Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was expected to talk democracy with other leaders yesterday, despite his country being branded one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.
As the two-day meeting opened, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said mutual respect and diversity are the foundations of democracy.
“We need to encourage greater respect for different values, faiths and religious beliefs,” Yudhoyono said. “We should not allow irresponsible acts such as the defamation of religion to divide us.”
Dinna Wisnu, an international political analyst from Indonesia’s Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, said Ahmadinejad is likely attending the event to try to find a place to fit in, and even if some Asian countries are not welcoming, the region as a whole is typically more accepting.
“Iran comes with its special agenda that has been planned as the country does not have a lot of friends in the Middle East,” she said. “They are in a difficult position. If they are not trying to make friends in other regions, Iran will be alone.”
Iran has long been criticized for its human rights record, including the continued use of stoning as a method of capital punishment. Increased Internet crackdowns and the jailing of political prisoners and journalists were also recently highlighted in a report by the UN’s human rights expert on Iran.
The country erupted into violence three years ago when pro-democracy protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the election of Ahmadinejad.
The fifth Bali Democracy Forum on the Indonesian island is being attended by 11 heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.