Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The state of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran has been criticized both by both Iranians and international human right activists, writers, and NGOs. The United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission have condemned abuses in Iran in published critiques and several resolutions.

The government of Iran is criticized both for restrictions and punishments that follow the Islamic Republic's constitution and law, and for actions that do not, such as the torture and killing of political prisoners, and the beatings and killings of dissidents and other civilians.

Restrictions and punishments lawful in the Islamic Republic that violate international human rights norms include: harsh penalties for crimes; amputation of offenders hands and feet; punishment of "victimless crimes" such as fornication, homosexuality, apostacy, poor hijab (covering of the head for women); execution of offenders under 18 years of age; restrictions on freedom of speech, and the press, including the imprisonment of journalists; unequal treatment according to religion and gender in the Islamic Republic's constitution - especially attacks on members of the Bahá'í religion.

Reported abuses falling outside of the laws of the Islamic Republic that have been condemned include the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, and the widespread use of torture to extract repudiations by prisoners of their cause and comrades on video for propaganda purposes.Abrahamian, Ervand, " [,+Ervand+Abrahamian&btnG=Google+Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail#PPA2,M1 Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran] ", University of California Press, 1999, p.4] Also condemned has been firebombings of newspaper offices and attacks on political protesters by "quasi-official organs of repression," particularly "Hezbollahi," and the murder of dozens of regime opponents in the 1990, allegedly by "rogue elements" of the government.

Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran’s human rights record "has deteriorated markedly" according to the group Human Rights Watch. [ RIGHTS CRISIS ESCALATES, September 18, 2008] ]

Officials of the Islamic Republic have responsed to criticism by stating the IRI is not obliged to follow "the West's interpretation" of human rights but to "fulfill ... international commitments in accordance to its interest as an Islamic country," [ [ Islamic world urged to stand against Western-style human rights Tehran, May 15, IRNA ] ] and that the Islamic Republic is a victim of "biased propaganda of enemies" which is "part of a greater plan against the world of Islam." [ [ Human rights fully respected in Iran: Judiciary chief Tehran, April 10, IRNA ] ] Those who human rights activists say are peaceful political activists being denied due process rights are actually committing Offenses Against the National and International Security of the Country. [ [ Iran: End Widespread Crackdown on Civil Society] ]


Explanations for violations

Among the explanation for violations of human rights violations in the Islamic Republic are:

Theological differences

The legal and governing principles upon which the Islamic Republic of Iran is based differ in some respects from the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
*Sharia law, as interpreted in the Islamic Republic (and by many Muslims), calls for inequality of rights between genders, religions, sexual orientation, as well as for other internationally criticised practices such as stoning as a method of execution. [ ['s%20Construction%20of%20Islam.pdf Refah Revisited: Strasbourg's Construction of Islam] , by Christian Moe, Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, published at the site of The Strasbourg Conference] In 1984, Iran's representative to the United Nations, Sai Rajaie-Khorassani, declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be representing a "secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims and did not "accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran" which would "therefore not hesitate to violate its provisions." [United Nations General Assembly. 39th Session. Third Committee. 65th meeting, held on 7 December 1984 at 3 pm New York. A/C.3/39/SR.65. quoted by Luiza Maria Gontowska, " [ Human Rights Violations Under the Sharia'a, A Comparative Study of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran] ," May 2005, p.4]
*According to scholar Ervand Abrahamian, in the eyes of Iranian officials, "the survival of the Islamic Republic - and therefore of Islam itself - justified the means used," and trumped any right of the individual. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions", 1999, p.137] In a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini's in early 1988, he declared Iran's Islamic government "a branch of the absolute governance of the Prophet of God" and "among the primary ordinances of Islam," having "precedence over all secondary ordinances such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage." [Hamid Algar, `Development of the Concept of velayat-i faqih since the Islamic Revolution in Iran,` paper presented at London Conference on "wilayat al-faqih", in June, 1988] [p.135-8] ] [Also "Ressalat", Tehran, 7 January 1988, [ Khomeini on how Laws in Iran will strictly adhere to God's perfect and unchanging divine law] ]

Perspective of the Islamic Republic

Iranian officials have not always agreed on the state of human rights in Iran. In April 2004, reformist president Mohammad Khatami stated "we certainly have political prisoners [in Iran] and ... people who are in prison for their ideas." Two days later, however, he was contradicted by Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, saying "we have no political prisoners in Iran" because Iranian law does not mention such offenses, ... "The world may consider certain cases, by their nature, political crimes, but because we do not have a law in this regard, these are considered ordinary offenses." [ [ Iran Report, A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iran, 3 May 2004] ]

In a 2008 speech, Iran's president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied to a question about his regime's human rights record by stating that "the human rights situation in Iran is relatively a good one, when compared ... with some European countries and the United States;" that Iran has fewer prisoners than the US, that as in any country when some people violate laws, "the judiciary takes charge." [ [ Democracy Now interview. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Threat of US Attack and International Criticism of Iran’s Human Rights Record, September 25, 2008] ]

In a 2007 speech to the United Nations, he commented on human rights only to say "certain powers" (unnamed) were guilty of violating it, "Setting up secret prisons, abducting persons, trials and secret punishments without any regard to due process, .... " [ [, Iran's leader slams 'arrogant' powers in U.N. address, September 25, 2007 ] This was seen as "a veiled but unmistakable criticism of the United States" extraordinary rendition and domestic surveillance under the USA PATRIOT Act: ]

Other officials have attacked Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and other violations and perceived violations of human rights in countries that have criticized Iran. [ [ Tehran Times. Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki has criticized discrimination against Muslim minorities in Western countries. March 6, 2008 ] ]

Relative openness

One defense made of the Islamic Republic's human rights record made by non-governmental sources is that it is not so severe that the Iranian public is afraid to criticize its government publicly to strangers. In neighboring Syria "taxi driver [s] rarely talk politics; the Iranian [s] will talk of nothing else." [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.296]

A theory of why human rights abuse in the Islamic Republic is "not" as bad as some other countries comes from American journalist Elaine Sciolino who speculated that

Shiite Islam thrives on debate and discussion ... So freedom of thought and expression is essential to the system, at least within the top circles of religious leadership. And if the mullahs can behave that way among themselves in places like the holy city of Qom, how can the rest of a modern-day society be told it cannot think and explore the world of experience for itself? [Sciolino, Elaine, "Persian Mirrors : the Elusive Face of Iran", Free Press, 2000, 2005, p.247]


The Islamic Revolution is thought by at least one scholar to have a significantly worse human rights record than the Pahlavi Dynasty it overthrew. According to political historian Ervand Abrahamian, "whereas less than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, more than 7900 were executed between 1981 and 1985. ... the prison system was centralized and drastically expanded ... Prison life was drastically worse under the Islamic Republic than under the Pahlavis. One who survived both writes that four months under [warden] Ladjevardi took the toll of four years under SAVAK. [source: Anonymous "Prison and Imprisonment", "Mojahed", 174-256 (20 October 1983-8 August 1985)] In the prison literature of the Pahlavi era, the recurring words had been `boredom` and `monotony.` In that of the Islamic Republic, they were `fear`, `death`, `terror`, `horror,` and most frequent of all `nightmare` ("kabos")." [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions" (1999), p.135-6, 167, 169]

Following the rise of the reform movement within Iran and the election of moderate Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in 1997 numerous moves were made to modify the Iranian civil and penal codes in order to improve the human rights situation. The predominantly reformist parliament drafted several bills allowing increased freedom of speech, gender equality, and the banning of torture. These were all dismissed or significantly watered down by the Guardian Council and leading conservative figures in the Iranian government at the time.Fact|date=August 2008

According to "The Economist" magazine,

The Tehran spring of ten years ago has now given way to a bleak political winter. The new government continues to close down newspapers, silence dissenting voices and ban or censor books and websites. The peaceful demonstrations and protests of the Khatami era are no longer tolerated: in January [2007] security forces attacked striking bus drivers in Tehran and arrested hundreds of them. In March police beat hundreds of men and women who had assembled to commemorate International Women's Day. ["Men of principle", "The Economist". London: Jul 21, 2007. Vol. 384, Iss. 8538; pg. 5 ]

Constitutional and legal foundations

Rights under the constitution

The Iranian fundamental law or constitution calls for equal rights among races, ethnic groups (article 19)fr icon [ L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde] , Jacques Leclerc, "CIRAL (Centre international de recherche en aménagement linguistique)", Université Laval] . It calls for gender equality (article 20), and protection of the rights of women (article 21); freedom of expression (article 23); freedom of press and communication (article 24) and freedom of association (article 27). Religious minorities "are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies."

However, the rights of women, of expression, of communication and association, of the press [ [ THE IRANIAN LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND INTERNATIONAL LAW] ] - are followed by modifiers such as "within the limits of the law", "within the precepts of Islam", "unless they attack the principles of Islam", "unless the Law states otherwise", "as long as it does not interfere with the precepts of Islam." [ [ Iran - Constitution] ]

Provisions in violation of Human Rights

The Iranian penal code is derived from the Shari'a and is not always in compliance with internatinoal norms of human rights.

The Iranian penal code distinguishes two types of punishments: "Hudud" (fixed punishment) and the "Qisas" (retribution) or "Diyya" (Blood money or Talion Law). Punishments falling within the category of Hududs are applied to people committing offenses against the State, such as adultery, alcohol consumption, burglary or petty theft, rebellions against Islamic authority, apostasia and homosexual intercourse (considered contrary to the spirit of Islam). [`The Complete Text of the Retribution Law` "Iran Times", 6 March 1981. see also: 22 May 1981, 15 October 1982. quoted in "Tortured Confessions" by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.133] Punishments include death by hanging, stoning or decapitation, amputation or flagellation (punishments are usually carried out in public). Victims of private crimes, such as murder or rape, can exercise a right to retribution (Qisas) or decide to accept "blood money" (Diyyah or Talion Law).en icon [ Iranian Civil Code] , NATLEX (retrieved 21 August 2006)]

Harsh punishments

Following traditional shariah punishment for thieves, courts in Iran have sometimes sentenced offenders to amputation of both "the right hand and left foot cut off, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the condemned to walk, even with a cane or crutches." This was the fate, for example, of five convicted robbers in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province in January 2008 according to the news agency ISNA. [ [ Spate of Executions and Amputations in Iran By NAZILA FATHI, January 11, 2008] ]

In December 2002, Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of the judicial system, reportedly sent judges a memorandum requesting the suspension of stonings and asking them to choose other forms of sanctions. However, legal dispositions regarding the death penalty by stoning remain in force.

Gender inequality

The Iranian legislation does not accord the same rights to women as to men in all areas of the law. [ Human Rights in Iran 2007] p.4,5]

*In the section of the penal code devoted to blood money, or "Diyya", the value of woman's life is half that of a man ("for instance, if a car hit both on the street, the cash compensation due to the woman's family was half that due the man's") [Ebadi, Shirin, "Iran Awakening : A Memoir of Revolution and Hope", by Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Random House, 2006, p.117]
*the testimony of a male witness is equivalent to that of two female witnesses. [ [] Islamic Penal Code of Iran, article 300 ]
*A woman needs her husband's permission to work outside the home or leave the country.
*Evidence given by a woman in court is considered only worth half that given by a man. [ [ Women act against repression and intimidation in Iran, 28 February 2008 ] ]

in the inheritance law of the Islamic Republic there are several instances where the woman is entitled to half the inheritance of the man. [fr icon [ Report by the special UN envoy] , edited by "Human Rights Internet", 2001.] For example:

* If a man dies without offspring, his estate is inherited by his parents. If both the parents are alive, the mother receives 1/3 and the father 2/3 of the inheritance, unless the mother has a hojab (relative who reduces her part, such as brothers and sisters of the deceased (article 886)), in which case she shall receive 1/6, and the father 5/6. (Article 906)
* If the dead man's closest heirs are aunts and uncles, the part of the inheritance belonging to the uncle is twice that belonging to the aunt. (Article 920) [ Analyses Private Relations in Iranian Civil Code by ehsan zarrokh] ]
* When the heirs are children, the inheritance of the sons is twice that of the daughters. (Article 907)
* - If the deceased leaves ancestors and brothers and sisters ("kalaleh"), 2/3s of the estate goes to the heirs which have relationship on the side of the father; and in dividing up this portion the males take twice the portion of the females; however, the 1/3 going to the heirs on the mother’s side is divided equally. (Article 924)

According to Zahra Eshraghi, granddaugher of Ayatollah Khomeini,

"Discrimination here [in Iran] is not just in the constitution. As a woman, if I want to get a passport to leave the country, have surgery, even to breathe almost, I must have permission from my husband." ["Daily Telegraph", June 19, 2005, "If I want to breathe I must have permission of my husband", by Colin Freeman quoted in]

In Iranian Islamic law the woman is considered as someone under guard and icon PDFlink| [ "Eléments sur le statut juridique des femmes et la peine de mort des mineurs en Iran"] |90.6 KiB , "SAFIR", 28 February 2005]

Freedom of expression and media

The 1985 press law prohibits "discourse harmful to the principles of Islam" and "public interest", as referred to in Article 24 of the constitution, which according to Human Rights Watch provides "officials with ample opportunity to censor, restrict, and find offense." [ [ THE IRANIAN LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND INTERNATIONAL LAW] ]

Freedom and equality of religion

The constitution recognizes the freedom of Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and accords non-Shia Muslims "full respect" (article 12). However the Bahá'í Faith is banned. [ Iran arrests Bahai 'leadership' 19 May 2008 ] The Islamic Republic has stated Baha'is or their leadership are "an organized establishment linked to foreigners, the Zionists in particular," that threaten Iran. [ May 22, 2008. "Iran 'plans to destroy Baha'i community'"] ] The International Federation for Human Rights and others believe the regime's policy of persecution of Bahá'ís stems from some Bahá'í teachings challenging traditional Islamic religious doctrines - particularly the finality of Muhammad's prophethood - and place Bahá'ís outside the Islamic faith.cite web
url =
title = Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran
publisher = International Federation of Human Rights
year = 2003
month = August
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] Irreligious people are also not recognized and do not have basic rights such as education, becoming member of parliament etc. [Kamguian, Azam. " [ The Fate of Infidels and Apostates under Islam] ", International Humanist and Ethical Union, June 21 2005.]

"Hudud" statutes grant different punishments to Muslims and non-Muslims for the same crime. In the case of adultery, for example, a Muslim man who is convicted of committing adultery with a Muslim woman receives 100 lashes; the sentence for a non-Muslim man convicted of adultery with a Muslim woman is death. [ [, Iran - THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK] ] In 2004, inequality of "blood money" (diyeh) was eliminated, and the amount paid by a perpetrator for the death or wounding a Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian man, was made the same as that for a Muslim. However, the International Religious Freedom Report reports that Baha'is were not included in the provision and their blood is considered "Mobah", (i.e. it can be spilled with impunity). [ [ Iran. International Religious Freedom Report 2004. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor] ]

Freedom to convert from Islam to another religion (apostasy), is prohibited. It is not protected by article 23 of the constitution, which states, "the investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief." Another article, 167, gives judges the discretion "to deliver his judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa (rulings issued by qualified clerical jurists)." The founder of the Islamic Republic, Islamic cleric Ruhollah Khomeini, who was a grand Ayatollah, ruled "that the penalty for conversion from Islam, or apostasy, is death." [ [ Iran - THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK Legislation Affecting Freedom of Religion] ]

The sentence of death for the crime of apostasy has been applied in Iran to alleged offenders who have not claimed to have converted to another religion, and whose crime may appear to outsiders to be political rather than religious. Hashem Aghajari, for example was condemned to death for apostasy for a speech urging Iranians to "not blindly follow" Islamic clerics. [ [, November 9, 2002 Iran: Academic’s Death Sentence Condemned] ]

The small protestant Christian minority in Iran have been subject to Islamic "government suspicion and hostility" according to Human Rights Watch at least in part because of their "readiness to accept and even seek out Muslim converts" as well as their Western origins. In the 1990, two Muslim converts to Christianity who had become ministers were sentenced to death for apostasy and other charges. [ Human RIghts Watch Religious minorities] ]

Political freedom

In a 2008 report, the organization Human Rights Watch complained that "broadly worded `security laws`" in Iran are used to ”to arbitrarily suppress and punish individuals for peaceful political expression, association, and assembly, in breach of international human rights treaties to which Iran is party." For example, "connections to foreign institutions, persons, or sources of funding" are enough to bring criminal charges such as "undermining national security" against individuals. [ [ Iran: End Widespread Crackdown on Civil Society ] ]

Ahmad Batebi, a demonstrator in the July 1999 Student demonstrations in Iran, was given a death sentence for "propaganda against the Islamic Republic System." (His sentence was later reduced to 15, and then ten years imprisonment.) A photograph of Batebi's holding a bloody shirt aloof was printed on the cover of "The Economist" magazine. [ [ The Dissident Murders ] ]

Children's rights

The Islamic Republic does exempt children from criminal responsibility, [Article 49 of the Islamic Penal Code, from [ Iran and Saudi Arabia: Laws that Treat Children as Adults ]] but defines children not as someone under 18 years of age but as a boy under 15 lunar years [approximately 14 years and 7 months old] or a girl under 9 lunar years of age. [approximately 8 years and 9 months old] [1991 Civil Code [ Iran and Saudi Arabia: Laws that Treat Children as Adults ]] The Islamic Republic defines a child as someone who has not reached the age of puberty (bulugh) as stipulated by the Sharia. [ Iran and Saudi Arabia: Laws that Treat Children as Adults]] Consequently there have been executions of offenders under the age of 18 in Iran, at least 23 executions has been recorded since 1990. [ Iran and Saudi Arabia: Laws that Treat Children as Adults]]

A bill to set the minimum age for the death penalty at 18 years was examined by the parliament in December 2003, but it was not ratified by the Guardian Council of the Constitution, the unelected body that has veto power over parliamentary bills. In a September 2008 interview President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked about the execution of minors and replied that "the legal age in Iran is different from yours. It’s not eighteen ... it’s different in different countries." [ [ Democracy Now interview. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Threat of US Attack and International Criticism of Iran’s Human Rights Record, September 25, 2008] ]

Extralegal violations of human rights

A 2005 Human Rights Watch document criticizes "Parallel Institutions" ("nahad-e movazi") in the Islamic Repbulic, "the quasi-official organs of repression that have become increasingly open in crushing student protests, detaining activists, writers, and journalists in secret prisons, and threatening pro-democracy speakers and audiences at public events." Under the control of the Office of the Supreme Leader, these groups set up arbitrary checkpoints around Tehran, uniformed police often refraining from directly confronting these plainclothes agents. "Illegal prisons, which are outside of the oversight of the National Prisons Office, are sites where political prisoners are abused, intimidated, and tortured with impunity." [ [ Overview of human rights issues in Iran] , December 31 2004]

According to dissident Akbar Ganji, what might appear to be "extra-legal" killings in Iran are actually not outside the penal code of the Islamic Republic since the code "authorises a citizen to assassinate another if he is judged to be `impious,`" [Interview with Akbar Ganji, "Le Monde", 6 June 2006.] Some widely condemned punishments issued by the Islamic Republic - the torture of prisoners and the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 have been reported to follow at least some form of Islamic law and legal procedures, though they have also not been publicly acknowledged by the government. [Abrahamian, Ervand, "Tortured Confessions", (1999), p.209-228 ]

Extra-legal acts may work in tandem with official actions, such as in the case of the newsweekly "Tamadone Hormozgan" in Bandar Abbas, where authorities arrested seven journalists in 2007 for “insulting Ayatollah Khomeini,” while government organisations and Quranic schools organized vigilantes to "ransacked and set fire" to the paper's offices. [ [ RSF, Iran - Annual Report 2007 ] ]


In the 1990s there were a number of unsolved murders and disappearances of intellectuals and political activists who had been critical of the Islamic Republic system in some way. In 1998 these complaints came to a head with the killing of three dissident writers (Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, Mohammad Mokhtari, Majid Sharif), a political leader (Dariush Forouhar) and his wife in the span of two months, in what became known as the Chain murders or 1998 Serial Murders of Iran. [ "Killing of three rebel writers turns hope into fear in Iran"] , Douglas Jehl, "New York Times", December 14, 1998 p.A6] [ [ RFE/RL Iran Report. 5 February 2001 ] ] of Iranians who had been critical of the Islamic Republic system in some way. [Sciolino, "Persian Mirrors", 2000, p.241] Altogether more than 80 writers, translators, poets, political activists, and ordinary citizens are thought to have been killed over the course of several years. The deputy security official of the Ministry of Information, Saeed Emami was arrested for the killings and later committed suicide, many believe higher level officials were responsible for the killings. According to, "it was widely assumed that [Emami] was murdered in order to prevent the leak of sensitive information about Ministry of Intelligence and Security operations, which would have compromised the entire leadership of the Islamic Republic." [ [ A Man Called Saeed Emani] ]

The attempted murder and serious crippling of Saeed Hajjarian, a Ministry of Intelligence operative-turned-journalist and reformer, is believed to be in in retaliation for his help in uncovering the chain murders of Iran and his help to the Iranian reform movement in general. Hajjarian was shot in the head by Saeed Asgar, a member of the Basij in March, 2000. [ [ Hajjarian assassination attempt] ]

At the international level, a German court ordered the arrest of a standing minister of the Islamic Republic - Minister of Intelligence Ali Fallahian - in 1997 for directing the 1992 murder of three Iranian-Kurdish dissidents and their translator at a Berlin restaurant, [Ebadi, "Iran Awakening", 2006, p.132] known as the Mykonos restaurant assassinations.

Two minority religious figures killed during this era were Protestant Christians Reverend Mehdi Dibaj, and Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr. On January 16, 1994, Rev. Mehdi, a convert to Christianity was released from prison after more than ten years of confinement, "apparently as a result of the international pressure." About six months later he disappeared after leaving a Christian conference in Karaj and his body was found July 5, 1994 in a forest West of Tehran. Six months earlier the man responsible for leading a campaign to free him, Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, had met a similar end, disappearing on January 19, 1994. His body was found in the street in Shahr-e Rey, a Tehran suburb.

Deaths in custody

In what has been called "an act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history" ["Tortured Confessions" by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.210] the Iranian government summarily, extrajudicially, and secretly executed thousands of political prisoners held in Iranian jails in the summer of 1988. According to Human Rights Watch the majority of prisoners had had unfair trials by the revolutionary courts, and in any case had not been sentenced to death. The "deliberate and systematic manner in which these extrajudicial executions took place constitutes a crime against humanity." The Iranian government has never "provided any information" on the executions because it has never acknowledged their existence. [ [ Pour-Mohammadi and the 1988 Prison Massacres, December 2005] ] However there is indication that government believed the prisoners were being tried according to Islamic law before being executed. According to reports of prisoners who escaped execution, the prisoners were all given a quick legal proceeding - however brief and unfair - with Mojahideen found guilty condemned as moharebs (those who war against God) and leftists as mortads (apostates from Islam). [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions", 1999, p.210]

Of the approximately 12,000 prisoners killed [source: N. Mohajer, `The Mass Killings in Iran` Aresh 57 (August 1996): 7. Although estimates of fatalities vary widely, Ervand Abrahamian describes this estimate as coming from "a recent study using scattered information from the provinces." Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions", (1999) p.216] ["Crimes Against Humanity: Indict Iran's Ruling Mullahs for Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners", published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee in 2001. The report contains a statement by Baron Avebury, vice-chairman of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, written in 2001. Baron Avebury describes a major massacre in 1988, (according to Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri): "in the first few days of the… massacre… thousands were killed, and at a conservative estimate. the final death toll was in the region of 30,000.".] most were members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a group that was invading Iran with a military force and air support from Saddam Hussien's Iraq at about the same time as the executions and was widely disliked by Iranians as a result. A minority were members of other leftist organizations who opposed the invasion.

Among those Iranians not associated with the PMOI or armed resistance who have died under suspicious circumstances while in prison are
*Ali-Akbar Saidi Sirjani an Iranian writer, poet and journalist who died in prison in November 1994.
*In June 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, died while in custody in Tehran's Evin prison. "Iranian authorities arrested her as she was photographing Evin prison. A few days later, Kazemi fell into a coma and died." [ [ Iran: Imprisoned Dissident Dies in Custody] ] Doctors examining her body determined that she died from a fractured skull and had been beaten, tortured, and raped. [cite news | url= | title=Iranian dissident 'admits' working for US | | date=August 31, 2006 | accessdate=2006-08-31 ]

More recently two people are alleged to have "committed suicide" while in jail in northwestern Iran. In both cases the women's families reported no signs of behavior consistent with suicidal tendencies.
*Zahra Bani-Ameri, a 27-year-old female physician died in October 2007 while in custody in the town of Hamedan.
*Ebrahim Lotfallahi, also 27, died in a detention center in the town of Sanandaj in January 2008. "On January 15, officials from the detention center contacted Lotfallahi’s parents and informed them that they had buried their son in a local cemetery." [ [ Iran: Investigate Detention Deaths] ]

Torture and mistreatment of prisoners

Article 38 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic forbids "all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information" and the "compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath." It also states that "any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence." [ [ 3-The Rights of the People] ] " [,+Ervand+Abrahamian&btnG=Google+Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail#PPA2,M1 Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran] "]

Nonetheless human rights groups and observers have complained that torture is frequently used on political prisoners in Iran. In a study of torture in Iran published in 1999, Iranian expatriate and political historian Ervand Abrahamian included Iran among "Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, and early modern Europe" of the Inquisition and witch hunts, in societies that "can be considered to be in a league of their own" in the systematic use of torture. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions" 1999, p.5]

Torture techniques used in the Islamic Republic include:

whipping, sometimes of the back but most often of the feet with the body tied on an iron bed; the qapani; deprivation of sleep; suspension from ceiling and high walls; twisting of forearms until they broke; crushing of hands and fingers between metal presses; insertion of sharp instruments under the fingernails; cigarette burns; submersion under water; standing in one place for hours on end; mock executions; and physical threats against family members. Of these, the most prevalent was the whipping of soles, obviously because it was explicitly sanctioned by the sharia. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions," 1999, p.139]

Two "innovations" in torture not borrowed from the Shah's regime were

the `coffin,` and compulsory watching of - and even participation in - executions. Some were placed in small cubicles, [50cm x 80cm x 140cm (20 inches x 31.5 inches x 55 inches)] blindfolded and in absolute silence, for 17-hour stretches with two 15-minute breaks for eating and going to the toilet. These stints could last months - until the prisoner agreed to the interview. Few avoided the interview and also remained sane. Others were forced to join firing squads and remove dead bodies. When they returned to their cells with blood dripping from their hands, Their roommates surmised what had transpired. ...." [Democratic Society of Iranians in France, "Dar Rahruha-ye Khon: Yazdah Gozaresh" ("In the Labyrinth of Blood: Eleven Eyewitness Accounts") (Paris, 1984), p.12] (p.139)]

According to Abrahamian, the reason torture became so commonly used in the Islamic Republic was its effectiveness in compelling political prisoners to make public confessions. Recorded and edited on videotape, the standard statements by prisoners included not only confessions to subversion and treason, but praise of the Islamic Revolution and denunciation or recantation of their former beliefs, former organization, former co-members, i.e. their life. These recantations served as powerful propaganda for both the Iranian public at large - who by the 1980s almost all had access to television and could watch prime time programs devoted to the taped confessions - and the recanters' former colleagues, for whom the denunciations were demoralizing and confusing. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions", 1999, p.5] From the moment they arrived in prison, through their interrogation prisoners were asked if they were willing to give an "interview." ("mosahebah") "Some remained incarcerated even after serving their sentences simply because they declined the honor of being interviewed." [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions," 1999, p.138]

Scholars disagree over whether at least some forms of torture have been made legal according to the "Qanon-e Ta'zir" (Discretionary Punishment Law) of the Islamic Republic. Abrahamian argues statutes forbidding `lying to the authorities` and ability of clerics to be both interrogators and judges, applying an "indefinite series of 74 lashings until they obtain `honest answers`" without the delay of a trial, make this a legal form of torture. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions," 1999, p.133] Another scholar, Christoph Werner, claims he could find no Ta'zir law mentioning lying to authorities but did find one specifically banning torture in order to obtain confessions. [ [ Review by Christoph Werner] of "Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran", in "British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies" © 2000, p.239-40]

Abrahamian also argues that a strong incentive to produce a confession by a defendant (and thus to pressure the defendent to confess) is the Islamic Republic's allowing of a defendant’s confession plus judges "reasoning" to constitute sufficient proof of guilt. He also states this is an innovation from the traditional sharia standard for (some) capital crimes of `two honest and righteous male witnesses`. [Abrahamian, "Tortured Confessions", 1999, p.134]

Several bills passed the Iranian Parliament that would have had Iran joining the international convention on banning torture in 2003 when reformists controlled Parliament, but were rejected by the Guardian Council. [ Iran: Guardian Council turns down Majlis bills on women's rights, torture ban] , "Payvand's Iran News", August 13 2003] [ Iran: Ban on Torture Rejected] , "New York Times", January 10, 2003]

Chronicle of Higher Education International, reports an Iranian college student as saying, "most of the girls arrested are raped in jail. Families can't cope with that." According to that journal, fear of rape in prison has been effective in keeping female college students "less outspoken and less likely to take part in future demonstrations." [August 1, 2008, "Among Scholars, Resistance and Resilience in Iran, Tradition of dissent survives despite government pressure" By AISHA LABI, "Chronicle of Higher Education International"]

General violations of human rights

Political freedom

The Islamic government has not hesitated to crush peaceful political demonstrations. The Iran student riots, July 1999 were sparked by an attack by an estimated 400 paramilitary [Ebadi, "Iran Awakening", 2006, p.149 ] Hezbollah vigilantes on a student dormitory in retaliation for a small, peaceful student demonstration against the closure of the reformist newspaper, "Salam" earlier that day. "At least 20 people were hospitalized and hundreds were arrested," in the attack. [ Iran sacks police chiefs over student protest crackdown ] ] [ [ Report 2001, Islamic Republic of Iran] , "Amnesty International"]

On March 8, 2004, the "parallel institution" of the Basij issued a violent crackdown on the activists celebrating International Women's Day in Tehran. [ [ Confronting State Terrorism] , Asian Centre for Human Rights Review, Special Issues for 60th Session of the UNHCR, March 24, 2004]

Current situation

Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, beginning in 1995, Iran’s human rights record "has deteriorated markedly" according to the group Human Rights Watch. The number of offenders executed increased from 86 in 2005 to 317 in 2007. Months-long arbitrary detentions of "peaceful activists, journalists, students, and human rights defenders" and often charged with “acting against national security,” has intensified under President Ahmadinejad

Deaths in custody

Three years later on July 30 2006, student activist Akbar Mohammadi died in the same prison. Mohammadi had been sentenced death reduced to 15 years in prison, for his participation in the pro-democracy July 1999 student riots. "Several sources told Human Rights Watch that after his arrest in 1999, Mohammadi was severely tortured and ill-treated, leading to serious health problems." [ [ Iran: Imprisoned Dissident Dies in Custody] ]

Freedom of Expression

According to Amnesty International report, after May 2006 widespread demonstrations related to Iran newspaper cockroach cartoon controversy in Iranian Azerbaijan hundreds were arrested and some reportedly killed by the security forces, although official sources downplayed the scale of arrests and killings. Further arrests occurred, many around events and dates significant to the Azerbaijani community such as the Babek Castle gathering in Kalayber in June, and a boycott of the start of the new academic year over linguistic rights for the Azerbaijani community." [ [ Iran, annual Report, 2007] , "Amnesty International"]

As of 2006, the Iranian government has been attempting to depoliticize Iran's student body or make it supportive of the government by stopping students that hold contrary political views from attending higher education, despite the acceptance of those students by their universities. According to Human Rights Watch, this practice has been coupled with academic suspensions, arrests, and jail terms. [ [ Iran: End Ban on Access to Higher Education] , "Reuters AlertNet", 18 October 2006]

Some Iranian victims include:

* Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi
* Mansour Osanlou, president of the Executive Committee of the transport workers' trade union in Tehran, was arrested in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in connection with industrial action and protest by his union.
* Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand
* Farzad Kamangar
* Mansour Osanloo
* Emad Baghi
* Hadi Ghabel

Freedom of the Press

According to the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2007, ranked Iran 166th out of 169 nations. Only three other countries - Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan - had more restrictions on news media freedom than Iran. [ [, Eritrea ranked last for first time while G8 members, except Russia, recover lost ground ] ] [ [ Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007] Reporters without borders ] According to the International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Supreme National Security Council had imprisoned 50 journalists in 2007 and had all but eliminated press freedom. [ [ nine journalists remain in prison at year’s end and the opposition press has all but been quashed through successive closure orders] , International Press Institute region review.] RWB has dubbed Iran the "Middle East's biggest prison for journalists." [ Iran - Annual report 2008] , Reporters Without Borders.]

85 newspapers, including 41 dailies, were shut down from 2000 to the end of 2002 following the passing of the "April 2000 press law." [ [ Reporters without Borders, Iran - 2003 Annual report] ] There are currently 10 journalists in prison.

The "red lines" of press censorship in Iran are said to be questioning rule by clerics ("velayat-e faqih") and direct attacks on the Supreme Leader. Red lines have also drawn against writing that "insults Islam, is sexually explicit, "politically subversive," or is allegedly "confusing public opinion." [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran," Norton, (2005), p.130]

Journalists are frequently warned or summoned if they are perceived as critical of the government, and topics such as U.S. relations and the country's nuclear program are forbidden subjects for reporting. [ The press in Iran] , BBC country profile; accessed September 22, 2008.]

In February 2008 the journalist Yaghoob Mirnehad was sentenced to death on charges of "membership in the terrorist Jundallah group as well as crimes against national security." [ Journalist Sentenced to Death in Iran, Accused of Terrorism] , Nazila Fathi, "New York Times", February 21, 2008; accessed September 22, 2008.] Mirnehad was executed on July 5, 2008. [ [ "First executed Iranian blogger: Yaghoob Mehrnehad"] ]

In November 2007 freelance journalist Adnan Hassanpour received a death sentence for "undermining national security," "spying," "separatist propaganda" and being a "mohareb" (fighter against God). He refused to sign a confessions, and it is theorized that he was arrested for his work with US-funded radio stations Radio Farda and Voice of America. Hassanpour's sentence was overturned on September 4, 2008, by the Tehran Supreme Court. [ [ "Quashing of the death sentence of Mr. Adnan Hassanpour - IRN 007 / 0807 / OBS 092.2"] ] Hassanpour still faces espionage charges. [ [ Adnan Hassanpour blog] ] [ [ "IRAN: Court overturns death sentence but journalist faces espionage charges"] ]

In June 2008 the Iranian Ministry of Labor stated that the 4,000 member journalists' union, founded in 1997, was "fit for dissolution." [ Iran journalists union to resist government pressure] , "Kuwait Times", June 29, 2008; accessed September 22, 2008.]

Political freedom

On February 28, 2008, Amnesty International called on the Iranian government "to stop persecuting people" involved in the "One Million Signatures" campaign or "Campaign for Equality" - an attempt to collect one million signatures "for a petition to push for an end to discrimination against women." According to AI, "Dozens of women have been arrested," suffered harassment, intimidation and imprisonment. One campaigner, Delaram Ali, 23, "was sentenced to nearly three years in prison and 10 lashes for participation in an illegal gathering." Her punishment has been suspended while her case is re-examined. [ [ BBC News, Iran 'targeting' women activists 28 February 2008] ]

Internet freedom

The Internet has grown faster in Iran than any other Middle Eastern country since 2000 but the regime has censored thousands of websites it considers "non-Islamic" and harassed and imprisoned online journalists. [ [ RSF Internet Iran ] (circa 2004)]

20 bloggers were imprisoned in 2004, but as of the end of 2006 none were in prison. [ [ RSF, Iran - Annual Report 2007 ] ]

Reporters Without Borders also believes that it is the Iranian "government’s desire to rid the Iranian Internet of all independent information concerning the political opposition, the women’s movement and human rights”. [ [ Independent news website closed, blog platform briefly blocked] , "Reporters Without Borders", 28 September 2006] Where the government cannot legally stop sites it uses advanced blocking software to prevent access to them.

According to the same source, the "conservatives' mistrust of the Web doesn't prevent its use for propaganda. Thus information sites such as or (note: no longer exists) were put in place and convey the ideas of regime hardliners. Also, the theological university Qom trains several thousand students in computer science and as internet specialists every year so that, according to a mullah of Qom, 'they will use their knowledge to serve the country and Islam'".

Freedom of religion

The United Nations and its human rights bodies have passed more than 67 resolutions and decisions regarding human rights violations against Iran's religious minorities since 1980.cite journal | first = Friedrich W. | last = Affolter | title = The Specter of Ideological Genocide: The Bahá'ís of Iran | journal = War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity | volume = 1 | issue = 1 | pages = 59–89|year = 2005| url = | format = Dead link|date=May 2008] In every year since 1984, except for 2002 where the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) tried to engage Iran into a dialogue on human rights, the UNCHR passed resolutions about human rights violations against Iran's religious minorities especially the Bahá'ís. Iran became the fourth country in the history of the United Nations to be on the agenda of the General Assembly because of its human rights violations. [cite book | first = R. | last = Cooper | title = The Bahá'ís of Iran: The Minority Rights Group Report 51 | publisher = The Minority Rights Group LTD | location = London, UK | year = 1995]

Bahá'í issues

Amnesty International and others report that 202 Bahá’ís have been killed since the Islamic Revolution,cite web |title=Dhabihullah Mahrami: Prisoner of Conscience |author=Amnesty International |date=1996-10 |accessdate=2006-10-20 |url= |publisher=AI INDEX: MDE 13/34/96] with many more imprisoned, expelled from schools and workplaces, denied various benefits or denied registration for their marriages. cite journal |first=Friedrich W. |last=Affolter |title=The Specter of Ideological Genocide: The Bahá'ís of Iran |journal=War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity |volume=1 |issue=1 |pages=59– 89 |year=2005|url=] Iranian Bahá'ís have also regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs, most recently for participating in study circles. Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father. The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage. [cite web | publisher=Netherlands Institute of Human Rights | title = Iran, Islamic Republic of | date=2006-03-08 | accessdate=2006-05-31 | url=] [cite web | work=Bahá'í International Community | publisher=Religion News Service | title= Bahá'í International Community dismayed at lack of Human Rights Resolution on Iran | date=2005-04-14 | accessdate=2006-03-08 | url= ]

The Islamic Republic has often stated that arrested Baha'is are being detained for "security issues" and are members of "an organized establishment linked to foreigners, the Zionists in particular." [ May 22, 2008. "Iran 'plans to destroy Baha'i community'"] ] Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, replies that "the best proof" that Bahais are being persecuted for their faith, not for anti-Iranian activity "is the fact that, time and again, Baha'is have been offered their freedom if they recant their Baha'i beliefs and convert to Islam ..."

Around 2005 the situation of Bahá'ís is reported to have worsenedcite news | title = Iran's arrest of Baha'is condemned | publisher = CNN | date = 2008-05-16 | accessdate = 2008-05-17 | author = CNN | url =] ; the United Nations Commission on Human Rights revealed an October 2005 confidential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to identify Bahá'ís and to monitor their activitiescite web | author=Asma Jahangir | publisher=United Nations |title = Special Rapporteur on Freedom of religion or belief concerned about treatment of followers of Bahá'í Faith in Iran | date=2006-03-20 | accessdate=2006-06-01 | url=] and in November 2005 the state-run and influential Kayhan [cite web | author= Michael Rubin | title=Iran Means What It Says | publisher=Middle East Forum | accessdate=2006-06-01 | date=2006-01-25 | url=] newspaper, whose managing editor is appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, [ [ The press in Iran] , "BBC News Online", 2005-08-16; retrieved 2006-06-01] ran nearly three dozen articles defaming the Bahá'í Faith. [cite web | publisher=Iran Human Rights Documentation Center | title=A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran | date=2007 | accessdate=2007-02-25 | url= | format=PDF ]

Due to these actions, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated on March 20, 2006 that she "also expresses concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá'í faith, in violation of international standards. … The Special Rapporteur is concerned that this latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating."

In March and in May 2008, "senior members" forming the leadership of the Bahá'í community in Iran were arrested by officers from the Ministy of Intelligence and taken to Evin prison. [cite news
title = IRAN: Bahais rounded up
url =
author = Daragahi, Borzou
publisher = Los Angeles Times
date = 2008-05-15
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] cite web
title = IHRDC Condemns the Arrest of Leading Bahá’ís
url =
format = PDF
author = Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
publisher = Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
date = 2008-05-15
accessdate= 2008-10-07
] They have not been charged, and they seem to be prisoners of conscience. [cite web
title = Document - Iran: Arbitrary arrests / Prisoners of conscience
url =
author = Amnesty International
publisher = Amnesty International
date = 2008-05-15
accessdate = 2008-10-07
] The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has stated that they are concerned for the safety of the Bahá'ís, and that the recent events are similar to the disappearance of 25 Bahá'í leaders in the early 1980s.

Jewish issues

Jews have lived in Iran for nearly 3,000 years and outside of Israel, Iran is host to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East. Although 80% of Iran's Jewish population left during the Islamic revolution of 1979, an estimated 25,000 Jews remain in the country. Jews in Iran have constitutional rights equal to other Iranians, although they may not hold government jobs or become army officers. They have freedom of religion, but may not proselytize. Jews have a representative in parliament; this person is legally obligated to support Iran's foreign policy and anti-Zionist position. Jews, along with other Iranian citizens, can be criminally prosecuted and subject to the death penalty for supporting Israel. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, several Jews were executed for Zionism. In May 1998 Jewish businessman Ruhollah Kakhodah-Zadeh "was hanged in prison without a public charge or legal proceeding, apparently for assisting Jews to emigrate." [ The Jews of Iran] , "Jewish Virtual Library"] In 2000, 13 Jews including religious leaders in Shiraz were accused and imprisoned for spying for Israel, but were released after an international outcry. According to Amir Cyrus Razzaghi, "The government goes to extra lengths to differentiate between the government of Israel, with whom they have fundamental issues, and the Jewish people, especially Iranian Jews… There is a genuine interest to keep the Jewish community in Iran to demonstrate to the world that the government is anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish. Iran's official government-controlled media published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in 1994 and 1999. It is unclear whether Jews stay in Iran because they are happy and comfortable there or because they are elderly and speak only Persian. Most pre-revolutionary Jewish schools and synagogues have closed. Jewish children still attend Jewish schools where Hebrew and religious studies are taught, but Jewish principals have been replaced by Muslim ones, the curricula are government-supervised, and the Jewish Sabbath is no longer recognized. Jews may use passports and visas to leave Iran, but those who apply must do so to a special bureau and are placed under surveillance. Whole families may not leave Iran together. [ [ Iranian-Jews reject calls to leave Iran] , "The Jewish Daily Forward", January 10, 2007]

Muslim Shia issues

Musilm clerical opponents of the Islamic Republic's political system have not been spared imprisonment. According to an analyst quoted by Iran Press Service, "hundreds of clerics have been arrested, some defrocked, other left the ranks of the religion on their own, but most of them, including some popular political or intellectual figures such as Hojjatoleslam Abdollah Noori, a former Interior Minister or Hojjatoleslam Yousefi Eshkevari, an intellectual, or Hojjatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar", are "middle rank clerics." [ [ Arrest of a High Ranking Cleric is a Return to Revolutionary Times, October 10, 2006 ] ]

One opponent of theocracy, Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi and many of his followers were arrested in Tehran on October 8, 2006. According to mardaninews website, judicial authorities have reportedly released no information concerning Boroujerdi's prosecution and “associates” of Ayatollah Boroujerdi have told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran “that his heart and kidney conditions are grave but he has had no access to specialist care.”

He only receives painkillers for his diseases inside prison. In addition to his physical health, his psychological well-being has also deteriorated due to ill-treatment and lengthy solitary confinement episodes. He has lost 30 kilograms in prison,` [ News/Imprisoned Cleric’s Life in Danger/Ayatollah Boroujerdi in need of urgent medical care] ]

Darvish issues

Iran's "Darvish" [ [ Dervishes in Iran and Sufis in Kurdistan] ] are a persecuted minority. As late as the early 1900s, wandering darvish were a common sight in Iran. [Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari. "The Last of the Khans: The life of Morteza Quli Khan Samsam Bakhtiari." iUniverse, New York, 2006. 215 pages. ISBN 978-0-595-38248-4.] They are now much fewer in number and suffer from official opposition to the Sufi religion.

Unreligious people

Unreligious or Irreligious people in Iran are not recognized as citizens. While Jews, Christians and other minorities have the right to take part in university entrance exams and can become members of parliament or city councils, irreligious people are not granted even their basic rights. Most irreligious people, however, hide their beliefs and pretend to be Muslims. Non-believers — atheists, agnostics, sceptics — under Islam do not have "the right to life". Apostasy in Iran is punishable by death. [Kamguian, Azam. " [ The Fate of Infidels and Apostates under Islam] ", International Humanist and Ethical Union, June 21 2005.]

Ethnic issues

Iran is a signatory to the convention to the elimination of racism. UNHCR found several positive aspects in the conduit of the Islamic republic with regards to ethnic minorities, positively citing its agreement to absorb afghan refugees and participation from mixed ethnicities. However, the committee while acknowledging that teaching of minority languages and literature in schools is permitted, requested that Iran include more information in its next periodic report concerning the measures it has adopted to enable persons belonging to minorities to have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue and to have it used as a medium of instruction.] In contrast, Amnesty international has accused Iran of ethnic-based human rights violations. the organization's 2007 report for Iran claims that "Ethnic and religious minorities remained subject to discriminatory laws and practices which continued to be a source of social and political unrest".]

Gender inequality

As an Islamic state, Iran's legislation, which is derived from a highly conservative interpretation of Islamic law, re-enforces male supremacy. For this reason, Iran is sometimes referred to as an Islamic patriarchy. This can be noted in the articles of the Iranian Civil Law as well as Iran's participation in international human rights conventions. For example, in 2003, Iran elected not to become a member of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) since the convention contradicted the Islamic Sharia law in Clause A of its single article.

This creates numerous problems in issues regarding rape. The punishment for rape is the death penalty. [ [ BBC News, Iran hangs 12 for rape and murder, 18 October 2007] ] However, in such cases, the act of sexual penetration must be attested by at least four male Muslim witnesses of good character. The ultimate punishments are reserved to the legal authorities however the law states that false accusations are to be punished severely. [ [ Translations of the Qur'an: Chapter 24] ] According to these views, the principles are so rigorous in their search for evidence, that they create the near impossibility of being able to reach a verdict that goes against the suspect in any manner. [ [ American Muslims need to speak out against violations of Islamic Sharia law] , "Asma Society", 2004] Legal imbalances such as this can be seen in the case of individuals such as Atefah Sahaaleh who was executed by the state for 'inappropriate sexual relations', however was most probably a rape victim.In some respects, Iranian women have more political rights than their counterparts in other Muslim countries. Iranian women have served in parliament and local government. Iranian women gained the right to vote in 1962.

Compulsory hijab

Post-pubescent women are required to cover their hair and body in Iran and can be arrested for failing to do so [ [ Iran vows crackdown on 'inappropriately' dressed women] , "AFP" ("Yahoo! News"), February 24 2007, via the Wayback Machine] In Spring 2007, Iranian police launched a crackdown against women accused of not covering up enough, arresting hundreds of women, some for wearing too tight an overcoat or letting too much hair peek out from under their veil. The campaign in the streets of major cities is the toughest such crackdown since the Islamic revolution. [ [ Iran Cracks Down on Women's Dress] , "Associated Press" ("ABC News"), April 23, 2007] [ [ Criticism mounts over Iran headscarf crackdown] , "Agence France Presse", (""), April 24 2007] More than one million Iranians (mostly women) have been arrested in the past year (May 2007-May 2008) for violating the state dress code according to a May 2008 NBC Today Show report by Matt Lauer, . [ [ You Tube, Matt Lauer in Tehran 1 of 4] ]

LGBT issues

Homosexual acts and adultery are criminal and punishable by life imprisonment or death after multiple offenses, and the same sentences apply to convictions for treason and apostasy. Those accused by the state of homosexual acts are routinely flogged and threatened with execution. [ [ Individuals executed for homosexual offences] , "Omid: A Memorial in Defense of Human Rights"; retrieved September 30 2007] [ [ Mixed reports on Iran hangings] , "Washington Blade", July 29 2005, regarding the executions of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni] [PDFlink| [ Country Information Report: Iran, 2004] |356 KiB , " [ Safra Project] ", 2004] [ [ Communication No.190/2001] , "Decisions of the United Nations Committee Against Torture under article 22 of theConvention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", 26 May 2003] [ [ Netherlands: Asylum Rights Granted to Lesbian and Gay Iranians] , "Human Rights Watch", October 19, 2006] [ [ Iran's state murder of gays: Victims framed for kidnap and rape] , "Peter Tatchell's blog", 20 April 2006] [ [ Saviz Shafaie: An Iranian gay activist leader] , interview by Jack Nichols, "Badpuppy Gay Today", 27 May, 1997] Iran is one of seven countries in the world that apply the death penalty for homosexual acts; all of them justify this punishment with Islamic law. The Judiciary does not recognize the concept of sexual orientation, and thus from a legal standpoint there are no homosexuals or bisexuals, only heterosexuals committing homosexual acts. [ [ Ahmadinejad speaks; outrage and controversy follow] ,, September 24, 2007]

For some years after the Revolution, transgendered individuals were classified by the Judiciary as being homosexual and were thus subject to the same laws. However, in the mid-1980s the Judiciary began changing this policy and classifying transgender individuals as a distinct group, separate from homosexuals, granting them legal rights. Gender identity disorder is officially recognized in Iran today, and the Judiciary permits sexual reassignment surgery for those who can afford it. [ [ The story of Maryam Hatoon Molkara (Iran)] ] In the early 1960s, Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a ruling permitting gender reassignment, which has since been reconfirmed by Ayatollah Khamenei. [ [ Iran's sex-change operations] , "BBC Newsnight", 5 January, 2005] Currently, Iran has between 15,000 and 20,000 transsexuals, according to official statistics, although unofficial estimates put the figure at up to 150,000. Iran carries out more gender change operations than any country in the world besides Thailand. Sex changes have been legal since the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, passed a fatwa authorising them nearly 25 years ago. Whereas homosexuality is considered a sin, transsexuality is categorised as an illness subject to cure. While the government seeks to keep its approval quiet, state support has increased since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. His government has begun providing grants of £2,250 for operations and further funding for hormone therapy. It is also proposing loans of up to £2,750 to allow those undergoing surgery to start their own businesses. [ [,,2177277,00.html Sex change funding undermines no gays claim] , "The Guardian", September 26, 2007]

Capital punishment

Iran retains the death penalty for a large number of offenses, among them cursing the Prophet, certain drug offenses, murder, and certain hadd crimes, including adultery, incest, rape, fornication, drinking alcohol, “sodomy,” same-sex sexual conduct between men without penetration, lesbianism, “being at enmity with God” (mohareb), and “corruption on earth” ("mofsed fil arz").

According to Amnesty International's 2004 report, at least 108 people were executed that year, most of whom had been detained as political prisoners. [ [ Iran Country Report, covering events from January – December 2003] , "Amnesty International", 2004] Amnesty has also described cases in which adolescent children were sentenced to the death penalty. [ [ Iran continues to execute minors and juvenile offenders] , "Amnesty International", 22 July 2005] Though illegal, torture is often carried out in Iranian prisons, as in the widely publicised case of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

Although it is one of only six parties to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which states that " [the] sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”, [ [ International Convention on Civil and Political Rights: Article 6] , "Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights"] Iran continues to execute children for various offenses.

In 2004, Iran ranked second in the world by total number of confirmed executions having carried out 159, coming behind the People's Republic of China, who committed at least 1,770. [ [ Facts and Figures on the Death Penalty] , "Amnesty International", 19 September 2007; retrieved 30 September 2007] In 2005, the number dropped to 94 confirmed executions, either by hanging or stoning, though returned to 177 in 2006. [Capital punishment on the "English Wikipedia"; retrieved 30 September 2007] As of mid-October 2007, at least 207 executions have been carried out in Iran - part of a campaign to improve societal security according to Conservatives, and according to critics part of a campaign by Conservatives to demonstrate their control over the country as the economic situation worsens. [ [ Prisoners' Rights Activist Arrested and Detained] ]

Death sentences are always administered for those convicted of murder (even in self defense), rape, and child molestation. However there have been reports of being executed for much less serious crimes.Fact|date=December 2007

Child executions in Iran

Iran "leads the world in executing juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime" according to Human Rights Watch. [ [ Iran: Prevent Execution of Juvenile Offender] ] International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran states that of the 32 executions of juvenile offenders that have taken place in the world since January 2005, 26 occured in Iran. In 2007 Iran executed eight juvenile offenders.

Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) declares: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age” and the article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides that: “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age”. [ [ The Row — Minors on Death Row in Iran] ,] . In July 2007, Amnesty International issued a comprehensive 46 page report titled "Iran: The last executioner of children". [PDFlink| [ "Iran: The last executioner of children"] |1.46 MiB , Amnesty International, June 2007] [fa icon [ _fa. ایران: آخرین اعدام كننده كودكان] ,]

In January 2005, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors states' compliance with the CRC, urged Iran to immediately stay all executions of child offenders and to abolish the use of the death penalty in such cases. In the summer of 2006, the Iranian Parliament reportedly passed a bill establishing special courts for children and adolescents. However, it has not yet been approved by the Council of Guardians, which supervises Iran's legislation to ensure conformity with Islamic principles. During the past four years, the Iranian authorities have reportedly been considering legislation to ban the death penalty for child offenders. Recent comments by a judiciary spokesperson indicates that the proposed law would only prohibit the death penalty for certain crimes, and not all crimes committed by children.

In spite of these efforts, the number of child offenders executed in Iran has risen during the past two years. As of July 2008, Stop Child Executions Campaign has recorded over 130 children facing executions in Iran.

In late 2007, Iranian authorities hanged Makwan Mouludzadeh in Kermanshah prison for crimes he is alleged to have committed when he was 13 years of age. According to Human Rights Watch, this was despite the fact that his accusers had recanted their statements and Mouladzadeh had repudiated his confession as being coerced by the police, and despite the fact that the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, had ordered a unit of the Judiciary to investigate the case and refer it back to the Penal Court of Kermanshah, before any final decision on an execution. [ [ Iran: Prevent Execution of Juvenile Offender] ]

A 2004 case that gained international attention was the hanging of 16-year-old school girl Atefah Sahaaleh. [ BBC NEWS | Programmes | Execution of a teenage girl ] ] [] .

Significant activists

The following individuals represent a partial list of individuals who are currently, or have in the past, significantly attempted to improve the human rights situation in Iran after the revolution in 1979.

* Shirin Ebadi
* Akbar Ganji
* Nazanin Afshin-Jam


Iran has an Islamic Human Rights Commission, but it is "housed in a government building and headed by the chief of the judiciary," and not considered particularly concerned with human rights abuses according to Nobel peace prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center. [Ebadi, "Iran Awakening", (2006), p.133-4]

International Criticism of the Iranian human rights record

On October 6, 2008 the European Union presented a message to Iran's ambassador in Paris expressed concern over the worsening human rights situation in the Islamic republic. [ [ EU chides Iran on human rights ] 8.10.2008] The parliament has expressed concern in 2007, [ [ European Parliament reviews progress on human rights in the world in 2007] ] Three years earlier on 13 October 2005, the European Parliament voted to adopt a resolution condemning Iran's continued disregard of the human rights of its citizens with a vote of 49 against 43, with 89 abstentions. Later that year, Iran announced it would suspend dialogue with the European Union concerning human rights in Iran. [ [ Iran, events of 2006] ]

Iran has been criticized by the United Nations Human Rights Council several times. After the death of Zahra Kazemi, Canada has sponsored a resolution criticizing Iran's "confirmed instances of torture, stoning as a method of execution and punishment such as flogging and amputations." [ Canadian-sponsored human rights resolution against Iran passes] from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] [ [ U.N. Assembly Chides Iran on Human Rights By BENNY AVNI, Staff Reporter of the Sun | November 21, 2007] ] The resolution has passed in the UN General Assembly every year since 2003.

See also

* Universal Declaration of Human Rights
* Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
* Defenders of Human Rights Center, Iran's leading Human Rights organization.
* Freedom of speech in Iran
* Judicial system of Iran
* Ethnic minorities in Iran
* Religious minorities in Iran
* Status of religious freedom in Iran
* Stop Child Executions Campaign
* 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners
*Be Like Others, a documentary film about transsexuality in Iran

Notable prisons

* Towhid Prison
* Evin Prison
* Prison 59
* Prison 209
* Gohardasht Prison

Notable prisoners

* Delara Darabi
* Ateqeh Rajabi
* Nazanin Fatehi
* Reza Alinejad

Other persons

* Ahmad Reza Radan, who was in charge of 2007 moralization plan


Further reading

* Abrahamian, Ervand, " [,+Ervand+Abrahamian&btnG=Google+Search&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail#PPA2,M1 Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran] ", University of California Press, 1999,
* Sciolino, Elaine, "Persian Mirrors : the Elusive Face of Iran", Free Press, 2000, 2005
* Ebadi, Shirin, "Iran Awakening : A Memoir of Revolution and Hope", by Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Random House, 2006

External links

* [ Iran Human Rights]
* [ Amnesty International's Concerns about Iran]
* [ Amnesty International 2005 report]
* [ Human Rights Watch - Iran Documents]
* [ Human Rights Watch's Developments in Iran]
* [ Human Rights Watch 2005 report]
* [ Various human rights news stories at "Iran Focus"]
* [ Freedom of Expression violations in Iran] , IFEX
* [ Human rights violations against Iranian Azeri Turks]
* [,,1830835,00.html Guardian Newspaper - Special Report - Death of a Teenager]
* [ Iran Human Rights Documentation Center]
* [ Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran]
* [ Translation of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran] Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR Iran)
* [ Translation of the Iranian Civil Code] by Alavi and Associates

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