«first published in 2012 by amnesty international Ltd peter Benenson house 1 easton street London Wc1x 0dW united Kingdom © amnesty international ...»
oF DIssEnt In Iran
amnesty international is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters,
members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign
to end grave abuses of human rights.
our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the universal
declaration of human rights and other international human rights standards.
We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
first published in 2012 by amnesty international Ltd peter Benenson house 1 easton street London Wc1x 0dW united Kingdom © amnesty international 2012 index: Mde 13/002/2012 english original language: english printed by amnesty international, international secretariat, united Kingdom all rights reserved. this publication is copyright, but may be reproduced by any method without fee for advocacy, campaigning and teaching purposes, but not for resale.
the copyright holders request that all such use be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. for copying in any other circumstances, or for reuse in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, prior written permission must be obtained from the publishers, and a fee may be payable.
to request permission, or for any other inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org Cover photo: cars circle a protest in tehran called by opposition leaders in support of the people of egypt and tunisia, 14 february 2011. the protests were violently repressed by security forces, who killed at least two men and arrested hundreds. opposition leaders Mir hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been held in unofficial house arrest since making their call.
© nima fatemi /demotix amnesty.org
2. Increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and association
2.1 Laws and policies restricting freedom of expression
2.2 Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly
3. From arrest to execution: patterns of human rights violations
3.1 Torture and other ill-treatment in detention
3.2 Poor prison conditions
3.3 Unfair trials
4. Who is being targeted?
4.1 Human rights organizations and their members
4.3 Women’s rights activists
4.4 Rights activists from minorities
4.8 Political leaders and activists
4.9 Trade unionists
4.10 Students and academics
4.11 Lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people
4.12 Religious and ethnic minorities
4.13 People with links to the PMOI
5. Beyond Iran’s borders
6. Conclusion and recommendations
1. INTRODUCTION “His interrogator told him: ‘We are ordered to crush you, and if you do not co-operate we can do anything we want with you and if you do not write the interrogation papers, we will force you to eat them’”.
Mahdieh Mohammadi, wife of detained journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, in an interview with Radio Farda, September 2009.
On 14 February 2011, thousands of Iranians, encouraged by the mass protests sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, defied a government ban by demonstrating in Tehran and other cities. The paramilitary Basij militia and other security forces responded by shooting at protesters, firing tear gas at them, and beating them with batons, before arresting many of them. In the wake of the toppling of autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt, the Iranian authorities were taking no chances.
The demonstrations were called by opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi in solidarity with the people of Tunisia and Egypt and were the first major public displays of opposition since the Iranian authorities viciously crushed vast protests that erupted and continued in the six months following disputed presidential election results in June 2009, culminating in demonstrations on the religious festival of Ashoura in December 2009.
Without apparent irony, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, celebrated the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, saying that it reflected an “Islamic awakening” based on Iran's 1979 revolution.2 Iran’s leaders also supported Bahrainis demonstrating for their rights.3 Yet in 2009 Iran had ruthlessly repressed Iranians expressing the same desire as Tunisians, Egyptians and Bahrainis demonstrating for political rights and social justice. In February 2011, Iran’s response to the mere call for solidarity demonstrations was to place Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi under house arrest, blocking opposition websites, and arresting hundreds of political activists and others.
Subsequent demonstrations in 2011 in various Iranian cities were forcibly dispersed and further measures taken to stifle opposition and silence critics. One year later, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi remain under house arrest, and hundreds of people are believed to be still in jail simply for daring to express their views. Meanwhile, the security forces, particularly the Basij militia, continue to operate with virtual impunity for their crimes.
Index: MDE 13/002/2012 Amnesty International February 2012 “We are ordered to crush you” Expanding repression of dissent in Iran Since the 2009 crackdown, the authorities have steadily cranked up repression in law and practice, and tightened their grip on the media. They have stopped public protests using articles of Iran’s Penal Code that make demonstrations, public debate and the formation of groups and associations deemed a threat to “national security” punishable by long prison sentences or even death. Lawyers have been jailed along with their clients. Foreign satellite television channels have been jammed. Newspapers have been banned. Dissidents and critics who write in newspapers or on websites, or speak to the media, risk being charged with offences such as “spreading propaganda against the system”, “insulting officials”, “spreading lies with intent to harm state security” or occasionally the “offences” of “corruption on earth” or “enmity against God” which can carry the death penalty.4 Iran’s internet community is feeling the chill of a new cyber crimes law, with bloggers and others being hauled off to prison. The severity of the sentences meted out to bloggers demonstrates the authorities’ fear of the power of the internet and the free flow of information in and out of the country. At the time of writing in February 2012, as campaigning for the March parliamentary elections was about to get underway, so too did a new wave of arrests of bloggers, journalists and others, apparently to deter people from demonstrating on the anniversary of the 14 February demonstrations, or from highlighting criticism of the government in the parliamentary elections.
Iran’s multiple and often parallel security bodies – including a new cyber police force – can now scrutinize activists as they use personal computers in the privacy of their homes. They have restricted bandwidth and are developing state-run servers, specific internet protocols (IPs), internet service providers (ISPs) and search-engines. Countless websites, including international and domestic social networking sites are blocked, among them the www.amnesty.org website of Amnesty International. A relatively new and shadowy “cyber army”, reportedly linked to the Revolutionary Guards – also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – has carried out attacks on websites at home and abroad, including the Twitter site and Voice of America.
Government restrictions on the internet have also been used to muffle criticism from abroad, a policy backed up by harassment of opponents living in exile and arrests in Iran of relatives of critics or journalists living overseas. New regulations have criminalized contact with any of more than 60 listed foreign institutions, media organizations and NGOs.
Waves of arrests in recent months have targeted lawyers; students; journalists; political activists and their relatives; members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities; filmmakers, workers rights activists and people with international connections, particularly to foreign media such as BBC Persian. Dozens have been tortured or jailed, among them prisoners of conscience. Many others have been harassed or banned from travelling abroad.
Repression of human rights defenders has intensified. Many have been harassed or arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. Some remain in prison after unfair trials in previous years, many of them prisoners of conscience. The Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), the Association for the Rights of Prisoners, Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) and the Committee for Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) have all been closed down or refused legal recognition. Independent trade unions are still banned and several union members are still in jail.
Casting a shadow over all those who fall foul of Iran’s unjust justice system is the mounting toll of people sentenced to death and executed. There were around four times as many public executions in 2011 than in 2010, and hundreds of people are believed to have been sentenced to death in the past year. At least three juvenile offenders were among those executed in 2011 – the execution of those under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged offence is strictly prohibited under international law.
This report follows two previous Amnesty International reports – Iran: Election Contested, Repression Compounded, issued in December 2009;5 and From protest to prison: Iran one year after the election, issued in June 2010.6 It shows that the abuses outlined in these reports have not only continued but in some cases have become more widespread or more entrenched in law.
For those ending up in Iran’s prisons and detention centres, torture and other ill-treatment remain routine and widespread. Former detainees – both men and women – as well as some prisoners who write open letters from cells up and down the country recount being beaten, including on the soles of their feet, sometimes while suspended upside down. They have said they were burned with cigarettes and hot metal objects. They have described being subjected to mock execution. They have told of being raped - sometimes with implements - including by other prisoners, or threatened with rape. They have complained of being denied adequate food and water, while medical treatment is often delayed or even denied. In many instances, torture and other ill-treatment are used to extract “confessions” under duress, and courts routinely ignore complaints of torture and accept as evidence “confessions” extracted using such illegal means.
Most trials in Iran are grossly unfair, particularly those before special courts such as the Revolutionary Courts, which are frequently held behind closed doors. Defendants are routinely denied access to lawyers during pre-trial investigations and often during trial, using a restrictive interpretation of a note in the Code of Criminal Procedures. Often, trials – before judges who appear to be told what sentences to pass by the interrogators – are over in a matter of minutes.
Detainees who protest against injustice, torture or appalling prison conditions are sometimes transferred to faraway prisons as punishment, or charged with new offences. Others are released but banned from travelling to prevent international networking, or forced to flee in fear of further persecution. Detainees’ friends and relatives are arrested or harassed to dissuade them from speaking out about their relative’s case or to put pressure on detainees.
Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluch, Kurds and Turkmen, continue to suffer discrimination in law and in practice. The use of minority languages in state-controlled workplaces and for teaching in schools remains outlawed.
Religious minorities face similar discrimination and marginalization. Activists campaigning for the rights of minorities face threats, arrest and imprisonment, as do activists campaigning against the pervasive discrimination that impacts severely on women in law and in practice.
As these long-standing patterns of abuse highlight, the recent references by Iran’s leaders to a liberating “Islamic Awakening” during the 1979 revolution are misleading. Not only did torture continue after the revolution, but so too did repression of political dissent.
Index: MDE 13/002/2012 Amnesty International February 2012 “We are ordered to crush you” Expanding repression of dissent in Iran Members particularly of leftist organizations and Kurdish groups, along with members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), all of which played a major role in the revolution, were arrested in vast numbers after losing the power struggle that followed.
Thousands of political prisoners were put to death by the state, many in summary executions, from 1979 onwards, especially in the infamous “prison massacres” of 1988.
Vague “Islamic criteria”, enshrined in the new Constitution and subsequent legislation, were used by the authorities as justification for many violations of human rights. Women’s rights were one of the first casualties: a strict dress code was imposed, women’s testimony was deemed to be worth only half that of a man in court, and women received only half the compensation for injury or death due to a man, adding to the unequal status accorded to women in the Civil Code in matters relating to marriage, divorce and child custody. Sexual relations outside marriage were made punishable by flogging or stoning to death, while lesbians, gay men, and transgender and bisexual people faced heightened discrimination on account of their identity as well as harsh penalties for consensual sexual relations.