Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

دیدار اعضای جمعیت با خانواده محرومین از تحصیل زندانی

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

پنجشنبه, 12 فروردین 1389

فروردین

1

جمعیت مبارزه با تبعیض تحصیلی- جمعی از اعضای جمعیت مبارزه با تبعیض تحصیلی در روزهای تعطیلات عید نوروز به دیدار خانواده‌های محرومین از تحصیل زندانی رفتند و با دلجویی از آنان، خواستار آزادی بی قید و شرط این دانشجویان محروم از تحصیل شدند.

دقایقی قبل از تحویل سال نو، اعضای جمعیت در منزل نوید خانجانی؛ فعال حق تحصیل و از اعضای موسس جمعیت مبارزه با تحصیلی در اصفهان حضور پیدا کردند. همچنین سوم فروردین ماه، دیگر اعضای جمعیت با حضور در منزل سما نورانی، دانشجوی محروم از تحصیل دانشگاه سهند تبریز با خانواده وی دیدار کردند.

اعضای جمعیت مبارزه با تبعیض تحصیلی در این دیدارها خواستار آزادی بی قید و شرط نوید خانجانی، ایقان شهیدی، سما نورانی، درسا سبحانی و تمامی فعالان حق تحصیل و دانشجویی شدند.

نوید خانجانی، عضو کمیته گزارشگران حقوق بشر و از اعضای موسس جمعیت مبارزه با تبعیض تحصیلی است که در روز 11 اسفند در منزلش دستگیر شده بود. وی همچنین به دلیل اعتقاد به آیین بهایی از تحصیل در دانشگاه محروم شده و در سال‌های اخیر فعالیت‌های چشمگیری را در زمینه حق تحصیل انجام داده است.

درسا سبحانی، فعال کمپین یک‌میلیون امضا و فعال حق تحصیل نیز حدود ساعت ۱۰ صبح روز ۱۶ اسفند در منزلش در ساری بازداشت شده بود.

ایقان شهیدی، شهروند محروم از تحصیل بهایی و سما نورانی، دانشجوی محروم از تحصیل دانشگاه سهند تبریزهر دو از فعالان حق تحصیل بودند که در روز 12 اسفند 1388،به ترتیب در کرمانشاه و شیراز بازداشت شده بودند


http://www.edu-right.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=369:1389-01-12-16-23-37&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=64


2009 Human Rights Report: Iran – US State Department

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

2009 Human Rights Report: Iran*

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2010
The Islamic Republic of Iran, with a population of approximately 65.8 million, is a constitutional, theocratic republic in which Shia Muslim clergy dominate the key power structures. Government legitimacy is based on the twin pillars of popular sovereignty–albeit restricted–and the rule of the supreme leader of the Islamic Revolution. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not directly elected but chosen by a directly elected body of religious leaders, the Assembly of Experts, in 1989. Khamenei’s writ dominated the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. He directly controlled the armed forces and indirectly controlled internal security forces, the judiciary, and other key institutions. The legislative branch is the popularly elected 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majles. The unelected 12-member Guardian Council reviewed all legislation the Majles passed to ensure adherence to Islamic and constitutional principles and also screened presidential and Majles candidates for eligibility. On June 12, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad was reelected president in a multiparty election that many Iranians considered neither free nor fair. Due to lack of independent international election monitors, international organizations could not verify the results. The final vote tallies remained disputed at year’s end. Civilian authorities did not fully maintain effective control of security forces.
The government’s poor human rights record degenerated during the year, particularly after the disputed June presidential elections. The government severely limited citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections. The government executed numerous persons for criminal convictions as juveniles and after unfair trials. Security forces were implicated in custodial deaths and the killings of election protesters and committed other acts of politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings, and rape. The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning, amputation, and flogging. Vigilante groups with ties to the government committed acts of violence. Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, often holding them incommunicado. Authorities held political prisoners and intensified a crackdown against women’s rights reformers, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities. There was a lack of judicial independence and of fair public trials. The government severely restricted the right to privacy and civil liberties, including freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, association, and movement; it placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion. Official corruption and a lack of government transparency persisted. Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems. The government severely restricted workers’ rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and arrested numerous union organizers. Child labor remained a serious problem. On November 20, for the seventh consecutive year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on Iran expressing concern about the country’s “serious, ongoing, and recurring human rights violations.”

Following the June 13 announcement of President Ahmadi-Nejad’s reelection, hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest. Police and the paramilitary Basij violently suppressed demonstrations. The official death count was 37, but opposition groups reported approximately 70 individuals died, and human rights organizations suggested as many as 200. In August the judiciary estimated that authorities detained approximately 4,000 persons. Authorities continued to arrest numerous political activists throughout the rest of the year. On August 5, with many of those arrested charged with fomenting a “velvet revolution,” the head of the national security forces, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, said in an interview that the government was holding individuals it considered the most dangerous offenders in Kahrizak Prison, and the rest were taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison. The Green Movement, the opposition that formed from many disparate groups to protest the election results, organized demonstrations throughout the country on various dates after the election, including Qods Day (September 18), the anniversary of the U.S. Embassy seizure (November 4), Students’ Day (December 7), Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral (December 21), and Ashura (December 27). During the December 27 protests, at least eight civilians, including the nephew of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, died in confrontations with authorities. Authorities responded to all the demonstrations with raids on opposition activists’ offices. Police reportedly arrested approximately 300 protesters and 10 opposition leaders in relation to the December 27 demonstrations alone.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were reports that the government and its agents committed multiple acts of arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. During the June election protests, scores of protesters and nonprotesting bystanders were killed, especially during antigovernment rallies; government sources reported the death toll at 37, opposition groups reported approximately 70 individuals died, and human rights organizations suggested as many as 200.
On June 15, security forces shot Sohrab Arabi in the chest and abducted him during an antigovernment demonstration. On June 19, according to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), Arabi’s body arrived at the coroner’s office. It was unclear whether Arabi died immediately from the gunshot wound or if he was first taken to a hospital for treatment. In the days following his abduction and death, Arabi’s case became widely publicized on the Internet, and he became a symbolic figure for the opposition.
Also on June 15, security forces arrested 47-year-old Behzad Mohajer for his participation in a protest march, according to Iran Human Rights Voice (IHRV). On August 1, the coroner’s office returned his body to his family. In photos authorities showed to Mohajer’s sister, the body appeared to have bullet holes in the chest.
On June 20, according to eyewitnesses, Basij militia killed Neda Agha-Soltan in Tehran. Although she was in close proximity to an antigovernment demonstration at the time of the shooting, her fiance’ and others report that she was not participating in the demonstration. The video of her death appeared on YouTube and became a symbol of the opposition movement. In the wake of their children’s death, Neda Agha-Soltan and Sohrab Arabi’s mothers joined a group of women calling themselves the Mourning Mothers, who held regular evening vigils on Saturdays in Laleh Park during the year. According to Amnesty International (AI) and the ICHRI, authorities repeatedly broke up the vigil’s protests, and on December 5, police arrested 15 members of the group. By year’s end all had been released on bail.
Also on June 20, security forces reportedly beat Mahmud Raisi Najafi when he was caught up in a crowd fleeing unspecified armed forces on his way home from work. On June 28, he died of his injuries.
Also on June 20, Basij forces shot and killed Ashkan Sohrabi, who was participating in street protests in Tehran. He was reportedly shot three times in the chest.
In late June Basij militia severely beat and arrested Amir Mirza. He was subsequently sent to prison where security forces allegedly tortured and beat him for three days. He died a few days later in detention due to complications involving internal bleeding and meningitis. Local human rights groups reported that authorities denied him medical care.
On June 28, according to AI and the ICHRI, Basij forces arrested Taraneh Mousavi when she was on her way to a demonstration at Ghoba mosque. Reports indicated authorities detained her for five hours, and then she disappeared. AI and the ICHRI reported an allegation that police raped and tortured Mousavi. On July 16, authorities reportedly informed her parents that they could pick up a burned body resembling their daughter. According to AI, authorities subsequently took her mother into protective custody.
On July 1, according to IHRV, plainclothes security forces arrested Mohammad Naderipour, chairman of the student chapter in Mousavi’s election campaign, in the city of Sirjan. Forty-eight hours later, his body was found inside his vehicle. Local human rights groups reported Naderipour’s stereo and wallet had been left untouched in the car. The coroner determined that Naderipour’s death was the result of “a blow by a blunt object to the back of the head.” Authorities reportedly demanded the family bury his body immediately; IHRV reported that authorities wished to avoid further investigation into the causes of Naderipour’s death.
On July 9, security forces arrested university students Amir Javadifar, Mohammed Kamrani, and Mohsen Rouhalamini during protests. On July 16, Mohammed Kamrani died in Mehr Hospital after being detained at Kahrizak Prison. Authorities labeled the cause of death as meningitis, but the family told the press that his body bore the marks of severe beating. On July 23, Rouhalamini, the son of Abdelhossein Rouhalamini, an advisor to conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, died under suspicious circumstances in detention. His father spoke publicly about seeing bruises on his son’s body when he picked the body up from the hospital. On July 25, police contacted Javadifar’s father and instructed him to pick up the body of his son from the coroner’s office in Kahrizak Prison. Authorities claimed he died from a preexisting condition, but medical reports show he had been beaten, had several broken bones, and his toenails had been pulled out. On July 28, the supreme leader ordered Kahrizak Prison closed (see section 1.c.). On December 20, an investigatory committee of the judiciary confirmed publicly that prison officials in Kahrizak Prison beat to death Kamrani, Rouhalamini, and Javadifar, and it charged 12 prison officials of various crimes, including murder.
On July 27, former student activist Alireza Davoudi died in a psychological hospital under suspicious circumstances. Davoudi served as the Isfahan spokesman for Students for Equality and Freedom in Iran (SEF) and was editor of a student publication until he was expelled from Isfahan University reportedly for his political activities. On February 12, Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) officers allegedly attacked Davoudi in his home in Isfahan and took him into custody, where he reportedly underwent torture, including cigarette burns, beatings, and hanging from the ceiling for three days. On April 25, authorities released him on bail awaiting trial, but his family hospitalized him soon afterward to help him with psychological problems stemming from the alleged torture. His family said officials warned them not to publicize his funeral.
In September security forces arrested Saeedeh Pouraghaee for chanting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is the greatest”) from the rooftop of her home in Tehran. Before the 1979 revolution, protesters used this chant to express resistance to the Shah’s regime; during the year protesters used the chant to express opposition to the current government, which treated such chants as support for the opposition and therefore considered it a crime. Two days after Saeedeh’s arrest, authorities summoned her mother to identify and claim her daughter’s body. According to Saeedeh’s family, the body had been partially burned to hide evidence of rape and torture.
On November 10, Ramin Pourandarjani, a physician who worked at Kahrizak Prison, died under suspicious circumstances. Earlier in the year, Pourandarjani had testified to a parliamentary committee that authorities told him to list meningitis as the cause of death for Mohsen Rouhalamini (see above), whom Pourandarjani claimed actually died as a result of injuries inflicted during torture. Officials gave conflicting reports of the cause of Pourandarjani’s death, including a heart attack and an auto accident, before police chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam announced that Pourandarjani had committed suicide by eating a salad laced with heart medication, traces of which were found in his blood, and that a suicide note explained he feared charges over his alleged failure to give detainees adequate medical treatment. The conflicting reports regarding the cause of death resulted in opposition accusations that authorities had poisoned the 26-year-old doctor to silence him about what he had witnessed at the prison.
The government made only limited attempts to investigate allegations of abuses. For instance, despite numerous reports of death and torture of arrested prisoners, the government launched investigations only after the death of Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a conservative politician.
On December 10, AI reported an allegation that 44 bodies were buried in anonymous graves after the election. Cemetery officials said the deceased were unidentified drug abusers, but news reports alleged that some of the coroner reports were falsified.
There were no developments in the 2008 cases of suspicious deaths in government custody of Ebrahim Lotfallahi, Kaveh Azizpour, Bahman Rigi, “Mohammed,” or Ali Sadeqi; or the 2007 deaths of 11-year-old Roya Sarani or Zahra Bani Ameri (also known as Zahra Bani Yaghoub). The government did not release any reports or issue any charges that would indicate an investigation into any of the preceding incidents.
On December 2, Canadian courts heard arguments in a civil lawsuit against the Iranian government in the 2003 death of Zahra Kazemi, a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen. The Kazemi family was suing the government, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, and prison official Mohammad Bakhshi, for 17 million Canadian dollars ($16.2 million). The Iranian government claimed immunity based on Canada’s State Immunity Act. Kazemi, a photojournalist arrested for taking pictures outside Evin Prison during a student-led protest, died in custody after security forces allegedly tortured her.
According to international press reports, authorities executed approximately 250 individuals during the year after trials that were conducted in secret or that did not adhere to basic principles of due process. Exiles and human rights monitors alleged that many persons supposedly executed for criminal offenses such as narcotics trafficking were actually political dissidents. The law criminalizes dissent and applies the death penalty to offenses such as apostasy (conversion from Islam), “attempts against the security of the state,” “outrage against high-ranking officials,” “enemy of god,” and “insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic.” Public executions continued throughout the year; AI reported that the government executed at least 14 persons in public during the year.
On May 28, authorities hanged three Baluch men in public less than 48 hours after the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (also known as Jondollah) bombed a crowded mosque during a worship service.
On November 11, according to the ICHRI, prison officials hanged Ehsan Fattahian, reportedly a member of a Kurdish Marxist opposition group, for acting against national security. Fattahian originally faced a prison term of 10 years, but an appeals court increased the sentence and ordered him executed. The ICHRI claimed the execution occurred without due process and without ample evidence.
There was no further information available about the approximately 50 detainees executed in Sistan va Baluchistan province in 2007 after reportedly unfair trials for terrorist attacks against government officials, nor was there information about the status of seven Ahvazi Arabs sentenced to death after allegedly unfair trials in Khuzestan province.
The government executed individuals for crimes committed when they were minors despite an October 2008 judicial directive banning the practice. During the year the government executed approximately five individuals who committed crimes as minors. As of October, according to Iranian human rights lawyers, at least 130 juvenile offenders were on death row, many for offenses such as homosexual conduct, apostasy, or acts incompatible with chastity.
On January 21, the government executed Molla Gol Hassan, an Afghan national convicted of the 2004 murder of a person known only as Fakhreddin; he was 17 when he allegedly committed the crime.
On May 1, the government executed Delara Darabi, age 22, for a murder she allegedly committed during a robbery when she was 17; she later said she confessed to protect her boyfriend, who she said was the actual killer. Authorities did not inform her lawyer that her execution was being carried out despite a two‑month stay of execution granted by the head of the judiciary to allow for further legal review and a legal requirement that a defendant’s lawyer be given 48 hours’ notice of an execution. Darabi’s family reportedly learned she was to be executed when her executioner allowed her to call them immediately before her hanging.
On October 11, the government executed Behnoud Shojaii in Evin Prison for killing another boy in 2005 when he was 17, reportedly during a street fight involving a dozen youths. According to AI, Shojaii had no legal representation at his trial, and his family could not afford to pay the 6.2 billion rials ($625,000) in diyeh, or blood money, that the victim’s family demanded in return for pardoning him. While Shojaii was on death row, three individuals raised money for the diyeh and campaigned for his release; according to local human rights organizations, the judiciary froze the diyeh account and threatened to arrest the individuals.
On December 17, authorities reportedly hanged Mosleh Zamani, a 23-year-old Kurd, at Dizel Abad Prison for having had sexual relations outside wedlock with his girlfriend when he was 17.
Adultery remained punishable by death by stoning, and on January 11, according to AI, judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said a 2002 directive suspending executions by stoning had no legal weight and could be ignored. The law provides that a victim of stoning is allowed to go free if he or she escapes. It is much harder for women to escape, as they are buried to their necks, whereas men are buried only to their waists.
In December 2008 authorities in Mashhad stoned three men convicted of adultery; two died and the third, an Afghan citizen, was severely wounded but escaped. On March 5, according to AI, Vali Azad, convicted of adultery, was secretly stoned to death in Lakan Prison in Rasht. According to several sources, five to nine persons were at imminent risk for death by stoning at year’s end.
b. Disappearance

There was an increase in reports of politically motivated abductions during the year. Plainclothes officers or security officials often seized journalists and activists without warning and detained them incommunicado for several days or longer before permitting them to contact family members (see section 1.d.). The ICHRI issued a report on July 8 noting that arbitrary detention and disappearances were “widespread.” Families of executed prisoners did not always receive notification of their deaths (see section 1.a.). Human rights groups reported numerous disappearances related to the protests during the year.

On July 7, unidentified persons arrested Fayzolah Arabsorkhi, a member of the central body of the reformist Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization and former deputy minister of commerce. The individuals did not present a warrant or identify themselves as police. Arabsorkhi remained missing at year’s end.
The Iranian-American Jewish Federation reported that 11 Jewish men who disappeared in 1994 and 1997 remained missing. In 2007 witnesses claimed they saw some of the men in Evin Prison.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit torture, but there were numerous credible reports that security forces and prison personnel tortured detainees and prisoners, especially those arrested after the June election. In Tehran alone, 37 detained protesters, male and female, claimed prison or security officials had raped them. Major human rights and news organizations reported “systematic” torture of individuals after the election.
Common methods of torture and abuse in prisons included prolonged solitary confinement with extreme sensory deprivation (sometimes called “white torture”), beatings, rape and sexual humiliation, long confinement in contorted positions, kicking detainees with military boots, hanging detainees by the arms and legs, threats of execution, burning with cigarettes, pulling out toenails, sleep deprivation, and severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Reported practices also included wetting prisoners before beating them with electric cables, to intensify the abuse.
Prisoners also reported beatings on the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness; blows in the area around the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness; and the use of poison to induce illness.
Some prison facilities, including Evin Prison in Tehran, were notorious for cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government. Authorities also maintained “unofficial” secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system where abuse reportedly occurred. The government reportedly used white torture especially on political prisoners, often in detention centers outside the control of prison authorities, including Section 209 of Evin Prison.
On June 15, according to the ICHRI, authorities arrested Saeed Hajjarian, a former presidential advisor and prominent journalist. During his incommunicado detention at Evin Prison, prison authorities reportedly interrogated Hajjarian in direct sunlight at high temperatures and then doused him with ice water, causing him to have heart palpitations. Since sustaining a spinal cord injury in an assassination attempt in 2000, Hajjarian has used a wheelchair and required a number of medications; according to the ICHRI, authorities denied him medication and allegedly give him psychotropic drugs to weaken his mental state. On September 30, authorities released Hajjarian after his appearance in the “show trials” (see section 1.e.). On October 17, the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Hajjarian to a five-year suspended sentence for inciting postelection unrest.
During a week of detention that began June 22, security personnel reportedly sexually assaulted Ibrahim Sharifi, who had been arrested for participating in antigovernment demonstrations. Sharifi went to authorities to lodge a complaint, but they initially refused to launch an investigation to determine the veracity of his allegations. On August 19, former presidential candidate and head of the National Trust Party Mehdi Karoubi and a high-ranking judiciary official took Sharifi’s testimony. Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi also requested an interview with Sharifi. On August 20, Mortazavi’s deputy interviewed Sharifi, but rather than trying to collect details of Sharifi’s experience, he reportedly focused on gathering information to support the assertion that Karoubi was paying Sharifi to make false claims of torture and rape. On August 23, an unidentified man Sharifi suspected of being a government agent warned him against testifying to a parliamentary committee about his allegations of abuse.
On July 30, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), authorities arrested Maryam Saberi during the commemoration of the 40th day after the death of Neda Agha-Soltan (see section 1.a.). Saberi was arrested after her photo appeared on a Web site connected to the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that posted pictures of protesters and asked viewers to identify persons in the photos for arrest. According to Saberi, prison guards raped her four times before they released her on August 12.
On July 26, according to HRW, authorities arrested Ebrahim Mehtari, a computer science student and political activist, whom they released on August 1. On August 19, several officers Mehtari believed to be IRGC members abducted him from his workplace and transferred him to a location in eastern Tehran. Mehtari told HRW that his jailers beat him severely and repeatedly and sodomized him with a baton or stick during his detention. On August 24, his captors reportedly dropped him on a street in Tehran semiconscious, bleeding, and with his hands and feet tied; passers-by found him and took him to a hospital. The medical examiner’s office, which reports to the judiciary, examined Mehtari the next day. The report described in detail the extent of his injuries. When the medical examiner’s office learned Mehtari had just been released from detention, officials tried to destroy the report, but Mehtari’s father was able to make a copy of it while visiting his son in the hospital.
Ahvazi Arabs also alleged that authorities tortured and raped community activists during the year (see section 6, Minorities).
There were no updates in the October 2008 case of Peyman Fatahi, hospitalized after security officials reportedly beat him severely during questioning related to his association with the Ale-Yasin Community, a religious society.
At year’s end the government had not made public the results of its reported investigation into the 2007 torture of three student activists in Evin Prison, nor had it responded to HRW’s April 2008 call to investigate torture allegations by student activists and SEF members Behrooz Karimizadh, Peyman Piran, Ali Kantouri, and Majid Pourmajid. Authorities had arrested the four in 2007 and released them in 2008–Karmizadh and Pourmajid in April, Piran in May, and Kantouri in October.
Some judicially sanctioned corporal punishment constituted cruel and inhuman punishment, including amputation for multiple theft offenses and lashings and execution by stoning for adultery. On November 9, international press reported that the head of the Criminal Investigation Unit called on judges to rely more heavily on Islamic law for sentencing and advocated the use of amputations. In January 2008 authorities in Sistan va Baluchistan province amputated the right hands and left feet of five men convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping. In December 2008, according to domestic press reports, prison authorities amputated the hand of a man convicted of robbery.
During the year the government initiated limited investigations into reports of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; according to AI, these investigations focused more on covering up abuses than revealing the truth or punishing those believed responsible.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were poor. Many prisoners were held in solitary confinement or were denied adequate food or medical care as a way to force confessions. Overcrowding was a significant problem. Numerous prisoners complained that authorities intentionally exposed them to extreme cold for prolonged periods and said they lacked access to medical care in prison.
On February 6, Amir Hossein Heshmat Saran, a political prisoner in Karaj, died under suspicious circumstances. In an interview with the media, his lawyer claimed his death was the result of poor prison conditions, specifically insufficient medical care. The medical specialist who treated Saran told Saran’s wife her husband had a brain hemorrhage and a lung infection that had spread throughout his body. Saran was serving an eight-year sentence imposed in 2004 for establishing the United National Front political party.
On March 18, blogger Omid Reza Mirsayafi died in Evin Prison, reportedly due to an overdose of sedatives; the ICHRI alleged neglect (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom).
On November 8, a domestic human rights Web site reported that political prisoner Mansour Radpour was suffering from severe gastric and kidney ailments and had been denied medical treatment in Ward 4 of Gohardasht Prison near Karaj. In 2007 Radpour was convicted of supporting terrorist organization Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
At the end of July, Supreme Leader Khamenei ordered Kahrizak Prison closed after detainees alleged abuse and inhumane conditions. The prisoners were transferred to Evin Prison.
In September 2008 the UK-based International Center for Prison Studies reported that more than 150,000 prisoners in the country occupied facilities constructed to hold no more than 65,000 persons. Human rights activists and international media reported cases of political prisoners confined with violent felons. There were also reports of juvenile offenders detained with adult offenders. Pretrial detainees occasionally were held with convicted prisoners.
The government did not permit independent monitoring of prison conditions by any outside groups, including UN groups or special rapporteurs. On July 28, a parliamentary committee visited Evin Prison to investigate conditions. At year’s end its report had not been published.
In 2007 the government granted foreign journalists a tour of Evin Prison for the second time in two years. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), during the visit Tehran prison director Sohrab Soleimani denied there were political prisoners in Evin Prison but told journalists there were 15 prisoners in Evin on “security” charges.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Although the constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, these practices significantly increased during the year.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Several agencies share responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining order, including the MOIS, the Law Enforcement Forces under the Interior Ministry, and the IRGC. The Basij and informal groups known as the Ansar-e Hizballah (Helpers of the Party of God) were aligned with extreme conservative members of the leadership and acted as vigilantes. On October 4, the government announced the merger of the Basij into the IRGC ground forces. While some Basij units received formal training, many units were disorganized and undisciplined. During government led crackdowns on demonstrations, the Basij were primarily responsible for the violence against the protesters. The decentralized organization of the Basij forces contributed to individual Basijis being less accountable for their actions, further contributing to their excesses.
Corruption and impunity were problems. Regular and paramilitary security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses, but there were no transparent mechanisms to investigate security force abuses and no reports of government actions to reform the abusers.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
The constitution and penal code require a warrant or subpoena for an arrest and state that an arrested person must be informed of charges within 24 hours. Authorities rarely followed these procedures in practice. Authorities held detainees, at times incommunicado, often for weeks or months without charge or trial, frequently denying them prompt contact with family or timely access to legal representation. In practice there was neither a time limit for detention nor judicial means to determine the legality of the detention. According to the law, the state is obligated to provide indigent defendants with attorneys only for certain types of crimes. The courts set prohibitively high bail, even for lesser crimes, and in many cases courts did not set bail. Authorities often compelled detainees and their families to submit property deeds to post bail. Prisoners released on bail did not always know how long their property would be retained or when their trials would be held.
The intelligence arm of the IRGC reportedly conducted arrests during the year. Additionally, security forces executed general warrants to arrest protesters or those perceived as opponents of the government. The use of these general warrants precluded the need for individual warrants.
There were numerous reports of arbitrary and false arrests during the year, and the trend dramatically accelerated in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 election. On August 11, media reported the judiciary estimated that authorities detained approximately 4,000 people in the aftermath of the election; officials claimed they released 3,700 within a week. Human rights groups believed the number of detainees was much higher.
On March 9, university security officers reportedly beat and arrested Yasser Torkman, a student at Amir Kabir University and member of the Islamic Students Organization in Tehran. University security staff reportedly called Torkman to the university gates and told him he was banned from classes and not permitted on campus grounds. According to eyewitnesses, two security officers beat Torkman before taking him away. On April 25, Torkman was released on bail of approximately two to three billion rials ($200,000 to $300,000).
On June 13, according to AI, police arrested former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and seriously beat him, causing injuries to his head and rib cage. After 74 days in incommunicado detention without charge, he appeared at the August 1 “show trial” (see section 1.e.). On December 24, he was sentenced to six years in prison for acting against state security, propagating lies against the establishment, and possessing classified documents. While on a four-day furlough during his sentencing proceedings, Ramezanzadeh told news organizations he had spent 116 days in solitary confinement.
On June 25, plainclothes police officers arrested Mohammad Mostafaei, the lawyer for approximately 25 juvenile offenders on death row. On July 1, authorities released Mostafaei from Section 209 of Evin Prison on bail of one billion rials ($100,000). Mostafaei was accused of “conspiring against state security” and “propaganda against the system.”
On July 1, authorities arrested Clotilde Reiss, a French national teaching assistant at Isfahan University, on charges of espionage. She was present at the August “show trials” along with French Embassy employee Nazak Afshar and British Embassy employee Hossein Rassam, who were also charged with espionage and plotting to overthrow the government. Reiss was released on bail and resided at the French Embassy until her trial on December 23, which continued at year’s end. Rassam was sentenced to four years in prison. Afshar was released on August 11.
On July 31, border guards detained three foreigners on the Iran-Iraq border. Authorities interrogated them and held them in solitary confinement for extended periods of time during the first months of their detention. At year’s end the three remained detained in Evin Prison, without formal charges or contact with their families.
In November, according to the ICHRI, security forces arbitrarily arrested scores of students throughout the country in an attempt to stifle protests expected on Students’ Day, December 7. For instance, on November 3, media reported that authorities had arrested civil activists and student leaders Hasan Asadi Zaidabadi and Mohammad Sadeghi. At year’s end their status and whereabouts were unknown.
During protests in December after the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and during Ashura celebrations, authorities detained 200 to 1,000 persons, according to the ICHRI and IHRV. At year’s end many of them remained in jail.
During the year, as in previous years, security forces arrested several Iranian-American journalists and academics on charges of espionage and “acting against national security.” Prison authorities subjected the activists to harsh interrogation techniques and solitary confinement and in most cases kept them in prison for several months. At year’s end two remained in prison.
There were no developments during the year in arbitrary arrest cases from previous years.
At year’s end Ebrahim Mirnehad remained in prison; authorities sentenced him in September 2008 to five years’ imprisonment on charges of “acting against national security” and “spreading propaganda,” charges that, according to AI, stemmed from his public condemnation of his brother’s execution earlier in the year. Authorities reportedly did not grant Mirnehad access to a lawyer and tortured him in custody.
In June 2008, according to AI, authorities arrested Arash and Kamiar Alaei, physicians specializing in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and detained them for six months in Evin Prison without charges or trial. In a summary trial in December 2008, the Alaei brothers were found guilty of “cooperating with an enemy government” under article 508 of the Islamic Penal Code. Kamiar was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and Arash to six years, and the two were serving their sentences at year’s end.
Pretrial detention was often arbitrarily lengthy, particularly in cases involving alleged violations of national security laws. Approximately 25 percent of prisoners held in state prison facilities were reportedly pretrial detainees. According to HRW, a judge may prolong detention at his discretion and pretrial detention often lasts for months.
During the year the government reportedly continued to use house arrest without due process to restrict the movement and communication of senior Shia religious leaders whose views regarding political and governance issues were at variance with the ruling orthodoxy; however, there were no new confirmed instances of this practice during the year. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, the most prominent cleric under such restrictions, died on December 20.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides that the judiciary be “an independent power”; in practice the court system was corrupt and subject to government and religious influence. After the 1979 revolution, the judicial system was revised to conform to an Islamic canon based on the Koran, Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet), and other Islamic sources. The constitution provides that the head of the judiciary is a cleric chosen by the supreme leader. The head of the Supreme Court and prosecutor general also must be clerics.
Traditional courts adjudicate civil and criminal offenses, and Islamic revolutionary courts try offenses viewed as potentially threatening to the Islamic Republic, including threats to internal or external security, narcotics and economic crimes, and official corruption. A special clerical court examines alleged transgressions within the clerical establishment, and a military court investigates crimes connected with military or security forces. A media court hears complaints against publishers, editors, and writers, including Internet cases. The Supreme Court has review authority over some cases, including appeals of the death penalty.
Trial Procedures
Many aspects of the prerevolutionary judicial system survive in the civil and criminal courts. According to the constitution and criminal procedure code, a defendant has the right to a public trial, presumption of innocence, a lawyer of his or her choice, and the right of appeal in most cases that involve major penalties. These rights were not respected in practice. Panels of judges adjudicate trials; there is no jury system in the civil and criminal courts. In the media court, a council of 11 persons selected by the court adjudicates cases. No defendants in any court had the right to confront their accusers, nor were they granted access to government-held evidence.
During the year human rights groups noted the absence of procedural safeguards in criminal trials. On August 13, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the vice chairperson of the working group on arbitrary detention expressed “serious concern” about the situation of detainees in the country. AI, HRW, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and several other human rights groups specifically condemned trials in the revolutionary courts for disregarding international standards of fairness.
The government often charged individuals with vague crimes such as “antirevolutionary behavior,” “moral corruption,” and “siding with global arrogance.” Prosecutors imposed strict penalties on government critics for minor violations. For example, according to local news reports, journalist Hengameh Shahidi received a six-year prison sentence for disturbing traffic during postelection riots. Another reformer, Behzad Nabavi, also received a six–year sentence for a similar infraction. When postrevolutionary statutes did not address a situation, the government advised judges to give precedence to their knowledge and interpretation of Islamic law. The head of the judiciary chose revolutionary court judges in part due to their ideological commitment to the system. Secret or summary trials of only five minutes’ duration frequently occurred. Other trials were deliberately designed to publicize a coerced confession.
On August 1, the Tehran Revolutionary Court convened the first of a series of televised mass trials for more than 100 opposition politicians and activists detained after the June 12 election; the opposition referred to them as “show trials.” Among those on trial were senior proreform politicians, lawyers, and journalists, including former vice president Muhammad Ali Abtahi; journalist and former interior ministry official Muhammad Atrianfar; intellectual and prodemocracy activist Saeed Hajjarian; filmmaker and Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari (see section 2.a.); an Iranian-American academic; and Mohsen Mirdamadi, the leader of the largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front. The prosecution accused the defendants of fomenting a “velvet revolution,” acting against national security, and having ties to British spies. Authorities did not permit any of the defendants access to legal counsel prior to the trial. Some of those charged read aloud “confessions” in which they denounced former colleagues and declared there had been no fraud in the election. There were allegations that several defendants, including Abtahi and opposition candidate Mousavi supporters Mostafa Tajzadeh, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and Mohsen Aminzadeh, underwent “massive interrogation” in Evin Prison. There were also reports that authorities tortured Hajjarian in detention (see section 1.c.).
At year’s end human rights groups reported that 20 of the “show trial” defendants had been sentenced to six months to 15 years in prison; three unnamed individuals were sentenced to death. Some human rights groups believed the decision by authorities not to release the names of those sentenced to death was an intimidation tactic to deter people from protesting. At year’s end authorities had released a limited number, including Bahari, Hajarian, and Abtahi, but most of the show trial defendants remained in prison.
Opposition groups continued to question the legitimacy of the special clerical court system. The clerical courts, which investigate alleged offenses and crimes by clerics and which the supreme leader directly oversees, are not provided for in the constitution, and they operated outside the domain of the judiciary. According to a 2007 AI report, defendants could be represented only by court-nominated clerics who are not required to be qualified lawyers. According to the AI report, in some cases a defendant was unable to find a cleric willing to act as defense counsel and was tried without legal representation. Critics alleged that clerical courts were used to prosecute clerics for expressing controversial ideas and for participating in activities outside the sphere of religion, such as journalism or reformist political activities. For instance, in October, according to Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, the special clerical court was preparing a case against leading opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi for alleging that security officers raped detainees in the aftermath of the June 12 election. At year’s end there was no update on the investigation, and no charges had been filed against Karoubi.
Political Prisoners and Detainees

Statistics regarding the number of citizens imprisoned for their political beliefs were not available, but human rights activists estimated the number in the hundreds, not including the approximately 4,000 to 5,000 persons detained in the aftermath of the June election protests and the approximately 1,000 persons detained during and after the Ashura protests. Human rights groups believed that approximately 200 persons remained in detention at year’s end. According to opposition press reports, the government arrested, convicted, and executed persons on questionable criminal charges, including drug trafficking, when their actual “offenses” were reportedly political. The government charged members of religious minorities and others with crimes such as “confronting the regime” and apostasy and followed the same trial procedures as in cases of threats to national security. During the year the government rounded up students and political activists prior to demonstrations to prevent them from organizing or participating in the events.

Authorities occasionally gave political prisoners suspended sentences or released them for short or extended furloughs prior to completion of their sentences, but they could order them to return to prison at any time. Suspended sentences often were used to silence and intimidate individuals. The government also controlled political activists by temporarily suspending baseless court proceedings against them, allowing authorities to rearrest them at any time, and it attempted to intimidate activists by calling them in repeatedly for questioning. Numerous observers considered Tehran public prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, the most notorious persecutor of political dissidents and critics. According to international press reports, Mortazavi was put in charge of interrogations at Evin prison where most of the postelection protesters were detained.
Authorities routinely held political prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods and denied them due process and access to legal representation. Political prisoners were also at greater risk of torture and abuse in detention. The government did not permit access to political prisoners by international humanitarian organizations or UN special rapporteurs.
The government imprisoned minority activists (see also section 6); Kurdish human rights organizations reported that 16 Kurdish political prisoners faced execution at year’s end. The government also reportedly held some persons in prison for years under charges of sympathizing with outlawed groups such as the MEK.
On February 19, authorities arrested Shabnam Madadzadeh, a member of the Islamic Association and deputy general secretary of the student organization Tahkim Vahdat, along with her brother Farzad Madadzadeh. Authorities accused her of disseminating propaganda against the state and “enmity with God.” Despite her lawyer’s protests against her detention, the judge refused to assign a bond for her release, arguing that she was a flight risk. As of mid-October, she was reportedly being held in the women’s general section of Evin Prison.
On March 14, police arrested Hesam Firouzi, a physician and blogger, on the order of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, reportedly for spreading news through his lawyer about the death of blogger Omid Reza Mir Sayafi in Evin Prison. Firouzi was charged with acting against the country’s national security, distorting public opinion, distributing lies, and giving refuge and medical treatment to political prisoners. On January 6, the court sentenced Firouzi to 15 months in prison, and he was serving his sentence at year’s end.
On June 16, authorities arrested without a warrant Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent human rights lawyer and spokesman for the NGO Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC). Authorities gave no reason for the arrest but held him for 72 days, including 17 days in solitary confinement, until his release August 27.
On June 17, authorities arrested Ebrahim Yazdi, former foreign minister and the secretary-general of the Freedom Movement of Iran, a civil rights organization. He was released on June 22 but rearrested on December 28. Yazdi reportedly suffered from prostate cancer and required constant medical attention. He remained in detention at year’s end.
On June 21, police arrested Abdollah Momeni, spokesperson for the Alumni Association of Iran (Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat), a legally registered political organization. On September 14, Momeni appeared at the fifth session of the “show trials” and confessed to crimes against the state, and in November authorities sentenced him to eight years in prison. According to AI, Momeni was charged with disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic by transmitting news of street protests and colluding to harm national security. AI reported that authorities used as evidence against him Momeni’s “contacts” with AI and HRW. At year’s end Momeni remained in prison despite repeated calls for his release on medical grounds.
Also in June, according to various sources, authorities arrested at least two members of the Student Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, Naseh Faridi and Ali Bikas, the latter of whom was also an Azeri minority activist. Faridi, released on bail of 500 million rials ($50,000) on September 1, faced libel and national security-related charges at year’s end, according to IHRV. Authorities accused Bikas of being a “field agent for a velvet revolution” during the show trials. At year’s end Bikas remained in prison, without access to counsel or family members.
On July 8, police arrested Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah, a member of the Center for Defending Human Rights and an attorney for several political activists, at his office and charged him with meeting with “foreign enemies.” On September 14, authorities released him from Evin Prison on a 5 billion rial ($500,000) bail. HRW reported that at the time of his arrest he was meeting with colleagues to discuss the judiciary’s proposed legislation to change the legal code to restrict the independence of the bar association and increase the power of the judiciary.
On July 9, authorities arrested an Iranian-American academic on charges of espionage. The government based its case on his association with the Open Society Institute, which the government had previously approved, and his subscription to the Gulf/2000 mailing list run by an unnamed American citizen, whom the prosecution identified as a CIA agent. He was one of many politicians, academics, journalists, and others arrested in the wake of the postelection protests, and he appeared before the “show trials” in August. On October 20, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. At year’s end his case was before the appellate court.
On September 8, a revolutionary court sentenced Misagh Yazdan-Nejad, a 23-year-old university student, to 14 years in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj for participating in a ceremony in 2007 to commemorate those killed in the 1988 mass executions of political prisoners reportedly associated with the MEK. The government had previously executed three of Yazdan-Nejad’s uncles and imprisoned both his parents on political grounds.
On September 11, a reformist Web site reported police detained Mohammad Ozlati-Moghaddam, head of opposition leader Mousavi’s veterans’ affairs committee, following a search of his home. At year’s end there was no update on his status or whereabouts.
Authorities continued to prevent former political prisoner Siamak Pourzand from leaving the country to receive medical care and to join his wife, Mehrangiz Kar, also a former political prisoner, and family abroad.
On December 3, authorities sentenced Saeed Leylaz, an economist and journalist, to nine years in prison for allegedly maintaining ties with foreigners and working to overthrow the government, his lawyer told a news agency. During the August “show trials,” authorities accused Leylaz of having dealings with Hossein Rassam, an Iranian employed as a political analyst at the British Embassy who was sentenced in October to four years in prison for fomenting violence. Authorities also charged Leylaz with keeping classified documents at his home, apparently due to his possession of a public report issued by parliament that had been posted on the Internet, according to his lawyer. At year’s end he remained in prison.
On December 28, authorities rearrested former political prisoner Emaddedin Baghi, founder of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights. On November 9, authorities had prevented his travel to Geneva to receive an award for human rights defenders from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Authorities had imprisoned Baghi previously for his activities as a journalist and his campaigns against the government’s execution of juvenile offenders. At year’s end Baghi remained in prison without charge.
According to the DHRC, judicial authorities denied an appeal request for Kurdish and women’s rights activist Zeinab Bayazidi. At year’s end she was serving a four-year sentence for acting against national security. Security forces arrested her in July 2008; she was reportedly tried behind closed doors without access to an attorney of her choosing.
At year’s end Abbas Khorsandi, a political activist and founder of the Iran Democratic Party, an Internet forum for political debate, remained in Evin Prison, where authorities reportedly prevented him from seeing a doctor despite his poor health. In July 2008, according to human rights groups, a Tehran revolutionary court upheld an eight-year prison sentence against Khorsandi for “acting against national security through formation of an illegal association.” Security forces arrested him at his place of business in 2007 and held him incommunicado for three months.
There were no updates in the following 2008 cases; all individuals were believed to be in prison at year’s end: writer and student leader Amin Ghazain Tehran; human rights lawyer Saleh Kamrani; Hadi Qabel, reformist cleric and member of the reformist political group Islamic Iran Participation Front; and Office for Consolidating Unity spokesman Ali Nikunesbati.
Authorities transferred Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi to Evin Prison despite appeals for his release on medical grounds; at year’s end he remained in the special ward for clergy. Human rights groups claimed he has been in solitary confinement without access to an independent lawyer since his arrest at his home in 2006. Prior to Boroujerdi’s arrest, the government had increased pressure on him for his belief that religion and the state should be separate.
Political prisoner Behrouz Javid-Tehrani, who spent four years in prison for his activities during the 1999 student uprising and was sentenced in 2005 to seven more years in prison following a secret trial without legal representation, remained in prison at year’s end. According to human rights organizations, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran convicted Javid-Tehrani of having contact with foreign opposition groups. At the time of the most recent conviction, Javid-Tehrani was in solitary confinement in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, where he alleged security agents severely tortured him on numerous occasions.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
By law the judiciary is independent from the executive and legislative branches; in practice it remained under the influence of executive and religious government authorities. According to the constitution, the Court of Administrative Justice, under the supervision of the head of the judiciary, investigates the grievances of citizens with regard to government officials, organs, and statutes. In practice citizens had limited ability to sue the government. Citizens were not able to bring lawsuits against the government for civil or human rights violations. Dispute resolution councils are available to settle minor civil and criminal cases through mediation before referral to courts.
Property Restitution
The constitution allows the government to confiscate property acquired illicitly or in a manner not in conformity with Islamic law, and the government particularly targeted religious minorities, especially members of the Baha’i faith (see section 2.c.).
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution states that “reputation, life, property, [and] dwelling[s]” are protected from trespass except as “provided by law,” but the government routinely infringed on this right. Security forces monitored the social activities of citizens, entered homes and offices, monitored telephone conversations and Internet communications, and opened mail without court authorization. There were widespread reports that government agents entered, searched, and/or ransacked the homes and offices of reformist journalists in an attempt to intimidate them.
On June 26, HRW reported that Basij forces carried out raids at night, destroying public property, entering homes, and beating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants. On June 22, according to a resident of the Vanak neighborhood in Tehran, Basij forces entered the home of his cousin and destroyed doors and automobiles in response to opposition-organized chanting in the area. In a second report, a woman from the Velenjak neighborhood in Tehran claimed Basij forces responded to chants during the night of June 23 by kicking down doors or climbing over walls and entering homes through interior doors. Once inside the homes, Basij members beat residents and destroyed property. HRW collected similar reports of raids by Basij and security forces in neighborhoods throughout Tehran.
During the year vigilantes continued to attack young persons considered “un-Islamic” in their dress or activities, invade private homes, abuse unmarried couples, and disrupt concerts. During the year the government continued its crackdown on un-Islamic dress or “bad hijab” (when a headcovering is brightly colored or does not completely cover the wearer’s hair). According to press reports, morality police have stopped or detained more than two million individuals since 2007 for inappropriate hairstyles (usually related to the length of men’s hair or beards) or bad hijab. In September the BBC reported that the morality police stopped male shopkeepers from selling women’s undergarments, and the Los Angeles Times reported stores were forced to ensure that mannequins had appropriate dress. In December, according to local news reports, Basij forces patrolled universities to arrest male students with inappropriate dress or long hair, which they considered a sign of dissent.
There were reports during the year that the MOIS harassed family members of political prisoners and rights activists, banning them from speaking to foreign media or traveling abroad, blocking their telephone conversations, making false criminal charges against them, and blocking their access to higher education.
MOIS agents reportedly threatened to arrest family members of Kurdish political prisoner Shirko Moarefi if they protested or publicized his execution, scheduled for November 14. The execution was subsequently delayed, and at year’s end Moarefi remained on death row.
On December 28, intelligence officers reportedly arrested Nushin Ebadi, a professor of dentistry and sister to Nobel Prize-winning human rights lawyer and activist Shirin Ebadi, at her home. According to Shirin Ebadi, Nushin was not involved in human rights issues and did not participate in any of the postelection protests. At year’s end she remained in prison.
There were also reports that authorities threatened and arrested family members of expatriates who posted critical comments about the country on social networking Web sites such as Facebook. According to media accounts, an Iranian-American studying abroad reported he received an e-mail warning him that his relatives in Iran would be harmed if he did not delete an online petition he had created relating to the imprisonment in Iran of a human rights activist; he claimed that security agents arrested his father two days later and held him briefly.
Authorities occasionally entered homes to remove satellite television dishes, which are illegal in the country.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, except when the words are deemed “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public.” In practice the government severely restricted freedom of speech and of the press. There were no basic legal safeguards for freedom of expression, and the government–notably the judiciary–arbitrarily enforced censorship measures against the independent press. Government censorship and self-censorship limited dissemination of information during the year. The government frequently threatened and jailed journalists as a consequence of their work, and it closed the offices of the journalists’ union in August (see section 7).
Individuals could not criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal, and the government actively sought to impede criticism. On June 9, a court reportedly sentenced singer and composer Mohsen Namjoo in absentia to five years’ imprisonment for “disrespecting religious sanctities” based on the way he used Koranic verses in a private 2005 recording purportedly leaked on the Internet earlier in the year without his approval. Namjoo continued to live outside the country at year’s end.
The country’s media outlets were varied, including state-controlled television, radio, and print publications, as well as private newspapers and magazines that cover current affairs, politics, the arts, and sports. The government closely monitored all media outlets, and private media lacked independence in practice. Journalists who failed to abide by government guidelines faced intimidation, arrest, or closure of their publications. As a result, the government held significant influence over all media in the country. The government’s Press Supervisory Board (PSB) was responsible for issuing press licenses, which it sometimes revoked in response to articles critical of the government, and for examining complaints filed against publications or individual journalists, editors, or publishers.
According to article 175 of the constitution, private broadcasting is illegal. The government controlled and maintained a monopoly over all television and radio broadcasting facilities through a state-controlled entity, the Voice and Vision Organization. Radio and television programming–the principal source of news for many citizens, especially in rural areas–reflected the government’s political and socioreligious ideology. Satellite dishes that received foreign television broadcasts were forbidden, and the government periodically confiscated them from homes. For instance, on June 24, according to HRW, uniformed police officers forced residents in the Niavaran and Dorous neighborhoods of Tehran to take down their satellite dishes and returned later to confiscate many dishes. Nevertheless, most satellite dishes in individual homes reportedly continued to operate.
International media did not operate freely. The government required foreign correspondents to provide detailed travel plans and topics of proposed stories before it granted visas. Authorities also closely monitored reporters and attempted to influence them to garner more favorable coverage. The government issued standard one-week visas for foreign journalists who entered the country to cover the June election, but it reportedly denied most of the journalists’ extension requests as the postelection protests developed. The government also forbade foreign journalists to report on the protests, in some cases confining reporters to their hotel rooms or offices during the protests. Some journalists reported authorities told them they would face arrest if they had a camera on the streets.
According to a June 5 report from the German weekly newsmagazine Focus, the Iranian press attache’ in Berlin, Mehrzad Tabatabai, informed Focus‘s country expert Andrea Hoffman that the Iranian government would censor her reporting from inside Iran on the June election. When Hoffman refused to accept Iranian censorship of her reporting, the Iranian Embassy denied her visa application.
During the year the government banned, blocked, and closed publications that were critical of the government. Public officials often lodged criminal complaints against reformist newspapers; the PSB referred complaints to the media court for further action, including closure and fines. The court conducted its hearings in public with a jury of appointed clerics, government officials, and editors of government-controlled newspapers. Some human rights groups asserted that the increasingly conservative media court assumed responsibility for cases before PSB consideration. The government censored both reformist and conservative newspapers after they published articles contradicting the official line, and it permanently closed others, including more than 10 national dailies such as Kalameh Sabz (June 13), Etemad-e Melli (August 17), the business newspaper Sarmayeh (November 2), and Hayat-e no (closed December 8 after carrying reports about the crackdown on the Student Day protests).
On January 1, the PSB closed down Farsi-language daily Kargozaran for allegedly downplaying the actions of the Israeli armed forces during the December 2008 military operation in Gaza and finding fault with Hamas for its tactics during the conflict. The paper remained closed at year’s end.
On February 5, the PSB shut down the pro-Ahmadi-Nejad weekly Hemat on the charge of “insulting higher officials.”
On May 16, the proreform daily Yas-e Now reappeared on newsstands after a five-year ban. The judiciary shut down the paper in 2004 after it published a letter criticizing the mass disqualification of candidates from the 2004 election. Later on May 16, the Commission of Press Authorization and Surveillance, acting on orders from Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, shut down the paper again. Mortazavi claimed legal proceedings from the original closure in 2004 were still under way, despite an April 11 decision by Branch 76 of Tehran’s penal court allowing the paper to open. The Yas-e Now editor wrote an open letter to President Ahmadi-Nejad accusing him of shutting down the newspaper to restrict the opposition’s access to the public.
On June 11, the day before the presidential election, Tehran prosecutor Mortazavi forbade pro-opposition newspapers to lead with stories announcing their candidate’s victory, according to RSF. Authorities reportedly threatened to confiscate the printing press Kalameh Sabaz, a newspaper owned by opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, until it rewrote its front-page story that proclaimed Mousavi had won.
On August 17, authorities banned the publication of reformist newspaper Etemad Melli due to its publication of a critical article on the country’s detention centers.
In October the PSB revoked the publication licenses of the Shiraz-based Tahleel-e Rooz and Tehran newspapers Farhang-e Aashti and Arman.
On November 23, authorities banned for one day the publication of daily newspaper Hamshahri after it published a picture from the temple of the banned Baha’i faith.
On January 1, the judiciary lifted the ban on Tehran-e Emrouz, a daily newspaper affiliated with Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. The government banned the paper in June 2008 after it published articles authorities deemed offensive.
The media law forbids censorship by the government but also forbids disseminating information that may damage the Islamic Republic or offend its leaders and religious authorities, and censorship occurred. Government officials also routinely intimidated journalists into practicing self-censorship.
On September 17, according to IHRV, the Supreme National Security Council declared illegal the publication of any news related to presidential candidates Mehdi Karoubi or Mir-Hossein Mousavi or the presidential election.
On December 20, according to RSF, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a directive banning print and Internet articles about cleric Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, a critic of the government who died on December 19. RSF also reported that broadcast of a BBC documentary on Montazari was jammed.
At various times in 2008, government officials advised reporters not to use the names of unauthorized political parties and to “censor pages which are likely to create a dispute,” observing the country’s “religious, moral, and national sensitivities. In September 2008 former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh said the government imposed censorship “to the greatest degree” regarding nuclear policy.
During the year the government detained, jailed, tortured, or fined numerous publishers, editors, and journalists (including Internet media) for their reporting. The penal code states that “anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state” can be imprisoned for as long as one year; the law does not define “propaganda.” The law also subjects writers to prosecution for instigating crimes against the state or national security or “insulting” Islam; the latter offense is punishable by death.
In late January security agents confiscated the passport of Saeed Razavi-Faghih, a former editorial writer for several reformist newspapers and former member of the Office of Consolidating Unity (a reformist student organization), and informed him of his summons to a revolutionary court on charges of acting against national security. Razavi-Faghih was returning to the country from France, where he had been studying since 2004. On February 2, authorities arrested Razavi-Faghih and sent him to Evin Prison; he was released on bail 16 days later.
On May 1, according to RSF, during International Workers Day demonstrations, authorities arrested several journalists, including Alireza Saghafi, who edited the magazine Rah Ayandeh until authorities closed it in May 2008, and Amir Yaghoubali, a journalist for the daily Etemad. On May 26, authorities released Yaghoubali from Evin Prison, pending his trial on charges of “activities against national security” and “disturbing public order” based on his writings. On June 10, authorities released Saghafi on 700 million rial ($70,000) bail pending trial on charges related to his participation in the May 1 demonstration.
According to RSF, authorities arrested more than 100 journalists after the June 12 election, and 30 others fled the country, the largest exodus of journalists since the 1979 revolution. RSF reported that 43 journalists remained in detention at year’s end.
On June 17, authorities detained Global Radio News freelance correspondent and Washington Times reporter Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden, a British-Greek citizen, in the Tehran airport as he was leaving the country. Intelligence officials held Athanasiadis in Evin Prison for three weeks, during which they interrogated and abused him, accusing him of being a British spy. He was released on July 6 after 20 days of incarceration.
On June 20, security agents reportedly arrested Mohammad Ghouchani, a journalist and editor in chief of Etemad Meli daily, after the newspaper published leading opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi’s letter to the Guardian Council calling for the election results to be canceled. Authorities charged Ghouchani with “participation in illegal gatherings to endanger national security” and “writing articles instigating unrest,” and he appeared in two of the “show trials.” According to AI, Ghouchani’s family paid one billion rials ($100,000) bail on August 23, but authorities delayed his release from Evin Prison until October 30.
On June 20, authorities arrested journalist and women’s rights defender Bahman Ahmadi-Amoee and his wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub, also a journalist, in their home. Authorities released Baniyaghoub on August 26, but Ahmadi-Amoee remained in prison at year’s end. Authorities reportedly prevented Ahmadi-Amoee’s access to legal counsel and held him in solitary confinement for 65 days; his lawyer had no access to any government evidence against him. In March 2008 authorities sentenced Ahmadi-Amoee to a six-month suspended prison term for “activity against national security.”
On June 21, authorities arrested Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, a reporter for Newsweek. While in detention, Bahari was held in solitary confinement and underwent daily interrogations. Officials reportedly forced him to make a televised confession acknowledging Western journalists as spies. He was among the political prisoners present during the “show trials” but was released on October 20. At year’s end Bahari had left the country but still faced trial on espionage charges.
On June 30, according to IHRV, authorities arrested journalist Hengameh Shahidi, a member of the Committee for Human Rights Reporters, and sentenced her on December 9 to six years in prison for participating in postelection demonstrations and “spreading propaganda against the holy Islamic Regime,” based on an interview with the “antirevolutionary” BBC.
On December 20, authorities arrested journalist and blogger Shiva Nazar Ahari and two of her colleagues from the Committee for Human Rights Reporters as they were headed to Qom for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral. On December 28, authorities arrested another member of the organization, Nasrin Vaziri. At year’s end no further information on their arrests was available. According to human rights organizations, authorities arrested seven of the nine leaders of the organization during the year and pressured the group to close its Web site. Security forces previously arrested Ahari on June 14 at her workplace in Tehran, reportedly on charges of being a member of the MEK and organizing demonstrations; authorities released her on bail August 23. The day before her arrest, security forces searched her home in her absence and confiscated some of her personal possessions.
On December 27, according to international media and RSF, authorities arrested Dubai television journalist and Syrian national Reza Al-Bacha while he was covering demonstrations. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance stated that Al-Bacha was not acting as a journalist at the time of his arrest.
On December 28, according to RSF, authorities arrested Kalemeh Sabz editor Alireza Behshtipour Shirazi. At year’s end he remained in prison.
On December 28, authorities arrested writer and journalist Mostafa Izadi at his home. Izadi worked for the daily Sobh-e Emrouz and was formerly editor in chief of the Ava weekly. He also authored a biography of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. At year’s end he remained in prison.
There were several developments in cases from previous years.

On March 26, authorities rearrested journalist and activist Mahboubeh Karami and others as they prepared to visit families of detained activists (see section 6, Women). In June 2008 authorities arrested Karami after she criticized police for beating demonstrators and detained her until August 2008.

There were no updates in the July 2008 case of Kurdish journalist Saman Rasoulpour, charged with “distributing propaganda against the state” and released on bail in August 2008.
On September 9, authorities transferred imprisoned journalist Mohammad-Hossein Falahiezadeh to Evin Prison’s medical clinic due to his critical health situation. Falahiezadeh had served his September 2008 prison sentence for reporting on street protests by members of the Ahvazi Arab minority, but MOIS officials reportedly stated his release was contingent on setting bail. Human rights groups claimed this was a ploy by government officials to keep Falahiezadeh imprisoned as they know that he cannot afford to pay bail.
On July 11, a revolutionary court summoned Iranian Azerbaijani journalist Said Matinpour and handed down his eight-year sentence of one year for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and seven years for “maintaining relations with foreigners.” Matinpour was originally arrested in 2007 and held in pretrial detention until his release on bail in February, with no contact with his family or lawyer for most of that time. According to activists, MOIS officials tortured Matinpour and detained his younger brother to coerce him to confess.
On July 19, the Mahabad revolutionary court began the trial of Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand, a Kurdish journalist and founder of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK), for allegedly spreading antigovernment propaganda in publications on Kurdish women’s rights, according to NGO reports. Police originally arrested Kaboudvand in 2007, and he was serving a 10-year prison sentence imposed in May 2008 for establishing an illegal organization and other crimes. At year’s end he remained in Evin Prison, despite severe health problems, including a second heart attack in December 2008.
In March 2008 a court sentenced Kurdish journalist Abdolvahed “Hiva” Boutimar to death for a second time on espionage-related charges. He remained on death row at year’s end. Kurdish journalist Adnan Hassanpour, Boutimar’s cousin and colleague, continued to await his retrial on charges of espionage and working with outlaw parties.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance must grant permission to publish any book, and it inspected foreign printed materials prior to their domestic release.
Internet Freedom
NGOs reported that the government continued to increase control over the Internet during the year as more citizens used it as a source for news and political debate. According to 2008 International Telecommunication Union statistics, approximately 31 percent of the country’s inhabitants used the Internet.
The government monitored Internet communications, especially via social networking Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with technology it purchased at the end of 2008. The government threatened, harassed, and arrested individuals who posted comments critical of the government on the Internet; in some cases it reportedly confiscated their passports or arrested their family members (see section 1.f.). Freedom House and other human rights organizations reported that authorities sometimes stopped citizens at Tehran International Airport as they arrived in the country, asked them to log into their YouTube and Facebook accounts, and in some cases forced them to delete information.
All Internet service providers (ISPs) must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The government also required all owners of Web sites and blogs in the country to register with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance; in practice, this regulation was rarely enforced. The government used filtering software to block access to domestic blogs and some Western Web sites, reportedly including the Web sites of prominent Western news organizations and NGOs. According to RSF, the government blocked access to thousands of Web sites during the year, and in some cases ISPs redirected computer users from opposition Web sites to progovernment news sites. The government also censored Web site content to control citizens’ access to information. According to Freedom House, content from opposition leaders’ Web sites was deleted during the year.
During the period prior to the June presidential election, authorities blocked access to Facebook and Twitter. On election day, authorities reportedly blocked access to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites through which individuals were reporting on the election.
The government also imposed limits on Internet speed and technology, making it difficult to download Internet material or to circumvent government restrictions to access blocked Web sites. After the June election, there was a major drop in bandwidth, which experts posited the government may have caused in its effort to prevent activists involved in the protests from accessing the Internet and especially from uploading large video files.
The Press Law and Islamic Penal Code both apply to electronic media, and the PSB and judiciary used such laws to close Web sites during the year. In December 2008 the Tehran prosecutor general announced the creation of a special office to review Internet and text message-related crimes related to the June 2009 presidential election.
During the year the government prosecuted and punished persons for peaceful expression of dissenting views via the Internet. During the “show trials,” prosecutors often cited activities on the Internet or e-mails sent to foreigners as evidence of illegal activity. According to RSF, seven bloggers remained detained at year’s end.
On September 2, authorities arrested Ali Asguar Jamali, a blogger and doctor based in the northern city of Qasvin, and other activists for “inciting actions against national security including protests and insults against government officials by means of publications and meetings,” according to the news agency Fars. Jamali, who defends workers’ rights, writes a blog called Dr. Social-Democrat. At year’s end there was no update on his case.
On December 20, according to RSF, police arrested journalist and blogger Mohammad Norizad. The previous evening, he had posted on his blog that a court had summoned him by telephone to appear and answer to charges of insulting the head of the judiciary. In December Norizad wrote an article criticizing the new head of the judiciary, and earlier in the year Norizad posted statements on his blog that criticized the supreme leader. The Tehran prosecutor’s office reportedly stated that Norizad was under investigation for “publicity against the regime and insulting the authorities.”
During the year there were developments in several cases from previous years.
On March 18, authorities released blogger Esmail Jafari from prison on payment of bail pending his sentencing. In April 2008 authorities had arrested him and seized his computer equipment, which allegedly held photos of a demonstration in Bushehr, and in December 2008 a court sentenced him to five months in prison for “antigovernment publicity.”
Also on March 18, Omid Reza Mirsayafi, a 25-year-old blogger, died in the medical ward of Evin Prison, reportedly due to an overdose of a medication he received from the prison clinic for depression. According to the ICHRI, Mirsayafi died as a result of neglect by prison authorities. In April 2008 security forces arrested Mirsayafi, and in December 2008 a Tehran revolutionary court sentenced him to 30 months in prison for propaganda against the state and criticism of the supreme leader.
Internet journalist and cleric Mojtaba Lotfi continued to serve a four-year prison sentence imposed in November 2008 for posting online a sermon by Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, a well-known opponent of Supreme Leader Khamenei, that criticized President Ahmadi-Nejad’s claim that Iran was “the world’s freest country.” According to RSF, Lotfi suffered from lung problems stemming from Iran-Iraq war injuries.
Well-known blogger, author of the first Persian-language blogging guide, and dual Iranian-Canadian citizen Hossein Derakhshan reportedly remained in Evin Prison, where he was subjected to psychological and physical abuse, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Authorities arrested Derakhshan in November 2008 while he was visiting the country.
On January 5, domestic media sources reported an appeals court in Azerbaijan province had upheld blogger and women’s rights activist Shahnaz Gholami’s six-month prison sentence. Gholami had been in Tabriz Prison since her November 2008 arrest for publishing “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and “jeopardizing national security.” A court sentenced her to six months in prison. Gholami was released on bail of 200 million rials ($20,000) on January 19.
On February 3, according to HRW and the ICHR, the Judiciary Court sentenced four bloggers (three in absentia)–Omid Memarian, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, and Javad Gholamtamimi–to prison terms of up to three years, fines, and flogging for “participating in the establishment of illegal organizations,” “membership in illegal organizations,” propaganda against the state,” “disseminating lies,” and “disturbing public order,” despite the judiciary head’s admission that the bloggers’ confessions were coerced. Authorities arrested the four in 2004 and detained them without charge at Evin Prison until they were released on bail later the same year. All four claimed authorities physically and psychologically abused them in detention, including subjecting them to prolonged periods of solitary confinement in a secret detention center without access to legal counsel or family. Memarian, Mirebrahimi, and Rafizadeh left the country after their 2004 release on bail and remained abroad at year’s end; Gholamtamimi continued to reside in the country. The government had not made public the full findings of any investigation, nor had it announced any penalties or prosecution for the abuse.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The government significantly restricted academic freedom. Authorities working with universities continued to dismiss university professors in accordance with a 2006 presidential call for the removal of secular and liberal professors. To obtain tenure, professors had to refrain from criticism of authorities. According to AI, in August the Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution instructed the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies to revise the humanities curriculum. Earlier in the year Supreme Leader Khamenei had made a speech noting worrisome trends in the teaching of humanities, including what he considered encouraging doubt of religious principles.
According to AI, in October authorities banned from teaching five prominent law professors from Alameh Tabatabai University’s law school. Local news reports noted that the professors taught human rights courses at the university.
Admission to universities was politicized; in addition to standardized examinations, all applicants had to pass “character tests” in which officials eliminated applicants critical of the government’s ideology. Basij members were given advantages in the admissions process. Student groups reported that a “star” system inaugurated by the government in 2006 to rank politically active students was still in use. Students deemed antigovernment through this system reportedly were banned from university admission or prevented from registering for upcoming terms. During the previous three years, according to the ICHRI, government interference with university admissions considerably increased with a coordinated assault by the Ministry of Higher Education, the MOIS, and the judiciary aimed at preventing student activists from continuing their education. On February 2, a human rights organization reported that in the past few years authorities had barred 58 students from matriculating at graduate programs at universities in the country due to their prior participation in student activism. HRW also reported during the year that authorities used university disciplinary committees to expel or transfer students to other universities as punishment for peaceful political activities.
On November 10, according to the Mehr news agency, the leader of the student Basij organization, Mohammad Saleh Jokar, announced that 6,000 Basij units would be created in the country’s elementary schools. Jokar said the action aimed to expand and promote Basij and revolutionary ideals among young persons. He added that approximately 4.5 million students and 320,000 teachers were members of the Basij.
The government censored cultural events with stringent controls on cinema and theater and a ban on Western music. A 2006 NGO report noted that censorship by authorities and a culture of self-censorship strongly inhibited artistic expression in the country. The government monitored cultural associations and continued to crack down on underground music groups (i.e., any group that failed to obtain a recording license from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance), especially those it considered inspired by Satan such as heavy metal or other Western-type music.
In May Basij militia members and Revolutionary Guard officers reportedly raided an underground music concert in Shiraz and arrested 104 individuals for “immoral” and “Satanic” behavior, as well as for drinking alcohol. In October in Orumiyeh, police reportedly arrested 12 underground musicians accused of promoting “Satanism.” There was no information at year’s end about the status or whereabouts of those arrested in either case.
On November 21, IHRV reported that authorities had banned broadcasting of certain singers’ music and certain songs from government-owned radio stations for unspecified reasons. The censure list contained the following artists’ names: Shahin Aryen, Feraydoun Aseraei, Alireza Eftakhari, Majid Akhshabi, Alireza Afshar, Mohammad Isfehani, Esmailzadeh, Shahram Amiri, Ehsan Khajeh-Amiri, Masoud Khadem, Hossein Zaman, Kouros Sarhangzadeh, Naser Abdullahi, Alireza Assar, Fataali Ovaisi, Golshan, Ali Lahrasbi, Mohammad Nouri, and Kambiz Afzali.
As the main source of production funding, the government effectively censored domestic filmmaking. Producers were required to submit scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding approval. Movies promoting secularism, feminism, unethical behavior, drug abuse, violence, or alcoholism were illegal, and some domestic directors were blacklisted. The government prevented distribution of citizen Bahman Ghobadi’s film on censorship, No One Knows About Persian Cats.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution permits assemblies and marches “provided they do not violate the principles of Islam”; in practice the government restricted freedom of assembly and closely monitored gatherings to prevent antigovernment protests. Such gatherings included public entertainment and lectures, student meetings and protests, labor protests, women’s gatherings and protests, funeral processions, and Friday prayer gatherings. According to activists, the government arbitrarily applied rules governing permits to assemble, with conservative groups rarely experiencing difficulty and groups viewed as critical of the government experiencing harassment regardless of whether a permit was issued.

The government continued to prohibit and forcibly disperse peaceful demonstrations during the year. Paramilitary organizations such as Ansar-e Hizballah also harassed, beat, and intimidated those who demonstrated publicly for reform. They particularly targeted university students.
On February 5, according to AI, authorities arrested four men from Tehran Polytechnic (Amir Kabir) University’s Islamic Students Association, Esmail Salmanpour, Majid Tavakkoli, Hossein Torkashvand, and Koroush Daneshyar. The students had taken part in a ceremony commemorating the life of Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister appointed after the 1979 revolution. As the gathering was beginning, authorities interrupted the ceremony and arrested approximately 20 participants, 16 of whom were later released. The four students reportedly initiated a hunger strike in protest of their detention. No updates were available at year’s end.
On February 23, more than 1,500 Amir Kabir University students demonstrated against the government’s plan to rebury soldiers from the Iran-Iraq War on university grounds. According to AI, security forces arrested four Amir Kabir University students, Abbas Hakimzadeh, Mehdi Mashayekhi, Nariman Mostafavi, and Ahmad Qasaban, along with 70 other students during the demonstrations. Authorities later released 40 of the students. There was no information regarding the status of the remaining detained students at year’s end.

On March 26, authorities arrested Khadijeh Moghaddam, Mahboubeh Karami, and 10 others as they prepared to visit families of detained activists (see section 6).

After the June 12 election and as protests continued throughout the year, police reportedly preemptively arrested numerous student activists.
On December 7, thousands of opposition supporters and students gathered in Tehran and cities across the country to mark the anniversary of the killing of three students by security forces in 1953. According to AI, security forces used excessive violence in suppressing student-led demonstrations, where scores of protesters were beaten and detained. In a number of instances, Basij militia and other security forces reportedly used batons and tear gas to disperse opposition supporters.
Many individuals who participated in demonstrations since 2006 were imprisoned at year’s end. For example, on January 31, judicial officials from the Revolutionary Court of Tehran arrested Alieh Eghdamdoust in her hometown of Foman to begin serving a three-year prison sentence for participating in an “illegal gathering” based on her participation in a 2006 women’s rights protest in Haft Tir Square in Tehran; she remained in Evin Prison at year’s end.
Freedom of Association
The constitution provides for the establishment of political parties, professional associations, Islamic religious groups, and organizations for recognized religious minorities, as long as such groups do not violate the principles of “freedom, sovereignty, and national unity” or question Islam as the basis of the Islamic Republic. The government limited freedom of association in practice through threats, intimidation, imposing arbitrary requirements on organizations, and arresting group leaders and members. According to a January 9 HRW report, under the Ahmadi-Nejad administration, municipal, provincial, and national councils–established by 2005 regulations ostensibly to facilitate NGOs’ permit process–instead served to suppress NGO activities. Such councils generally denied NGOs’ applications without written explanation, especially in minority regions, where those who successfully obtained permits nevertheless faced harassment (see section 6, National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities).
Throughout the year the government reportedly continued to exert significant pressure on the DHRC, a Tehran NGO headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (see section 5).

The journalists’ union and other labor-related groups also continued to face problems during the year (see section 7).

c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution states that Shia Islam is the state religion and that all laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. The constitution also nominally protects other Islamic denominations, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Judaism. In practice the government severely restricted freedom of religion, particularly the Baha’i faith.
The central feature of the country’s Islamic system was rule by the “religious jurisconsult.” Its senior leadership consisted principally of Shia clerics, including the supreme leader of the revolution, the head of the judiciary, and members of the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council.
Apostasy was punishable by death, according to Shari’a law. In September 2008 the Majles enacted a revision to the penal code to make conversion from Islam punishable by death for men or life imprisonment for women. The legislature reportedly implemented the revision on a one-year trial basis. On June 23, the Legal and Judicial Committee of the Majles recommended removing the revision from the penal code, but it remained at year’s end. There were no reported instances of courts imposing the death penalty for apostasy during the year.
Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Baha’is, as well as for Sunni Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community. According to human rights activists, the government grew increasingly intolerant of Sufism and increased restrictions on Sufi houses of worship (husseiniya). If a Sufi student’s faith was revealed, the university expelled him or her. The government continued to repress Baha’is and prevent them from prevent people from meeting in homes to worship. It banned them from government and military leadership posts, the social pension system, and public schools and universities unless they concealed their faith. The courts denied Baha’is the right to inherit property, and the government does not recognize Baha’i marriages or divorces; the government, however, accepts a notary certificate acknowledging the union which allows couples to live together legally. According to the law, Baha’i blood is considered mobah, meaning Baha’is may be killed with impunity. The government repeatedly pressured Baha’is to recant their religious beliefs in exchange for relief from mistreatment.

On January 14, according to AI and Baha’i groups, authorities raided the homes of 12 Baha’i and arrested six persons. One was released shortly after he was arrested, but the other five spent two months in prison before being released.

On February 18, Radio Free Europe reported plainclothes police officers had destroyed a library and a religious hall at a Sufi house of worship in Ifsahan.

On March 5, security forces arrested two Christian women, Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, interrogated them, and detained them in several police stations without charging them before they appeared before Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on March 18 to face charges of “taking part in illegal gatherings” and “acting against state security.” During their continued detention in an overcrowded cell in Evin Prison with 27 other women, they reportedly received no medical attention for infections and fevers. On October 7, authorities brought them before court again and charged them with three additional crimes: antistate activities, propagation of the Christian faith, and apostasy. On November 18, authorities released both women without bail, but it was uncertain whether they would face further court proceedings based on charges against them.

On July 23, according to the Iran Minorities Human Rights Organization, riot police and security forces arrested 20 Sufi practitioners (dervishes) in Gonabadi who were part of a group of 200 to 300 dervishes protesting the arrest of Hossein Zareya, a local leader. Police reportedly used force and tear gas to disperse the crowd, injuring several dervishes. According to Radio Free Europe, authorities had arrested Zareyi for presiding over the burial of a dervish at the cemetery. Authorities had purportedly banned dervishes from being buried at the cemetery for ecological reasons, but the dervishes claimed the ban was part of a government campaign against Sufis.

On September 27, MOIS officers in Yazd searched the home of Soheil Rouhanifard and confiscated belongings and materials related to the Baha’i faith. The next day, Rouhanifard appeared at the local MOIS office in response to a summons. Authorities interrogated and released him. He was summoned again on October 19 and arrested without charge. At year’s end he remained in prison and was not permitted family visits.

On October 12, MOIS officers arrested Behnam Rouhanifard, brother of Soheil Rouhanifard. Two days later authorities summoned his wife to appear at the local MOIS office, where authorities interrogated her for two hours. At year’s end Rouhanifard’s family had not heard from him since October 17, when he was permitted to call home; his whereabouts were unknown.

On October 31, MOIS officers searched the home of Baha’i member Ali Bakhsh Bazrafkan, confiscated items linked to his faith, and arrested him. Bazrafkan was a member of the former Baha’i administrative group (Khademin) in Yasouj. According to IHRV, Bazrafkan received a 30-month prison sentence followed by five years in exile in a remote area in the province of Kohkiloyeh va Boyerahmad.

According to human rights groups, all seven members of the Baha’i national leadership body, arrested in March and May 2008, and a total of at least 48 Baha’is, 29 of whom had been arrested during the year, were imprisoned at year’s end. Authorities scheduled capital punishment trials for the seven leaders on several occasions during the year, only to cancel each time at the last minute. At year’s end the trial date was set for January 12, 2010.

Human rights organizations reported that the government demolished several Sunni mosques during the year.
With the exception of Baha’is, the government generally allowed recognized religious minorities to conduct religious education of their adherents in separate schools, although it restricted this right considerably in some cases. The Ministry of Education, which imposed certain curriculum requirements, supervised the schools and must approve all textbooks, including religious texts. Sunni leaders reported bans on Sunni religious literature and teachings in public schools, even in predominantly Sunni areas. The government reportedly allowed Hebrew instruction but limited the distribution of Hebrew texts, particularly nonreligious texts, making it difficult to teach the language. With few exceptions, directors of private religious schools must be Muslim. The law required all Muslim students to take Islamic studies courses.

The government did not respect the right of Muslim citizens to change or renounce their religion. On November 2, MOIS officers entered a venue where a Baha’i gathering was underway. They filmed the event, distributed forms committing participants to respond to any summons from the local MOIS office, and arrested a man with the surname Ghanavati. When officers asked participants if anyone was absent, Sonia Ahmadi’s name came up; the officers subsequently went to her home, searched it, and arrested her. Some reports speculated that their arrest was due to Ahmadi having converted Ghanavati from Islam more than 30 years previously. At year’s end both individuals remained in prison.

Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims was illegal. The authorities continued to increase vigilance in curbing proselytism by evangelical Christians. On October 19, authorities arrested Peyman Kashfi, a Baha’i, after he appeared before the Tehran Revolutionary Court in response to a summons. Prior to his arrest, an unidentified government official demanded Kashfi be terminated from his job due to his alleged proselytizing of colleagues. His employer refused the demand. At year’s end Kashfi was reportedly being held in Section 209 of Evin Prison.
The government, specifically the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the MOIS, monitored all religious activity and the statements and views of all religious leaders, including the country’s senior Muslim religious leaders. It restricted the movements of several Muslim religious leaders who had been under house arrest for years and continued to detain at least one dissident cleric, Ayatollah Boroujerdi. The government pressured all ranking clerics to ensure their teachings conformed to (or at least did not contradict) government policy and positions. Since the June elections, the government has pressured proreform clerics to refrain from calling into question the election results and from criticizing the government’s response to the demonstrations. For instance, on November 25, the opposition Web site Rahesabz reported that Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate cleric often critical of the current government, would not be leading Eid Qorban prayers for the first time in several years and that Rafsanjani would be replaced by conservative Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, according to an announcement by the Tehran Friday Prayers Office.
Khatami also replaced Rafsanjani in leading prayers on Qods Day.
The government also required evangelical Christian groups to compile and submit congregation membership lists.
President Ahmadi-Nejad continued a virulent anti-Semitic campaign, stating in news conferences during the year that “Zionists” and Israel must be destroyed.
Jewish citizens were free to travel out of the country but were subject to the general restriction against travel by the country’s citizens to Israel. This restriction was not enforced.
The government reportedly continued to confiscate private and commercial properties, as well as religious materials, belonging to Baha’is. In 2006 the UN special representative on housing reported approximately 640 documented cases of Baha’i property confiscations since 1980, instances of numerous undocumented cases, and court verdicts declaring confiscation of property from the Baha’is legally and religiously justifiable. The constitution did not recognize rights of members of the Baha’i faith, and they had no avenue to seek restitution or compensation for confiscated property.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Government actions continued to support elements of society who created a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities.
All religious minorities–including but not limited to Sunni Muslims, Christians, Baha’is, and Sufis, and Mandeans–experienced varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in employment, education, and housing. Inheritance laws favored Muslims over non-Muslims. Broad restrictions on Baha’is undermined their ability to practice their faith and function as a community. Baha’i groups reported that the government often denied their applications for new or renewed business and trade licenses. Baha’is could not teach or practice their religious beliefs or maintain links with coreligionists abroad. It was difficult to distinguish whether the cause of government discrimination against Sunni Muslims was religious or ethnic as most Sunnis are also members of ethnic minorities.
The government’s anti-Israel stance, in particular the president’s repeated speeches decrying the existence of Israel and calling for the destruction of its “Zionist regime,” created a threatening atmosphere for the 25,000-person Jewish community. Government officials continued to make anti-Semitic statements, organize events during the year designed to cast doubt on the Holocaust, and sanction anti-Semitic propaganda. The government also limited distribution of nonreligious Hebrew texts and required Jewish schools to remain open on Jewish Sabbath.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, and emigration, and repatriation. The government placed some restrictions on these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with regard to refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The government required exit permits for foreign travel for all citizens. Some citizens, particularly those whose skills were in demand and who were educated at government expense, had to post bond to obtain an exit permit. The government restricted foreign travel of some religious leaders and individual members of religious minorities and scientists in sensitive fields, and it increasingly targeted journalists, academics, and activists–including women’s rights activists–for travel bans and passport confiscation during the year. The government banned travel to Israel, but this ban was reportedly not enforced.
On March 17, authorities imposed a travel ban on human rights lawyer and writer Naser Zarafshan. Authorities confiscated his passport at the airport in Tehran as he was about to board a plane to Brussels to attend a conference on the environment.
On April 7, authorities prevented academic Mehdi Zakerian from leaving the country to take part in a conference in Italy on international legal issues. Officials confiscated his passport and other personal belongings, including his computer and research papers. Zakerian, a board member of the Center for Scientific Research and Middle East Strategic Studies, was detained for several months in August 2008 on espionage charges based on his contacts with foreign diplomats related to his work and research activities; no verdict had been issued on his case at year’s end.
On May 10, the government reportedly stopped DHRC deputy head Narges Mohammadi and peace activist Soraya Azizpanah at the Tehran airport. Mohammadi and Azizpanah were on their way to Guatemala to speak at a conference about the role of women in democracy. Authorities seized their passports and prevented them from traveling.
According to the New York Times, authorities prevented filmmaker Jafar Panahi, whom authorities briefly detained after the June election, from leaving the country to attend an October 29-November 5 Indian film festival.
A woman must have the permission of her husband, father, or other male relative to obtain a passport. A married woman must receive written permission from her husband before she leaves the country.
The government did not use forced external exile, but it used internal exile as a punishment. Many dissidents practiced self-imposed exile to be able to express their beliefs freely.
There were indications that members of all religious minorities were emigrating at a high rate, although it was unclear whether the reasons for emigration were religious or economic.
Protection of Refugees
The country was a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. The law provides means for granting asylum or refugee status to qualified applicants, and the government reportedly had a system for providing protection to refugees, but the UNHCR did not have any information as to how the country made asylum determinations. The government did not consistently provide protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

As of December, approximately 980,000 refugees registered by the Bureau for Aliens, Foreigners, and Immigrant Affairs were living in the country; 935,600 were Afghans and 44,400 were Iraqis. Approximately 70 percent of the Afghan and Iraqi refugees in the country had lived there for 20 to 30 years.
The number of registered Afghan refugees opting for voluntary repatriation declined since 2007 due to a combination of factors, including concerns about security in Afghanistan. The government continued to postpone discussions to renew the tripartite repatriation agreement, but at an international conference on resettlement and repatriation held in Kabul in November 2008, the government verbally committed to permit registered Afghan refugees to stay until they voluntarily repatriated or resettled elsewhere.

In addition to the 935,600 registered Afghan refugees, the UNHCR estimated as many as 1.5 million Afghans illegally resided in the country as migrant workers. In March 2008 the government announced it would deport all Afghans who lacked refugee documentation. According to the UNHCR, the government deported 200,000 Afghans in the first six months of the year and more than one million in the last three years. On March 22, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and provincial authorities reported that more than 1,000 children deported to Afghanistan’s western province of Herat in 2008 faced poverty and were at risk of abuse.

There were reports of some registered refugees included in mass deportations during the last several years, although these reports were not officially documented. According to HRW, many of those deported received no warning that they were being deported, and many were separated from their families or had little time to collect belongings and wages. Other deportees claimed they were beaten, detained, or required to perform forced labor for several days before they were deported. Among the deportees were vulnerable individuals and families who required humanitarian assistance upon arrival in Afghanistan. At the November conference in Kabul, the Iranian delegate stated that Afghan refugees would continue to be treated as “respected guests” and that the two countries were discussing the issuance of 300,000 visas to Afghan workers. No new visa arrangement had been announced by year’s end.
Since 2007 authorities maintained approximately 19 “No Go Areas” in the country for Afghan refugees, according to the UNHCR. Refugees were required to register and relocate in areas the government approved; those who did not were considered unregistered and remained subject to deportation. According to the UNHCR, the government’s reregistration campaign launched in 2008 to assist male refugees to obtain work permits enabled more refugees to work in the country.
In July, according to the UNHCR, the government announced a policy to treat the enrollment of all school-age children, including lawful foreign residents and registered refugees, in the same manner. At year’s end, however, there was no information available about how the new policy was enforced. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reported in 2008 that Afghan refugee children were charged fees, while Iraqi refugee children were able attend public school for free. In some cases, local government officials reportedly suspended education services for refugees to encourage them to repatriate.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides citizens the right to change peacefully the president and the parliament through free and fair elections, but the authority of unelected representatives over the election process severely abridged this right in practice. The Assembly of Experts elects the supreme leader, the recognized head of state, who may be removed only by a vote of the assembly. The supreme leader exercises influence over the government appointments of the 12 clerics and religious jurists who make up the Guardian Council. The Guardian Council then approves the list of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, whose 86 members must also be clerics, who serve eight-year terms and are chosen by popular vote. There was no separation of state and religion, and clerical influence pervaded the government. The supreme leader also approved the candidacy of presidential candidates.

Elections and Political Participation
On June 12, the country held its 10th presidential election, which outside observers regarded as neither free nor fair. International observers were not allowed entry to monitor the election results.

The Guardian Council approved only four candidates out of more than 450 prospective candidates, including 42 women and former officials. Authorities increased censorship and surveillance during the campaign, blocking cell phone signals and access to social networking and opposition Web sites (see section 2.a., Internet Freedom). Conversely, this election campaign also witnessed an unprecedented number of televised debates between the candidates. The government also reportedly harassed and arbitrarily arrested political activists, members of the country’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, trade unionists, and women’s rights activists during the preelection period. For example, on April 19, authorities detained Mehdi Mo’tamedi Mehr, a member of the Committee to Defend Free, Healthy and Fair Elections and the banned political organization the Freedom Movement of Iran, after the Committee published a statement about civil society institutions as election observers. On December 28, according to local press reports, the MOIS summoned Mehr and other members of the Freedom Movement, and at year’s end they remained in detention. On May 27, authorities detained Emad Bahavar, also a member of the Freedom Movement, for “spreading propaganda against the system” by campaigning for presidential candidate Mousavi. According to IHRV, he was released 96 hours later.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that authorities forced some election observers representing opposition candidates to leave polling stations and that millions of unused paper ballots went missing. Before all polls closed and ballot counting had commenced, government-controlled media announced that President Ahmadi-Nejad had been reelected in the first round of elections, obtaining a majority of the votes. Contrary to the election law, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei approved the election results before the Guardian Council certified the election and before the Interior Ministry announced the final results.
Independent analysts studied election data and concluded there were a number of irregularities, including at least two provinces showing a turnout of more than 100 percent and absence of long-standing regional variations in turnout. According to official government data, President Ahmadi-Nejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44 percent of former reformist voters, a scenario analysts questioned.
The constitution allows for the formation of political parties, although the Interior Ministry granted licenses only to parties with ideological and practical adherence to the system of government embodied in the constitution. There were more than 240 registered political organizations that generally operated without restriction or outside interference, but most were small entities, often focused around an individual, and did not have nationwide membership. Political parties and candidates faced harassment during the year.
On June 19, presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s spokesperson reported that plainclothes police ransacked Mousavi’s offices and arrested many of his staffers. At year’s end several of his campaign members remained in jail.
On September 8, the Tehran prosecutor closed the offices of Mehdi Karoubi, a proreform cleric and former presidential candidate, and ordered Karoubi and his staff to leave the building. Judiciary officials took documents, computer disks, computers, and films from the office. Previously, Karoubi had turned over films and other materials to a parliamentary committee documenting authorities abusing detained protesters.
According to the Guardian Council’s interpretation, the constitution barred women and persons of non-Iranian origin or religions other than Shia Islam from becoming president. Women were also barred from serving as supreme leader; as members of the Assembly of Experts, Guardian Council, or Expediency Council (a body responsible for mediating between the Majles and the Guardian Council and serving as a consultative council for the supreme leader); and as certain types of judges. One of the 10 vice presidents and one cabinet minister were women. Twelve women served in the Majles during the year.
Five Majles seats were reserved for recognized religious minorities. Other ethnic minorities in the Majles included Arabs and Kurds. There were no non-Muslims in the cabinet or on the Supreme Court.
Section 4 Government Corruption and Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and official corruption remained a serious and ubiquitous problem in all three branches of government.

Many officials expected bribes for providing even routine service. Individuals routinely bribed officials in order to obtain permits for illegal construction. Under President Ahmadi-Nejad, the IRGC has been a major beneficiary of state contracts for infrastructure projects. According to Freedom House, the hard-line clerical establishment also grew wealthy through its control of bonyads, tax-exempt foundations that monopolize many sectors of the economy such as cement and sugar production.

All government officials, including cabinet ministers and members of the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, and Assembly of Experts, were required to submit annual financial statements to the state inspectorate. There was no information available regarding whether these officials obeyed the law.
Numerous government agencies existed to fight corruption, including the Anticorruption Headquarters and the Anticorruption Task Force, both established in 2005, as well as the Committee to Fight Economic Corruption and the General Inspection Organization.
On February 5, media reported that a National Audit Office report to the Majles revealed that the Oil Ministry had not returned 12 trillion rials ($1.2 billion) in oil revenues during the 2006-07 budget to the treasury. At least one opposition presidential candidate blamed President Ahmadi-Nejad for the missing revenue.
In November a special parliamentary commission to investigate the government’s recent privatization efforts criticized the management of the process, singling out the sale of the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) to a company reportedly linked to the IRGC. The commission concluded that the consortium contesting the bid was a front and that the government essentially gave the TCI to the IRGC. A RAND Corporation report during the year noted allegations that the IRGC controls much of the country’s black market trade.
On February 25, government officials granted bail to Abbas Palizdar, allegedly a former member of a parliamentary committee to investigate economic corruption, after he reportedly had served 13 months of his 10-year prison sentence for “acting against national security.” Palizdar reportedly accused several prominent clerics of money laundering during speeches he gave at Shiraz and Hamedan universities in June 2008. The Judicial Inquiry and Review Committee continued to deny any connection to Palizdar, who failed to provide evidence to back his claims. Following his speeches, which were widely circulated on the Internet, judiciary officials arrested and indicted 11 persons Palizdar named, most of them government employees, on corruption charges.
There were no laws providing for public access to government information.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The government continued to restrict the work of human rights groups and activists and sometimes responded to their inquiries and reports with harassment, arrests, monitoring, unlawful raids, and closures (see also sections 1.d., 1.e., 2.a., 2.c., 6, and 7). The government continued to deny the universality of human rights and stated that human rights issues should be viewed in the context of a country’s “culture and beliefs.” In May 2008 judiciary chief Hashemi Shahroudi told the Human Rights Task Force, an intragovernmental entity established in 2001, that the international community uses human rights as a weapon against Muslim majority countries.

Hundreds of domestic NGOs focused on issues such as health and population, women’s rights, development, youth, environmental protection, human rights, and sustainable development, despite the restrictive environment, including pressure not to accept foreign grants. NGOs must register with the Interior Ministry and apply for permission to receive foreign grants. According to various sources, independent human rights groups and other NGOs faced intensifying harassment and threat of closure from government officials as a result of prolonged and often arbitrary delays in obtaining official registration.
During the year the government increasingly prevented human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, and scholars from traveling abroad, particularly to attend international conferences (see section 2.d.). Human rights activists reported receiving intimidating phone calls and threats of blackmail from unidentified law enforcement and government officials. Government officials routinely harassed family members of human rights activists (see section 1.f.). Courts routinely applied suspended sentences to human rights activists; this form of sentencing acted as de facto probation, leaving open the option for authorities to suddenly and arbitrarily arrest or imprison individuals. This threat was sometimes enough to silence activists or pressure them into providing information about other activists.
Professional groups representing writers, journalists, photographers, and others attempted to monitor government restrictions in their respective fields, as well as harassment and intimidation against individual members of their professions. The government severely curtailed these groups’ ability to meet, organize, or effect change.

Throughout the year the government reportedly continued to exert significant pressure on the DHRC, a Tehran NGO headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. According to a June 7 letter from Ebadi to President Ahmadi-Nejad, during the year a Basij student mob attacked Ebadi’s offices and home; the government pressured at least two of the DHRC’s employees to resign; authorities prevented several DHRC members from traveling outside the country; officials arrested and detained a DHRC secretary, Jinnous Sobhani, for 55 days; officials regularly summoned DHRC members for interrogation; and security officials warned individuals not to attend the DHRC’s gatherings, some of which police dispersed. On November 22, authorities reportedly confiscated Ebadi’s Nobel Peace Prize and diploma from her safety deposit box while Ebadi was out of the country; the medal was reportedly returned two weeks later. Authorities also tried to tax the award money, although Ebadi maintained the prize was exempt. On December 28, officials arrested Ebadi’s sister, a professor of dentistry.

In December 2008 security forces unlawfully raided and closed the DHRC’s offices. The raid occurred immediately before a scheduled ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A foreign ministry spokesperson said the government closed the center for operating without a valid permit; the DHRC had not received a permit at year’s end despite its assertion that authorities had approved its application in 2006. Also in December 2008 government security officers posing as tax officials raided Ebadi’s private law offices, seizing office files and computers.

Despite numerous appeals, the government denied requests from international human rights NGOs to establish offices in or conduct regular investigative visits to the country. The last visit by an international human rights NGO was AI’s 2004 visit as part of the EU’s human rights dialogue with the country.
The ICRC and UNHCR both operated in the country with some restrictions. According to HRW, since the government issued a standing invitation to all UN human rights agencies in 2002, there have been six visits to the country by UN special human rights institutions. The government generally ignored recommendations these bodies made and failed to submit required reports to the UN Human Rights Committee or the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The government ignored repeated requests for visits by UN special rapporteurs. On December 18, the UNGA passed a resolution expressing “deep concern that, despite the Islamic Republic of Iran’s standing invitation to all thematic special procedures mandate holders, it has not fulfilled any requests from those special mechanisms to visit the country in four years and has not answered numerous communications from those special mechanisms.” The UNGA “strongly urge[d] the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully cooperate with the special mechanisms, especially the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.”
In 2001 the supreme leader called for the creation of a human rights task force, chaired by the judiciary chief and composed of the ministers of intelligence, interior, foreign affairs, justice, and culture, as well as other judicial and military officials. The committee, which did not convene until 2006, was not considered effective. Mohammed Javad Larijani, brother to Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, and Sadeq Larijani, head of the judiciary, headed the committee.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Although the constitution formally prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, and social status “in conformity with Islamic criteria,” the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions.
Women

Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, but it remained a problem. Spousal rape is not illegal. Cases of rape were difficult to document due to social stigma against the victims. Most rape victims did not report the crime to authorities because they feared societal reprisal such as ostracism or punishment for having been raped. According to the penal code, rape is a capital offense, and four male witnesses or three men and two women are required for conviction. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Spousal abuse and violence against women occurred. According to a study published in 2008 using 2005 data, 52.7 percent of women reported being physically abused during their married lives. Abuse in the family was considered a private matter and seldom discussed publicly, although there were some efforts to change this attitude, particularly by the “One Million Signatures for the Repeal of Discriminatory Laws,” or “Change for Equality,” Campaign (OMSC). Some nongovernmental shelters and hotlines assisted victims during the year.
A man may escape punishment for killing a wife caught in the act of adultery if he is certain she was a consenting partner. According to a police official quoted in a domestic newspaper in 2008, 50 honor killings were reported during a seven-month period, although official statistics were not available. The punishment for perpetrators was often a short prison sentence.
In February, according to a local newspaper, a father killed his 16-year-old daughter for suspicious activity.
There were no reports of developments in the May 2008 case of a man known as “Ahmad,” who allegedly killed his daughter after her former brother-in-law kidnapped and slept with her, or the June 2008 case of “Morteza,” who allegedly killed his sister after she married a man without her family’s permission.
Prostitution is illegal, but it took place under the legal cover of sigheh (temporary marriage). International press reports described prostitution as a widespread problem. The problem appeared aggravated by difficult economic conditions and rising numbers of drug users and runaway children.
According to a May 29 AI report, an unemployed couple in Eastern Azerbaijan province prostituted themselves to local officials. On October 5, authorities reportedly hanged the husband, Rahim Mohammadi, for sodomy; at year’s end his wife, Kobra Babaei, awaited execution by stoning.
In March 2008 authorities arrested and dismissed from his post Tehran police chief Reza Zarei after he was discovered in a brothel during a police raid. In April 2008 he was reportedly taken to the hospital following a suicide attempt in prison. There were no further updates in his case during the year.
There was a lack of reliable data on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the country. Media reports indicated that unwanted physical contact and verbal harassment occurred. There are laws addressing sexual harassment in the context of physical contact between men and women.
In early January a court sentenced to 30 lashes Zanjan University deputy dean Hassan Madadi, caught on camera pressuring a female student for sexual favors in June 2008. The female student also received a sentence of 30 lashes. Courts suspended both punishments.
The 1993 family planning law recognizes the basic right of married couples to decide freely and responsibly the spacing and timing of their first three children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the law, health and maternity benefits are cut for the family after three children. Local clinics and rural health centers disseminated information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. There were no restrictions on the right of married persons to access contraceptives. According to the Population Reference Bureau, nearly 80 percent of married women of reproductive age used family planning methods, 75 percent of whom used modern methods of contraception. Couples who plan to marry must take a class in family planning. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. According to UNICEF, 97 percent of women gave birth with a skilled attendant present.
The constitution nominally provides women with equal protection under the law and all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in conformity with Islam. Provisions in the Islamic civil and penal codes, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women. Shortly after the 1979 revolution, the government replaced those laws that provided women with increased rights in the home and workplace with a legal system based largely on Shari’a practices. On March 12, President Ahmadi-Nejad instructed the relevant bodies to implement a law in which women’s share of their husband’s inheritance would increase to one-fourth from the previously stipulated one-eighth of his property. At year’s end there was no information on the law’s implementation. The governmental Center for Women and Family continued to publish reports on feminism with a negative slant and limited the debate on women’s issues to matters related to the home.
Although a man (or boy) can marry at age 15 without parental consent, the law states that a virgin woman or girl needs the consent of her father or grandfather to wed, or the court’s permission, even if she is older than 18. The country’s Islamic law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of sigheh, based on a Shia custom in which a woman may become the wife of a Muslim man after a simple religious ceremony and a civil contract outlining the union’s conditions. Sigheh wives and any resulting children were not granted rights associated with traditional marriage. The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, or Baha’i marriages.
A woman has the right to divorce only if her husband signs a contract granting that right, cannot provide for his family, or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband was not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. Traditional interpretations of Islamic law recognized a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not enforced. According to a study by the National Organization for Civil Registration quoted in a book by a women’s rights activist, more than 89 percent of women did not receive their due alimony, and 9 percent did not receive their share of the wedding gift (wedding contracts traditionally stipulate that in case of divorce the groom give his bride the wedding gift for financial support).
The law provides divorced women preference in custody for children up to age seven; divorced women who remarry are forced to give the child’s father custody. After the child reaches age seven, the father is entitled to custody (unless the father has been proven unfit to care for the child). The court determines custody in disputed cases.
Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences. The testimony of two women is equal to that of one man. The blood money paid to the family of a female crime victim is half the sum paid for a man.
Women had access to primary and advanced education. Reportedly, 65 percent of university students were women. Government officials acknowledged the use of quotas to limit women’s university admissions in certain fields such as medicine and engineering. In addition, social and legal constraints limited women’s professional opportunities. Women were represented in many fields, including the legislature, municipal councils, police, and firefighters, but a woman must seek her husband’s consent before working outside the home. According to a World Economic Forum report during the year, the unemployment rate for women, who constituted 33 percent of the workforce, was 15.8 percent, compared with 9.3 percent for men. Women cannot serve in many high-level political positions or as judges, except as consultant or research judges without the power to impose sentences.
The government enforced gender segregation in most public spaces, including medical care, and prohibited women from mixing openly with unmarried men or men not related to them. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.
On January 26, media sources reported that authorities fined and suspended managers and coaches involved in the first mixed (men versus women) soccer game since the 1979 revolution. The Esteghlal soccer club’s technical manager and both head coaches received suspensions of six months to one year and fines of as much as 50 million rials ($5,000).
The penal code provides that if a woman appears in public without an appropriate hijab, she can be sentenced to lashings and fined. However, absent a clear legal definition of “appropriate hijab” or the punishment, women were subject to the opinions of disciplinary forces or judges. Pictures of uncovered or immodestly dressed women in the media or in films were often digitally altered.
The government continued its intense crackdown against members of the OMSC, which activists launched in 2006 to promote women’s rights.

On January 30, authorities arrested three OMSC members–Nafiseh Azad, Bigard Ebrahimi, and a person who wished to remain anonymous–while they were collecting petition signatures and held them for several days. Authorities charged Azad with “acting against national security through propaganda against the state,” according to the ICHR. On August 18, a judge gave Azad a one-year suspended sentence, but in late October an appeals court acquitted her of all charges.

On March 26, according to the ICHR, security forces detained 12 members of the OMSC and the NGO Mothers for Peace–Delaram Ali, Khadijeh Moghadam, Leila Nazari, Farkhondeh Ehtesabian, Mahboubeh Karami, Bahara Behravan, Ali Abdi, Amir Rashidi, Mohammad Shoorab, Arash Nasiri Eghbali, Soraya Yousefi and Shahla Forouzanfar–at a street corner in Tehran as the group met to make traditional Nowruz (New Year) visits to families of several political prisoners. The ICHR suggested that security and intelligence forces must have eavesdropped on activists’ private communications to apprehend them. Judge Matin Rasekh charged the women with “disturbing public opinion” and “disrupting public order,” and they were transferred to Section 209 of Evin Prison under MOIS control. On March 29, authorities released 10 of the activists on bail, and on April 7 and 8, they released Mahboubeh Karami and Khadijeh Moghadam. According to lawyer Nasim Ghanavi, Moghadam was also charged for participating in a January 11 demonstration with Mothers for Peace against the Israeli military operation in Gaza. On May 8, the security deputy of the Tehran Revolutionary Court summoned Moghaddam and her husband, Akbar Khosrowshahi. They appeared in court with their attorney, and Moghadam answered questions about assistance she gave to victims of the 2003 Bam earthquake, as well as her advocacy on behalf of detained labor activists and a fellow women’s rights defender. Moghadam was previously detained in April 2008 and charged with “spreading propaganda against the state,” “disrupting public opinion,” and “actions against national security.”

On April 25, authorities arrested Maryam Malek in Tehran, charged her with “propaganda against the system” in connection with her membership in the OMSC, and detained her in Evin Prison. On April 29, authorities released her on a third-person guarantee, as she could not pay bail set at 200 million rials ($20,000).

On May 7 and 8, authorities in Qom arrested two OMSC members, Maryam Bidgoli and Fatemeh Masjedi, along with the male author of The Women’s Movement in the East, Gholamreza Salami. Intelligence agents searched both women’s homes and took personal belongings. According to news reports, the women had previously been investigating an honor killing. They were released later in May.

In December, according to the IHRDC, authorities arrested Zohre Tonkaboni and Mahin Fahimi, members of Mothers for Peace. The same month, authorities arrested OMSC members Atiey Youseffi, Somayeh Rashidi, and Mansourreh Shojaaiei. According to the ICHRI, Rashidi reported authorities were holding her in solitary confinement at Evin Prison. At year’s end all reportedly remained in prison.

Several members of the OMSC, including Parvin Ardalan, remained under suspended prison sentences and travel bans at year’s end.

On January 31, a revolutionary court reportedly sentenced Mehri Moshrefi and her husband to a two-year suspended sentence. In November 2008 authorities arrested Moshrefi, her husband, and two of her children at a cemetery where the OMSC was staging a protest and transferred them to Evin Prison, despite activists’ claims that the family was not involved in the gathering. Authorities held Moshrefi’s two children (one of whom was a minor) for one month, and prison officials did not allow the family to contact their third child, who was not with the rest of the family at the time of arrest, for more than two weeks.
In April a court sentenced Ronek Safazadeh to six years in prison for spreading propaganda about the government and membership in the armed opposition group Free Life Party of Kurdistan, with which her lawyer maintained she was only marginally involved. In 2007 security agents arrested Safazadeh in Sanandaj for collecting signatures for the OMSC petition.
On February 26, authorities released Hana Abdi, whom police arrested in 2007 for collecting signatures for the OMSC petition. In October 2008 a court reduced her five-year sentence to 18 months.

At year’s end Maryam Hosseinkhah had found temporary refuge in Ireland, and Jelvah Javaheri remained in the country, where she spent the month of May in prison for her participation in demonstrations on International Workers Day and faced a six-month prison sentence issued in October. Police originally arrested both women in 2007 for “propaganda against the system.”

Children

Citizenship is derived by descent when a child is born to a citizen father regardless of the child’s country of birth. In general, birth within the country’s borders does not confer citizenship, except when a child is born to unknown parents; when both parents are noncitizens, but at least one parent was born in the country; or when a child born to noncitizens continues to reside in the country for at least one year after age 18.
Although primary schooling up to age 11 is free and compulsory for all, media and other sources reported lower enrollment in rural areas for girls than for boys.

There was little information available to reflect how the government dealt with child abuse, including child labor. Abuse was largely regarded as a private family matter. According a 2005 study by the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network, child sexual abuse was rarely reported.
The law requires court approval for the marriage of girls younger than 13 and boys younger than 15, but it was reportedly not unusual in rural areas for parents to have their children marry before they became teenagers, often for economic reasons. Sex outside of marriage is illegal.
There were reportedly significant numbers of children working as street vendors in Tehran and other cities and not attending school.

International news reported on the plight of children of imprisoned mothers. According to State Prisons Organization regulations, children could stay in prison with their mothers until the age of three; according to a report by the Association for Defending Prisoners’ Rights, children sometimes stayed through the age of six.

On December 31, according to the IHRC, authorities arrested Maryam Zia, a leader of a child welfare organization and wife of a labor leader. Zia was previously arrested in 2006 during a women’s rights protest in Haft Tir Square.

Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons. According to publicly available information from NGOs, the media, international organizations, and other governments, trafficking in persons was an extensive problem, and the country was a source, transit, and destination point for trafficking. Women and girls were trafficked from the country to Pakistan, Turkey, Europe, and the Gulf States for sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. Men, women, and children from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were trafficked through the country to the Gulf States and sometimes to Europe for purposes of employment. Afghan women and girls were trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation and forced marriages. Internal trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor also occurred. Media reports indicated that criminal organizations played a large role in human trafficking to and from the country.
In some cases authorities reportedly tried and convicted persons involved in trafficking, but aspects of the law and practice–such as punishment of victims for prostitution or adultery–hindered efforts to combat trafficking. There was no evidence that the government took steps to protect trafficking victims or to prevent trafficking during the year.
The Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law also provided for state-funded vocational education for persons with disabilities, but according to domestic news reports, vocational centers were confined to urban areas and were unable to meet the needs of the entire population. Building accessibility for persons with disabilities remained a widespread problem. The Welfare Organization of Iran is the major governmental agency charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities
The constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities and allows for minority languages to be used in the media and in schools; in practice, minorities did not have equal rights, and the government consistently denied their right to use their language in school. The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Baluch, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse. These groups reported political and economic discrimination, particularly in their access to economic aid, business licenses, university admissions, permission to publish books, and housing and land rights. In 2007 then interior minister Mustafa Purmohammadi ranked ethnic divisions as one of the biggest problems his ministry had to address. The government blamed foreign entities, including a number of Western countries, for instigating some of the ethnic unrest.
On January 9, HRW released a report documenting government persecution of the 4.5 million Kurds in the country, who have frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The report documented the government’s use of security laws, media laws, and other legislation to arrest and persecute Kurds solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association (see also section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). According to the report, the government consistently banned Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies. Although the Kurdish language is not banned, schools did not teach it. Authorities suppressed legitimate activities of Kurdish NGOs by denying registration permits or bringing spurious charges of security offenses against individuals working with such organizations. Kurds were not allowed to register certain names for their children in official registries.

IHRV reported that two Kurdish students who passed entrance exams for graduate school during the year were denied admission based on their ethnicity.

On January 13, the Sanandaj revolutionary court sentenced Kurdish political activist Jebraeil Khosravi to a 20-year prison term for membership in an illegal party. At year’s end he remained in Bandar-Abbas Prison.
On January 15, IHRV reported that authorities arrested Kurdish writer Abbass Jalilian, who goes by the name “AKO.” In November an appeals court upheld his 15-month sentence for espionage, issued by the Kermanshah revolutionary court in March. His initial court proceedings reportedly took place without his lawyer present.
On August 3, authorities released Kurdish journalist and human rights activist Massoud Kordpour after he completed his one-year prison term in Mahabad Central Prison. In August 2008 security forces arrested Kordpour on espionage charges related to interviews he gave to foreign media outlets. Authorities reportedly held Kordpour incommunicado for several months.
In July the Supreme Court upheld Farrad Kamangar’s February 2008 death sentence for “endangering national security” based on his alleged involvement with the Turkey-based Kurdish Workers Party. Kamangar, superintendent of high schools in Kamayaran, was affiliated with a number of civil society organizations, including the local teachers’ union, an environmental group, and the HROK. The court also sentenced fellow Kurdish activists Ali Heydarian and Farhad Vakili to death, and all three remained on death row at the end of the year. Authorities originally arrested the three men in 2006 because of their human rights activism.
Foreign representatives of the Ahvazi Arabs of Khuzestan claimed their community of two to four million in the country’s southwest encountered oppression and discrimination, including the lack of freedom to study and speak Arabic. Ahvazi and human rights groups alleged torture and mistreatment of Ahvazi Arab activists, including allegations that in September IRGC intelligence officers raped two female activists.
In October relatives of seven men sentenced to death for killing a clergy member in Ahwaz told local human rights organizations that authorities had tortured them to coerce confessions.
Ethnic Azeris comprised approximately one-quarter of the country’s population, were well integrated into government and society, and included the supreme leader among their numbers. Nonetheless, Azeris complained that the government discriminated against them, banning the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names. Azeri groups also claimed a number of Azeri political prisoners had been jailed for advocating cultural and language rights for Azeris. The government charged several of them with “revolting against the Islamic state.”
On May 26, media sources reported that 16 ethnic Azeris were injured during clashes with police in the city of Tabriz; 15 demonstrators were arrested. Protests also took place in the town of Orumiyeh and in Tehran. The demonstrations commemorated 2006 riots in Tabriz and other cities protesting a newspaper caricature depicting Azeris as cockroaches.

In a series of arrests beginning in July 2008, police reportedly detained at least eight Azeri-Iranian students in Tabriz and charged them with “establishing illegal groups in order to disrupt national security” and “propaganda against the state.” According to AI, the student activists were campaigning for greater cultural and linguistic rights, including the right to education using the Azeri language and the right to celebrate Azeri culture and history. In October 2008 authorities released all but one on bail; the remaining prisoner, Dariush Hatemi, was released in November 2009.

No updates were available in the case of a group of Azeri cultural rights activists–including author Hasan Rashedi, poet Mehdi Naimi Ardabili, writer Alireza Sarafi, and journalist Saeed Mohammadi Moghalani–whom authorities arrested in September 2008 at an Iftar celebration. Authorities held the men incommunicado and without charge for several weeks before releasing them on bail in November 2008.
Local and international human rights groups alleged serious economic, legal, and cultural discrimination against the Baluch minority during the year. Baluch journalists and human rights activists faced arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and unfair trials, often ending in execution. In August 2008 authorities executed Baluch journalist and education activist Yaghoob Mirnehad in Zahedan for alleged membership in the militant group People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (formerly Jundallah), which the government considers a terrorist group.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Special Protection Division, a volunteer unit of the judiciary, monitored and reported “moral crimes.” The law prohibits and punishes homosexual conduct; sodomy between consenting adults is a capital crime. The law defines transgender persons as mentally ill, encouraging them to seek medical help in the form of gender-reassignment surgery. The government censored all materials relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. In September 2008 President Ahmadi-Nejad called homosexual activity an “unlikable and foreign act” that “shakes the foundations of society.” The size of the LGBT community was unknown, as many individuals feared identifying themselves. There were active LGBT NGOs in the country, but most activities to support the LGBT community took place outside the country.
According to a November 4 HRW report, three men–Mehdi P., Moshen G., and Nemat Safavi–faced execution based on homosexual conduct allegedly committed when they were minors. At year’s end they were still believed to be in prison. According to HRW, the last confirmed death sentences for homosexual conduct were handed down in 2005, although there were allegations of executions related to homosexual conduct in 2006 and 2007. The punishment of a non-Muslim gay man or lesbian was harsher if the gay man or lesbian’s partner was Muslim. Punishment for homosexual behavior between men was more severe than for such behavior between women.
The government provided grants of as much as 45 million rials ($4,500) and loans of as much as 55 million rials ($5,500) for transgender persons willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Human rights activists and NGOs reported that some members of the gay and bisexual community have been pressured to undergo gender reassignment surgery to avoid legal and social persecutions in the country. In September international newspapers reported that a family court allowed the first transsexual marriage between a woman and her male partner, previously also a woman.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Persons with HIV/AIDS reportedly faced discrimination in schools and workplaces. The government supported programs for HIV/AIDS awareness and generally did not interfere with private HIV/AIDS-related NGOs. Government hospitals diagnosed and treated AIDS patients free of charge.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides workers the right to establish unions; in practice the government did not permit independent unions. A national organization known as Workers’ House was the sole authorized national labor organization. It served primarily as a conduit for government control over workers. The leadership of Workers’ House coordinated activities with Islamic labor councils in industrial, agricultural, and service organizations comprising more than 35 employees. According to the ICHRI, these councils, which consisted of representatives of workers and a representative of management, were essentially management-run unions that undermined workers’ efforts to maintain independent unions, but they nonetheless frequently blocked layoffs and dismissals in support of workers’ demands. During the year the government pressured workers to join the government-sponsored councils.

The 1990 labor code stipulates that workers may establish an Islamic labor council or a guild at any workplace, or that workers may appoint an official representative. The law strongly favors Islamic labor councils; no other form of representation is allowed in a workplace where such a council has been established. Although Workers’ House oversees Islamic labor councils, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Labor, and the Islamic Information Organization draft councils’ constitutions, operational rules, and election procedures.

Restrictions on the ability of workers to associate continued during the year as the government and the judiciary regularly abused the justice system to imprison and silence labor activists.

On April 26, authorities arrested Sajad Khaksari, the 25-year-old son of Mohammad Khaksari and Soraya Darabi, leaders of the Teachers’ Trade Association, which the government banned in 2007. Authorities first arrested Sajadin in 2006 for his writings in a union publication and again in January for taking photographs of a government building. His April arrest was for attending an “illegal teachers’ gathering” in front of the parliament. On June 6, a revolutionary court acquitted him of all charges, and an appeals court commuted the six-month prison sentence for his first arrest. In the aftermath of the postelection crackdown on activists, the prosecutor ordered the court to send Sajad’s file to a different revolutionary court branch that retried him, without his lawyer present, and sentenced him to one year in prison on the charges for which he had been acquitted. Sajad appealed the sentence and was reacquitted on two of the three charges. The final charge had yet to be heard by a public court in Tehran at year’s end.

On March 8, media sources reported that MOIS agents raided the residence of Ali Nejati, president of the board of directors of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company Workers’ Syndicate, and arrested Nejati and five others. On the evening of February 28, MOIS agents had previously raided and searched his home and confiscated some documents related to the syndicate. After holding him in solitary confinement for one month, authorities tried and convicted him of “propaganda against the system” in connection with interviews he gave about working conditions. On October 12, another court convicted Nejati and four others–Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Feridoun Nikoufard, Jalil Ahmadi, and Ghorban Alipour–on charges related to union activity in 2007. The court sentenced each to four to six months’ imprisonment followed by four- to six-month suspended sentences. At year’s end the men remained in prison.

On May 1, authorities reportedly arrested 100 to 200 people in Laleh Park in Tehran during International Workers Day (May Day) celebrations. Detainees included members of trade unions, journalists, women’s and children’s rights activists, and others active on behalf of civil society. On May 2, authorities released 25 men and two women on third-party guarantees. All remaining detainees were reportedly sent to Ward 240 of Evin Prison where, according to those who were released, the detainees suffered mistreatment and were not allowed contact with their families or lawyers. According to the Iran Free Trade Union’s Web site, authorities demanded that bail of approximately 500 million rials ($50,000) be posted for some of the detainees, including Jafar Azimzadeh, Shahpour Ehsani, and Bahram (Issa) Abedini. At year’s end there had been no developments on the status of the detainees.

On June 14, during a general crackdown on dissidents, authorities arrested Iranian Teachers’ Organization head Alireza Hashemi and detained him for 25 days. At year’s end he remained under a three-year suspended sentence on charges related to a 2007 protest calling for teachers to receive pay and benefits equal to those of government employees.

On August 6, security officers closed the offices of the Association of Iranian Journalists (AIJ) immediately before a union general meeting and President Ahmadi-Nejad’s swearing-in. On December 28, according to RSF, plainclothes men arrested the spokesperson for the organization. In June 2008 the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs threatened to dissolve the AIJ because it allegedly failed to uphold its internal regulations. According to RSF, authorities sought removal of the association’s executive committee on grounds of alleged procedural irregularities in voting during its general assemblies. The AIJ held internal elections to satisfy the Ministry of Labor’s concerns but had yet to receive approval at the end of the year.

On February 18, authorities reportedly flogged two female labor activists, Sussan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi, in Sanandaj Central Prison for participating in International Workers Day celebrations in May 2008. Razani received a sentence of 70 lashes and a nine-month suspended sentence, and Kheirabadi received 15 lashes (originally 40, but reduced by an appeals court) and a four-month suspended sentence. The court sentenced two other labor activists, Abdullah Khani and Syed Ghalib Husseini, to prison terms and flogging for participating in the same event.

Also on February 18, authorities released trade union member and writer Mohsen Hakimi from Evin Prison, where he allegedly endured physical and psychological abuse. In December 2008 security agents reportedly arrested Hakimi on unspecified charges.
There was no further information about the 2007 case in which nine members of the Hamedan Teachers’ Association were sentenced to 91 days’ imprisonment for “participating in unlawful strikes” and for closing schools; the pending trial of labor activist Mahmoud Salehi, former head of the Saqqez Bakery Workers’ Union, after he completed a one-year term in prison in April 2008 for “acting against national security”; or bus driver syndicate leaders Mansur Ossanloo and Ebrahim Madadi, who remained in prison at year’s end on charges from 2007. AI noted that Ossanlu was named in the general indictment of the “show trials” in August and that authorities denied Ossanloo medical care.
The law prohibits public sector strikes, and the government considered unlawful any strike deemed contrary to government economic and labor policies, including strikes in the private sector, but strikes occurred. According to an October 2008 UNGA report, security forces continued to respond with arbitrary arrests and violence to workers’ attempts to create associations or conduct labor strikes over wages.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers did not have the right to organize independently or to negotiate collective bargaining agreements freely. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, labor legislation did not apply in export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The labor code prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred. Female citizens were trafficked internally for the purpose of forced prostitution.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits employment of minors younger than 15 and places restrictions on employment of minors younger than 18. The government did not adequately enforce laws pertaining to child labor, and child labor was a serious problem. The law permits children to work in agriculture, domestic service, and some small businesses, but prohibits employment of minors in hard labor or night work. There was no information regarding enforcement of these regulations.
According to government sources, three million children were prevented from obtaining education because their families forced them to work. Unofficial sources claimed the figure was closer to five million. There were reportedly significant numbers of children–primarily Afghan but also Iranian–working as street vendors in major urban areas. Traffickers also exploited children for forced commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude as beggars and laborers.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law empowers the Supreme Labor Council to establish annual minimum wage levels for each industrial sector and region. On March 18, media reported that the government increased the minimum monthly wage by 20 percent to 2.6 million rials ($260), which labor groups stated did not provide a decent standard of living for workers and their families. International media reported that government wages returned to their previous monthly minimum in July after the election. There was no information regarding mechanisms to set wages, and it was not known whether minimum wages were enforced.

The labor law does not cover an estimated 700,000 legal workers, as it applies in full only to workplaces with 10 or more workers. Workplaces with fewer than five workers or in export processing zones are exempt from all labor laws. Afghan workers, especially those working illegally, often were paid less than the minimum wage. During the year the government continued to deport illegal Afghan migrant workers, some of whom may have been unregistered refugees (see section 1.d., Protection of Refugees).

The law establishes a maximum six-day, 48-hour workweek with a weekly rest day, normally Friday, at least 12 days of paid annual leave, several paid public holidays.

The law establishes a safety council chaired by the labor minister or his representative protects workplace safety and health. Labor organizations outside the country have alleged that hazardous work environments were common and resulted in thousands of worker deaths annually. The quality of safety regulation enforcement was unknown, and it was unknown whether workers could remove themselves from hazardous situations without risking the loss of employment.

___________________________
* The United States does not have an embassy in Iran. This report draws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.

IRANIAN CHILDREN FACING GALLOWS

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Source: http://www.express.co.uk

IRAN’S hardline leadership has begun a merciless purge of its opponents that could end with children hanging from gallows.

Students are likely to feel the worst excesses of the vengeance being exacted by the country’s religious rulers in the wake of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Anyone who dared to protest over the disputed presidential election result two weeks ago has been warned that their defiance will result in the harshest punishments.

Under Iran’s medieval legal system that could mean children – in theory, girls as young as nine – facing execution.

A damning report of Iran’s flagrant contempt for international laws on capital punishment will next week expose the appalling extent of child executions in the strict Islamic state.

Although UN decrees state that no person under 18 should be executed or sentenced to death, Iran’s prisons echo with the cries of youngsters facing the noose.

Today, 160 young people await their fate on death row for crimes including homosexuality, having sex outside marriage or turning their backs on Islam.

Their chances of reprieve are slim. Over the past five years, 33 children have faced the noose.

By comparison, the other Middle East countries still executing children – Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – have a combined total of 19 on Death Row.

The report, From Cradle to Coffin, is produced by the London-based Foreign Policy Centre and Stop Child Executions. It reveals many of the cases, including the most recent hanging of a young woman in May.

Delara Darabi spent five years behind bars for a murder she was alleged to have carried out at the age of 17.

She strenuously denied the crime and went to her death sobbing: “Mum, they want to execute me. I see the gallows. Mother, save me.”

Download: The foreign Policy Center’s latest report on Child Executions in Iran

Listen to Podcast from Women’s Hour which contains a section on Juvenile excecutions

The Martin Ennals Award 2009 goes again to a Human Rights Defender from Iran

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Today the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) announces as the 2009 Laureate

Emad Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights defender based in Tehran. He founded the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, and has been a vigorous and outspoken opponent of the death penalty in Iran. His campaigning includes a scholarly examination of Islamic law (shari`a) on the subject, in which he demonstrates the absence of any doctrinal requirement for maintaining capital punishment. In addition, Baghi’s inventory of death row prisoners in Iran, including juvenile offenders, has been an important resource for UN human rights bodies as well as human rights groups outside the country. Baghi has spent four years in prison over the past decade for his campaigning against the death penalty and other rights activities. Currently out of jail, he still faces charges relating to his work for the defense of prisoners rights. Baghi suffers from serious heart and kidney ailments; in August 2008 prison physicians declared his condition critical.

The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, describes the laureate as “an exceptionally brave man defending human rights despite imprisonment and poor health”.

The Ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award will take place in Geneva in November 2009.

MEA: the main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS. Previous laureates : Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan (2008); Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.

Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Louise Arbour, Robert Fulghum, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje.

Right to Education:Isfahan

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Source: http://hrairan.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1123:3467&catid=160:6954&Itemid=376


کمیته ی حق تحصیل مجموعه فعالان حقوق بشر در ایران، در ادامه ی پی گیری مطالبات خود با بهره گیری از فضای انتخاباتی در سخنرانی میر حسین موسوی شرکت کرد و از آنجا که حق سوال فقط در انحصار نمایندگان مخصوصی قرار داشت یکی از عمده ترین مطالبات خود را که همانا تحقق حق تحصیل برای هزاران جوان بهایی ایرانی است با درج و استفاده از پلاکارد توسط شاخه اصفهان این تشکل بیان نمود.

این برنامه در دانشگاه اصفهان از ساعت 10 صبح آغاز و تا ساعت 12 ادامه یافت. گفتنی است پلاکاردهایی که مطالبات اعضای کمیته روی آنها نوشته شده بود توسط نیروهای لباس شخصی مورد حمله قرار گرفت و به وسیله ی آنها پاره شد.

تلاش برای بیان خواسته های قانونی و برخوردهای صورت گرفته در این نشست هیچگونه واکنشی از سوی کاندیدای مذکور را در پی نداشت.

Amnesty International Newsflash: Delara Darabi Executed

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Source: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/delara-darabi-executed-iran-20090501
Friday 1 May 2009

Iran: Outrage at execution of Delara Darabi
Delara Darabi

This morning, Iranian authorities executed Delara Darabi in Rasht Central Prison. She is the second person to be executed this year after being convicted of a crime she was alleged to have committed while still under 18, Amnesty International revealed today.

“Amnesty International is outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution, despite the legal requirement that he should receive 48 hours’ notice. This appears to have been a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi’s life,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Delara Darabi was executed despite her having been given a two-month stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary on 19 April.

“This indicates that even decisions by the Head of the Judiciary carry no weight and are disregarded in the provinces,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Delara Darabi was convicted of murdering a relative in 2003 when she was 17. She initially confessed to the murder, believing she could save her boyfriend from the gallows, but later retracted her confession. She was being detained at Rasht Prison in northern Iran since her arrest in 2003, during which time she developed a significant talent as a painter.

Amnesty International does not consider her trial to have been fair, as the courts later refused to consider new evidence which the lawyer said would have proved she could not have committed the murder.

Amnesty International had campaigned for her life since her case came to light in 2006, urging the Iranian authorities to commute her death sentence and calling for a her re-trial in proceedings that meet international standards.

The execution of Delara Darabi brings the number of executions in Iran this year to 140. She is the second woman known to have been executed. Iran has executed at least forty two juvenile offenders since 1990, eight of them in 2008 and one on 21 January 2009, in total disregard of international law, which unequivocally bans the execution of those convicted of crimes committed when under the age of 18.

Public Document

Persecution of Large Minority Community, the Iranian Azeris

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

This article was sourced at http://iranianminorityshumanright.blogspot.com/

By Ali M. Koknar
June 6, 2006
Recently in Iran, tens of thousands of Iranian Azeris took to the streets for several days of demonstrations touched off by the May 12 publication of a racist cartoon in the state-run Iran newspaper. (The cartoon depicted an Azeri-speaking cockroach.) Iranian security forces cracked down violently on the demonstrators, killing at least four people (Azeri nationalists claim twenty dead), injuring forty-three, and detaining hundreds of others. These developments indicate brewing discontent among Iran’s Azeri population and should be studied for their implications for U.S. and Western policy toward Tehran.

Deeper Issues at Play
The Iranian regime’s effort to put out this ethnic brushfire by closing the Tehran-based Iran newspaper and arresting its editor as well as the ethnic Azeri cartoonist quickly escalated to the usual strongarm response as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ anti-riot units and Basij militias attacked the Azeri protesters. Iranian security forces cracked down on tens thousands of offended Azeris, who took to the streets in Tehran and in the major northwestern Iranian cities such as Tabriz, Urumieh, Ardebil, Maragheh, and Zenjan. The intelligence service launched a massive detention campaign, rounding up relatives of Azeri Turks previously jailed for Turkish nationalism.

Download full article (pdf) iranian-azeris-a-giant-minority

Human Rights Council: ARTICLE 19 Calls On HRC Members To Vote Against Proposed Resolution On “Defamation Of Religions”

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

To view ARTICLE 19’s statement, go to: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/human-
rights-council-article-19-calls-on-hrc-members-to-vote-against-propose.pdf

ARTICLE 19 has expressed its deep concern about a draft resolution on “combating defamation of religions” which has been circulated by the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Whilst ARTICLE 19 observes that the draft resolution modifies the approach of previously adopted resolutions on the subject, it argues that the draft resolution does not address any of the problems associated with the concept of “defamation of religions”, but rather entrenches them.

In its statement, ARTICLE 19 notes that, in various ways, the draft resolution builds on resolutions on combating defamation of religions which have been adopted by UN human rights bodies since 1999. For instance, the draft resolution contains express references to Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), recent initiatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and previously adopted resolutions of the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on combating defamation of religions. It also appears to encompass the “targeting of … venerated personalities of all religions” and “religious symbols” within the concept of defamation of religions and draws closer links between that concept and the incitement to religious hatred.

ARTICLE 19 argues that such modifications demonstrate the clear will of the drafters to situate the draft resolution more directly within the framework of established international human rights law and to legitimise and further develop the concept of defamation of religions. Yet the concept lacks any definition in the draft resolution or legal basis in international human rights law. The statement indicates that the draft resolution is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, will not be effective in promoting equality in practice and is likely to be abused by states seeking to stifle criticism of religions and religious institutions. References made in the draft resolution to established international law on freedom of expression and recent initiatives of the OHCHR are also misleading.

ARTICLE 19 argues that, if adopted, this draft resolution will add to the series of previously adopted resolutions on combating defamation of religions adopted by UN human rights bodies – an alarming trend which should be halted immediately. We therefore urge member states of the Human Rights Council to vote against the draft resolution or at least abstain in a vote on its adoption.

Comedians Stand Up for the Bahá’is in Iran.

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

The world of comedy showed it’s face of courage and integrity as it made
a statement of concern for the rights of the Bahá’is in Iran. This statement which was
published in the Times Online was signed by fifteen top comedians from the UK circuit.

Sir, We are deeply concerned at the continuing imprisonment for more than eight months of seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran. No formal evidence has been brought against them.

They have not been given access to their legal counsel, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. She has had no access to their files and has suffered threats and intimidation since taking on their case.

Spurious charges now look likely to be filed against these Baha’is in the Revolutionary Court. “Espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic” are their alleged crimes.

In reality, their only “crime”, which the current regime finds intolerable, is that they hold a religious belief that is different from the majority.

As artists who strive to uplift the human spirit and enrich society through our work, we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society — be it through the arts and media, the promotion of education, social and economic development, or adherence to moral principles.

Further, we join with the governments, human rights organisations and people of goodwill throughout the world who have so far raised their voices calling for a fair trial, if not the complete release of the Baha’i leaders in Iran.

David Baddiel

Bill Bailey

Morwenna Banks

Sanjeev Bhasker

Jo Brand

Russell Brand

Rob Brydon

Jimmy Carr

Jack Dee

Omid Djalili

Sean Lock

Lee Mack

Alexei Sayle

Meera Syal

Mark Thomas

Source http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article5804284.ece

We Are Ashamed

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

The following is an article written and signed by a group of Iranians consisting of artists, writers, professors, poets, journalists, human rights activists and many other conscientious voices. The letter entitled “we are ashamed” is an emotional and sensitive apology for the wrongs committed against the Baha’is in Iran. The original article can be read
on the cnn website or in farsi at asre-nou.net

Century and a half of silence towards oppression against Bahai’s is enough
by Open Letter
04-Feb-2009


In the name of goodness and beauty, and in the name of humanity and liberty!

As Iranian human beings, we are ashamed for what has been perpetrated upon the Baha’is in the last century and a half in Iran.

We firmly believe that every Iranian, “without distinction of any kind, such as, race, color, sex, language, religion, politics or other opinions,” and also without regard to ethnic background, “social origin, property, birth or other status,” is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, from the very inception of the Baha’i Faith, the followers of this religion in Iran have been deprived of many provisions of human rights solely on account of their religious convictions.

According to historical documents and evidence, from the commencement of the Babi Movement followed by the appearance of the Baha’i Faith, thousands of our countrymen have been slain by the sword of bigotry and superstition only for their religious beliefs. Just in the first decades of its establishment, some twenty thousand of those who stood identified with this faith community were savagely killed throughout various regions of Iran.

We are ashamed that during that period, no voice of protest against these barbaric murders was registered;

We are ashamed that until today the voice of protest against this heinous crime has been infrequent and muted;

We are ashamed that in addition to the intense suppression of Baha’is during its formative decades, the last century also witnessed periodic episodes of persecution of this group of our countrymen, in which their homes and businesses were set on fire, and their lives, property and families were subjected to brutal persecution – but all the while, the intellectual community of Iran remained silent;
(more…)

International Childs Day: What does the future hold for Iran’s children

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

In light of the UN’s International Day of the Child, The Association of Iranian researchers (ACI) have revealed some worrying statistics on the human rights violations of children and youth in Iran.
From the inception of the Iran-Iraq war the recruitment of child soldiers began, and
the glimmers of a generation of brainwashed young people was emerging as children were sent off to the front line with plastic keys hanging round their necks assured of their place in heaven, were they to die as martyrs in battle.

Today matters are no better. Around 32% of the population (23 million) are under the age of 18 and their problems are many. For a start 14 million of those are below the poverty line and go to bed hungry with empty stomachs. Many cannot attend school and around 5 million children and youth are excluded from the basic rights and opportunities of education. In 2006 surveys revealed that around 260,339 of those under 14 years of age were forced into child labour, many in heavy work, and were providing for their families. Being a girl brings its own troubles. In Iran girls are forbidden to participate many sports particularly team ones. Surely this has permanent repercussions for their physical wellbeing and confidence.

Possibly the most shocking statistic refers to marriages in the 10-14 age range, from a survey in 2006:
There were around 78,000 who had been married at least once. 4437 of those were widowed and 5160 were divorced.

The ACI’s article reveals further detailed statistics to those between the ages of 14 – 18

Read the original article in Farsi

child labour Iran

The day of the Child is on the 20 November. A day where many celebrate the child and the potential that they hold for the future. In Iran, however, those seeds of inspiration so latent in every child have little or no chance to be nurtured.

Six month sentences for Cyber Activists

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Four women activists, including award winning Parvin Ardalan, have been given six month sentences by a court in Tehran. Their crime was publishing articles online, directly challenging the discriminatory laws against women across Iran.

After their magazines were censored the four women were forced to publish their articles online, only to face further recriminations. They found themselves charged with “publishing information against the Government”, under article 500 of the Islamic criminal code.

This situation reflects an ever worsening human rights crisis in Iran. Nobel Laureate Lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, who is representing the women, voiced her concerns over the recent arrests stating “If parliament ratifies the new law increasing sentences for crimes against society’s moral security, bloggers could get prison sentences.”

Once again Iran is extending its suffocating arm, threatening to strangle any freedom of thought, even in cyberspace.

Parvin Ardalan
Parvin Ardalan

Read the original article

The State Department’s 2007 Reports on Human Rights Practices in Iran

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008

The Islamic Republic of Iran*, with a population of approximately 70 million, is a constitutional, theocratic republic in which Shi’a Muslim clergy dominate the key power structures. Government legitimacy is based on the twin pillars of popular sovereignty-–albeit restricted–and the rule of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not directly elected but chosen by a directly-elected body of religious leaders, the Assembly of Experts, in 1989. Khamenei dominated the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. He directly controlled the armed forces and indirectly controlled the internal security forces, the judiciary, and other key institutions. The legislative branch is the popularly elected 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majles. An unelected 12-member Guardian Council reviewed all legislation passed by the Majles for adherence to Islamic and constitutional principles and also screened presidential and Majles candidates for eligibility. In 2005 hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad won the presidency in an election widely viewed by the international community as neither free nor fair. The civilian authorities did not maintain fully effective control of the security forces.

The government’s poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The government severely limited citizens’ right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections. There were reports of unjust executions after unfair trials. Security forces committed acts of politically motivated abductions; torture and severe officially-sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning; amputation; flogging; and excessive use of force against and imprisonment of demonstrators. Vigilante groups with ties to the government committed acts of violence. Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals and held political prisoners and women’s rights activists. There was a lack of judicial independence and of fair public trials. The government severely restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, movement, and privacy. The government placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion. Official corruption and a lack of government transparency persisted. Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems. The government severely restricted workers’ rights, including freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively, and child labor remained a serious problem. On December 18, for the fifth consecutive year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing “deep concern at ongoing systematic violations of human rights.”

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including

Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports that the government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Baluchi groups in the southeastern province of Sistan va Baluchestan alleged numerous executions during the year after reportedly unfair trials for attacks against government officials. A September Amnesty International (AI) report estimated that authorities executed at least 50 Baluchis since the beginning of the year, almost all following the February 14 bombing in Zahedan of a bus carrying members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which killed 11 IRGC members. On February 15, the militant opposition group Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack. Many of those executed following the bombing made televised “confessions” of responsibility, which Baluchi groups alleged were extracted under torture. According to AI, Baluchi groups alleged that authorities sought to dispel the appearance of ethnic targeting by taking Baluchis to other provinces to execute them after human rights groups drew attention to the rise in executions of Baluchis.

On June 13, according to AI, Vahid Mir Baluchzahi was found dead in Zahedan, Sistan va Baluchestan province, after going missing on February 14, the same day the bus bombing killed 11 IRGC members in the same province. At year’s end the government had not initiated an investigation.

During the year the government executed at least 11 Ahvazi Arabs in Khuzestan province in connection with bombings in that province in 2005 and 2006. NGOs and human rights groups outside the country condemned the executions, stating that the accused did not receive fair trials. On January 10, three UN independent experts released a joint statement condemning the executions. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions; Leandro Despouy, the UNSR on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Manfred Nowak, the UNSR on torture, jointly called on the government to halt the imminent executions of seven Ahvazi Arabs and grant them fair and public hearings. The UNSRs alleged that authorities used torture to extract the confessions of the accused, and that defense lawyers were not allowed access to the accused during trial and were themselves threatened with charges of “acting against national security.” It was not known if all seven were executed at year’s end.

During the year there were reports of other killings by government forces. For example, on May 16, members of the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) reportedly shot and killed 11-year-old Roya Sarani, according to eyewitness reports cited by AI. LEF forces reportedly stopped her father’s car as he was driving her and her brother home from school and opened fire for unknown reasons. LEF forces also reportedly wounded Roya’s brother, Elyas, in the incident.

On October 13, Zahra Bani-Ameri (also known as Zahra Bani-Yaghoub), a 27-year-old female physician, died while in custody in the town of Hamedan. Security forces arrested her and her fiancé in a public park in the city of Hamedan on charges of having an “illegal relationship.” The next day, officals informed her family that she committed suicide while in detention.

NGOs and international newspapers estimate that authorities executed approximately 298 individuals during the year following unfair trials. Exiles and human rights monitors alleged that many of those supposedly executed for criminal offenses, such as narcotics trafficking, were political dissidents. The law criminalized dissent and applied the death penalty to offenses such as apostasy, “attempts against the security of the state,” “outrage against high-ranking officials”, and “insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.”

The number of public executions increased during the year, including the August 2 public executions of Majid Kavousifar and Hossein Kavousifar, who were convicted of killing a revolutionary court judge in 2005. Many public executions were also broadcast on state television.

The government continued to execute minors and juvenile offenders. On September 17, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called on the government to end the practice of juvenile executions. According to AI, there were more than 71 juvenile offenders on death row in the country at year’s end, and more than 15 have been executed since 2004.

For example, on April 22, authorities executed 20-year-old Syed Mohammad Reza Mousavi in Shiraz for a murder he allegedly committed when he was 16. His family was not notified of the execution and did not see him before it took place. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Mousavi was wrongly tried in an adult court instead of the special juvenile court.

On May 22, authorities executed 17-year-old Sa’id Qanbar Zahi in Zahedan, following his televised “confession” of involvement in bombings, carjacking, and murder. HRW reported that his arrest, confession, trial, sentencing, and execution all took place within a few weeks.

On October 17, authorities hanged 18-year-old Hoseyn Gharabagloo for allegedly killing a 20-year-old man in a scuffle when he was 15. Security forces arrested and detained Gharabagloo in 2004, but he escaped detention prior to his April 2005 trial. In November 2006 security forces recaptured Gharabagloo and sentenced him to death. He appealed, but the Supreme Court confirmed his sentence in December 2006.

On December 4, authorities executed Iranian Kurdish juvenile offender Makwan Moloudzadeh, age 20, after what AI reported as a “grossly flawed trial” for allegedly raping three individuals when he was 13. AI noted that the alleged victims withdrew their accusations before Moloudzadeh was convicted and sentenced.

There was a reported case of execution by stoning during the year, despite a judiciary moratorium on the practice. Stoning remained a legal form of punishment. On July 5, officials in the Qazvin province carried out a death sentence by stoning against Jafar Kiani, defying a 2002 moratorium on the practice put in place by Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Shahrudi. According to AI reports, in 1996 authorities convicted Kiani and his partner, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, of adultery and sentenced them to death by stoning. On June 20, according to HRW, Judiciary Chief Shahrudi issued a written stay of their execution, scheduled for June 21. Despite the stay, authorities carried out the sentence against Kiani. Shahrudi ordered an investigation of the judge who ordered the sentence, but the results of that investigation remained unknown at year’s end. UN Human Rights Commissioner Arbour condemned the execution and called on the government to halt the impending execution of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi. Authorities reportedly suspended Ebrahimi’s sentence. On September 30, Secretary of the Human Rights Committee Mohammad Javad Larijani, appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei, called the stoning a “judicial mistake,” but stated his view that the practice of stoning is neither torture nor disproportionate punishment.

On April 18, the Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions of six members of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer force formally connected with the IRGC, for five killings in 2002 on the grounds that the Basij members stated they believed Islam permitted the killings because the individuals were engaged in “morally corrupt” behavior. In 2002 the Basij members reportedly killed the five individuals by stoning, drowning, and burying one person alive. The lower court previously found all six men guilty of murder.

On December 11, according to domestic press reports, the Supreme Court annulled the original verdict of the primary court in the case of the 2003 death of Zahra Kazemi, a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen, and determined it would be reinvestigated. Kazemi, a photojournalist arrested for taking pictures outside Evin Prison during a student-led protest, died in custody in 2003 after security forces tortured her. Authorities admitted that she died as a result of a blow to the head but claimed the death was “unintentional” and acquitted an intelligence officer in 2004. Tehran General Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, was reportedly involved in her death. In June 2006 the Kazemi family filed a civil case against the Iranian government in Canadian courts.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 religious decree calling for the killing of author Salman Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad in his book “Satanic Verses” remained in effect.

The government took no known steps to resolve the 2004 killing of labor strikers, the killings and disappearances reported in 2001 by the Special Representative for Iran of the Commission on Human Rights, or the killings of members of religious minorities following the revolution.

b. Disappearance

Little reliable information was available regarding the number of disappearances during the year.

The Iranian-American Jewish Federation reported that 11 Jewish men who disappeared in 1994 and 1997 were still missing, but some were reportedly alive, as witnesses claimed they saw some of the men in Evin Prison. The authorities did not provide information on whether the individuals were in custody.

There were reports of politically motivated abductions during the year. Plainclothes officers or security officials reportedly often seized journalists and activists without warning and held them incommunicado in detention centers for several days before permitting them to contact family members.

There was no further information about the 2005 disappearance of a number of evangelical Christians.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits torture for the purposes of extracting a confession or acquiring information. Despite 2004 legislation banning torture, there were numerous credible reports that security forces and prison personnel tortured detainees and prisoners.

Common methods of abuse in prisons included prolonged solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, beatings, long confinement in contorted positions, kicking detainees with military boots, hanging detainees by the arms and legs, threats of execution if individuals refused to confess, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also reported beatings on the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness; punching the area around the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness; and the use of poison to induce illness. HRW reported that security forces physically tortured student activists more than dissident critics from within the system.

There were multiple cases of torture reported during the year.

On January 11, former political prisoner Kianush Sanjari alleged that he was subjected to “white torture,” a form of sensory deprivation, while detained at Evin Prison in late 2006. According to a 2004 HRW report, political prisoners in the country used the term to describe prolonged incommunicado solitary confinement.

On June 6, intelligence agents directly supervised by the prison head reportedly attacked and beat political prisoners held in Orumieh prison in the northwest of the country.

On July 24, the families of three student activists arrested in May and June sent an open letter to Judiciary Chief Shahrudi alleging that security forces tortured their sons in section 209 of Evin Prison. According to HRW, the families alleged that security forces subjected the students to beatings with cables and fists, 24-hour interrogation sessions, sleep deprivation, and forced them to remain standing for long periods of time. The families also alleged that the students were detained in cells with convicted criminals and received threats against themselves and their families. Although Judiciary Chief Shahrudi reportedly ordered an investigation into the allegations, the results remained unknown at year’s end. According to domestic press reports, on August 20, Tehran general prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi met with the families of the three student activists and warned them not to speak to the press or any officials or political figures. Mortazavi reportedly denied that security forces had tortured the students and transferred them to solitary cells, where they remained in detention at year’s end.

The penal code provides for amputation following multiple theft offenses. On February 27, officials in Kermanshah publicly amputated four fingers of F. Hosseini as punishment for multiple theft convictions. On May 13, there were reports of another amputation.

There were no reports during the year of activities by the “special units” (yegan ha-ye vizhe), which have been used in previous years to complement the existing morality police, “Propagation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice” (Amr be Ma’ruf va Nahi az Monkar), to combat “un-Islamic behavior” and social corruption among the young. In previous years these auxiliaries assisted in enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict rules of moral behavior by chasing and beating persons in the streets for offenses such as listening to music or, in the case of women, wearing makeup or clothing regarded as insufficiently modest or being accompanied by unrelated men.

In December 2006, according to AI, authorities subjected a woman identified as “Parisa” to 99 lashes, a reduction of the original death sentence by stoning, for adultery.

During the year the government did not initiate any investigations into reports of torture or punish those believed to be responsible.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were poor. Many prisoners were held in solitary confinement or denied adequate food or medical care to force confessions.

Overcrowding was a significant problem. In March the UK-based International Center for Prison Studies reported that 150,321 prisoners occupied facilities constructed to hold a maximum of 65,000 persons. Of the prisoners currently held in state detention centers, reportedly nearly one quarter were pretrial detainees. In October Prison Organization head Ali Akbar Yasaghi put the number of prisoners at 158,351. There were 130 prisons in the country, with 41 more under construction during the year. There were reports during the year that Judiciary Chief Shahrudi encouraged judges to implement alternative sentencing for lesser crimes, reportedly due in part to prison overcrowding. At year’s end, there were no reports on the extent to which this was implemented.

Some prison facilities, including Tehran’s Evin Prison, were notorious for cruel and prolonged torture of political opponents of the government. After its 2003 visit, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions described section 209 of Evin Prison as a “prison within a prison,” designed for the “systematic, large-scale use of absolute solitary confinement, frequently for long periods.” Authorities also maintained “unofficial” secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system, where abuse reportedly occurred.

Human rights activists and domestic press reported cases of political prisoners confined in the same wing as violent felons. There were allegations that the authorities deliberately incarcerated nonviolent offenders with violent offenders, anticipating they would be killed. There were also reports of juvenile offenders being detained with adult offenders.

The government generally granted prison access only to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), but the ICRC continued to not have access to detainees. On September 11, the government granted foreign journalists a tour of Evin Prison for the second time in two years. According to Agence France Presse, during the visit, the director of Tehran prisons, Sohrab Soleimani, denied that there were political prisoners in Evin Prison but told the journalists that there were 15 prisoners in Evin on “security” charges. In June 2006 the government also allowed a group of foreign and local journalists to tour Evin Prison. Some prisoners who spoke to reporters in 2006 complained that their cases had not come to trial or that they had been awaiting a verdict for months. According to reports from journalists following the two visits, the number of prisoners in Evin Prison is estimated to be between approximately 2,500 and 3,000.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, these practices remained common.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Several agencies share responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining order, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the Law Enforcement Forces under the interior ministry, and the IRGC. The Basij and various informal groups known as the “Ansar-e Hizballah” (Helpers of the Party of God) were aligned with extreme conservative members of the leadership and acted as vigilantes. The size of the Basij remained disputed; officials cited anywhere from 11 to 20 million, while a 2005 study by a foreign organization claimed there were 90,000 active members and up to 300,000 reservists.

Corruption was a problem in the police forces and revolutionary courts and to a lesser extent in the criminal and civil courts. Civilian authorities did not fully maintain effective control of the security forces. The regular and paramilitary security forces both committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. According to numerous press, NGO, and anecdotal reports throughout the year, the government used plainclothes security agents to intimidate political critics. They were increasingly armed, violent, and well equipped, and they engaged in assault, theft, and illegal seizures and detentions.

Arrest and Detention

The constitution and penal code require warrants or subpoenas for arrests and state that arrested persons must be informed of charges within 24 hours; however, these safeguards rarely occurred in practice. Detainees often went weeks or months without charges or trial, frequently were denied prompt contact with family, and often were denied access to legal representation for prolonged periods. Bail was often set at prohibitively high levels, even for lesser crimes. Detainees and their families were often compelled to submit property deeds in order to post bail. In the period immediately following detention or arrest, many detainees were held incommunicado and denied access to lawyers and family members. In practice there was neither a legal time limit for incommunicado detention nor any judicial means to determine the legality of the detention.

Security forces often did not inform family members of a prisoner’s welfare and location. Authorities often denied visits by family members and legal counsel. Prisoners released on bail did not always know how long their property would be retained or when their trials would be held. Families of executed prisoners did not always receive notification of their deaths. Unlike previous years, there were no reports of the government forcing family members to pay to retrieve the body of their relative.

There were numerous reports of arbitrary and false arrests during the year.

For example, on February 21, plainclothes security forces arrested Somaye Bayanat, the wife of political prisoner Ahmed Batebi, without a warrant and detained her at Gorgan women’s prison. According to HRW, Bayanat told her family that security forces arrested her in connection with a group of doctors with whom authorities alleged she worked, and she faced criminal charges of forging medical documents and performing illegal abortions. According to HRW, her family did not believe the allegations, as they were not aware of any such group, and Bayanat was a dentist. At year’s end, Bayanat remained in detention.

On May 8, security officials arrested an Iranian-American peace activist, detained him at Evin Prison, and accused him of espionage. On September 25, officials released him and did not file formal charges. On October 8, he left the country.

Also on May 8, an Iranian-American scholar was arrested in Tehran and detained in Evin Prison following months of hours-long daily interrogations by officials from the Ministry of Intelligence. Authorities charged her with “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the system,” and espionage. In December 2006 unknown assailants took her passport from her at knifepoint on her way to the airport. After she applied for a new passport, intelligence officials interrogated her for several weeks concerning her work with a foreign think tank. On August 21, security forces released her, and on September 4, she left the country.

On May 11, security forces arrested another Iranian-American scholar at his home in Tehran and detained him in Evin Prison. He also faced charges of “acting against national security,” reportedly in connection with his work for a foreign NGO. In July the government aired televised footage of the supposed confessions of him and the other Iranian-American scholar, splicing in footage of the “color revolutions” of former Soviet countries. On September 19, he was released on bail.

In September 2006, according to AI, at least nine Azeri Iranians were arrested following demonstrations calling for a school boycott in the northwest. Azeri Iranians were protesting for their constitutional right to use the Azeri language in schools. At year’s end, it was not clear whether they had been released.

Adherents of the Baha’i faith continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention.

In recent years the government used house arrest to restrict the movements and ability to communicate of senior Shi’a religious leaders whose views regarding political and governance issues were at variance with the ruling orthodoxy; however, there were no new instances of this practice publicly reported during the year.

Amnesty

According to domestic press, the government pardoned or commuted the sentences of more than 5,600 prisoners during the year to mark Muslim and national holidays.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides that the judiciary is “an independent power”; however, in practice the court system was subject to government and religious influence. After the 1979 revolution, the judicial system was revised to conform to an Islamic canon based on the Koran, “Sunna” (the traditions of the Prophet), and other Islamic sources. The constitution provides that the head of the judiciary shall be a cleric chosen by the supreme leader. The head of the Supreme Court and prosecutor-general also must be clerics. Women were barred from serving as certain types of judges.

There are several court systems. The two most active are the traditional courts, which adjudicate civil and criminal offenses, and the Islamic revolutionary courts. The latter try offenses viewed as potentially threatening to the Islamic Republic, including threats to internal or external security, narcotics and economic crimes, and official corruption. A special clerical court examines alleged transgressions within the clerical establishment, and a military court investigates crimes connected with military or security duties. A press court hears complaints against publishers, editors, and writers. The Supreme Court has review authority over some cases, including appeals of death sentences.

Human rights groups reported that the judiciary suppressed political dissent and in practice violated due process rights at every level, including having the right to be promptly charged; having access to legal counsel; being tried before a competent, independent, and impartial court in a public hearing; and having the right of appeal. Detainees were often not informed of their legal status. Numerous observers considered Tehran Public Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi the most notorious persecutor of political dissidents and critics.

According to the civil code, persons under 18 years of age may be prosecuted for crimes as adults, without special procedures, and may be imprisoned with adults. The age of criminal responsibility is set at 15 years for males and nine years for females. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the country is obligated not to execute persons for crimes committed when they were younger than 18. However, during the year the government reportedly tried and executed at least five persons who committed crimes while under the age of 18.

Sina Paymard was to be executed for crimes he committed before the age of 18. He was released permanently in mid-December.

According to a June 26 AI report, during the year 71 juveniles were on death row. According to the law, persons under 18 should be tried in a special juvenile court, but there were reports during the year of juveniles being tried in adult courts.

The government also continued to sentence individuals to execution after reportedly unfair trials. During the year six Ahvazi Arabs were scheduled for execution after trials not considered fair, one of whom was granted refugee status by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the country in January 2005 to suspend execution of juvenile offenders.

Trial Procedures

Many aspects of the prerevolutionary judicial system survive in the civil and criminal courts. For example, in theory defendants have the right to a public trial, a lawyer of their choice, and right of appeal. However, these rights were not respected in practice. Panels of judges adjudicate trials. There is no jury system in the civil and criminal courts. In the press court, a council of 11 persons specifically selected by the court adjudicates the case. If postrevolutionary statutes do not address a situation, the government advises judges to give precedence to their knowledge and interpretation of Islamic law.

According to the law, defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence, but this often does not occur in practice. Trials are supposed to be open to the public; however, frequently they are closed and defendants often were not given access to a lawyer. The right to appeal is often denied. In practice, defendants are often denied access to legal representation until initial investigations are completed and charges are brought; the period of initial investigation often lasted weeks or months. “Confessions” were often reportedly coerced during investigations. There were also reports during the year that people who were not detained but summoned for interrogation by security or judiciary officials were threatened with repercussions–inferring either detention or charges–if they sought legal representation.

UN representatives, including UNSRs, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and independent human rights organizations noted the absence of procedural safeguards in criminal trials.

Numerous human rights groups condemned trials in the revolutionary courts for their disregard of international standards of fairness. Revolutionary court judges were chosen in part due to their ideological commitment to the system. Pretrial detention often was prolonged, and defendants lacked access to attorneys. Authorities often charged individuals with relatively undefined crimes, such as “anti-revolutionary behavior,” “moral corruption,” and “siding with global arrogance.” Defendants did not have the right to confront their accusers. Secret or summary trials of only five minutes’ duration occurred frequently. Other trials were deliberately designed to publicize a coerced confession, and there were allegations of corruption.

The legitimacy of the special clerical court system continued to be subject to debate. The clerical courts, which investigate offenses and crimes committed by clerics and which are overseen directly by the supreme leader, are not provided for in the constitution and operated outside the domain of the judiciary. According to an AI report during the year, defendants could only be represented by clerics nominated by the court, who are not required to be legally qualified. AI reported that in some cases the defendant was unable to find a person among the nominated clerics willing to act as defense counsel and was tried without legal representation. In particular, critics alleged clerical courts were used to prosecute clerics for expressing controversial ideas and participating in activities outside the sphere of religion, such as journalism or reformist political activities.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

No accurate estimates were available regarding the number of citizens imprisoned for their political beliefs. In 2003 the UN Special Representative for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion estimated the number to be in the hundreds. Although there were few details, the government reportedly arrested, convicted, and executed persons on questionable criminal charges, including drug trafficking, when their actual “offenses” were political. The government charged members of religious minorities with crimes such as “confronting the regime” and apostasy and conducted trials in these cases in the same manner as threats to national security.

Political prisoners occasionally were given suspended sentences or released for short or extended furloughs prior to completion of their sentences but could be ordered back to prison at any time. These suspended sentences were often used to silence and intimidate individuals. The government also controlled political activists by holding a file in the courts that could be opened at any time and and attempted to intimidate them by calling them in repeatedly for questioning.

Political prisoners were routinely held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, and denied due process and access to legal representation. Political prisoners were also at greater risk of torture and abuse while in detention. The government did not permit access by international humanitarian organizations.

There were reports that the government held some persons in prison for years charged with sympathizing with outlawed groups, such as the terrorist organization, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK).

On August 18, security forces again detained Azeri human rights lawyer Saleh Kamrani and did not inform his family of his whereabouts until August 21. At year’s end, there was no information about any charges brought against him, and he remained detained in Evin Prison. Authorities previously arrested Kamrani in June 2006 and sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment for “propaganda against the system.” The sentence was suspended for five years, and he was released in September 2006.

On September 9, security forces arrested political activist Abbas Khorsandi at his home in Firuzkuh, Tehran province and detained him in Evin Prison. He was previously imprisoned in 2005. No known charges have been filed.

Also on September 9, one female and four male activists were arrested. No known charges have been filed and it was unknown where they were being held.

On September 12, officials from the Special Court for the Clergy reportedly arrested Hadi Qabel, a reformist cleric and member of the reformist political group Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), at his home. According to a September AI report, the location of his detention remained unknown. More than 580 activists and academics reportedly released a statement calling for Qabel’s release, which according to press descriptions, called Qabel’s and other arrests an attempt by the government to create a “suffocating environment” in advance of the 2008 Majles elections. On October 29, authorities released Qabel on bail.

On October 14, security forces arrested human rights lawyer Emadoldin Baghi, head of the Society for the Defense of Prisoner’s Rights. Baghi’s wife and daughter were also reportedly sentenced on similar charges to three years in prison, suspended for five years. Previously on July 31, authorities sentenced Baghi to three years in prison, according to his lawyer. Authorities charged him with “propaganda against the system” and “assembly and collusion with the aim of committing offenses against the country’s national security,” his lawyer stated, adding that the charges were based on media interviews Baghi gave about executions in Ahvaz. At year’s end, Baghi’s health deteriorated after suffering a heart attack. Authorities temporarily treated him at a hospital before returning him to prison.

On November 8, security forces detained Ali Nikunesbati, spokesman for the student group Office for Consolidating Unity. The government did not inform his family of the charges. In July authorities previously arrested and released him on bail for his role in student protests. At year’s end he remained detained.

In July 2006 authorities rearrested student activist Ahmad Batebi, who had been released from prison for medical treatment in 2005. Batebi was involved in the 1999 Tehran student protest, and his photo was published in several international news outlets. Subsequently, authorities sentenced Batebi to death in 1999, a sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison. Batebi reportedly was severely beaten and harshly interrogated while in prison and consequently suffered from health problems. At year’s end, Batebi remained imprisoned in Evin Prison.

In October 2006 police arrested dissident cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi at his home, reportedly after he had come under increased pressure from the government to separate religion and politics. According to press reports, more than 70 of his supporters were arrested in September and October 2006. Boroujerdi has reportedly been arrested and imprisoned several times since 1992 and has claimed that he was tortured and threatened with execution. According to AI, all but two of his arrested followers have been released from prison. At year’s end Boroujerdi remained in Evin Prison, where he is reportedly in ill health and may not have access to medical care.

In June 2006 security officials arrested Azeri activist Abbas Lisani following a protest demonstration and charged him with “holding rallies against the state system.” According to AI, in September 2006 Lisani was sentenced to sixteen months in prison and 50 lashes. According to a press report quoting Lisani’s wife, he was transferred from Ardabil prison to a prison in Tabriz to serve the remainder of his sentence. At year’s end, he remained in prison.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The judiciary was nominally independent from the executive and legislative branches but remained under the influence of executive and religious government authorities. The head of the judiciary was appointed by the supreme leader, who in turn appointed the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor. According to the constitution, under the supervision of the head of the judiciary, the Court of Administrative Justice investigates the grievances of citizens with regard to government officials, organs, and statutes. In practice, however, citizens’ ability to sue the government was limited. It appeared that citizens were not able to bring lawsuits against the government for civil or human rights violations. Dispute resolution councils are available to settle minor civil and criminal cases through mediation before referral to courts.

Property Restitution

The constitution allows the government to confiscate property acquired either illicitly or in a manner not in conformance with Islamic law. The UNSR on Adequate Housing noted religious minorities, including members of the Baha’i faith, were particularly affected. The UNSR’s June 2006 report noted the “abusive use of [the law] is seen as an instrument for confiscating property of individuals as a form of retribution for their political and/or religious beliefs.” The report noted documentation of approximately 640 Baha’i properties confiscated since 1980, instances of numerous undocumented cases, and court verdicts declaring confiscation of property from the “evil sect of the Baha’i” legally and religiously justifiable. Rights of members of the Baha’i faith were not recognized under the constitution, and they had no avenue to seek restitution of or compensation for confiscated property.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution states that “reputation, life, property, (and) dwelling(s)” are protected from trespass except as “provided by law;” however, the government routinely infringed on these rights. Security forces monitored the social activities of citizens, entered homes and offices, monitored telephone conversations and internet communications, and opened mail without court authorization. There were widespread reports that the homes and offices of reformist journalists were entered, searched, or ransacked by government agents in an attempt to intimidate them.

Vigilante violence included attacking young persons considered too “un-Islamic” in their dress or activities, invading private homes, abusing unmarried couples, and disrupting concerts. During the year, the government intensified its crackdown on “un-Islamic dress” or “bad hijab.” In June, according to deputy police chief Hossein Zolfaghri, the government brought a total of 2,265 cases, against men and women, to the judiciary for trial on the charge of noncompliance with the Islamic dress code. According to a domestic press report, during the year the government warned more than 527,000 persons and arrested more than 20,000 persons, who were then released conditionally. Police denied the use of force in these instances, but there were reports that force was used, including one widely-circulated image of a girl’s face covered in blood after being beaten by police for un-Islamic dress. According to press reports, the Tehran police chief said that the girl had “instigated the incident herself.”

There were also reports during the year that the Ministry of Intelligence pressured families of political prisoners, banning them from speaking to foreign press and blocking their telephone conversations.

Authorities entered homes to remove television satellite dishes, although the vast majority of satellite dishes in individual homes reportedly continued to operate. In late 2006 there were press reports that the government increased its confiscation of satellite dishes.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, except when it is deemed “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public….” In practice the government severely restricted freedom of speech and of the press. Basic legal safeguards for freedom of expression did not exist, and the independent press was subjected to arbitrary enforcement measures by the government, notably the judiciary. Censorship, particularly self-censorship, limited dissemination of information during the year. According to the Tehran-based Association for Advocating Freedom of Press, state pressure on journalists continued to increase after President Ahmadi-Nejad assumed office in 2005. Journalists were frequently threatened and sometimes killed as a consequence of their work.

The penal code states that “anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state” can be imprisoned up to a year; the law does not define “propaganda.” The press law forbids censorship but also forbids disseminating information that may damage the Islamic Republic or offend its leaders and religious authorities. It also subjects writers to prosecution for instigating crimes against the state or “insulting” Islam; the latter offense is punishable by death.

On September 30, according to news reports, deputy interior minister and head of Commission 10 on political parties Ali Reza Afshar announced that “publications and other media outlets are forbidden from writing about parties or political groups that have not obtained a license from Commission 10 on political parties.” This action follows other reports of government efforts to limit political debate and the spread of information in advance of the 2008 Majles elections. There were similar reports in 2006 that the Supreme National Security Council warned editors-in-chief not to publish political analysis that differed from the country’s official policy.

The 1985 press law established the Press Supervisory Board, which was responsible for issuing press licenses and examining complaints filed against publications or individual journalists, editors, or publishers. In certain cases the board referred complaints to the press court for further action, including closure. Its hearings were conducted in public with a jury composed of appointed clerics, government officials, and editors of government-controlled newspapers. The press law also allows government entities to act as complainants against newspapers, and often public officials lodged criminal complaints against reformist newspapers that led to their closures. Offending writers were subjected to lawsuits and fines. Some human rights groups asserted that the increasingly conservative press court assumed responsibility for cases before press supervisory board consideration, often resulting in harsher judgments. Efforts to amend the press laws have not succeeded, although in 2003 parliament passed a law limiting the duration of “temporary” press bans to stop the practice of extending them indefinitely.

On July 7, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Saffar-Harandi warned of a “creeping coup” from the press to overthrow the system. Two days later, the head of the president’s public relations office announced the creation within that office of a special team to confront publications critical of the government.

During the year, numerous publishers, editors, and journalists (including those working on Internet sites) were detained, jailed, tortured, and fined, or they were prohibited from publishing their work. The government imposed significant restrictions on press outlets and banned or blocked some publications that were critical of the government.

In its May report, Freedom House called the press climate in the country “not free,” noting several newspaper closures and the arrests and intimidation of journalists. The head of the Iranian Journalists Guild Association said that during the Iranian year 1385 (March 2006-2007) the Press Supervisory Board banned more than 20 publications. He called the year a “bad period for the press” and characterized the press environment as “negative and oppressive.” Since Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad became president in 2005, approximately 42 publications were suspended and 25 printing licenses revoked. In a September open letter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused President Ahmadi-Nejad of an “appalling record of press freedom violations.” According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), there were at least 12 journalists imprisoned in the country during the year. RSF reported on September 26 that since September 2006, 73 journalists were arrested and at least 20 media outlets were censored.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on February 27, authorities arrested French-Iranian filmmaker Mehrnoushe Solouki for “intent to commit propaganda against the regime” after she discovered a mass grave outside Tehran in the course of her research on the burial rites of some religious minorities. After one month in Evin Prison, she was released on bail but at year’s end was not allowed to leave the country.

On March 26, authorities sentenced economic journalist Ali Farahbakhsh, who wrote for the daily Sarmayeh and the banned reformist dailies Yas-e-now and Shargh, to three years and three months in prison, reportedly on charges of espionage and “stealing from foreigners.” The sentence was later reduced to 11 months. In November 2006 security officials arrested Farahbakhsh upon his return from a civil society conference in Thailand. The charges against him are reportedly related to his acceptance of $2,300 for participating in the conference, which was intended to cover his travel expenses. Farahbakhsh remained in Evin Prison for several months despite a letter from Judiciary Chief Shahrudi ordering his release on bail. On October 9, authorities reportedly conditionally released him, pending an appeal hearing. According to AI, the Association of Iranian Journalists issued an open letter signed by 247 of its members calling attention to flaws in the administration of justice in Farahbakhsh’s case.

In late March the Press Supervisory Board revoked the license of bilingual Kurdish and Persian weekly Payam-e-Kurdistan. It was not clear why the license was revoked.

On April 12, Tehran University law professor and former Majles deputy from Shiraz Ghassem Sholeh Sadi told an international press outlet in an interview that he had been sentenced to 18 months in prison. The sentence is reportedly in connection with an open letter Sholeh Sadi wrote to the supreme leader in 2002, criticizing some of the actions and policies of the government and its leaders. It was not clear whether he was detained.

On May 28, security forces arrested journalist Said Matinpour of Azeri-language weekly Yarpagh and detained him in Evin Prison. According to RSF, there have been no charges filed against him, and he has not been permitted contact with his family or lawyer.

On July 1, Kurdish journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand was reportedly arrested by plainclothes security forces. It was not clear where he was being detained or whether he was permitted contact with his family or legal counsel. Kabudvand, who was also secretary of the Kurdistan Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, wrote for the now-defunct weekly Payam Mardom Kordestan. In September 2006 authorities sentenced him to one year in prison on charges of “inciting the population to rebel against the central state” but according to AI, his current detention was reportedly unconnected to this prison sentence.

On July 3, the general prosecutor ordered the daily Ham-Mihan closed. On May 13, authorities permitted the publication to reopen after being closed since 2000; it published for only 42 days before being closed again.

On July 11, the government closed the wire service Iranian Labor News Agency, reportedly as a result of its reporting on labor strikes in parts of the country.

On July 16, a revolutionary court in the northwestern city of Marivan sentenced Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiva” Boutimar to death on charges of espionage and “acting against national security.” According to RSF, the trials were not public and their lawyers were not permitted to attend. Hassanpour’s interviews with foreign media were reportedly cited by the prosecution. According to December domestic press reports, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Hassanpour but overturned the verdict for Boutimar.

On July 31, security forces arrested journalist Farshad Ghorbanpour and detained him in Evin Prison. He was reportedly charged with “spreading lies against the system” and “giving news to Web sites outside the country.” He was released on bail on August 27. Authorities reportedly also arrested journalist Masoud Bastani and released him one day later. Bastani was reportedly in Evin Prison for several months in 2005 and 2006.

On August 4, security forces arrested journalist Soheil Asefi and detained him in Evin Prison where he was held in solitary confinement. He was reportedly charged with “publishing false news likely to disturb public opinion.” On October 6, authorities released Asefi on bail of $107,000 (1 billion rials).

On August 6, the general prosecutor ordered to close the last major reformist daily Shargh. The ban placed on Shargh in September 2006 was lifted on May 14, but the paper was operational for less than three months before being closed again. The government reportedly closed the newspaper in response to a published interview with a writer accused of being a homosexual activist.

On August 11, the government closed the conservative news Web site Baztab, although the site continued to operate outside of the country. The government also reportedly filtered the Web site earlier in the year. At year’s end, the site was reportedly operating inside the country.

Student groups reported interference with their activities and with student elections and publications. Authorities closed student publications at Amir Kabir University and arrested several students affiliated with the publications in the weeks prior to elections for the Islamic Students Association. Between May 3 and June 6, authorities arrested eight students at Amir Kabir University on charges of “insulting state leaders,” “inciting public opinion,” and “printing inflammatory and derogatory materials” in student publications, according to HRW. On July 18, authorities released five of the students on bail. The Tehran Revolutionary Court gave the other three, Ahmad Ghassaban, Ehsan Mansouri, and Majid Tavakoli, mandatory jail sentences after finding them guilty of collaborating to “print inflammatory and derogatory materials.” The court sentenced Tavakoli to three years in prison, Ghassaban to two-and-a-half years, and Mansouri to two years. At year’s end, they were acquitted of the most serious charges, including insulting Islam. On December 19, the judge sentenced them to four months in prison and ordered their release. At year’s end, prison authorities refused to release them.

In September Tehran prosecutor general Saeed Mortazavi reportedly met with the editors of four reformist newspapers and warned them not to publish articles about the detained student activists from Amir Kabir University. Mortazavi reportedly showed the editors “evidence” of the charges against the students and also threatened to suspend the newspapers if the editors did not comply. Following the incident, more than 100 journalists reportedly released a joint statement protesting Mortazavi’s threats. This follows similar actions in 2006 in which the Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance reportedly jointly instructed the semi-official news outlets Iranian Student News Agency and Iranian Labor News Agency not to report on the arrests and prosecution of student activists without coordinating with those ministries.

Foreign journalists faced harassment. The government required foreign correspondents to provide detailed travel plans and proposed stories before receiving visas. They were also required to hire “fixers” inside the country at high cost. Some were denied visas.

The government, through a state-controlled entity called the Voice and Vision Organization, directly controlled and maintained a monopoly over all television and radio broadcasting facilities; programming reflected the government’s political and socio-religious ideology. Because newspapers and other print media had a limited circulation outside large cities, radio and television served as the principal news source for many citizens. Satellite dishes that received foreign television broadcasts were forbidden; however, many citizens owned them, particularly the wealthy.

The government periodically increased confiscation of illegal satellite dishes in homes. The government blocked foreign satellite transmissions using powerful jamming signals in the past. Separately, the government ruled private broadcasting illegal; cooperation with private broadcasting was also illegal.

The Ministry of Culture must grant permission to publish any book, and it inspected foreign printed materials prior to their domestic release.

Internet Freedom

The government increased control over the Internet during the year as more citizens used it as a source for news and political debate. According to the May 1 Freedom House report, approximately seven million citizens used the Internet, although the Ministry of Communications reported as many as 16 million users, according to domestic press reports. The same Freedom House report noted that beginning in 2006 the government increasingly targeted the Internet.

All Internet service providers (ISPs) must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and Guidance, and the government used filtering software to block access to some Western Web sites, reportedly including the Web sites of prominent Western news organizations and NGOs. According to the Open Net Initiative (ONI), the government issued framing regulations in November 2006 to systematize control and management of Internet activity. ONI also reported that in January the Ministry of Culture and Guidance issued a notice requiring all owners of Web sites and blogs to register with the government by March 1 and to refrain from posting certain types of content.

In August the government announced that it would launch a new Internet police patrol. According to press reports describing the government announcement, the patrol would investigate suspicious advertisements, fraud, and economic and financial offenses.

In April 2006 the Minister of Communications and Information Technology announced the government’s intention to establish a “national Internet,” which would improve on the costly monitoring process that required Web site information to exit the country and then return. In October 2006 the government imposed a limit of 128 kilobytes per second on Internet speed and required ISPs to comply with the limit by decreasing Internet service speed to homes and cafes. The new limit made it more difficult to download Internet material and to circumvent government restrictions to access blocked Web sites.

According to RSF, arrests and intimidation of bloggers decreased in 2006, but Internet censorship increased. In 2006 and during the year the government blocked several Web sites dealing with women’s issues in the country, and women’s groups reportedly launched an online petition to protest Internet filtering. According to press reports, the government claimed to have blocked access to 10 million Internet sites it deemed immoral during the year. A 2005 HRW study listing blocked Internet sites included Farsi-language news sites, some popular sites of Internet writers, the Freedom Movement Party Web site, a Web site promoting the views of Ayatollah Montazeri, several Kurdish Web sites, Web sites dedicated to political prisoners, and a Baha’i Web site.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government significantly restricted academic freedom. In September 2006 President Ahmadi-Nejad called for the removal of secular and liberal professors from universities. Reports indicated dozens of university professors have been dismissed, forced to retire, or denied sabbaticals abroad since 2006. Student groups reported that the government used a “star” system to rank politically active students — each star denoted a negative mark. Students with three stars were reportedly banned from university or prevented from registering for upcoming terms. Government informers were common on university campuses. Additionally, there were reports the government maintained a broad network of student informants in Qom’s major seminaries who reported teaching counter to official government positions.

The government censored cultural events. In 2005 the minister of Islamic culture and guidance promised more stringent controls on books, cinema, and theater, although he indicated the change would not be immediate. He also warned of greater surveillance of “hundreds” of cultural associations. Culture ministry officials also reportedly cancelled more than 30 concerts, and President Ahmadi-Nejad announced a ban on Western music in December 2005. A September 2006 report by a Western NGO noted that censorship by authorities and a culture of self-censorship strongly inhibited artistic expression in the country.

The government also effectively censored domestic films, since it remained the main source of production funding. Producers were required to submit scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding approval. After President Ahmadi-Nejad assumed office in 2005, the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council announced a ban on movies promoting secularism, feminism, unethical behavior, drug abuse, violence, or alcoholism. Films of some domestic directors were not permitted to be shown in the country.

Admission to universities was politicized; all applicants had to pass “character tests” in which officials eliminated applicants critical of the government’s ideology. Some seats in universities continued to be reserved for members of the Basij, regardless of their scores on the national entrance exam. To obtain tenure, professors had to refrain from criticism of the authorities.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The constitution permits assemblies and marches, “provided they do not violate the principles of Islam;” however, in practice the government restricted freedom of assembly and closely monitored gatherings to prevent antigovernment protests. Such gatherings included public entertainment and lectures, student meetings and protests, labor protests, women’s gatherings and protests, funeral processions, and Friday prayer gatherings.

Paramilitary organizations such as the Ansar-e Hizballah, a group of vigilantes who seek to enforce their vision of appropriate revolutionary comportment upon society, harassed, beat, and intimidated those who demonstrated publicly for reform. They particularly targeted university students.

The government continued to prohibit and forcibly disperse peaceful demonstrations during the year.

On March 4, days before International Women’s Day on March 8, police arrested more than 30 women demonstrating outside a Tehran courthouse, protesting the trials of five women’s rights activists charged for peacefully demonstrating in June 2006. All were later released but continued to face harassment by the authorities at year’s end.

On March 14, police forces disrupted a peaceful demonstration by teachers protesting outside the legislature for higher wages. Police reportedly arrested dozens of demonstrators. According to labor rights groups, many teachers received heavy suspended sentences for taking part in these protests.

On May 1, security forces arrested 11 workers attending a demonstration in Sanandaj protesting for labor rights. Each was sentenced to 91 days in prison and ten lashes. Two of the organizers of the rally, Sheys Amini and Sedigh Karimi, were sentenced to 30 months in prison by the Sanandaj criminal court.

On August 9, authorities arrested five members of a Tehran bus drivers’ syndicate, along with some family members, who were demonstrating outside detained labor leader Mansur Osanloo’s house, calling for the release of Osanloo and labor activist Mahmoud Salehi.

On September 25, police reportedly disrupted a peaceful demonstration by workers at a paper factory in Ahvaz who demanded payment of their wages. Police reportedly beat demonstrators, and some required hospitalization.

In late September and early October, police reportedly arrested a number of protesting workers in the western city of Shush, following three days of workers’ protests over unpaid wages.

In early December AI reported that security forces arrested between 20 and 30 students, mostly in Tehran but also in other cities. Authorities detained some of the students before protests on December 7, the country’s national University Student Day; others were arrested after the demonstrations.

Some participants arrested during the 2006 International Women’s Day commemoration remained in prison at year’s end.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for the establishment of political parties, professional associations, Islamic religious groups, and organizations for recognized religious minorities, provided that such groups do not violate the principles of “freedom, sovereignty, and national unity,” or question Islam as the basis of the Islamic Republic; however, the government limited freedom of association in practice.

On April 7, authorities reportedly arrested as many as 45 members of the Hamedan Teachers’ Association, some at an association meeting and some at their homes. Judiciary officials stated that the association was a banned organization. Officials confirmed that 30 of the teachers were freed, but 15 remained in detention at year’s end.

On November 11, security forces arrested Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, General Secretary of the Democratic Iranian Front, a political party, and transferred him to Evin Prison. At year’s end no charges had been filed.

The government’s 2002 dissolution of the Freedom Movement, the country’s oldest opposition party, remained in effect.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution states that the “official religion of Iran is Islam and the doctrine followed is that of Ja’fari (Twelver) Shi’ism.” The constitution also states that “other Islamic denominations are to be accorded full respect” and recognizes the country’s pre-Islamic religions–Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews–as “protected” religious minorities. Article 4 of the constitution states that all laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. The government severely restricted freedom of religion in practice, particularly the Baha’i faith.

The central feature of the country’s Islamic system was rule by the “religious jurisconsult.” Its senior leadership consisted principally of Shi’a clerics, including the supreme leader of the revolution, the head of the judiciary, and members of the Assembly of Experts and the Guardian Council.

During the year, Baha’i students were routinely denied access to university education because of their religion. In 2006, for the first time since 1980, approximately 200 Baha’i students were admitted to universities. However, it was not known if their admission resulted from changed government policy or a change in the use of university application forms. Baha’i groups outside the country reported that most of the students admitted in 2006 were later expelled when their religion became known. On September 20, HRW reported that Baha’i students were denied access to their national matriculation exam scores, which are required for entrance into university. Baha’i groups outside the country also reported a concerted government effort at economic obstruction of Baha’is in the country.

The population is approximately 98 percent Muslim; 89 percent of the population is Shi’a, and 9 percent is Sunni. Baha’i, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities constitute approximately 2 percent of the population. There were indications that members of all religious minorities were emigrating at a high rate, although it was unclear if the reasons for emigration were religious or related to overall poor economic conditions.

The government carefully monitored the statements and views of the country’s senior Muslim religious leaders. It restricted the movement of several religious leaders who had been under house arrest for years, and continued to detain at least one dissident cleric, Ayatollah Boroujerdi, during the year. The government pressured all ranking clerics to ensure their teachings confirmed (or at least did not contradict) government policy and positions. During the year, there were at least three assassinations or assassination attempts against Shi’a clerics by unknown assailants in Khuzestan and Sistan va Baluchestan provinces.

Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority, and the constitution provides them a large degree of religious freedom. Sunni Muslims claimed the government discriminated against them, although it was hard to distinguish whether the cause for discrimination was religious or ethnic since most Sunnis are also ethnic minorities, primarily Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds. As an example of discrimination, Sunnis cited the lack of a Sunni mosque in Tehran, despite more than a million Sunni inhabitants.

Members of the country’s non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Baha’is, reported imprisonment, harassment, and intimidation based on their religious beliefs.

All religious minorities suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in employment, education, and housing. In June 2006 the UNSR for Adequate Housing visited the country and reported that rural land, particularly that belonging to minorities, including many Baha’is, was expropriated for government use, and owners were not fairly compensated. With the exception of Baha’is, the government allowed recognized religious minorities to conduct religious education of their adherents, although it restricted this right considerably in some cases, including Mandeans.

Religious minorities were barred from election to a representative body, except for the five Majles seats reserved for recognized religious minorities (two for the Armenian Christians, and one each for the Assyrian Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians), and from holding senior government or military positions, but they were allowed to vote. Although the constitution mandates an Islamic army, members of religious minorities served in the military, although non-Muslim promotions were limited by a military restriction against non-Muslims commanding Muslims. Reportedly non-Muslims can be officers during their mandatory military service but cannot be career military officers.

The legal system previously discriminated against recognized religious minorities in relation to blood money; however, in 2004 the Expediency Council authorized collection of equal blood money for the death of Muslim and non-Muslim men. All women and Baha’i and Sabean-Mandean men remained excluded from the revised ruling. According to the law, Baha’i blood is considered mobah, meaning it can be spilled with impunity.

Inheritance laws favored Muslim family members over non-Muslims. For example, under existing inheritance laws, if a non-Muslim converted to Islam, that person would inherit all family holdings while non-Muslim relatives would receive nothing.

Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims was illegal. The government did not ensure the right of citizens to change or recant their religion. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, was punishable by death, although there were no reported instances of the death penalty being applied for apostasy during the year.

Baha’is were considered apostates because of their claim to a religious revelation subsequent to that of the Prophet Mohammed. The government defined the Baha’i faith as a political “sect” linked to the Pahlavi monarchy and Israel and, therefore, counterrevolutionary. Baha’i organizations outside the country warned that the government intensified a strategy of intimidation against Baha’is. The country’s estimated 300,000 to 350,000 Baha’is were not allowed to teach or practice their faith or to maintain links with coreligionists abroad. The government continued to imprison and detain Baha’is based on their religious beliefs. A 2001 Justice Ministry report indicated the existence of a government policy to eventually eliminate the Baha’i community.

In March 2006 the UNSR on Freedom of Religion and Belief expressed concern about allegations that security forces were monitoring and gathering information about the Baha’i community. Baha’i groups reported the government was collecting names of Baha’is across the country, and there was an increase of anti-Baha’i editorials in pro-government newspapers.

Between May 2006 and January, the government reportedly arrested 63 Baha’is. As of November, three remained in prison. The government did not formally charge many of the others but released them after they posted bail. For some, bail was in the form of deeds of property; others gained their release in exchange for personal guarantees or work licenses.

There were also reports of attacks on Baha’is by unidentified assailants, including the killings of two elderly Baha’i women. On February 16, a masked intruder killed an 85-year-old Baha’i woman, Behnam Saltanat Akhzari, in her home. The following day, a masked intruder assaulted a 77-year-old Baha’i woman, Shah Beygom Dehghani, in her home, and she died on March 7.

On January 1, security officials arrested two Baha’i men, Riaz Heravi and Siamak Ebrahimi, and detained them for 20 and 30 days, respectively. No details were available about the reasons for their arrests, although a Baha’i group noted that the two coordinated events for their Baha’i community.

In May 2006 security forces temporarily arrested 54 Baha’is in Shiraz while they were teaching in an educational program for underprivileged children. According to Baha’i organizations outside the country, they had an official permit to conduct such teachings. In August the court orally accused the 54 of “indirectly” teaching the Baha’i faith. The court gave all but three suspended sentences of one year in prison for “forming illegal groups” and “propagating on behalf of groups opposed to the government.” The court sentenced the remaining three, Raha Sabet, Sasan Taqva, and Haleh Roohi to four years’ imprisonment each: three years for “organizing illegal groups” and one year for “teaching on behalf of groups opposed to the government.” They were detained on November 19.

Sufi organizations outside the country previously expressed concern about government repression of their religious practices, and during the year there were arrests in Qom, a center of orthodox Shi’ism, after calls by Shi’a clerics for restrictions on local Sufis.

On May 21, security forces detained Sufi leader Nurali Tabandeh (also known as Majzub Ali Shah) of the Nematollah Gonabadi Sufi order in the northeastern city of Gonabad. Intelligence officials had reportedly warned Tabandeh earlier in the year to leave the city, but he refused. The Nematollah Gonabadi order was reportedly one of the largest Sufi groups in the country. In February 2006 authorities arrested 1,200 Sufi worshippers and closed a Sufi house of worship.

On May 4, 52 Sufis were sentenced to one year in prison, fines, and lashes (ultimately reduced to fines) in connection with the February 2006 incident. Their lawyers, Farshid Yadollahi and Omid Behrouzi, were also sentenced and banned from practicing law for five years.

On November 11, authorities arrested 180 Sufis in the western city of Boroujerd. Members of a Sufi lodge in Boroujerd reportedly attacked a nearby Shi’a mosque after clerics from that mosque called for their lodge to be shut down. Police entered the lodge to make arrests, and violent clashes between the Sufis and police ensued. Parts of the lodge were reportedly destroyed during the clashes. It was not clear what charges may have been brought against the 180 arrested or whether they remained in detention at year’s end.

The majority of the approximately 300,000 Christians in the country were ethnic Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans. Protestant denominations and evangelical churches existed and reported restrictions on their activities. The authorities became particularly vigilant in recent years in curbing proselytizing activities by evangelical Christians. Some unofficial 2004 estimates indicated that there were approximately 100,000 Muslim-born citizens who had converted to Christianity. The UNSR estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Christians emigrated each year; however, given the continued exodus from the country for economic and social reasons, it was difficult to establish the role religion played in the choice to emigrate.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The continuous presence of the country’s pre-Islamic, non-Muslim communities, such as Zoroastrians, Jews, Sabean-Mandeans, and Christians, accustomed the population to the participation of non-Muslims in society; however, government actions continued to support elements of society who created a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities.

Sunni Muslims and Christians encountered societal and religious discrimination and harassment at the local, provincial, and national levels.

There were reports that Mandeans experienced discrimination in the form of pressure to convert to Islam and problems accessing higher education.

There was concern from several groups about the rumored resurgence of the banned Hojjatiyeh Society, a secretive religious-economic group that was founded in 1953 to rid the country of the Baha’i faith in order to hasten the return of the 12th Imam (the Mahdi). Although not a government organization and officially banned, it was believed that many members of the administration were Hojjatiyeh members and were using their offices to advance the society’s goals. However, it was unknown what role, if any, the group played in the arrests of numerous Baha’is during the year. Many Baha’i human rights groups and news agencies described the goals of the Hojjatiyeh Society as the eradication of the Baha’is, not just the Baha’i faith. The group’s anti-Baha’i orientation reportedly widened to encompass anti-Sunni and anti-Sufi activities as well.

The government’s anti-Israel stance, in particular the president’s numerous speeches against Israel stating the “Zionist regime” should be eliminated, and the perception among many citizens that Jewish citizens supported Zionism and Israel, created a threatening atmosphere for the community. Since his election in 2005, President Ahmadi-Nejad has publicly questioned the historical validity of the Holocaust and called for the removal of the Jewish state from the Middle East. He continued to make similar statements during the year, stating on June 3 that “the countdown for [Israel’s] collapse has begun”.

According to the Middle East Research Institute, state TV broadcasted two shows hosting a Holocaust denier or content deemed anti-Semitic. State television also broadcasted “Zero Degree Turn,” portraying a young Iranian diplomat’s efforts to help European Jews during World War II.

In April, according to local media, the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) television network replied to a 2005 complaint from the sole Jewish member of parliament (MP), who asserted that the IRIB network transmitted anti-Semitic programs. The letter was read in the Majles and stated that its programming was based on “research and documentary evidence” and claimed that IRIB’s programming gave more attention to positive Jewish characters than negative ones.

Newspapers in the country reportedly continued to publish anti-Semitic cartoons, but fewer were published than in the previous year. In November 2006 the newspaper Hamshahri cosponsored a Holocaust-denial cartoon contest in which the paper solicited submissions from around the world and awarded a $12,000 (approximately 112,000 rials) prize to a Moroccan cartoonist who drew a picture of an Israeli crane erecting a wall of concrete blocks around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site. The blocks bear sections of a photograph of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In December 2006 the government sponsored a conference entitled, “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision.” This conference was widely criticized as it sought to provide a forum for those who deny the existence or scope of the Holocaust. Speakers at the conference universally called for the elimination or delegitimization of the state of Israel and alleged that the Holocaust did not occur or was an exaggeration used by Jews for political and financial gains. The conference was followed by the establishment of the World Foundation for Holocaust Studies, run by a committee of Holocaust deniers.

In May 2006 a local magazine published photos of synagogues draped in U.S. and Israeli flags and claimed they were in Tehran and Shiraz when in fact they were outside of the country. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations followed in Shiraz. The Jewish MP protested in the Majles and was supported by the Speaker of the Majles, Gholam Ali Hadded Adel, who reprimanded the magazine.

In recent years the government made the education of Jewish children more difficult by limiting distribution of non-religious Hebrew texts and requiring several Jewish schools to remain open on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. There were limits on the level to which Jews could rise professionally, particularly in government.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2007 International Religious Freedom Report.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The government placed some restrictions on these rights. Citizens could travel within the country and change their place of residence without obtaining official permission. The government required exit permits for foreign travel for all citizens. Some citizens, particularly those whose skills were in short supply and who were educated at government expense, had to post bonds to obtain exit permits. The government restricted the foreign travel of certain individual members of religious minorities and several religious leaders, as well as some scientists in sensitive fields. The government also confiscated passports and placed travel bans on several journalists, academics, and activists.

For example, on January 25, authorities confiscated the passport of an Iranian-American. She faced regular interrogations, court hearings, and allegations of “propaganda against the establishment.” On September 4, authorities returned her passport, and she left the country on September 18.

Hojjatoleslam Ezimi Qedimi remained under a five-year overseas travel ban following his release in August 2006 after serving five months in prison on a conviction of “propagandizing in favor of groups and organizations against the system.”

Many dissidents practiced self-imposed exile in order to freely express their beliefs.

Citizens returning from abroad occasionally were subjected to searches and extensive questioning by government authorities for evidence of antigovernment activities abroad. Recorded and printed material, personal correspondence, and photographs were subject to confiscation.

Women must obtain the permission of their husband, father, or other male relative to obtain a passport. Married women must receive written permission from their husbands before leaving the country.

The government did not use forced external exile, and no information was available regarding whether the law prohibits such exile; however, the government used internal exile as a punishment.

The government offered amnesty to rank-and-file members of the Iranian terrorist organization, MEK, residing outside the country. Subsequently, the ICRC assisted with voluntarily repatriating at least 12 MEK affiliates in Iraq under MNF-I (Multinational Force Iraq) protective supervision during the year.

Protection of Refugees

The law provides means for granting asylum or refugee status to qualified applicants in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. The government established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR reportedly complained that government authorities pressured Afghan refugees to return to Afghanistan by suspending education and medical services and revoking residence permits. The government, facing a slow economy and citing national security concerns, accused many Afghans of drug and human trafficking and ethnic terrorist violence. There were some reports of forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. There were reports of a small number of registered refugees deported among the large scale deportation of illegal Afghan migrants that commenced in April.

No information was available on government policy regarding temporary protection for individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention or its 1967 protocol.

In April the government began a major effort to deport illegal Afghan migrants. Between April and June the government reportedly deported at least 100,000 Afghans. According to HRW, many of those deported received no warning that they were being deported, and many were separated from their families or were given very little time to collect belongings and wages. Other deportees claimed they were beaten, detained, or required to perform forced labor for several days before being deported. According to UNHCR, the deportations continued, although the scale decreased toward the end of the summer. Among the deportees were some vulnerable individuals and families who needed humanitarian assistance upon arrival in Afghanistan. By year’s end, the government had reportedly deported over 363,000 Afghans during the year, a small number of whom were reportedly registered refugees. The government claimed that registered refugees who were deported will be permitted to return to Iran; however, no coordinated returns took place.

On December 1, UNHCR estimated that there were 915,000 registered Afghan refugees in the country. In March, Iran, Afghanistan, and the UNHCR extended the existing Tripartite Agreement until March 2008.

In 2005 the government imposed regulations specific to Afghan refugees that increased fines for employers of Afghans without work permits and made it difficult for Afghans to obtain mortgages, rent, own property, and open bank accounts. At year’s end the regulations remained in effect.

There was no further information available on whether the government repatriated the imprisoned Afghans to whom the judiciary granted amnesty in 2005.

Although the government claimed to host more than 30,000 refugees of other nationalities during the year, including Tajiks, Uzbeks, Bosnians, Azeris, Iraqis, Eritreans, Somalis, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis, it did not provide information about them, nor did it allow UNHCR or other organizations access to them. A Western NGO reported that few international humanitarian agencies operated in the country because the government restricted their operations and did not allow UNHCR to fund them.

Stateless Persons

According to the country’s civil code, citizenship was derived from birth in the country or from the male parent. Citizenship could be acquired upon the fulfillment of the following criteria: persons were at least age 18, lived in the country for more than five years, were not military service escapees, and had not been convicted of a major crime in the country of origin or country of residence. It was likely that there were stateless persons in the country during the year. The Iraqi and Iranian governments continued to dispute Iraqi refugees’ citizenship, rendering many of them stateless. Further information about the numbers of individuals or the reason behind their statelessness was unknown.

During the past few years, a large percentage of Iraqi refugees were voluntarily repatriated. UNHCR estimated that in 2006 there were approximately 54,000 Iraqi refugees, the majority Iraqi Kurds but also some Shi’a Arabs, in the country.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Elections and Political Participation

The government severely restricted citizens’ right to change their government through free and fair elections. The supreme leader, the recognized head of state, is elected by the Assembly of Experts and can only be removed by a vote of this assembly. The assembly was composed of 86 members and was restricted to clerics, who served an eight-year term and were chosen by popular vote from a list approved by the Guardian Council. There was no separation of state and religion, and clerical influence pervades the government.

According to the constitution, a presidential candidate must be elected from among religious and political personalities (“rejal,” which is interpreted by the Guardian Council to mean men only), of Iranian origin, Shi’a Muslim faith, and who believe in the Islamic Republic’s system and principles. The Guardian Council was composed of 12 members, six clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six religious jurists appointed by the head of the judiciary. The Guardian Council reviewed all laws for consistency with Islamic law and the constitution, and had “approbatory supervision” to screen candidates for election. The Guardian Council rejected all candidates it deemed unqualified and only accepted candidates who supported a theocratic state. The supreme leader also approved the candidacy of presidential candidates, with the exception of an incumbent president. Prior to the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council vetoed legislation that would have required it to reinstate disqualified candidates unless the council legally documented their exclusion. Regularly scheduled elections were held for the presidency, the Majles, and the Assembly of Experts, as well as municipal councils.

In December 2006 there were elections for the Assembly of Experts, municipal councils, and Majles by-elections. These elections were neither free nor fair, as the Guardian Council disqualified candidates based on ideological background. The parliamentary election commission and Guardian Council disqualified hundreds of potential candidates, largely reformists. Only 144 of the 492 prospective candidates were deemed eligible to run in the December 2006 Assembly of Experts elections. In the Assembly of Experts elections, Expediency Council chair Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative, received the most votes in the Tehran constituency by a significant margin. Reports indicated that 100 candidates withdrew their applications, and all female candidates failed the written exam on religious interpretation (“ijtihad”) and were disqualified.

The fairness of the 2005 presidential election was undermined both before and during the polls. The Guardian Council initially approved the candidacies of only six of the 1,014 persons who registered and excluded all 89 female candidates as well as anyone critical of the leadership, including former cabinet ministers. During the polling, many candidates and the interior ministry complained of irregularities, including interference by Basij forces. There were no international election observers. After the second round of voting, the supreme leader denied the allegations of Basij involvement, and the Guardian Council validated the results. Domestic press reported that 104 cases of alleged violations were under review and suspects were detained in 26 cases; however, no further action was taken. According to official statistics, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad won the run-off race with 61 percent of the votes.

In 2004 elections that were widely perceived as neither free nor fair were held for the 290-seat Majles. The Guardian Council barred over a third of the more than 8,000 prospective candidates, mostly reformists, including over 85 sitting Majles members seeking re-election.

The constitution allows for the formation of political parties. There were more than 100 registered political organizations, but these groups tended to be small entities, often focused around an individual and did not have nationwide membership. Political groupings significantly reorganized after the June 2005 presidential elections, with new groups forming and existing entities changing leadership. Conservative groups continued to splinter during the year; moderate conservatives appeared increasingly separated from fundamentalist conservatives. In the December 2006 municipal elections, reform groups created a single electoral list for the Tehran municipal council elections.

There were reports that the government placed significant restrictions on election campaigning, reportedly forbidding candidates to post banners, hold rallies, or hand out flyers until only days before the elections. The interior ministry banned newspapers from reporting on parties that were not registered with the ministry.

There were no female cabinet ministers, although one of the nine vice presidents was a woman, and several women held high-level positions. There were 13 women serving in the Majles during the year. Five Majles seats were reserved for the recognized religious minorities. Other ethnic minorities in the Majles included Arabs and Kurds. There were no non-Muslims in the cabinet or on the Supreme Court.

Government Corruption and Transparency

The Worldwide Governance Indicators of the World Bank reflect that corruption was a serious problem. Widespread corruption existed in all three branches of government, including the judiciary and the “bonyads” (tax-exempt foundations designed for charitable activity that control consortia of substantial companies).

In August 2006 the Majles passed a law requiring all state officials, including cabinet ministers, and members of the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, and Assembly of Experts, to submit annual financial statements to the state inspectorate. There was no information available reguarding whether these government officials obeyed the law.

There was no information during the year regarding further government action on corruption cases from previous years that Judiciary Chief Shahrudi previously claimed the judiciary was pursuing.

There were no laws providing for public access to government information.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The government continued to restrict the work of local human rights groups. The government denied the universality of human rights and stated that human rights issues should be viewed in the context of a country’s “culture and beliefs.”

During the year, the local NGO the Society for the Defense of the Rights of Prisoners maintained a Web site with information addressing human rights issues and in June 2006 published a report about prisons in the country. There was no indication during the year that Judiciary Chief Shahrudi responded to the group’s appeal for attention to cases of political prisoners.

Various professional groups representing writers, journalists, photographers, and others attempted to monitor government restrictions in their respective fields, as well as harassment and intimidation against individual members of their professions. However, the government severely curtailed these groups’ ability to meet, organize, and effect change.

Domestic NGOs worked in areas such as health and population, women’s rights, development, youth, environmental protection, human rights, and sustainable development. Some reports estimated that a few thousand local NGOs operated during the year. However, in 2005 a more restrictive environment accompanied the new presidential administration, including pressure on domestic NGOs not to accept foreign grants. In March the revolutionary court reportedly shut down the offices of three prominent civil society and women’s rights NGOs, the Iran Civil Society Organizations Training and Research Center, the Raahi Legal Center, and the NGOs Training Center. During the year activists affiliated with the organizations, Sohrab Razzaghi, Shadi Sadr, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh were detained and faced charges related to their NGO activities. Two Iranian-American scholars were jailed because of their work for foreign NGOs.

In November 2006 the European Union (EU) Parliament, which had a human rights dialogue with the government from 2002-2004, called on the country to restart the dialogue, but the government did not respond. On May 25, the EU Presidency declared itself “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating human rights situation, noting that it was “particularly troubled about the recent wave of arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists.”

International human rights NGOs were not permitted to establish offices in or conduct regular investigative visits to the country. The last visit by an international human rights NGO was AI’s visit in 2004 as part of the EU’s human rights dialogue.

The ICRC and the UNHCR both operated in the country with some restrictions. In June 2006 the government allowed the UNSR on Adequate Housing to visit.

The December 18 UNGA resolution on the country’s human rights record expressed “very serious concern” at a number of ongoing abuses, including confirmed instances of torture, executions by stoning, and sentences of execution by stoning. The resolution called on the government to heed the recommendations of the past four resolutions and permit special procedures to visit the country to assess how the government is addressing their recommendations. No such visit has taken place under these recommended special procedures since July 2005.

During the year, the supreme leader established a human rights committee, chaired by the judiciary chief, with members including the ministers of intelligence, interior, foreign affairs, justice, and culture, as well as other judicial and military officials. The committee was not considered effective. In one of his first public statements as secretary of the committee, Mohammad Javad Larijani defended death by stoning as a punishment for adultery, but stated that the punishment is nonetheless rarely carried out in the country.

The Center for the Defense of Human Rights, founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, remained banned.

In 2006 hundreds of NGOs were left without legal status after they were instructed to file for new permits. Those NGOs that did not file the request were vulnerable to accusations of operating without a permit, and many of the applications that were filed were reportedly left pending indefinitely. In either instance they could be accused of operating without a permit. According to domestic press reports, the interior ministry stated on September 4 that 219 permits for NGOs had been authorized since 2005. The government granted 22 in 2007, 145 in 2006, and 52 in 2005. The interior ministry stated it processed 600 applications and that 300 were still pending.

Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

In general the government did not discriminate on the basis of race, disability, or social status; however, it did discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, and ethnicity. It consistently denied minorities their constitutional right to study and use their language in schools, particularly Kurds, Azeris, and Ahvazi Arabs. The poorest areas of the country were those inhabited by ethnic minorities, including the Baluchis in Sistan va Baluchestan Province and Arabs in the southwest. Much of the damage suffered by the citizens of Khuzestan Province during the eight-year war with Iraq has not been repaired; consequently, the quality of life of the largely Arab local population was poor.

Women

The constitution says all citizens, both men and women, equally enjoy protection of the law and all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic rights.

Nonetheless, provisions in the Islamic civil and penal codes, in particular those sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women. Shortly after the 1979 revolution, the government repealed the 1967 Family Protection Law that provided women with increased rights in the home and workplace and replaced it with a legal system based largely on Shari’a practices. In 1998 the Majles passed legislation that mandated segregation of the sexes in the provision of medical care. In 2003 the Council of Guardians rejected a bill that would require the country to adopt a UN convention ending discrimination against women.

In April the revolutionary courts sentenced Parvin Ardalan, Nushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Sussan Tahmasebi, Shahla Entessari, and Fariba Davoudi Mohajer to between two and four years in prison for “acting against national security” for organizing a June 2006 women’s rights rally. The courts suspended some portions of some sentences.

The government continued to arrest and detain members of the “One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws,” which activists launched in 2006 to promote women’s rights. On July 11, security forces detained Amir Yaghoub Ali for collecting signatures for the campaign in Tehran’s Andishe Park. Security forces detained him in section 209 of Evin Prison. On August 8, authorities released him on bail after four weeks in custody. It was not known what, if any, charges were brought against him.

On July 2, authorities sentenced women’s rights activist Delaram Ali to 20 lashes and two years and 10 months in prison for her participation in a June 2006 women’s rights rally. The judge charged her with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the system.” Following international protests, on November 4, the judiciary reduced her sentence to 10 lashes and two and a half years in prison and on November 10, authorities temporarily suspended her sentence.

On August 12, authorities sentenced Nasim Sarbandi and Fatemeh Dehdashti to six months in prison and two-year suspended sentences reportedly for collecting signatures for the One Million Signatures campaign at a Tehran train station.

On October 9, authorities arrested Ronak Safarzadeh in the city of Sanandaj for collecting signatures for the One Million Signatures campaign.

On November 4, student Hana Abdi was also arrested for collecting signatures for the One Million Signatures campaign. No known charges were filed, and both Abdi and Safarzadeh remained in prison at year’s end.

On November 18, authorities arrested women’s rights activist and journalist Maryam Hosseinkhah. She was accused of “propaganda against the system.” Hosseinkhah was one of the publishers of Zanestan Web site, which was shut down on November 17. She reportedly remained in detention in Evin Prison, unable to meet the $107,000 (1 billion rials) bail. Authorities reportedly denied her lawyer access to the details of her case.

On December 1, authorities arrested women’s rights activist Jelveh Javaheri following an interrogation at the security branch of the revolutionary court. Authorities reportedly charged her with “inciting public opinion,” “propaganda against the system,” and “publishing false information.”

The government Center for Women and Family continued to publish reports on feminism with a negative slant and limited the debate on women’s issues to only those related to the home.

Although spousal abuse and violence against women occurred, reliable statistics were not available. Abuse in the family was considered a private matter and seldom discussed publicly, although there were some efforts to change this attitude. Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, but it remained a problem. There was no further information on the activity of the Center for Women’s Participation committee, based in the health ministry, to combat violence against women.

According to a 2004 report on the country from the Independent Researchers on Women’s Issues, there were no reliable statistics on honor killings, but there was evidence of “rampant” honor killings in the western and southwestern provinces, in particular Khuzestan and Elam. The punishment for perpetrators was often a short prison sentence.

Prostitution is illegal, but “sigheh,” or temporary marriage, is legal. Accurate information regarding the extent of prostitution was not widely available. Press reports described prostitution as a widespread problem, with a media estimate of 300,000 women working as prostitutes. The problem appeared aggravated by difficult economic conditions and rising numbers of drug users and runaway children.

Although a male can marry at age 15 without parental consent, the 1991 civil law states that a virgin female needs the consent of her father or grandfather to wed, or the court’s permission, even if she is older than 18. The country’s Islamic law permits a man to have up to four wives and an unlimited number of temporary partnerships (sigheh), based on a Shi’a custom in which a woman may become the wife of a Muslim male after a simple religious ceremony and a civil contract outlining the union’s conditions. Temporary marriages may last for any length of time and are used sometimes by prostitutes. Such wives were not granted rights associated with traditional marriage.

Women have the right to divorce if the husband signed a contract granting that right or if he cannot provide for his family, is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. However, a husband was not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife.

A widely used model marriage contract limited privileges accorded to men by custom, and traditional interpretations of Islamic law recognized a divorced woman’s right to a share in the property that couples acquire during their marriage and to increased alimony. Women who remarry were forced to give the child’s father custody of children from earlier marriages. However, the law granted custody of minor children to the mother in certain divorce cases in which the father was proven unfit to care for the child. The law provides women preference in custody for children up to seven years of age; thereafter, the father is entitled to custody. After the age of seven, in disputed cases custody of the child was to be determined by the court.

The penal code includes provisions for stoning persons convicted of adultery, although judges were instructed in 2002 to cease imposing such sentences. During the year, authorities carried out the sentence against one man, Jafar Kiani. Rights groups reported that at least nine people-—mostly women—-remained sentenced to death by stoning in the country. In addition a man could escape punishment for killing a wife caught in the act of adultery if he was certain she was a consenting partner; the same rule does not apply for women. Women may also receive disproportionate punishment for crimes, including death sentences. In July human rights groups and activists called on the government to end the practice of stoning.

The testimony of two women equates with that of one man. The blood money paid to the family of a female crime victim was half the sum paid for a man.

Women had access to primary and advanced education. Reportedly over 60 percent of university students were women; however, social and legal constraints limited their professional opportunities. Women were represented in many fields of the work force, including the legislature and municipal councils, police, and firefighters. However, their unemployment rate reportedly was significantly higher than for men, and they represented only 11 percent of the workforce. Women reportedly occupied 1.2 percent of higher management positions and 5.2 percent of managerial positions.

Women cannot serve as president or as certain types of judges (women can be consultant and research judges without the power to impose sentences). The constitution requires that Assembly of Experts candidates have a certain religious qualification. Citing this requirement, some religious leaders gave qualified support for the candidacy of women in the Assembly of Experts elections. In December 2006 two women took the religious qualification exam, but neither passed.

Women owned property and businesses in their name, and they obtained credit at a bank. The law provides maternity, child care, and pension benefits. The number of women’s NGOs has reportedly increased from approximately 130 to 450 in the past decade.

The government enforced gender segregation in most public spaces and prohibited women from mixing openly with unmarried men or men not related to them. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.

The penal code provides that if a woman appears in public without the appropriate Islamic covering (hijab), she can be sentenced to lashings and/or fined. However, absent a clear legal definition of appropriate hijab or the punishment, women were at the mercy of the disciplinary forces or the judge. Pictures of uncovered or immodestly dressed women in the press or in films were often digitally altered.

Children

There was little current information available to assess government efforts to promote the welfare of children. Except in isolated areas of the country, children had free education through the 12th grade (compulsory to age 11) and the right to some form of health care. Health care generally was regarded as affordable and comprehensive with competent physicians. Courts issued death sentences for crimes committed by minors.

Only a few cities had a youth prison, and minors were sometimes held with adult violent offenders. According to UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) there were 300 boys and 40 girls at the Tehran youth prison, with the average age of 14, but some were as young as age six. Children whose parents could not afford court fees were reportedly imprisoned for petty offenses including shoplifting, wearing make-up, or mixing with the opposite sex.

There was little information available to reflect how the government dealt with child abuse, including child labor. Abuse was largely regarded as a private, family matter. According to IRIN, child sexual abuse was rarely reported. Nonetheless, according to the government’s 2005 report on the rights of the child, the health ministry developed over the past few years an action plan with UNICEF to fight child abuse, including training health ministry officials on the rights of the child. A 2005 UNICEF conference in Tehran addressed problems relating to child sexual abuse, including identifying, investigating, and protecting victims.

According to some reports, it was not unusual in rural areas for parents to have their children marry before they become teenagers, often for economic reasons. The law requires court approval for the marriage of girls younger than 13 and boys younger than 15.

In 2006 the government reduced the school fees charged for Afghan students, according to a Western NGO. However, there were reportedly significant numbers of children, particularly Afghan but also Iranian, working as street vendors in Tehran and other cities and not attending school. According to government sources, three million children were prevented from obtaining an education because their families forced them to work. Unofficial sources claimed the figure was closer to five million. In 2005 government representatives told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that there were fewer than 60,000 street children in the country. Tehran reportedly opened several shelters for street children during the year. The government’s 2005 report on the rights of the child claimed 7,000 street children had been resettled.

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits human trafficking. However, according to foreign observers, women and girls were trafficked from the country to Pakistan, Turkey, Europe, and the Gulf States for sexual exploitation. Boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were trafficked through the country to Gulf States. Afghan women and girls were trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation and forced marriages. Internal trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor also occurred. The government did not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

In September, according to domestic news, police disbanded an international smuggling network based in Tehran, but it was unclear how many, if any, of these were actual trafficking offenses. The group smuggled women and girls from Central Asia through Iran to the Gulf States. Police reportedly arrested 25 people for involvement in the network. However, there were also reports that the government arrested and punished several trafficking victims on charges of prostitution or adultery.

Persons with Disabilities

Although in 2004 the Majles passed a law on the rights of disabled persons, it was not known whether implementing legislation followed. There was no information available regarding whether the government legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for persons with disabilities or whether discrimination against persons with disabilities was prohibited. No information was available on which government agencies were responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities and allows for minority languages to be used in the media and schools. State broadcasting had weekly programs in various ethnic languages. In practice, however, the government did not always permit minority groups, such as Azeris, Kurds, and Ahvazi Arabs, to use their respective languages in schools. Few minority groups called for separatism but instead complained of political and economic discrimination.

In 2005 the UNSR for Adequate Housing reported that ethnic and religious minorities, nomadic groups, and women faced discrimination in housing and land rights, compounded by the rising cost of housing. The Ahvazi representative in the previous Majles wrote a letter to then-president Khatami, complaining that Arab land was being bought at very low prices or even confiscated. He also said Arab political parties were not allowed to compete in elections, and Arabic newspapers and magazines were banned.

Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammadi ranked ethnic divisions as one of the biggest problems his ministry had to address. The government blamed foreign entities, including a number of Western countries, for instigating some of the ethnic unrest. Other groups claimed the government staged the bombs in Khuzestan during 2005 and 2006 as a pretext for repression.

In March 2006 Kurds clashed with police, reportedly resulting in three deaths and over 250 arrests. There were also clashes in June 2005, and there were strikes and demonstrations in July and August 2005 following the killing of a Kurdish activist by security forces. According to HRW and other sources, security forces killed at least 17 persons and wounded and arrested large numbers of others.

Foreign representatives of the Ahvazi Arabs of Khuzestan claimed their community of two to four million in the southwest section of the country suffered from persecution and discrimination, including the lack of freedom to study and speak Arabic. In early 2006 there were several bombings in Khuzestan. The government blamed the violence on outside forces and foreign governments, although the revolutionary court later announced death sentences for at least 11 ethnic Arabs in connection with the bombings. After the first bombing in January 2006, the Ahvazi Arab Revival Party, an irredentist group, criticized the government for blaming its problems on foreign governments and warned that there would be more violence if the government did not change its policies regarding ethnic Arabs.

Provincial authorities sentenced 19 Ahvazi Arabs to death in connection with the October 2005 and January and February 2006 bombings. Human rights groups have accused the government of torturing prisoners to extract confessions and unfair trial practices; they called on the government to retry at least 10 of the accused bombers.

Ahvazi and human rights groups alleged torture and ill-treatment of Ahvazi Arab activists, including detention of the spouses and young children of activists.

In 2005 protests in Ahvaz followed the publication of a letter—-termed a forgery by the government—-allegedly written in 1999 by an advisor to then-president Khatami–that referred to government policies to reduce the percentage of ethnic Arabs in Khuzestan.

Ethnic Azeris composed approximately one-quarter of the country’s population, were well integrated into the government and society and included the supreme leader. However, Azeris complained of ethnic and linguistic discrimination, including banning the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names. The government traditionally viewed Azeri nationalism as threatening, particularly since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of an independent Azerbaijan. Azeri groups also claimed that there were a number of Azeri political prisoners jailed for advocating cultural and language rights for Iranian Azerbaijanis. The government has charged several of them with “revolting against the Islamic state.”

In May 2006 there were large-scale riots in the Azeri majority regions of the northwest following publication of a newspaper cartoon considered insulting to Azeris. The cartoon depicted a cockroach speaking in the Azeri language. Police forcibly contained the protests, and police officials reported that four persons were killed and several protesters were detained. Authorities blamed foreign governments for inciting unrest.

According to AI, on May 14, authorities beat and detained Azeri language-rights activist Amir Abbas Banayi Kazimi in Tabriz. His family claimed he was subject to torture.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

In 2004 the judiciary formed the Special Protection Division, a volunteer unit that monitored and reported moral crimes. The law prohibited and punished homosexuality; sodomy between consenting adults was a capital crime. The punishment of a non-Muslim homosexual was harsher if the homosexual’s partner was Muslim. At a speech at Columbia University in September, the president publicly denied the existence of homosexuals in the country.

According to health ministry statistics announced in October 2006, there were more than 13,000 registered HIV-positive persons in the country, but unofficial estimates were much higher; most were men. Transmission was primarily through shared needles by drug users, and a study showed shared injection inside prison to be a particular risk factor. There was a free anonymous testing clinic in Tehran, and government-sponsored low-cost or free methadone treatment for heroin addicts, including in prisons. The government also started distributing clean needles in some prisons. The government supported programs for AIDS awareness and did not interfere with private HIV-related NGOs. Contraceptives, including free condoms, were available at health centers as well as in pharmacies. Nevertheless, persons infected with HIV reportedly faced discrimination in schools and workplaces.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides workers the right to establish unions; however, in practice the government did not permit independent unions. A national organization known as Workers’ House was the sole authorized national labor organization. It served primarily as a conduit for government control over workers. The leadership of Workers’ House coordinated activities with Islamic labor councils, which consisted of representatives of workers and a representative of management in industrial, agricultural, and service organizations consisting of more than 35 employees. The Islamic labor councils also functioned as instruments of government control and frequently blocked layoffs and dismissals.

The law allows employers and employees to establish guilds. The guilds issued vocational licenses and helped members find jobs. Instances of late or partial pay for government workers reportedly were common.

In 2005 workers appointed a committee to lobby for the right to form labor associations. The committee issued a statement signed by 5,000 workers that it did not recognize agreements signed between the government and the International Labor Organization (ILO) because workers had no independent representation at discussions. Workers criticized official unions for being too close to the government.

On April 7, security forces arrested 45 members of the Hamedan Teachers’ Association. The organization was reportedly banned and judiciary officials said the teachers were arrested because of their continued affiliation with a banned organization.

On April 9, labor activist Mahmoud Salehi, former head of the Saqqez Bakery Workers’ Union, was detained by security forces and subsequently sentenced to one year in prison and three years’ suspended sentence. He remained in prison and was reportedly in poor health. On December 11, he was hospitalized for complications related to his being denied proper treatment for chronic kidney disease. Salehi’s earlier sentence in 2005 was overturned on appeal. A November 2006 report indicated that Salehi was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for committing crimes against the country’s internal security but was not detained until April. Fellow labor activist Jalal Hosseini was reportedly sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on similar charges in November 2006; however, on April 10, he was reportedly not in prison.

On July 10, unidentified men arrested labor leader Mansur Osanloo and detained him in Evin Prison. He was also repeatedly arrested in 2006. Osanloo, the head of the Syndicate of Bus Drivers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e-Vahed), had been targeted by the government because of his calls for labor rights. Osanloo’s health has suffered in prison, and on October 21, he underwent eye surgery to prevent blindness in his left eye. At year’s end, he remained in prison.

On August 9, authorities arrested Ebrahim Madadi and four others for protesting the arrest of Osanloo. On December 16, Madadi was released from jail following an appeals court ruling that cleared him of the charge of acting against national security.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Although the labor code was amended in 2003 to permit workers to form and join “trade unions” without prior permission if registration regulations are observed, workers did not have the right to organize independently and negotiate collective bargaining agreements.

Workshops of 10 employees or fewer were exempt from labor legislation. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), more than 400,000 of the country’s 450,000 workshops were exempt circa 2003.

The law prohibits public sector strikes, and the government did not tolerate any strike deemed contrary to its economic and labor policies; however, strikes occurred. There were no mechanisms to protect worker rights in the public sector, such as mediation or arbitration.

According to the ITUC, labor legislation did not apply in export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law permits the government to require any person not working to take suitable employment; however, this requirement did not appear to be enforced regularly. The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, this law was not enforced adequately, and such labor by children was a serious problem.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, child labor appeared to be a serious problem. The law prohibits employment of minors less than 15 years of age and places restrictions on the employment of minors under age 18; however, the government did not adequately enforce laws pertaining to child labor. The law permits children to work in agriculture, domestic service, and some small businesses but prohibits employment of women and minors in hard labor or night work. There was no information regarding enforcement of these regulations.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law empowers the Supreme Labor Council to establish annual minimum wage levels for each industrial sector and region. In 2006 President Ahmadi-Nejad increased the minimum wage levels, but workers continued to claim it was too low. There was no information regarding mechanisms to set wages, and it was not known if minimum wages were enforced. The law stipulates that the minimum wage should meet the living expenses of a family and take inflation into account. However, many middle-class citizens had to work two or three jobs to support their families.

The law establishes a maximum six-day, 48-hour workweek, with a weekly rest day, normally Fridays, and at least 12 days of paid annual leave and several paid public holidays.

According to the law, a safety council, chaired by the labor minister or his representative, should protect workplace safety and health. Labor organizations outside the country have alleged that hazardous work environments were common in the country and resulted in thousands of worker deaths annually. The quality of safety regulation enforcement was unknown, and it was unknown whether workers could remove themselves from hazardous situations without risking the loss of employment.

There was anecdotal evidence suggesting some government employees and students voted in the 2005 presidential election and the December 2006 elections to obtain the stamp proving they had voted. Without this stamp, they feared they would have employment or enrollment problems.

___________
* The United States does not have an embassy in Iran. This report draws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.

A New Video on Women by an Iranian Woman

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The following production refers to various types of violence against women, including Iranian women, in a truthful and tasteful manner.

I hope watching these images will be a source of inspiration for positive resolutions on the part of those who care about the future for their own selves and societies:
http://www.iranian.com/main/singlepage/2008/how-long-will-go

http://youtube.com/watch?v=AJmk20DUdAY

Amnesty Calls on Governments to End Violence Against School Girls

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

This is an important document for all those who seek equality and dignity for Iran’s women and girls:

Amnesty International Press release
6 March 2008

On the eve of International Women’s Day, Amnesty International called on governments and school officials around the world to take concrete action to end violence against girls, particularly inside schools, in a new report published today.

“Governments are failing girls at the most basic level. Their failure to address violence against girls in schools is unacceptable,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

“Virtually every government claims to abhor violence against women and girls. Schools are a place where governments have direct responsibility and can start backing up their words with concrete actions.”

The report Safe Schools: Every Girl’s Right, shows how violence in and around educational institutions remains pervasive. From Mexico to China, girls continuously face the risk of being sexually assaulted, harassed or intimidated on their way to school or once inside school premises.

Some girls suffer violence more than others. Particular groups, such as ethnic minorities, lesbians or girls with disabilities, are at higher risk than their peers.

At school, many girls face psychological violence, bullying and humiliation. Some are caned or beaten in school in the name of discipline. Girls are threatened with sexual assault by other students, offered higher marks by teachers in exchange for sexual favours, and even raped in the staff room.

A 2006 study of schoolgirls in Malawi found that 50 percent of girls said they had been touched in a sexual manner without permission by either their teachers or a fellow student.

Equally, a study in the USA found that 83 percent of girls in grades 8 to 11 (aged around 12 to 16) in public schools experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Attacks against girls in schools have both immediate and long-term impacts.

Not only do girls suffer from the impact of violence on their physical and mental health, but in the context of education, the violence may cause girls to drop out and lose any hope of escaping poverty and political marginalization.

“Ensuring that girls have meaningful access to education is widely recognized as key to women’s empowerment. Being denied an education will follow a woman all her life,” said Brown.

Very often, aggressive and inappropriate sexual advances by boys in schools are dismissed as “just boys being boys”. Such behaviour often goes unreported and unpunished, sending out the message that violence against women and girls is acceptable and that male aggression is the norm.

People interviewed by Amnesty International in Haiti, for example, agreed that violence was widespread in schools but was rarely reported. Corporal punishment, the use of whips, beatings with electric cables, forcing children to kneel in the sun, food deprivation, sexual abuse, insults and psychological abuse of girls was common by teachers and administrative staff.

Schools in conflict zones represent a particular threat to the lives of girls attending them.

The provision of education is also disrupted in many ways where schools, teachers and students are targets of armed violence. In Afghanistan, the burning down of schools, particularly girls’ schools, and threats or assaults against girls who attend school have become increasingly common in recent years.

Although international law requires universal primary education to be free of charge, many schools continue to levy charges. School fees and other charges are an insurmountable obstacle for many children, and girls are more likely to be excluded from school than boys when there aren’t enough resources in the family.

Amnesty International has drawn up a six-point plan aimed at government officials and bodies, including school officials, which includes, amongst other recommendations:

– Enacting and enforcing appropriate laws, policies and procedures prohibiting all forms of violence against girls, including corporal punishment, verbal abuse, harassment, physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual violence and exploitation.
– Creating national plans of action in order to create a safe environment for girls. Those should include guidelines for schools and compulsory training for teachers and students.
– Teachers, school authorities and other state officials must promptly respond to reports of violence and ensure that a proper follow up mechanism is in place. That must include effective investigations and criminal prosecutions when appropriate and providing support services, including medical treatment, for victims and survivors.

Finally, Amnesty International is calling on governments working to achieve the 2000 Millennium Development Goals to address violence and discrimination against girls. The goals, which aim to eradicate poverty, include calls for universal primary education and gender equality, but they measure progress by the number of girls in class, without seeking to address violence and discrimination that keeps or pushes girls out of school.

“While supporting efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Amnesty International believes that achieving gender equality in education requires increased commitment and an immediate effort to stop violence against schoolgirls. It’s difficult to learn when every school day is a struggle against violence,” said Widney Brown.


HREA – www.hrea.org

Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) is an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies.

Arrested Development – More on imprisoning Baha’i teachers of children’s classes

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Last year 54 Baha’is were arrested in Shiraz for the ‘crime’ of working along side Muslims to teach disadvantaged teens classes about developing their capacities in accordance with principles that attract Divine assistance. Three of them remain in prison, have access to no legal representation, and are voicing their concerns about their mistreatment. BBC and others report on this case:

IRAN: SCORES ARRESTED IN ANTI-BAHA’I CAMPAIGN

Human Rights
By MWC NEWS

Iranian security officials last month arrested scores of Baha’i youths in Shiraz
In its latest campaign of religious intolerance directed against the Baha’i community, Iranian security officials last month arrested scores of Baha’i youths in Shiraz solely on the basis of their religious faith, Human Rights Watch said today.

Baha’i representatives to the U.N. in Geneva told Human Rights Watch that Iranian authorities on May 19 arrested a group of mainly Baha’i youths who were teaching English, math and other non-religious subjects to underprivileged children in Shiraz. The authorities also arrested several other non-Baha’i volunteers at the same time but released them the same day without requiring bail. One Baha’i, under the age of 15, was released without having to post bail.

None of the 54 Baha’is arrested has been charged with a crime. As of today, three remain in detention while the others were released only after their families posted exorbitant bail.

“The arrests demonstrate how the Iranian government is subjecting Baha’is to religious persecution and discrimination,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Arresting people solely on the basis of their religious faith is a flagrant violation of freedom of belief and the freedom to practice a religion of one’s choice.”

The arrests demonstrate how the Iranian government is subjecting Baha’is to religious persecution and discrimination. Arresting people solely on the basis of their religious faith is a flagrant violation of freedom of belief and the freedom to practice a religion of one’s choice.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch Baha’i representatives told Human Rights Watch that on May 24, 14 of those arrested were released only after they surrendered as collateral property deeds. The next day the authorities released 36 more Baha’is after they posted financial guarantees or depositing work licenses as surety that they would respond to any court summons.

According to the principal representative of the Baha’i community to the United Nations, more than 125 Baha’is have been arbitrarily arrested since the beginning of 2005.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, said in March that she had received a copy of a letter dated October 29 in which the chairman of the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Iran requested the Ministry of Information, the Revolutionary Guard, and the police collect information on Baha’i adherents. The letter stated that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had instructed the Command Headquarters to identify members of the Baha’i community and to monitor their activities.

The October 29 letter came amid an anti-Baha’i campaign in the state-run press that began in September. Since then, the influential government-owned daily Kayhan has published dozens of articles attacking the Baha’i community and defaming their beliefs.

“The Iranian government is singling out a religious community that has a history of official persecution in Iran,” Whitson said.

The Baha’i community is Iran’s largest religious minority, with an estimated 300,000 members. Most Muslim religious authorities, including those in Iran, regard Baha’is as apostates who have deserted Islam rather than as practitioners of a legitimate faith. In Iran Baha’is cannot practice their faith in a public manner and are barred from higher education.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to release those Baha’is still in prison, restore the property of those forced to post exorbitant bail, and halt all discrimination and persecution directed against Baha’is.
ahá’í Community Website: www.bahai.org.au

پیگرد قضائی فعالان اجتماعی بهائی در شیراز

 

کتاب نسائم تأیید
تدریس کتاب نسائم تأیید، یکی از کتب آموزشی کودکان بهائی برای کودکان و نوجوانان مسلمان در ایران از عوامل زندانی شدن بهائیان در شیراز بوده است

وزارت خارجه آمریکا خواستار آزادی سه شهروند بهائی در ایران شده که به اتهام اقدام علیه امنیت ملی و تبلیغ علیه نظام جمهوری اسلامی، به حکم دادگاه انقلاب شیراز به مجازات زندان محکوم شده و ماههاست در زندان به سر می برند.

 

این سه نفر عضو گروهی 54 نفره از جوانان بهائی بوده اند که در محله ‌های فقیر‏نشین شیراز کلاسهایی برای رفع اشکالات درسی و آموزش مهارتهای زندگی به کودکان و نوجوانان خانواده های کم بضاعت دایر کرده بودند.

 

اما به نظر می رسد که مقامات جمهوری اسلامی هدف از فعالیت آنان را تبلیغ کیش بهائی ارزیابی کرده باشند که در ایران به رسمیت شناخته نمی شود و پیروان آن از بسیاری از حقوق اجتماعی محرومند.

 

گزارشها حاکی از این است که همه اعضای گروه تحت پیگرد قضائی قرارگرفته اند و غیر از سه نفری که در دادگاه محکوم شناخته شده اند، دیگر اعضای گروه نیز در انتظار محاکمه به سر می برند.

 

بازداشت این 54 نفر جمعه 29 اردیبهشت (نوزدهم مه) گذشته انجام گرفته و جامعه بین المللی بهائیان اعلام کرده که از سالهای دهه شصت خورشیدی تاکنون هیچگاه این تعداد از بهائیان به صورت دسته جمعی در ایران بازداشت نشده اند.

 

وزارت خارجه آمریکا شرایط محاکمه این گروه از جوانان بهائی را ناعادلانه خوانده است.

 

دادخواست یکی از محکومان به نام رها سروستانی که نسخه ای از آن در اختیار بی بی سی قرار گرفته نیز حاکی است که هیچ وکیلی، حاضر به دفاع از او در دادگاه نشده و حکم دادگاه به صورت شفاهی به او ابلاغ شده است.

 

رها سروستانی که به نظر می رسد متهم اصلی پرونده باشد، در این دادخواست نوشته که دادگاه انقلاب شیراز در حکمی که هیجدهم شهریور (نهم سپتامبر) گذشته به او ابلاغ شده، او را به جرم فعالیت تبلیغی علیه نظام جمهوری اسلامی ایران به نفع گروهها و سازمانهای مخالف نظام به یک سال زندان و به جرم تشکیل و اداره گروههای غیرقانونی با هدف بر هم زدن امنیت کشور به سه سال حبس (مجموعاً چهار سال زندان) محکوم کرده است.

 

 

 دستگیر شدگان عضو سازمانی غیردولتی به نام مؤسسه پژوهشی کودکان دنیا هستند که در وزارت کشور ثبت شده و مجوز فعالیت داشته و علاوه بر آن برای تشکیل کلاسهایی که برای کودکان و نوجوانان مناطق محروم برگزار کرده بودند از شورای شهر شیراز مجوز داشته اند

 

دادخواست رها سروستانی

 

خانم سروستانی خطاب به دادگاه تجدیدنظر استان فارس نوشته که او و دیگر بهائیانی که دستگیر شده اند عضو سازمانی غیردولتی به نام مؤسسه پژوهشی کودکان دنیا هستند که در وزارت کشور ثبت شده و مجوز فعالیت داشته، علاوه بر آن برای تشکیل کلاسهایی که برای کودکان و نوجوانان مناطق محروم برگزار کرده بودند از شورای شهر شیراز مجوز داشته اند و بنابر این نباید گروهی غیرقانونی و برهم زننده نظم عمومی به شمار روند.

 

مؤسسه پژوهشی کودکان دنیا که دفتر آن در تهران قرار دارد، خود را در سایت اینترنتی اش سازمانی مستقل، تخصصی و پژوهشی معرفی کرده که در سال 1373 با کوشش گروهی از متخصصان تعليم و تربيت، دانشگاهيان، پژوهشگران، مربيان و مديران مراکز آموزشی کودکان خردسال تأسیس شده و هدفش کمک به گسترش برنامه های مراقبت برای رشد و تکامل کودکان خردسال در ايران است.

 

اين مؤسسه اعلام کرده به دليل “ترويج تفکر ضرورت حمايت همه جانبه از کودکان خردسال، از بدو تولد تا هفت سالگی” از سوی بنياد ترويج علم، برنده جايزه ويژه ترويج علم در سال 1380 شده است.

 

سایت اینترنتی مؤسسه پژوهشی کودکان دنیا نشان می دهد که بازداشت رها سروستانی و همکارانش مانعی در ادامه فعالیت مؤسسه ایجاد نکرده است.

 

رها سروستانی نوشته که وی و دیگر هم مسلکانش با مجوزی که از شورای شهر شیراز داشته اند، از سه سال پیش کلاسهای رفع اشکالات درسی، قصه گویی، نقاشی، بازی و آموزش مهارتهای زندگی فردی و اجتماعی برای کودکانی تشکیل داده بودند که شاید عدم فرصتهای مالی به آنها اجازه نمی داد آموزشهای مربوط به سن خود را دریافت کنند.

 

به نوشته وی، این کلاسها با رضایت والدین کودکان و نوجوانان در جلوی منازل آنان و در ملأ عام برگزار می شده و همواره رضایت خانواده ها و مردم محل را به دنبال داشته است.

 

خانم سروستانی در درخواست خود به کتاب نسائم تأیید (Breezes of Confirmation) اشاره کرده و نوشته که احتمالاً استفاده از این کتاب در کلاسهای آموزشی وی و همکارانش برای کودکان در ایراد اتهام بر آنان نقش داشته است.

 

وی تأکید کرده که این کتاب جهت تبلیغ مرام خاصی تهیه و منتشر نشده، محتوای آن با هدف تقویت قابلیتهای فردی و اجتماعی و علمی و اخلاقی نوجوانان تنظیم گردیده و ناشر آن، یعنی انتشارات آمریکایی (Developing Learning Press) ارتباطی با هیچ دیانت و عقیده و مرام خاصی ندارد.

 

اما یکی از مسئولان دفتر اروپایی این انتشارات در کشور لوکزامبورگ به بخش فارسی بی بی سی گفت که کتاب نسائم تأیید و دیگر نشریات این بنگاه انتشاراتی، الهام گرفته از تعالیم کیش بهائی است.

 

نسائم تأیید داستان چند دختر و پسر نوجوان در کشور آفریقایی زامبیاست که به دنبال دریافت “تأیید الهی” اند.

 

این کتاب در محافل آموزش تعالیم بهائی در نقاط جهان، جزو کتب درسی اصلی برای کودکان یازده تا دوازده ساله است.

 

نام کتاب نیز شباهت به نام کتاب نسائم الرحمن دارد که از کتب دینی بهائیان و شامل گزیده ای از آثار سیدعلی محمد باب و میرزا حسینعلی نوری (بهاء الله) پایه گذاران کیش بابی و بهائی است.

 

رها سروستانی در درخواست تجدیدنظر خود نوشته که هیچیک از کودکان و نوجوانانی که طی سه سال در کلاسهای آموزشی وی و همکارانش شرکت کرده اند نمی دانسته اند که اغلب کسانی که این کلاسها را تشکیل داده اند بهائی مذهبند و تنها پس از بازداشت آنان پی به این موضوع بردند.

 

 

 مسئولان مملکتی بارها در سخنرانیها و نظرات خود اظهار نموده اند که کسی به خاطر بهائی بودن تحت تعقیب قرار نمی گیرد و بهائیان مثل دیگر شهروندان در ایران زندگی می کنند و جان و مالشان محترم است … احکام و روش بهائیان در اطاعت و متابعت از قوانین و مقررات و نظام حکومتی و احترام نسبت به مسئولان امور است و این روش و سلوک لااقل در این مدت استقرار حکومت جمهوری اسلامی برای مسئولان ممکلتی کاملاً احراز و آشکار شده است

 

رها سروستانی

 

به نوشته وی حتی چند جوان مسلمان که در فعالیتهای گروه شرکت داشتند و آنها نیز به دست مأموران اطلاعاتی بازداشت شدند از بهائی بودن 54 عضو دیگر گروه بی اطلاع بودند.

 

آن گونه که خانم سروستانی نوشته، سازمان غیردولتی حقوق کودک در شیراز نیز با این گروه همکاری می کرده و اعضای این سازمان نیز بازداشت اما در همان روز اول آزاد شدند.

 

در درخواست تجدیدنظر رها سروستانی آمده: “بهائیان جزو گروهها و سازمانهای مخالف نظام محسوب نمی شوند زیرا اولاً هیچگونه قانون یا حکمی که دیانت بهائی و بهائیان را مشمول آن قرار دهد وجود ندارد، ثانیاً مسئولان محترم مملکتی بارها در سخنرانیها و نظرات خود اظهار نموده اند که کسی به خاطر بهائی بودن تحت تعقیب قرار نمی گیرد و بهائیان مثل دیگر شهروندان در ایران زندگی می کنند و جان و مالشان محترم است، بخشنامه ها و دستورالعملهایی نیز در این خصوص از سوی مقامات حکومتی صادر شده است، ثالثاً … احکام و روش بهائیان در اطاعت و متابعت از قوانین و مقررات و نظام حکومتی و احترام نسبت به مسئولان امور است و این روش و سلوک لااقل در این مدت استقرار حکومت جمهوری اسلامی برای مسئولان ممکلتی کاملاً احراز و آشکار شده است”.

 

رها سروستانی نوشته که مأموران اطلاعاتی به مدت سی روز او را در بازداشتگاه سپاه پاسداران مورد بازجویی قرار دادند و چهار جلسه نیز در دادگاه شرکت و از خود دفاع کرده است اما دادگاه عمدتاً بر اساس یادداشتهای شخصی یک فرد رأی به محکومیت وی و همکارانش داده است.

 

وی در عین حال تأیید کرده که طی سفری به کشور امارات متحده عربی، آموزشی درباره کتب روحی که کتب آموزشی بهائیان به شمار می روند و کتاب نسائم تأیید نیز یکی از آنهاست دیده اما این سفر هیچ ربطی به فعالیتهایش در شیراز ندارد.

 

شهر شیراز که رها سروستانی و همکیشانش در آن به فعالیت اجتماعی مشغول بوده و بازداشت شده اند، خاستگاه مذهب بهائیت در اواسط قرن نوزدهم میلادی است.

 

این مذهب اگرچه از ایران آغاز شد اما با تبلیغ آن در سراسر جهان، اکنون در اقصی نقاط عالم پیروانی دارد که جامعه بین المللی بهائیان شمار آنان را میلیونها نفر و در ایران حدود سیصد هزار نفر برآورد می کند.

 

در ایران، پس از روی کارآمدن حکومت جمهوری اسلامی بسیاری از بهائیان تحت پیگرد قرار گرفتند و شمار زیادی از آنان این کشور را ترک کردند.

 

آمار جامعه بین المللی بهائیان حاکی از این است که طی نخستین سالهای حکومت جمهوری اسلامی در ایران، حدود دویست بهائى در ایران کشته یا اعدام شدند.

 

آن گونه که دفتر نمایندگی جامعه بین‌المللى بهائیان در سازمان ملل متحد اعلام کرده، بازداشت 54 بهائی در شیراز شمار بهائیانی را که از آغاز سال 2005 میلادی در ایران مدتی را در بازداشت گذراندند به بیش از ۱۲۵ نفر رساند اما در سالهای اخیر موردی از اعدام بهائیان در ایران گزارش نشده است.

 

Arresting children in Ahvaz

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Here is a report about children arrested at a memorial meeting and placed in prison in Ahvaz. Children are, perhaps, the most defenseless minority in Iran.

http://www.incrad.blogspot.com/

نقض حقوق بشر در بازداشت های کودکان اهواز

بنا به گزارشهای قابل تایید از منابع و مبارزین در طرح ملی مقاومت و نافرمانی مدنی پس از حمله نیرو های حکومتی جمهوری سلامی به فعالین حقوق مدنی عرب زبان دراهواز مبارزات برابری طلبی این هم میهنان در استان خوزستان شکل جدید تری به خود گرفت.

پس از گذشت بیش ازده روزاز حمله نیروهای رژیم اسلامی به حسینیه حمزه سید الشهداء که منجر به دستگیری حدود 300 نفر از تجمع کنند گان در یک مراسم یادبود در تکیه شد اکنون پرونده این اعتراض در دادسرای انقلاب به آخوندی به نام امانت سپرده شد.نامبرده  نیز که تحت فشار اذهان متشنج عشایر منطقه برای آزادی کودکان زیر 15 سال بود رای بر تحویل این کودکان به کانون اصلاح تربیت داد.

مراسم ذکر شده برای گرامیداشت مرحوم مهدی حیدری از فعالین حقوق مدنی عشایر منطقه  بر علیه رژیم اسلامی و خواهان برابری و احیای حقوق مدنی هم میهنان خوزستانی بخصوص عشایر عرب زبان منطقه در خوزستان بود که به شدت تحت فشارهای رژیم قرار داشته و هفته گذشته بطور مشکوکی در گذشت. مرگ ناگهانی مهدی حیدری آل حیادره و نیز عشایر عرب زبان  منطقه را بشدت خشمگین نمود. این خشم عاقبت در مجلس شب هفت مرحوم حیدری جلوه نمود که  در این مجلس شاعران عرب زبان به رسم قبل از اسلام و بر اساس فرم سنتی عشایری در مرگ حماسی حیدری شروع به شعر خوانی نموده و مرگ او را شهادت نامیدند که در لفظ عربی مقام والایی از مرگ است. وبا ابراز خشم خویش  بر علیه رژیم وایادی آن  شعارهایی نیز سر دادند. که بلا فاصله از سوی نیروهای وِزارت اطلاعات و نیروی انتظامی محاصره شده و پس از درگیر ی و بهم زدن مراسم شب هفت نامبرده حدود سیصد نفر که اکثر آنها نوجوانان زیر پانزده سال بودند را دستگیر و به مکان نامعلومی منتقل کردند در این درگیری تیراندازی نیز شد که گزارش موثقی از زخمی یا کشته شدن افراد بدست نرسیده است.

گزارش ها همچنان حاکی از تجمع خانواده و نیز عده ای ازعشایر منطقه مقابل در استانداری خوزستان در اهواز در روزهای گذشته دارد که این تجمعات نیز به وسیله ایادی رژیم با گاز اشک آور و باتوم و نیز دستگیری عده ای از معترضین حکایت می کند. در این یورش عده ای از مردان و زنان مجروح شدند که به وسیله نیروهای انتظامی به درمانگاه نظامی فرستاده شده اند و هیچ اطلاعی از آنان در دست نیست.

پیش از این قرار بود که رای قطعی بر این پرونده پنج شنبه داده شود اما به دلایلی که هنوز اعلام نشده این رای اعلام نشده و نیز پروند هنوز در مرجله تحقیق در دادسرای انقلاب متوقف مانده است.

طبق دستور مقامات امنیتی استان انتشار اخبار این درگیری ها کا ملا سانسور و ایادی وزارت اطلاعات با انتشار شایعاتی در شهر اهواز سعی داشته اند این مراسم سنتی و عشایری را که همراه با دیگر هم میهنان در منطقه کیان اهواز برگزار شده بود بشکل دیگری جلوه دهند

در استان خوزستان عشایر عرب زبان ایرانی که از پیش از ورود اسلام همراه و همرزم با دیگر عشایر از جمله لر و بختیاری زندگی میکنند پس از واقعه پنجاه وهفت بشدت مورد سرکوب اهانت و بازخواست مکرر رژیم بوده اند در زمان قدرت حزب بعث در عراق عوامل این حزب بر اساس آرمانهای صدام حسین و حزب بعث با اعزام افرادی سعی در توسعه طرح تجزیه خوزستان داشتند که بعلت ریشه تاریخی هم میهنان عرب زبان در خاک ایران و بافت بسیار نزدیک و مخلوط اقوام ایرانی در این منطقه هیچگاه این آرمان شیطانی بیگانگان بواقعیت نپیوست و حتی در اوج قدرت صدام حسین و اشغال خاک ایران در این منطقه توسط وی نتوانست جامه عمل بپوشد

رژیم همواره با طرح سناریو های ورشکسته قصد ایجاد آشوب برای تثبیت مواضع ضد ملی و تشدید جو خفقان در این منطقه را داشته است و با ایجاد تشنج و درگیری با عشایر صلح طلب و میهن پرست غرب و جنوبغرب کشور که همیشه بعنوان مدافعین خط اول جبهه مقابله و مبارزه با بیگانگان و دفاع از آرمانهای ملی در ایران محسوب میشوند ؛ مرتبا به بهانه واهی تجزیه طلبی ؛ مورد آزار و اذیت قرار میدهد.

طرح ملی مقاومت و نافرمانی مدنی در راستای توسعه آگاهی های عمومی برای احیا و ایفای حقوق مدنی و انسانی هم میهنان همبستگی و همدلی و همیاری نا گسستنی خود را با عشایر استان خوزستان رسما اعلام داشته و متذکر میگردد که تا دستیابی هم میهنان و بخصوص عشایر دلاور و مرزبان عرب زبان استان ؛ به حقوق سیاسی و مدنی و فردی ایشان همگام و متحد قدم خواهد برداشت و با تشکیل ستاد هماهنگی عشایر و ایلات و اقوام آماده دفاع از این هم میهنان است

سازمان اتحاد میهنی ایرانیان ( اجرا کننده طرح ملی مقاومت و نافرمانی مدنی) دستیابی به حقوق برابر برای تما می ایرانیان را در یکپار چگی ملی و حفظ تمامیت ارضی کشور را آرمان تما می مبارزین درونمرزی ارزیابی میکند و تحرکات وابسته به بیگانه و وزارت اطلاعات رژیم را که عنوان تجزیه طلبی را به این مبارزین میهن پرست و برابری طلب را وارد نموده محکوم مینماید

با آرزوی پیرو زی و بهروزی در ایرانی آباد و آزاد