jurisprudence laws."

Earlier this year Ibrahim Lotfollahi, a 27-year-old student from Payam Nour University in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj, was tortured to death by agents of the regime's notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Local authorities tried to pass off the cold-blooded murder as suicide and they refused permission to Lotfollahi's parents to exhume the corpse of their son who had been buried without their knowledge. The revelations regarding the true surroundings of Lotfollahi's tragic death came from Iranian opposition activists.

The case serves as a stark reminder of what life can be like for those brave people in Iran who choose to speak their minds and take a stand against the theocratic dictatorship. But, in an unforgivable incongruity, the British government has thus far chosen to side with the mullahs instead of the millions of Iranians longing for change.

For years, our government has been appeasing the regime in exchange for lucrative trade deals in the vain hope of convincing the mullahs to abandon their terrorist tactics abroad. The climax came in 2001, when our Home Secretary Jack Straw accepted the regime's demand that he ban its main democratic opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran.

Turning a blind eye to the execution of 120,000 PMOI sympathizers by the regime, our government went so far as to persuade the EU to ban the PMOI as well.

When in December 2006, the European Court of Justice annulled the EU's ban on the PMOI, our government shamefully pressured the EU Council of Ministers to ignore the verdict of Europe's highest court. But in November 2007, following an appeal by 35 parliamentarians from all aisles, the United Kingdom's Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission ruled that the government's ban on the PMOI was "flawed" and "perverse." It ordered the new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to immediately submit an Order to Parliament lifting the ban on the group.

Whereas one could not be blamed for thinking that justice had prevailed, the government has since announced that it would appeal the decision despite losing its application for grounds to appeal.

On Jan. 23, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe described POAC's verdict on the PMOI case as a "slap in the face" for the government and called on the EU/U.K. to "implement immediately the decisions of competent European and national judicial institutions affecting the status of the listed persons or entities."

It remains unclear what the government's next step will be. Meanwhile in Tehran, the regime continues to torture and execute political prisoners. When challenged over its brutal practices, it simply responds that it is killing those who the EU/U.K. class as terrorists.

The people of Iran deserve freedom. While military action against Iran is out of the question, we in the United Kingdom should be assisting the Iranian people by exposing the mullahs' barbaric practices and urging the U.N. Security Council to impose trade sanctions on the regime for its gross violations of human rights. But the first step in getting on the side of the Iranian people is for the government to lift the ban on the PMOI immediately.


(Baroness Gould of Potternewton is a Labor Peer. She has been a deputy speaker of the House of Lords since 2002.)