• Support a Democratic, Secular, Republic and Non-Nuclear Iran

USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Religious Minorities in Iran

Blog

  • USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Religious Minorities in Iran


    Aug 4, 2022
    USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Religious Minorities in Iran

    Washington, D.C. – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the Iranian government’s increased crackdown on religious minorities in the country.

    In recent weeks, Iran has arrested scores of Baha’is and raided their homes and destroyed Baha’i houses in Mazandaran province. In addition, Iranian authorities have escalated their targeting of women who do not conform to the government’s endorsed version of Islam, arresting those who refuse to wear full religious head coverings and banning them from public facilities. The government has also arrested women who have peacefully protested these religious edicts.

    “Iran’s government cannot create stability and security by targeting vulnerable religious minorities and peaceful dissenters, yet it continues these appalling violations of religious freedom,” said USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “We urge the U.S. government to forcefully and publicly call out Iranian authorities for persecuting Iran’s Baha’i community and for using religion as the basis to restrict women’s freedom of religion or belief by forcing a religious practice that is a matter of individual choice under international law.”

    The Iranian government considers the Baha’i faith a “deviant sect of Islam” and has targeted the community for decades. Earlier this year, Iran’s courts sentenced Baha’is on spurious national security charges, forcing eight Baha’is to attend “counseling sessions” in prison to pressure them to convert. The Ministry of Intelligence has accused Baha’is of “infiltrating educational environments,” and Iran’s government engages in systematic misinformation campaigns against the Baha’i community.

    In early July, Iran’s government announced a campaign against women not wearing what authorities deem proper religious head coverings. Iran has arrested several women who peacefully protested forced religious dress, and accused others of dancing in public. At the Behesht Zahra cemetery in Tehran, authorities removed 98 headstones depicting women without the religious head covering.

    “The world cannot watch passively as Iran uses religion as a pretext to harm minorities and women,” said USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland. “We call on the Biden administration to work with the International Religious Freedom and Belief Alliance to coordinate multilateral pressure on Iran to end its decades-long persecution of Baha’is. Furthermore, Congress should pass H.Res.744 and S.Res.183, bipartisan bills condemning Iran’s persecution of the Baha’i community.”

    In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF recently published a country update on religious freedom conditions in Iran so far in 2022, held a hearing on “State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran,” highlighted the situation for religious prisoners of conscience in Iran on an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast, and published a report on Religious Propaganda in Iran.

    ###

    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov.

  • Iran: Horrific wave of executions must be stopped


    The Iranian authorities have embarked on an execution spree, killing at least 251 people between 1 January and 30 June 2022, according to research by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre for Human Rights in Iran and Amnesty International. The organizations warned that if executions continue at this horrifying pace, they will soon surpass the total of 314 executions recorded for the whole of 2021.

    Most (146) of those executed in 2022 had been convicted of murder, amid well-documented patterns of executions being systematically carried out following grossly unfair trials. At least 86 others were executed for drug-related offences which, according to international law, should not incur the death penalty. On 23 July, the authorities executed one man in public in Fars province, after a halt in public executions for two years during the pandemic.

    “During the first six months of 2022, the Iranian authorities executed at least one person a day on average. The state machinery is carrying out killings on a mass scale across the country in an abhorrent assault on the right to life. Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year has chilling echoes of 2015 when there was another shocking spike,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “The renewed surge in executions, including in public, shows yet again just how out of step Iran is with the rest of the world, with 144 countries having rejected the death penalty in law or practice. The Iranian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely,” said Roya Boroumand, Executive Director of Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre, an Iranian human rights organization.

    The figures compiled by Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre and Amnesty International draw from a variety of sources, including prisoners, relatives of those executed, human rights defenders, journalists, and reports by state media as well as independent media outlets and human rights organizations.

    The real number is likely higher, given the secrecy around the number of death sentences the authorities impose and carry out.

    Mass executions in prisons

    Information gathered shows that since early 2022, the authorities have regularly carried out mass executions across Iran.

    On 15 June 2022, authorities in Raja’i Shahr prison in Alborz province executed at least 12 people. This followed the mass execution of at least 12 people on 6 June 2022 in Zahedan prison in Sistan and Baluchistan province.

    On 14 May 2022, the authorities executed nine people: three in Zahedan prison, one in Vakilabad prison in Khorasan-e Razavi province, four in Adelabad prison in Fars province, and one in Dastgerd prison in Esfahan province.

    The state machinery is carrying out killings on a mass scale across the country in an abhorrent assault on the right to life.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International
    According to an informed source interviewed by Amnesty International in June 2022, since early 2022, authorities in Raja’i Shahr prison, which has one of the largest numbers of people on death row, have been executing five people each week on average, with up to 10 executions carried out some weeks. The figure corresponds with public letters written separately in recent months by human rights defenders Saeed Eghabli and Farhad Meysami who are unjustly jailed in Raja’i Shahr prison. The former referred to weekly executions of up to 10 people in Raja’i Shahr prison while the latter warned that the total number of executions there could surpass 200 by the end of 2022.

    The informed source also said that Raja’i Shahr’s associate prosecutor (dadyar) recently told prisoners that the Office for the Implementation of Sentences had written to the families of about 530 murder victims, asking them to decide whether to pardon or seek the execution of those convicted of murdering their kin by late March 2023.

    The same source said repeated statements by the head of judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei and other senior judicial officials in recent months about the need to address prison overcrowding have raised widespread fears among prisoners that the rise in executions is related to official efforts to reduce prisoner numbers. The fears expressed are supported by past patterns monitored by Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre that indicate spikes in executions coincide with periods when the authorities make repeated public statements about their goals to address case backlogs and reduce overcrowding.

    Renewed surge in drug-related executions

    The execution of at least 86 people for drug-related offences in the first six months of 2022 has grim echoes of the authorities’ anti-narcotics practices in the years between 2010 and 2017, when most recorded executions were for drug-related offences.

    In November 2017, following intense international pressure, which included several European countries cutting off funds to anti-narcotics operations by Iran’s law enforcement forces, the authorities adopted some legal reforms to eliminate the death penalty for certain drug-related offences.

    Between 2018 and 2020, the authorities considerably reduced drug-related executions. However, in 2021, at least 132 people were executed for drug-related offences, accounting for 42% of overall recorded executions and representing more than a five-fold rise from 2020 (23).

    The international community, including the EU and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, must urgently undertake high-level interventions, calling on the Iranian authorities to end the death penalty for all drug-related offences. They must ensure that any cooperation in anti-drug trafficking initiatives does not directly or indirectly contribute to the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, which is the defining characteristic of Iran’s anti-narcotics operations.

    The Iranian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely.

    Roya Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre
    Baluchi minority disproportionately affected

    At least 65 (26 %) of those executed since 2022 were members of Iran’s impoverished Baluchi ethnic minority, who make up about 5% of Iran’s population. Over half (38) were executed for drug-related offences.

    “The disproportionate use of the death penalty against Iran’s Baluchi minority epitomizes the entrenched discrimination and repression they have faced for decades and further highlights the inherent cruelty of the death penalty, which targets the most vulnerable populations in Iran and worldwide,” said Roya Boroumand.

    Abdorrahman Boroumand Centre and Amnesty International oppose the death penalty without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

    Background

    The number of executions in Iran in 2021 was the highest since 2017. The rise began in September 2021, after the head of judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, rose to the presidency and the Supreme Leader appointed a former Minister of Intelligence, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, as the new head of judiciary.

    The Iranian authorities carried out one public execution in 2022, none in 2021, one in 2020, 13 in 2019 and 13 in 2018. Official announcements indicate that in early 2022, at least two other people in Esfahan province and one person in Lorestan province were sentenced to be executed in public.

    The death penalty is imposed in Iran following trials that are systematically unfair, with torture-tainted “confessions” routinely used as evidence. The UN Special Rapporteur on Iran has stated that “entrenched flaws in law … mean that most, if not all, executions are an arbitrary deprivation of life.”

    Under Iranian law, the death penalty applies to numerous offences including financial crimes, rape and armed robbery. Activities protected by international human rights law such as consensual same-sex sexual conduct, extramarital sexual relations and speech deemed “insulting to the Prophet of Islam” as well as vaguely-worded offences such as “enmity against God” and “spreading corruption on earth” are also punishable by death.

  • Iran: Child Laborers Exposed to Irreparable Lifelong Injuries


    Launched in 2002, June 12 marks the World Day Against Child Labour. Under Article 32 of the Universal Declaration of Child Rights, it states that children must be protected from any work that threatens their growth and health, and that governments must specify the minimum working age and working conditions for children. The day of observation was created to raise awareness and activism to prevent children from across the world from being forced into child labor.

    The question is how is the situation of child labor among the street children in Iran?

    Many times, the Iranian regime’s officials in the welfare departments of the provinces, and the managers of the municipal departments of different cities have identified thousands of children working in the country.

    However, due to the negligence of the responsible organizations and the existence of a state-controlled mafia abusing the children, accurate statistics on the number of working and street children are not provided by the relevant authorities. Often, in different comments by some regime officials, the number of working children is estimated to be in the millions.

    The problem of child labor is like an iceberg, meaning that we can only see what is visible – the children working on the street – but a large majority of the children are working out of sight in workshops and other places.

    In a previous comment, the Director-General of Welfare in Tehran Province said that in Tehran metros alone, more than 2000 children are working. Unofficial statistics have stated that more than 20,000 children are working on the streets of Tehran, and from that number more than 4,000 of them are working as waste collectors.

    One of the factors that have been considered as the reason for the high number of child laborers in Iran is the high number of parents who are unemployed or struggling with social crises. As a result, they are forced to send their children to the streets to find work. The latest estimation by the regime suggests that more than seven million children are forced to work in this way.

    75% of working children are in the age group of 10 to 14 years old, with the average age being 13 years old. Around 5% of children are under 7 years old, while the gender composition of working children shows that about 15% of these children are girls and 85% are boys.

    According to the regime’s experts, around 30% of these children do not know if they had a birth certificate. Fifty percent of these children started working between the ages of 7 and 10, and 20 percent work started under the age of seven.

    Of the children in Iran forced into child labor, 35% of these children are in good health, with the other 65% being in poor conditions. 40% of these children are completely illiterate, 75% of the rest have at least a sixth-grade education, and only 3% have had a high school education.

    Eighty percent of boys and 60 percent of girls work in the public and semi-public sectors, with the rest of the boys working in shops, mechanics, repair shops, markets, warehouses, agriculture, and recycling factories. The rest of the girls work in houses, workshops, shops and agricultural land, and greenhouses. The number of girls working in the waste recycling workshop is also much higher than boys, which makes them more vulnerable.

    With the regime’s medieval culture strongly encouraging girls’ workers into prostitution, we now see that the average age of these girls has reached below 15. These young girls are routinely sexually abused and exploited.

    The results of the regime’s recent welfare surveys have shown that of those children working on the streets, 33.8% of these children work between one and four hours, 52.1% work between four and eight hours and 13% of them spend more than eight hours on the street.

    Surveys have also shown that around 73% of street children have a history of violence, both physical and non-physical acts such as humiliation, bullying, etc.

    These days, it is not just a matter of illiteracy, school dropouts, or malnutrition affecting these children. HIV, addiction, depression, self-harm, suicide, sexual harassment, uncontrolled violence, etc. are all emerging amongst the population of working children.

    An important point, which is less related to the physical problems and physical abilities to work with children and more related to their psychological and social issues, is that these children do not have a childhood at all, and this can have very profound lifelong consequences.

    These children cannot play and interact with their peers and are not exposed to the joys and excitements of childhood. Instead, they are exposed to stresses and pressures in the workplace that are not appropriate for their age, and their brain, soul, and psyche are not ready to deal with it. This unfortunately makes them more prone to many psychological and social disorders that will stay with them throughout their adult lives.

    Children in Iran are victims of the regime’s destructive policies. Many families cannot send their children to school simply because they cannot afford the necessary supplies. These destructive policies are summed up in institutionalized corruption, wasting national wealth on nuclear and missile programs, terrorism, and oppression, which has led t the freefall of the country’s economy.

  • Death Penalty 2021: State-sanctioned killings rise as executions spike in Iran and Saudi Arabia


    • Iran records highest known execution figure since 2017
    • Despite regression, 2021 global execution figure represents the second-lowest figure Amnesty International has recorded since at least 2010
    • Easing of Covid-19 restrictions sees surge in number of recorded death sentences
    • Almost 90 known to have been sentenced to death under martial law in Myanmar
    2021 saw a worrying rise in executions and death sentences as some of the world’s most prolific executioners returned to business as usual and courts were unshackled from Covid-19 restrictions, Amnesty International said today in its annual review of the death penalty.
    At least 579 executions were known to have been carried out across 18 countries last year⁠—a 20% increase on the recorded total for 2020⁠. Iran accounted for the biggest portion of this rise, executing at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), its highest execution total since 2017. This was due in part to a marked increase in drug-related executions—a flagrant violation of international law which prohibits use of the death penalty for crimes other than those involving intentional killing. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia more than doubled its number of executions, a grim trend that continued in 2022 with the execution of 81 people in a single day in March.
    “After the drop in their execution totals in 2020, Iran and Saudi Arabia once again ramped up their use of the death penalty last year, including by shamelessly violating prohibitions put in place under international human rights law. Their appetite for putting the executioner to work has also shown no sign of abating in the early months of 2022,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
    Executing countries in 2017-2021
    As Covid-19 restrictions that had previously delayed judicial processes were steadily lifted in many parts of the world, judges handed down at least 2,052 death sentences in 56 countries—a close to 40% increase on 2020—with big spikes seen in countries including Bangladesh (at least 181, from at least 113), India (144, from 77) and Pakistan (at least 129, from at least 49).
    “Instead of building on the opportunities presented by hiatuses in 2020, a minority of states demonstrated a troubling enthusiasm to choose the death penalty over effective solutions to crime, showing a callous disregard for the right to life even amid urgent and ongoing global human rights crises,” said Agnès Callamard.
    Despite these setbacks, the total number of recorded executions in 2021 constitutes the second-lowest figure, after 2020, that Amnesty International has recorded since at least 2010.
    As in previous years, the recorded global totals for death sentences and executions do not include the thousands of people that Amnesty International believes to have been sentenced to death and executed in China, as well as the extensive number of executions believed to have taken place in North Korea and Viet Nam. Secretive state practices and restricted access to information for these three countries made it impossible to accurately monitor executions, while for several other countries, recorded totals must be regarded as minimum figures.
    Instead of building on the opportunities presented by hiatuses in 2020, a minority of states demonstrated a troubling enthusiasm to choose the death penalty over effective solutions to crime, showing a callous disregard for the right to life even amid urgent and ongoing global human rights crises,
    Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General
    “China, North Korea and Viet Nam continued to shroud their use of the death penalty behind layers of secrecy, but, as ever, the little we saw is cause for great alarm,” said Agnès Callamard.
    ⁠Iran maintains a mandatory death penalty for possession of certain types and quantities of drugs⁠⁠—with the number of executions recorded for drug-related offences rising more than five-fold to 132 in 2021 from 23 the previous year. The known number of women executed also rose from nine to 14, while the Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law.
    As well as the rise in executions seen in Saudi Arabia (65, from 27 in 2020), significant increases on 2020 were seen in Somalia (at least 21, from at least 11) South Sudan (at least 9, from at least 2) and Yemen (at least 14, from at least 5). Belarus (at least 1), Japan (3) and UAE (at least 1) also carried out executions, having not done so in 2020.
    Significant increases in death sentences compared to 2020 were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (at least 81, from at least 20), Egypt (at least 356, from at least 264), Iraq (at least 91, from at least 27), Myanmar (at least 86, from at least 1), Viet Nam (at least 119 from at least 54), and Yemen (at least 298, from at least 269).
    Death penalty as a tool of state repression
    In several countries in 2021, the death penalty was deployed as an instrument of state repression against minorities and protestors, with governments showing an utter disregard for safeguards and restrictions on the death penalty established under international human rights law and standards.
    An alarming increase in the use of the death penalty under martial law was recorded in Myanmar, where the military transferred the authority to try civilian cases to military tribunals, which conducted summary proceedings without the right to appeal. Close to 90 people were arbitrarily sentenced to death, several in absentia, in what was widely perceived as a targeted campaign against protestors and journalists.
    Egyptian authorities continued to resort to torture and mass executions, often following unfair trials before Emergency State Security Courts, while in Iran, death sentences were disproportionately used against members of ethnic minorities for vague charges such as “enmity against God”. At least 19% of the recorded executions (61) were members of the Baluchi ethnic minority, who constitute only around 5% of Iran’s population.
    Victims of Saudi Arabia’s deeply flawed justice system included Mustafa al-Darwish, a young Saudi Arabian man from the Shi’a minority who was accused of participating in violent anti-government protests. He was executed on 15 June following a grossly unfair trial based on a “confession” extracted through torture.
    Positive signs towards global abolition
    Despite these alarming developments, positive signs of a global trend toward abolition continued throughout 2021. For the second consecutive year, the number of countries known to have executed people was the lowest since Amnesty International began keeping records.
    Trend towards abolition
    In Sierra Leone, an Act which abolishes the death penalty for all crimes was unanimously adopted by parliament in July, although it is yet to come into effect. In December, Kazakhstan adopted legislation to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, which came into effect in January 2022. The Government of Papua New Guinea embarked on a national consultation on the death penalty, which resulted in the adoption of an abolition bill in January 2022, which is yet to come into force. At the end of the year, the Government of Malaysia announced that it would table legislative reforms on the death penalty in the third quarter of 2022. And, in Central African Republic and Ghana, lawmakers started legislative processes to abolish the death penalty, which remain ongoing.
    In the US, Virginia became the 23rd abolitionist state and first southern state to have abolished the death penalty, while, for the third consecutive year, Ohio rescheduled or halted all set executions. The new US administration also established a temporary moratorium on federal executions in July. 2021 marked the lowest number of executions in the US since 1988.
    Gambia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan continued to observe official moratoriums on executions.
    The minority of countries that still retain the death penalty are on notice: a world without state-sanctioned killing is not only imaginable, it is within reach and we will continue to fight for it.
    Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General
    “The minority of countries that still retain the death penalty are on notice: a world without state-sanctioned killing is not only imaginable, it is within reach and we will continue to fight for it. We will continue to expose the inherent arbitrariness, discrimination, and cruelty of this punishment until no one will be left under its shadow. It is high time the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is consigned to the history books,” said Agnès Callamard.

  • Iran: Arrests Amid Economic Protests


    (Beirut) – Iranian authorities have arrested several prominent activists on baseless accusations amid labor union strikes and ongoing protests against rising prices, since May 6, 2022, in dozens of small towns, Human Rights Watch said today. Those arrested include a prominent sociologist and four labor rights defenders.

    News outlets close to the intelligence apparatus have accused the detained activists of having contact with suspicious foreign actors, without providing any evidence of an alleged wrongdoing. On May 11, the Intelligence Ministry issued a statement saying that it had arrested two European citizens who it said met with teachers’ unions activists and “intended to abuse the demands of unions and other groups in society.”

    “The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of looking to civil society for help in understanding and responding to social problems, Iran’s government treats them as an inherent threat.”

    According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), an independent human rights monitoring agency, since May 6, in at least 19 cities and towns, people have gathered to protest the news of rising prices for essential goods in the coming months. Parliament members have been reported saying two people were killed during the protests. Unconfirmed sources report higher numbers. Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm these reports.

    On May 9, the authorities arrested labor activists Anisha Assadollahi and Keyvan Mohtadi after raiding their home, HRANA reported. On May 12, the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) reported that intelligence agents had arrested Reza Shahabi, a member of its governing board. HRANA reported that Reyhani Ansari, another labor rights activist, was also arrested on the same day. Telegram channels close to intelligence services claimed that Shahabi and Assadollahi were arrested on “accusation of cooperating with a foreign team intending to overthrow” the government, without providing evidence for this accusation.

    On May 16, Mehr News agency reported that the authorities had arrested an outspoken sociologist, Saeed Madani, who previously spent five years in prison for his peaceful activism, on the accusation of “meeting suspicious foreign actors and conveying their operating guidelines to entities inside the country.” On January 4, the authorities at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran had prevented Madani from leaving the country to start his fellowship program at Yale University. The authorities have since prevented him from leaving Iran and interrogated him several times.

    On May 17, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Television channel aired a video identifying the two Europeans arrested as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69. Kohler is reportedly an official in a French teachers union.

    During the last week of April, the authorities arrested dozens of teachers union activists after the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers Associations called for nationwide protests to demand reforms of the pay scale system on May 1, a day before National Teachers’ Day. Several of those arrested remain in detention, including Mohammad Habibi, the Iranian Teachers Trade Association’s (ITTA) spokesperson, Rasoul Bodaghi, Jafar Ebrahimi, and other prominent members of ITTA.

    Over the past four years, there have been widespread protests to make economic demands, and protests and strikes organized by the country’s major unions have been on the rise in Iran in response to declining living standards across the country.

    Security forces have responded to these protests with excessive force, including lethal force, and arrested thousands of protesters, using prosecution and imprisonment based on illegitimate charges as the main tool to silence prominent dissidents and human rights defenders. The authorities have shown no willingness to investigate serious human rights violations committed under their control.

    Since the start of protests on May 6, the authorities have heavily disrupted internet access in multiple provinces. A number of videos circulated on social media show the presence of security officials and appear to show the use of teargas. Unofficial sources published the names of five people they said were killed during the protests in the Khuzistan, Chaharmahal, and Bakhtiari provinces. Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm the deaths.

    “Iranian authorities have long sought to criminalize solidarity among members of civil society groups inside and outside the country,” Sepehri Far said. “The intention is to prevent accountability and scrutiny of state actions that civil society provides.”

  • Iran: Ailing prisoners left to die amid crisis of impunity for fatal denial of medical care


    Iranian prison officials are committing shocking violations of the right to life by deliberately denying ailing prisoners lifesaving healthcare and refusing to investigate and ensure accountability for unlawful deaths in custody, Amnesty International said today. In a new briefing, In death’s waiting room: Deaths in custody following deliberate denial of medical care in Iran’s prisons, the organization documents how prison authorities routinely cause or contribute to deaths in custody, including by blocking or delaying prisoners’ access to emergency hospitalization.

    Consistent with entrenched patterns of systematic impunity in Iran, to date, the authorities have refused to conduct any independent and transparent investigations into deaths in custody involving reports of denial of medical care and have failed to ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted and punished.

    “The Iranian authorities’ chilling disregard for human life has effectively turned Iran’s prisons into a waiting room of death for ill prisoners, where treatable conditions tragically become fatal,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “Deaths in custody resulting from the deliberate denial of healthcare amount to arbitrary deprivation of life, which is a serious human rights violation under international law. A prisoner’s death in custody also constitutes an extrajudicial execution, a crime under international law, if those responsible either intended to cause the death or knew with a sufficient degree of certainty that death would be the necessary consequence of their unlawful actions, yet persisted.”

    The briefing, which details the circumstances surrounding the death in custody of 92 men and four women in 30 prisons in 18 provinces across Iran since January 2010, is based on Amnesty International’s documentation of a selection of illustrative cases, long-term findings on deliberate denial of access to adequate healthcare in Iran’s prisons, and a comprehensive review of reporting by independent human rights group.

    The 96 cases reviewed are illustrative, rather than exhaustive, since the true number of deaths in custody is likely far higher. This is because human rights violations in Iran often go unreported due to well-founded fears of reprisals.

    The list of cases excludes deaths in custody involving credible reports of physical torture or the use of firearms, which Amnesty International addressed in a separate output in September 2021.

    Ailing prisoners left to die

    Amnesty International documented the fatal consequences resulting from prison officials’ common practice of denying or delaying hospital transfers for critically ill prisoners.

    The organization also documented how prison officials frequently deny prisoners access to adequate healthcare, including diagnostic tests, regular check-ups, and post-operative care, throughout their imprisonment, which leads to worsening health problems, inflicts additional pain and suffering on sick prisoners, and ultimately causes or contributes to their untimely deaths.

    In Iran, prison clinics are not equipped with the facilities required for addressing complex health problems. Nor are they staffed by an adequate number of qualified general practitioners, let alone medical specialists, who are only required to visit for one or several hours during the week “as needed”. As a result, prisoners who experience medical emergencies and need specialized medical care must always be immediately transferred to outside medical facilities.

    Abdolvahed Gomshadzehi died in the main prison in Zahedan in May 2016. Prison doctors had warned that he needed hospitalization, but officials had refused. Human rights groups said the 19-year-old, who was a child at the time of arrest, died of neglected blood clots in his brain which had resulted from beatings sustained during his arrest and/or interrogations two years earlier. During his imprisonment, his multiple requests for treatment had been denied.

    The Iranian authorities’ chilling disregard for human life has effectively turned Iran’s prisons into a waiting room of death for ill prisoners, where treatable conditions tragically become fatal.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International
    Sixty-four out of the 96 prisoners, whose cases Amnesty International reviewed, died in prison. Many died in their prison cells which means they were not given basic medical supervision in their final hours. Some died while held in poorly equipped and staffed prison clinics.

    At least 26 prisoners died during transfer or shortly after admission to hospital, following deliberate delays by prison medical staff and/or prison officials, which proved fatal.

    In at least six cases, critically ill prisoners were moved to solitary confinement, punishment wards, or quarantine sections; four of them died alone in prison while two were eventually authorized for hospital transfers, but it proved too late.

    In many cases, both prison clinic medical staff and prison officials accused prisoners experiencing medical emergencies of “faking” or “exaggerating” their symptoms.

    For example, Nader Alizehi was accused of “faking” his illness by the head of the clinic at the main prison in Zahedan. He died in November 2017, at the age of 22. According to human rights groups, Nader was refused specialist medical care for his heart disease and sent away by clinic staff with gastrointestinal medication.

    Lives cut short

    In the vast majority of cases, prisoners who died were young or middle aged – 23 were between the ages of 19 and 39, and 26 between the ages of 40 and 59, raising further concerns that lives are being cut short by denial of healthcare.

    Prisons with high populations of oppressed minorities feature particularly heavily – 22 of the 96 deaths recorded took place in the prison in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province, where most prisoners are from Kurdish and Azerbaijani Turkic minorities. Thirteen deaths were recorded at the main prison in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchestan province, where prisoners mostly belong to Iran’s oppressed Baluchi minority.

    At least 11 prisoners died after being denied adequate healthcare for traumatic injuries resulting from specific incidents that occurred at the time of arrest or during imprisonment. The other 85 prisoners died after being denied adequate medical care for serious medical emergencies involving, among things, heart attacks and strokes, gastrointestinal complications, respiratory complications, kidney problems, Covid-19 or other infectious diseases, which either emerged suddenly or were related to pre-existing illnesses for which they had not received adequate specialized healthcare throughout their imprisonment.

    The cases of 20 prisoners were of a political nature. The remainder had been convicted of or charged with non-political offences.

    Impunity

    The crisis of systemic impunity prevailing in Iran has emboldened prison officials to persist with deadly denial of medical care to prisoners.

    The crisis is characterized not only by the authorities’ systematic refusal to investigate, but also by their promotion of narratives praising the quality of health services offered to prisoners as “exemplary” or “unparalleled” throughout the world, which indicates that they have no intent to change course.

    Given this context, Amnesty International reiterates its call for the UN Human Rights Council to set up an investigative and accountability mechanism to collect, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law and human rights violations committed in Iran to facilitate fair criminal proceedings.

    “The shadow of death will continue to cast over Iran’s ailing prisoners until effective, thorough, transparent, impartial and independent investigations are conducted to determine the circumstances surrounding deaths in custody and the responsibility of those involved in the deaths,” said Diana Eltahawy.

    The shadow of death will continue to cast over Iran’s ailing prisoners until effective, thorough, transparent, impartial and independent investigations are conducted to determine the circumstances surrounding deaths in custody and the responsibility of those involved in the deaths.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International
    To prevent further avoidable loss of life as a result of denial of vital medical care, Amnesty International is urging Iranian authorities to require, in law and practice, that, pending structural improvements in prison clinics, prisoners experiencing medical emergencies are immediately transferred to medical facilities outside prison. Prisoners diagnosed with serious pre-existing illness or displaying signs and symptoms of what may be serious health problems must similarly be promptly transferred to medical facilities outside prison for adequate medical care.

    Amnesty International also calls on the Iranian authorities to reform deeply flawed provisions in Iran’s prison regulations, which grant prison directors and prosecution officials the power to ignore or overrule medical advice and make healthcare decisions concerning the transfer of prisoners for treatment.

  • Iranian Security Use Pepper Spray Against Female Soccer Fans


    The Iranian regime’s brutality against women who wanted to attend the national soccer team’s match in Mashhad has become one of the main topics in Iran’s media and has once again revealed its misogynist nature.

    Shortly before the start of the match, the regime decided to prevent women from entering the stadium, even though they had valid tickets. The police attacked the women outside the gates with pepper spray, which also hurt some children who were present.

    This decision to ban women from attending the game enraged the Iranian people, many of whom asked FIFA to sanction and suspend Iran’s soccer team from international competitions not only because this prohibition is a brazen violation of FIFA’s regulations, but also because it would show that the mullahs cannot discriminate against women with impunity. Such a decision would also encourage women in their struggle for their rights.

    The most surprising part of the event was that, unlike in earlier attacks, women wearing chadors were subjected to violence by the regime’s security forces, undermining any excuse of fighting the violation of the regime’s compulsory dress code.

    In a modern country with a civilized government, it would be inconceivable to attack a group of peaceful women and their children who simply wanted to watch a match of their national team.

    The regime in its entirety opposes women attending matches. However, the backlash over this incident terrified the officials, forcing them to reluctantly react to the incident and shed crocodile tears for the women.

    Without naming his father-in-law, Ahmad Alamolhoda, Ebrahim Raisi instructed the interior minister to “investigate the incident.” During the Friday Prayer Congregation before the match, Alamalhoda had brazenly claimed, “If a group of young men and women attend this match, a group of girls and women might get excited, clap, whistle, and jump in the air. This becomes vulgarity and vulgarity is a sign of sin.”

    True to form, no official took responsibility for this brutal attack. Indeed, the Soccer Federation was blamed for this incident because it had sold tickets to women.

    For its part, the Soccer Federation has since ludicrously claimed, “All tickets were fake and only nine women had bought tickets.” While all tickets were bought online from the Federation’s website, how does one explain the fact that it was only women who bought the fake tickets and not men?

    To deal with this fiasco, the officials tried to blame this incident on an arbitrary decision. But a regime security official at the Khorasan Razavi Security Council acknowledged that officials in Tehran had ordered women to be barred from entering the stadium. He said, “We only enforced the decisions that were taken in Tehran. We and the Provincial Security Council abided by and carried out the order that came from Tehran.”

    As if nothing serious had happened and that the main dispute was over money, the Soccer Federation announced that “Women who had bought the tickets will be refunded within 48 hours.”

    Rejecting the regime’s narrative, Iranians demanded that FIFA suspend the national team from international competitions.”

    Only two countries in the entire world routinely prevent women from attending soccer matches. One is Afghanistan, which is led by the Taliban, and the other one is the Iranian regime led by the mullahs.

  • Annual report: Supreme Court ruling gave hope but Persian Christians still have no #place2worship


    Article 18 – 25th January 2022

    Two rulings at the end of 2021 offered hope that one day Iranian Christians may no longer be charged with “acting against national security” for simply meeting together to worship in their homes.

    First, on 3 November, the Supreme Court ruled that nine Christians serving five-year sentences for their involvement in house-churches, and the propagation of what was referred to as the “Evangelical Zionist sect”, should not have been convicted of “acting against national security”.

    Then, on 30 November, the public prosecutor of the Civil and Revolutionary Court in the western city of Dezful decided there was no grounds to charge eight other Christians, saying they “merely converted to a different religion”, which is “not criminalised in the laws of Iran”, and “didn’t carry out any propaganda against other groups”.

    But aside from these late glimmers of hope, Article18’s latest annual report, released today in collaboration with CSW, Open Doors International and Middle East Concern, shows Iranian Christians continued to suffer widespread violations of their rights in 2021.

    Of the publicly reported cases alone, 30 Christians endured imprisonment or exile in 2021 on charges related to their faith or religious activities, and 21 were still serving these sentences at the end of the year – 18 in prison, one in exile, and two more serving the remainder of their sentences at home with an electronic tag.

    Many others faced ongoing legal battles, while Christians continued to flee the country to seek asylum elsewhere, despite worsening conditions for refugees in neighbouring countries such as Turkey.

    Meanwhile, the first Christians were charged, sentenced and imprisoned under the controversial new amendments to Article 500 of the penal code, for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam”.

    Churches remained closed to Persian-speaking Christians, while they continued to be arrested and imprisoned for attending house-churches, leading three prisoners to bravely ask: “Where can we worship once we are released?”, a question that inspired the ongoing campaign for Persian-speaking Christians to be given a #place2worship.

    It was in the wake of this campaign that two of the three Christians were among the nine released on bail while their sentences are reviewed.

    But fears the move represented an exception rather than the rule seemed to be confirmed just two weeks later, when one of the nine Christians was sent back to prison to serve another previously quashed sentence related to his faith.

    There was also great inconsistency regarding which prisoners were permitted release with an electronic tag – a growing trend in 2021 – and which were rejected the opportunity; or which prisoners were offered parole, and which were cruelly denied it.

    As the report bemoans, “The differing decisions highlight the inconsistencies that plague the judicial system in Iran, and suggest that favourable rulings reflect the views of individual judges rather than systemic improvements at the heart of the judiciary.”

    Annual report: Supreme Court ruling gave hope but Persian Christians still have no #place2worship

  • Iran: People’s tribunal on deadly protest crackdowns must serve as wake-up call for all UN member states


    An international “people’s tribunal” which began hearings in London yesterday on the Iranian authorities’ killing and wounding of thousands of protesters and bystanders during nationwide protests in November 2019 is a powerful initiative against impunity and must serve as a wake-up call for all UN member states, Amnesty International said today.

    During the four-day hearing, the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 will hear evidence from dozens of witnesses, including protesters, victims’ relatives, torture survivors, healthcare workers and former security officials. Several expert witnesses will also testify before the tribunal, which will be presided over by prominent lawyers and judges. Among the expert witnesses is Amnesty International’s Researcher on Iran, Raha Bahreini, scheduled to appear before the tribunal today at 10am (GMT).

    “Despite repeated calls by Amnesty International and others, UN member states have yet to mandate an independent international inquiry into crimes under international law and serious human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities during and in the aftermath of the November 2019 protests, including unlawful killings of protesters and bystanders, mass arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances and torture,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “There must be an end to this systematic impunity afforded to perpetrators of this state-sanctioned crackdown. The hearings at the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 are crucial for ensuring that these atrocities do not fade into memory. Crucially, the tribunal must spur UN member states into action, both at the current session of the UN General Assembly and the next session of the UN Human Rights Council, to pave the way for the accountability that is so desperately needed.”

    Amnesty International is urging all UN member states to pay close attention to the testimonies and other evidence presented at the tribunal, and to fulfilltheir responsibility to tackle impunity by establishing through the UN Human Rights Council an independent mechanism to collect, preserve and analyze evidence of serious crimes under international law committed in Iran to facilitate fair criminal proceedings.

    Remembering the victims of Iran’s killing spree

    Since May 2020, when Amnesty International released the details of 304 men, women and children killed by Iran’s security forces during the protests, which erupted following sudden overnight hikes in fuel prices, the organization has recorded the names and details of 24 more victims, bringing the total number of recorded deaths to 323*.

    However, the organization believes the real number of deaths is higher, with many Iranians fearing reprisals from the authorities if they were to speak out or go public with information about those killed in the crackdown.

    Today, Amnesty International is releasing an updated list of the names and details of protesters and bystanders identified as being killed during the protests of November 2019.

    The organization is aware of scores of additional names reported online yet currently lacks sufficient verified details to include them in its list. The organization has published a list of these reported names in Persian on its Telegram, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and invites anyone with further information about them or other victims hitherto unknown to contact the organization.

    “By uncovering and recording the names and details of those killed, we seek not only to reveal the horrifying scale of the Iranian authorities’ killing spree in November 2019, but also to honour the memory of every single human life lost in the protests,” said Heba Morayef.

    “We hope the weight of evidence presented at the tribunal will compel states to recognize that when national avenues for justice are completely absent, it is their duty to step in and act through institutions like the UN Human Rights Council to mandate an impartial and independent investigation to ensure truth, justice and reparation for these heinous crimes.”

    Background

    The hearings of the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 will run from 10-14 November 2021 at Church House, Westminster, London and are open to the public. They can also be watched live. The panel is due to deliver its judgement in early 2022.

    Protests erupted in Iran on 15 November 2019 following a sudden government announcement about a fuel price hike. The focus of the protests quickly expanded from concerns about the price of fuel to broader grievances against the political establishment, including demands for constitutional reforms and an end to the Islamic Republic system.

    During and following the protests between 15 and 19 November 2019, in addition to killing hundreds of protesters and bystanders including children, Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained thousands of protesters and bystanders and subjected hundreds to enforced disappearance, torture or other ill-treatment, and flagrantly unfair trials. The authorities carried out their lethal crackdown amid a near-total countrywide internet shutdown, which they deliberately imposed between 16 and 27 November 2019 to hide the true scale of the crimes and human rights violations they committed.

    The Iranian authorities continue to cover up the death toll of people killed during the November 2019 protests. They announced the deaths of 230 people in June 2020, but blamed unknown attackers for most killings and praised security and intelligence forces for their role in suppressing the protests.

    Amnesty International has found the security forces’ use of lethal force against the vast majority of those killed was unlawful.

    *The total figure of recorded deaths currently stands at 323 as five entries previously recorded in the list issued in May 2020 have been removed. These entries concerned deaths in the cities of Shahriar, Malard and Kermanshah which were confirmed, but the identities of the victims remained unknown. To prevent double-counting, these entries have been replaced with five of the 24 newly identified victims.

    Iran: People’s tribunal on deadly protest crackdowns must serve as wake-up call for all UN member states

    Topics

  • ran: Ebrahim Raisi must be investigated for crimes against humanity


    Amnesty International

    Responding to today’s announcement declaring Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:

    “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran. In 2018, our organization documented how Ebrahim Raisi had been a member of the ‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988. The circumstances surrounding the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their bodies are, to this day, systematically concealed by the Iranian authorities, amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity.

    ‘As Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiralling crackdown on human rights which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained. Under his watch, the judiciary has also granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least hundreds to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment during and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests of November 2019.

    “Ebrahim Raisi’s rise to the presidency follows an electoral process that was conducted in a highly repressive environment and barred women, members of religious minorities and candidates with opposing views from running for office.

    “We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction.

    “It is now more urgent than ever for member states of the UN Human Rights Council to take concrete steps to address the crisis of systematic impunity in Iran including by establishing an impartial mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Iran to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings.”