SEATTLE — For many years, human rights have been a concern in Iran with the U.N. Human Rights Council even serving a special mandate where the rights of Iranian citizens are concerned. In regard to human rights violations, President Hassan Rouhani was, in fact, elected for a second term in 2017 amidst a voting scandal that disqualified voters based on political opinion or gender or religion. In addition to this startling fact, here are 10 facts about human rights in Iran.
10 Facts about Human Rights in Iran
- The Iranian government has been consistently executing the citizens in Iran. Citizens may be executed because of adultery, drug-related crimes, same-sex relationships or a refusal to adopt religious values. In 2016, the number of executions was believed to be between 204 and 437. Children are not excluded from these executions and can be punished by death for non-violent crimes that they commit before they are 17 years old.
- Human rights activists are often jailed and prosecuted for their activism. Those that fight in Iran for a fairer government are not rewarded for their efforts towards this goal, no matter how peaceful. Narges Mohammadi was arrested in June 2015 due to her activism and was sentenced to six years in prison; recently, she has begun serving a new sentence of ten years in prison because of her involvement with an organization that hopes to end the death penalty in Iran.
- Freedom of expression and speech are often not respected and actively denied. Protesters are arrested and can even be sentenced to death because of their public disagreement with the government of Iran. The Iranian government also has prohibited certain social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram as well as Telegram, which is often used by organizers to promote protest events. Women are not permitted to sing in public and concerts in Iran have been canceled because of violators to this rule. Parties with mixed-gendered guests have also been banned and shut down regularly; in fact, young detainees are often arrested at these events and subject to flogging.
- Censorship and erasure of political opinion occur often in Iran. The Association of Journalists is banned in Iran and journalists are not free to write opinions in any media outlet that does not favor the Iranian government. The Iranian government has frozen 152 journalists’ accounts and went on to ban them from any financial transactions.
- There is virtually no freedom of religion in Iran. The government favors Shi’a Muslims and even went as far as banning non-Shi’a Muslims from being presidential candidates. Many of the laws and regulations in Iran are based on a strict interpretation of the beliefs of Shi’a Muslims. Other religions are not only discouraged but can also warrant punishment.
- Rights for women in Iran are scarce. Women’s rights in Iran are limited and mostly non-existent. Girls can be forced into marriages as young as nine and Iran has no laws against non-consensual sex after marriage (if it comes from the woman’s partner). Women that look to divorce their husbands in the case of domestic violence must prove extensive bodily harm and that the abuse is wholly intolerable. There are also laws that limit an unmarried woman’s right to work, which bars women from gaining any semblance of economic freedom.
- The United States has no major recourse to aid in the betterment of human rights in Iran. Most Americans, upon finding that there is a nation whose people are suffering at the hands of their own government, are quick to ask what can be done by our nation. In the case of the U.S., there is not much to be done. There is no American embassy in Iran and so American power to help in this instance is limited, if not non-existent. This may not be the worst case scenario, though, as the U.N. is actively monitoring Iran’s human rights climate and being more directly involved with peacekeeping efforts.
- Iran tortures detainees in an effort to get confessions. Violence is a common thread throughout these 10 facts about human rights in Iran and Iran has a history of torturing those in their custody in order to force them to confess. These confessions can often be public in order to use it against them in legal proceedings. Some victims of this torture have even died while in custody.
- Religious minorities are often targeted. Religious minorities are not only discouraged from practicing their religions but are also often targeted for their religion and denied basic human rights. Members of the Baha’i minority are also victims of hate crimes and, in certain cases, their murderers have not been charged or punished for the crime.
- The human rights situation in Iran is only getting worse. The most jarring of these 10 facts about human rights in Iran is that the situation within this Middle Eastern nation is only worsening. When President Rouhani was elected, there were talks of Iran improving; this does not seem to be the case. The U.N. reporter for Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, conceded that there were minimal improvements in Iran but that the overall state of the nation has worsened. The Center for Human Rights in Iran explains that the rights of women in Iran, as well as the persecution of Baha’i, has only continued to worsen. The executions for non-violent crimes have also increased in recent years.
Despite such negative trends, the potential for improving Iranian human rights exists. Through continued effort on the international scale and from the Iranian people themselves, Iran could potentially see a turn in human rights for the better.
– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow