Omid: a Memorial in Defense of Human Rights is an electronic database of human rights violations in Iran. The Memorial is dedicated to the victims of the Islamic Republic since it was established in 1979. Omid’s ultimate goal however is to be an impartial historical record that includes victims of human rights violations since December 10, 1948.*
Omid is solely concerned with the impartial protection of human rights. It includes the names of the individuals whose human rights were violated in the process leading to their death, regardless of their deeds. Omid neither supports nor opposes the political views of the victims whose stories it records.
A project of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF), this virtual memorial provides an individual file for every victim, which details the human rights violations in his or her particular case. Visitors to the website may search the list in English or Farsi by using several criteria: the victim's name, gender, nationality, or religion; the date, place, or mode of execution; or the charges made against the victim.
ABF has created Omid both to pay homage to the victims of persecution and political violence and to assert the right of the Iranian people and the international community to know the truth about what happened to them. Omid's ambition is to alleviate the anguish, injustice, and legacy of hate produced by long-term human rights abuses. The victims and their families need to know that their society acknowledges their suffering. Social peace and democratic stability will not be possible in Iran in the future unless society admits the fact of these human rights abuses and the harm they have done. Such recognition is a crucial step in the process of building democracy.
Omid also bears witness to the close connection between the disregard for human rights and political violence. Founded on the persecution of its citizens, the Islamic Republic of Iran has predictably few qualms about using violence as a component of its foreign policy. By commemorating its victims regardless of their nationality, Omid testifies to this reality. Visitors to the website who see Iranians and foreign nationals, victims of the Islamic Republic's violence, side by side will realize that international hostilities arise less from the tensions between nations and cultures than from the tensions between democracies and autocracies.
Because the Islamic Republic of Iran does not allow the proper investigation of human rights abuses by independent experts, nongovernmental organizations have a duty to pursue this goal. By creating this electronic memorial, the ABF follows in the footsteps of many other NGOs and government bodies around the world. Nations such as Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Germany, Peru, and Russia have established memorials and national commissions of truth and reconciliation to advance their transitions to democratic rule. Omid itself cannot and does not intend to act as a truth commission; its aim, rather, is to promote the establishment of an official truth commission in Iran.
Omid's information is drawn from statements issued by Iran's authorities, official Iranian newspapers and media, national and international human rights organizations' reports, political and civil society organizations, and victims' testimonies. Omid will collect the best available information, however any investigation conducted outside the country without free access to victims and official records is by nature constrained and incomplete. Thus Omid's list will always be a work in progress.
Omid's database, Analyzer, was provided and customized by Benetech's Human Rights Program (HRP)**, which has advised truth commissions, United Nations missions, and NGOs around the world. Analyzer is a free and open source application specifically designed to organize human rights data for statistical purposes. Omid gathers information from multiple sources to create more accurate and detailed records on the victims. All available sources are recorded in the database ensuring that information is not lost and remains easily accessible. Duplicate records on individual victims, which users may encounter on the browse page of the Memorial, are gradually identified and carefully matched.
This electronic memorial is a symbolic act against terror. The victims, whom their persecutors tried to silence, reappear through Omid and question the conscience of the perpetrators, of the Iranian people, and of humanity at large.
* On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran was among the member states who voted in favor of the Declaration, thus committing its government to promote and protect human rights.
** The Benetech's HRP began their collaboration with ABF as the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), based at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC. HRDAG joined the Benetech Initiative in Palo Alto, California at the end of 2003 and has integrated with Benetech's Martus Project to form the Benetech Human Rights Program. The HRP has provided ABF staff with valuable advice in data processing methodology.
Plea Against the Death Penalty
Look, examine, reflect. You hold capital punishment up as an example. Why? Because of what it teaches. And just what is it that you wish to teach by means of this example? That thou shalt not kill. And how do you teach that "thou shalt not kill"? By killing.
I have examined the death penalty under each of its two aspects: as a direct action, and as an indirect one. What does it come down to? Nothing but something horrible and useless, nothing but a way of shedding blood that is called a crime when an individual commits it, but is (sadly) called "justice" when society brings it about. Make no mistake, you lawmakers and judges, in the eyes of God as in those of conscience, what is a crime when individuals do it is no less an offense when society commits the deed.
Speech at the Constituent Assembly,
September 15, 1848