In repressive societies, lack of freedom affects every aspect of life. Restrictions on simple acts of life have broad reaching consequences and affect all social sectors. To explain these consequences, providers can focus their attention in the following areas:
Arbitrary arrests and detention based on otherwise trivial behaviors are common place and have led to uncertainty and confusion regarding the law and its enforcement mechanisms. In Iran, individuals can be arrested for trivial behaviors such as clothing choices, hand holding between couples, or dog walking along with more serious offenses. The nature of arrests creates fear and uncertainty within the whole of the population.
Recently, Iran unveiled Artificial Intelligence technology to be used for law enforcement. Using thousands of cameras in different parts of the country, the technology has been used primarily to target women who have defied hijab rules in their cars. Many of whom have been summoned via text messages without due process or full understanding of the charges against them.
Regardless of the severity of the offense, arrested individuals may encounter human rights violations that are distressing for them and their loved ones. Arrests are often disruptive, conducted forcefully at individuals’ private residence or a house of worship. Due process is often denied and hearings are often conducted without legal representation. Prisoners frequently report torture, lack of medical attention, or humiliation in prisons. Worst of all, execution orders may be delivered haphazardly, and death-row prisoners are sometimes denied the chance to bid farewell to their loved ones.
If you are interested in supporting individuals in Iran who have been unjustly arrested or detained, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for the protection of children from abuse and violence in all forms. However, while Iran is a signatory of the Convention, children in the country remain among the most vulnerable groups of civilians. Many suffer from family or community poverty and have little or no access to education. Others are victims of abuse and violence in their home, school, or workplace and children in Iran are not even safe from child arbitrary arrest or execution.
Recently, the legal age of marriage for girls has been reduced to as young as 9 years old. This new ruling lead to 35,000 child marriages in 2018 alone.
Child labor is becoming increasingly common among boys. Child labor exposes young boys and girls long-term physical and mental and emotional scars.
Children of mixed religious backgrounds or those with non-Iranian fathers suffer from additional disadvantages. Children born to non-Iranian fathers are denied citizenship, children of Afghan refugees, and other ethnic communities are all denied citizenship and many do not have identity cards making access to services and education difficult to impossible. Please see Ethnic Minorities section for more information
If you are interested in helping children whose rights are violated, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below.
Democracy and Elections
While Iran generally enjoys a robust rate of voter participation its electoral process is anything but fair. The electoral process was rated 18/100 by Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2019 report.
There is a lack of pluralism and representation in the democratic process, beginning with the Supreme Leader who maintains a monopoly over the authority in the country. Vetting of political candidates through the Guardian Council, an unelected body of clerics, favors candidates proven to be loyal to the regime’s values and disqualifies all others before they even appear on the ballot.
The existing political system limits the activities of opposing parties and does not allow for the free creation of political parties. While religious minority members are included in the governmental structure, they are restricted from advancing to top governmental or judicial positions. Activists and human rights defenders across the country have engaged in various acts of civil disobedience and public protest to express their discontent with the status quo. Thousands have been arrested, hundreds remain in jail, and many more have died or been executed.
If you wish to help support democracy and free election in Iran, or if you wish to obtain help, please see below.
Human rights and environmental rights are interconnected and deemed essential to the safety and sustainability of a society. Environmental issues have rapidly intensified over the past few years and are causing major human rights problems. Lack of clean air, clean water, and growing pollution has led to health problems which disproportionately affects ethnic minorities and those living in rural areas. Additionally, in recent years the country has proven to be unprepared for environmental disasters such as floods and earthquakes.
In the past, environmental advocacy was viewed as a non-political issue. However, environmental advocacy is now hot button issue internationally and has quickly become increasingly politicized. Environmental activists have faced fines, arbitrary detention, and torture, with some even being sentenced to death. Canadian-Iranian Environmental activist, Professor Kavous Seyed Emami was reported dead under mysterious conditions while under Iranian custody in prison. Currently, at least eight environmental activists, including members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation are in prison.
Ethnic diversity has been part of Iran’s history since ancient times. Iran is a diverse country representing many cultures, languages, and customs and has several major ethnic minorities including Fars, Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluch, Bakhtiaris, Kurds, Lors, and Turkmens. Although each of these groups is unique and deserving of its own evaluation and advocacy, by and large, ethnic communities suffer from four major challenges: extreme poverty and unemployment; hazardous environmental conditions; restrictions on practicing their language and customs, social derision, and discrimination; and arbitrary arrests and likelihood of execution.
The social struggles of Iran’s ethnic minorities predate the Islamic revolution. Societal intolerance and exclusion set the stage for institutional and individual discrimination that has persisted and intensified. A lack of social acceptance and respect is embedded in governmental institutions, placing ethnic communities at a considerable disadvantage.
For instance, Afghan immigrants, including children born to at least one Afghan parent in Iran, suffer from discrimination and marginalization as they are denied identification documents. Without identification many lack access basic resources such as food and shelter. This hinders the Afghans ability to integrate in the society and provide for their families, creating an environment of desperation. Capitalizing on this desperation many Afghan immigrants, including children, are recruited to fight proxy wars with promise of basic social services.
Additionally, ethnic minorities are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned on the grounds of national security charges. Once arrested, they reportedly face harsher physical torture than their Persian counterparts and are more likely to face execution. Kurdish and Baluch groups suffer from a disproportionate rate of executions which are usually happen on a mass scale and hidden from world view. In one instance, as reported by an Iranian government official, nearly all men living in towns in the Sistan and Baluchistan region were executed on the grounds of national security.
To support the ethnic minorities rights in Iran, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below
Freedom of Expression
According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. The right to express new ideas and oppose the status quo is essential to societal development and progress. However, in totalitarian countries, freedom of expression is one of the first rights to be obliterated. Freedom of expression encompasses all forms of expression that are denied to Iranian citizens including free speech, free artistic expression, free press, and free religious expression.
In the Islamic Republic, this right is frequently violated in the name of national security or “enmity against the state”. Iran’s Constitution restricts speech that is determined to be "detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public". Additionally, the Press Law of 1986 notes that "promoting subjects which might damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic", such as those that may "[offend] the Leader of the Revolution and recognized religious authorities" or "[propagate] luxury and extravagance", are unlawful and punishable.
Hundreds of civilians have been arrested on the basis of their social media activities, participation in protests, religious proselytizing, conversion out of Islam, or other forms of civil disobedience. Individuals arrested on these charges face grave consequences, including long-term imprisonment and even the death penalty.
Freedom of expression and the press is further limited by the media, which is controlled and run by the government through the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Production of or accessing non-approved Government approved content is unlawful and restricted by interrupting satellite transmissions. Many journalists and content producers have been arrested, tortured, and executed.
If you are interested in helping individuals who are denied their rights to freedom of expression, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below:
Iran is one of the few countries where ‘same-sex sexual conduct’ is still considered a crime. The Iranian Penal Code has assigned individualized punishments to presumed same-sex relations with punishments ranging from lashes to the death penalty (Penal Codes 123 & 124).
Rather than accepting citizens for who they love, the government has implemented policies that restrict and harshly punish LGBTQ individuals. Following a fatwa or religious order from the Ayatollah Khomeini, gender reassignment became legal and is considered a ‘treatment’ for same sex attractions. Gender rehabilitation and mandated gender reassignment procedures are practiced usually under duress. However, for those that willingly undergo these procedures still experience social stigma and discrimination as well as physical and emotional problems associated with such procedures. Furthermore, because of the government’s attitudes toward and treatment of the queer community, those mandated to undergo gender reassignment lack the proper support groups or allies.
As a result, some members of the LGBTQ community or their allies seek support on social media through safe networks abroad. Many others seek asylum to safe havens. Several LGBTQ and human rights groups based in various countries provide legal and consulting services to aid Iranian LGBTQ asylum seekers.
Persons with Disabilities Rights
The disabled community is the most dependent as well as the most neglected portion of the population. A lack of social services and specialized educational institutions, especially in developing countries, affects the everyday lives of individuals with disabilities and limits their future prospects. People with different abilities also suffer frequently from intersectional discrimination and poverty.
Iran has ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. The country has even vowed to adopt disability laws that “[increase] disability pensions and [extend] insurance coverage to disability-related healthcare services”. Nonetheless, for the estimated 12 million individuals with disabilities, over more than 14% of the population, living with disabilities in Iran remains an expensive and demeaning experience.
Many members of this population are veterans of the Iran–Iraq war and despite their sacrifices, the services and accommodations available to them are highly limited. Lack of government funding for such institutions has placed the burden of care squarely on the private sector. Private assistance programs are costly and thus inaccessible to a large portion of the population.
The government-sponsored insurance system favors medicinal treatment and even electroconvulsive therapy over therapeutic options for mental and physical disabilities, fostering lifelong reliance on medicine and symptom treatment rather than potentially more effective (and comprehensive) alternatives.
Beyond the lack of medical infrastructure to protect and empower this community, the disabled in Iran are less likely to obtain employment, often face segregation and isolation, and are subjected to intolerant and abusive language and treatment. These problems persist due to a lack of adequate legislation to protect the rights of the disabled or enforce specific accommodation requirements, such as ramp access to all government buildings.
To support the rights of individuals with disabilities in Iran, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below.
Poverty and Unemployment
In Iran, corruption and inequitable resources have limited economic mobility and resulted in millions of civilians poverty. At least 33% of Iran's population lives in absolute poverty and 6% are considered to be starving. Poverty and corruption are cross cutting issues meaning they are linked to many other human rights violations
- One very visible instance of corruption is the reports from public and private employees of the withholding of their wages. Additionally, workplace safety concerns are often ignored in pursuit of profits causing injury and death. Due to a lack of proper labor rights, employees experience labor rights violations through white contracts, withheld pay, or retaliation and unlawful termination. Labor protests have faced severe crackdowns, with many participants arrested or detained.
- Corruption and poverty disproportionately affect religious and ethnic minorities. There have been official measures taken to forcibly disrupt business dealings of minorities and shut down their businesses. This has forced many into unlawful occupations involving transportation of goods, fuel, and even narcotics trade. These practices are not only targeted by government officials but also subject workers to environmental hazards, shootings, and arrests.
- Desperation has forced children of all ethnic backgrounds into the underground job market. Many become street peddlers subject to unsafe working while many others become traded commodities themselves.
If you are interested in supporting individuals suffering from economic hardships and labor challenges, or if you wish to get help, please click the relevant button below.
Religious Minorities and Religious Rights
The Islamic Republic’s Constitution borrows an inspirational quote from the Koran in stating that “Muslims are obligated to treat non-Muslims with kindness and equity and Islamic justice, and uphold their human rights” (Article 14) and “no one can be subjected to harassment and inquiry merely for their beliefs” (Articles 23 and 24). Despite these provisions, religious minorities in the country continue to suffer from institutional religious discrimination.
Certain aspects of such discrimination have arisen from provisions of the same Constitution, which places “Shia Hagheh Esna Ashari” at the top of the religious hierarchy. This singular brand of the Shia Islam is the country’s official religion and a prerequisite for political candidates seeking higher office. Additionally, three non-Muslim religious groups have been officially recognized and permitted to practice their faith: Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. This distinction has granted official second-class citizenship to these groups with rights to observe their ceremonies in private and a designated representative in Parliament.
By default, this official distinction has omitted other groups from legal/social recognition and left still others uncertain of their rights. These religious groups include but are not limited to Sunni Muslims, Gonabadi Dervish Muslims, Bahá’ís, Mandeans, Evangelical Christians, Yarsanis, and atheists. Although Article 11 of the Islamic Republic Constitution states that “[a]ll Muslims form a single nation,” Gonabadi Dervishes and Sunni Muslims, who constitute large segments of the country’s Muslim population, suffer from discriminatory treatment. Furthermore, through ordinances and fatwas, governing leaders have declared the Bahá’í faith as apostasy and even impure; thus, members of this group are particularly vulnerable to isolation and cradle-to-grave discrimination. As conversion from Islam is illegal and punishable by law, Evangelical Christians and converts out of Islam often face arrest and trouble with authorities.
Currently, 346 Sunnis from Ahvaz region, 62 Sunnis from other regions, 206 Gonabadi Dervishes, 79 Bahais, 48 Christians, at least 3 Zoroastrians, 26 Yarsani Ahle Hagh, and an unknown number of Jews are in Iran’s prisons.
To help individuals suffering from religious persecution, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below.
Although women in Iran constitute over 50% of the country’s population, they are deprived of many rights granted to their male counterparts. While the country has had sporadic progress, it has not fully eradicated societal and institutional pressures facing women in Iran.
From employment options and financial independence to divorce and child custody, women encounter an array of challenging social and legal barriers. According to recent reports, only 17% of women are participating in the workforce, amid social stigma of disqualification as wives and mothers. Those employed, lack legal protection against discrimination in the workplace and unequal pay (see chart from World Economic Forum).
The wide spectrum of injustice against women and girls spans the life cycle, from child marriage or forced marriage to sexual violence and harassment. At least 36,000 cases of child marriage were reported in 2018, mostly among families with financial difficulties. Women convicted of sexual deviance, even in absentia, could face severe and violent punishment.
In addition to institutional discrimination based on the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, Iranian women face various forms of legislation that restrict their rights and isolate them from broader society. Such legislation includes restrictions around women in the workplace, reproductive rights, and divorce and custody, among others. Despite these pressures, Iranian women have continued to protest the status quo and call for equal treatment. Increasingly, men have also joined them in solidarity.
If you are interested in supporting the women of Iran, or if you wish to obtain help, please click the relevant button below.