Egypt’s recently elected President Mohammed Morsi will give his first speech to the world Wednesday at the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be giving his last as an elected leader.
Both men are on a publicity tour of sorts during their stay in New York, pushing their agendas to the media and other world leaders.
Morsi stopped by former President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative offices in Manhattan on Tuesday ahead of his address, joining President Barack Obama and Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in closing a three-day annual meeting that raised $2 billion in commitments to global development.
Morsi, who was sworn in June 30, is seeking to balance the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood constituency with global concerns over how he will lead. Egypt needs assistance, too, so Morsi’s visit to New York is aimed at outlining his plans to tackle issues such as poverty, unemployment, the current problem with militants in the Sinai and Egypt’s relationship with Israel and neighboring Arab states.
But thanks to “Innocence of Muslims,” an incendiary film allegedly produced by an Egyptian-born U.S. resident with a police record and promoted by a preacher from Gainesville, Fla., the president of Egypt has devoted a considerable amount of his time in New York talking about the film and “responsible” free speech -- an issue that will do little to address more important problems facing the Egyptian people.
Ahmadinejad -- not the most popular of the many world leaders in New York this week -- granted an interview with the Associated Press to plug his vision for the world and to slam the U.S. for “following an international policy of bullying.”
"God willing, a new order will come and will do away with ... everything that distances us," Ahmadinejad told the AP Tuesday evening, speaking through a translator. "All of the animosity, all of the lack of sincerity will come to an end. It will institute fairness and justice."
But fairness and justice is precisely what nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch, or HRW, says is lacking under Ahmadinejad’s administration of his own country. In its lastest annual report on Iran last year, the widely respected human rights group outlines some aspects of Ahmadinejad’s vision for society, including the following:
Highly Regulated Rights To Public Assembly And Press
In April 2011, the country’s parliament curbed the rights of the people to form civil societies or nongovernmental organizations and created an oversight committee led by ministry officials and members of law enforcement.“Authorities had already banned or severely restricted the independence of several professional organizations not covered by the draft bill, including the Journalists’ Association and the Bar Association. Dozens of activists affiliated with banned opposition political parties or student groups are currently serving time in prison,” the Washington-based human rights organization said in its last annual country report on Iran.
The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance’s Press Supervisory Board is in charge of ensuring the country’s media falls in line with the official government narratives on current events. Reporters and editors are routinely jailed, and media organizations are shut down on charges of propagandizing against the state.
Execution For Sodomy, Adultery And Apostasy
While Iran is not alone in executing people convicted of murder and drug trafficking, it shares with the Taliban a propensity to execute men accused of sodomy and, like Saudi Arabia, has laws on the books that could be used to execute adulterers or those who renounced Islam in adherence to strict orthodox interpretation of Islamic law, which prescribes the death penalty for adultery, rape, murder and apostasy.
Harassment Of Lawyers
Lawyers are routinely harassed, prosecuted and imprisoned, especially those involved in human rights cases, HRW and other rights organizations have said numerous times. At least three prominent lawyers for the Tehran-based Center for Defenders of Human Rights, or CDHR, are languishing in prisons. Dozens of others have been sentenced or face charges. Foreign rights groups are regularly denied access to the country in any official capacity, and visiting those in the prison system is extremely difficult, even under highly scripted and supervised conditions.
Restricted Rights For Women
Iran, like Saudi Arabia, shares with groups like the Taliban and radical Islamists in East Africa the idea that women must have a male guardian their entire lives -- either their husbands, fathers, brothers or, in some cases, the courts -- restricting their ability to perform even the most mundane day-to-day activities, like opening bank accounts, dealing with government agencies or even riding bicycles, attending sporting events and jogging. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iranian women are allowed to drive cars, but as in Saudi Arabia, women cannot travel without a special permission slip to prove their guardian has given them permission, and children of women married to foreigners have a much higher bar for citizenship and ensuing rights.
Iran’s largest non-Muslim group, the Baha’i, are regularly discriminated against and harassed. Sunnis, which represent the largest Muslim branch but are a minority in Iran, are also subject to discrimination. Also, the population of Iranian Jews has dwindled precipitously, by most accounts from about 150,000 in the mid-20th century to about 25,000.