United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US Report: Human Trafficking in Iran

The U.S. State Department cited Iran as “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor” in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report. Since 2009, Iran has been designated Tier 3, the lowest ranking, for not meeting Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards and is not making significant efforts to do so. The following is the report’s profile of Iran.
IRAN: Tier 3
Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Accurate information on human trafficking in Iran is difficult to obtain. Organized groups reportedly subject Iranian women, boys, and girls to sex trafficking in Iran and in Afghanistan, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Europe. Iranian girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are targeted by traffickers for sale abroad; younger girls may be forced into domestic service until their traffickers consider them old enough to be subjected to child sex trafficking. An increase in the transport of girls from and through Iran en route to other Gulf States for sexual exploitation has been reported from 2009-2015; during the reporting period, Iranian trafficking networks subjected Iranian girls to sex trafficking in brothels in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. The media reported Kurdistan Regional Government officials were among the clients of these brothels. In Tehran, Tabriz, and Astara, the number of teenage girls exploited in sex trafficking continues to increase. Organized criminal groups kidnap or purchase and force Iranian and immigrant children to work as beggars and street vendors in cities, including Tehran. These children, who may be as young as 3, are coerced through physical and sexual abuse and drug addiction; reportedly many are purchased for as little as $150.
In January 2016, an international organization reported the Iranian government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) coerced male Afghans resident in Iran, including migrants and refugees, to fight in military brigades deployed to Syria by threatening them with arrest and deportation to Afghanistan. Afghan boys in Iran are vulnerable to sexual abuse by their employers and harassment or blackmailing by the Iranian security service and other government officials. Traffickers subject Afghan migrants, including boys, to forced labor in construction and agricultural sectors in Iran. Trafficking networks smuggle Afghan nationals living in Iran to Europe and force them to work in restaurants to pay off debts incurred by smuggling fees. Pakistani men and women migrants in lowskilled employment, such as domestic work and construction, are targeted by organized groups and subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, restriction of movement, non-payment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. Increasingly, despite labor code protections for registered foreign workers, employers seek adjustable contracts which make workers vulnerable to exploitative work practices such as coerced overtime and denial of work benefits. The Government of Iran does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. As in previous reporting periods, the government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts. Public information from NGOs, the media, international organizations, and other governments indicates the Iranian government is not taking significant steps to address its extensive trafficking problem, particularly with regard to the protection of trafficking victims. Furthermore, during the reporting period, allegations arose of complicity by Iranian officials in the coerced recruitment and use of Afghan men for combat in Syria.
Cease coerced recruitment and use of Afghan men for combat in Syria by IRGC-organized and commanded militias; while respecting due process, investigate and prosecute sex trafficking and forced labor cases; increase transparency of anti-trafficking policies and activities; ensure sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; institute procedures to identify trafficking victims, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer specialized protection services to trafficking victims, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; develop partnerships with international organizations to combat trafficking; and become a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

The government did not report anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and was reportedly complicit in trafficking crimes during the year. Iranian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power, or abuse of a victim’s position of vulnerability for purposes of prostitution, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law is up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and capital punishment for offenses against children. Both penalties are sufficiently stringent. The penalty for the trafficking of adults, however, is not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for rape. In 2015, there was no new information about previous government claims that the anti-trafficking law was under review for amendment, including specific provisions to improve the effectiveness of the law. The constitution and labor code prohibit forced labor and debt bondage, but the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one year’s imprisonment is not sufficiently stringent. Iranian courts accord legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men, therefore restricting female trafficking victims’ access to justice. Moreover, female victims of sexual abuse, including sex trafficking victims, are subject to prosecution for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. The government did not report statistics on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenders. The government also did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking offenses, despite reports that such complicity was widespread. The government did not appear to provide anti-trafficking training to officials during the reporting period.
The government made negligible efforts to protect trafficking victims. There was no indication the government provided protection services to any trafficking victims, including repatriated Iranian victims. The government reportedly continued to punish sex trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as adultery and prostitution. The government did not distinguish between trafficking victims, those seeking refugee status, and undocumented immigrants, and held foreign trafficking victims in detention centers and jails until their deportation. The government and NGOs operated a small number of multipurpose shelters for women, largely in major cities, which trafficking victims could access. There were no reports of shelters for male trafficking victims. The government did not appear to provide other social or legal protection services for trafficking victims, and it was not clear if it provided support to NGOs providing limited services to victims. The government did not appear to encourage trafficking victims to assist in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers, and did not provide witness support services. It did not provide foreign trafficking victims a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
The government did not make sufficient efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government did not improve transparency on its anti-trafficking policies or activities, nor did it make discernible efforts to forge partnerships with NGOs or international organizations to combat human trafficking. The government made no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, forced labor, or child sex tourism by Iranian citizens traveling abroad. The government did not implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. During the reporting period, an amendment to the citizenship laws to allow Iranian citizenship to be passed down through mothers was submitted, but the parliament did not pass it; children with foreign fathers continued to lack documentation and remained vulnerable to exploitation. The government did not register or provide residence permits to new Afghan refugees and coerced IRAQ many to serve in combat brigades deployed to Syria. There was no indication the government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government has not ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, despite previous reports the parliament was reviewing the convention. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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Tags: Reports

Kerry: Iran Helpful in Fight Against ISIS

On June 28, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Washington and Tehran have a common interest in Iraq and the fight against ISIS, also known as ISIL, Daesh or the Islamic State. Iran “has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL/Daesh,” he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Kerry acknowledged the remaining differences between Iran and the United States, but he also emphasized that the brokering of the nuclear deal opened up a new opportunity for communication with Iran.
PBS asked CIA Director John Brennan about Kerry’s comments on Iran's role the following day. Brennan said the Iranians “have to do more” in the fight against ISIS. He also noted that Iran is still the leading state sponsor of terrorism. The following are excerpted remarks by Kerry and Brennan.

Secretary of State John Kerry
MR ISAACSON: Now that Iran is at that table with you, obviously they want to protect Assad a little bit, but they also are very fervent in getting rid of Daesh, like we are. Are they being more helpful or more harmful (inaudible)?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I know this will fall – I mean, look, we have challenges with Iran, as everybody knows, and we’re working on those challenges. But I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL/Daesh. And so we have a common interest, actually.
MR ISAACSON: And do you think the Iran deal helped get us that more common interest?
SECRETARY KERRY: There’s not – there’s no question that it opened up the opportunity for communication. I mean, when our sailors stumbled into Iranian territory and got held, two years ago we wouldn’t have known who – we would have called the Swiss. We would have called some other country and said, “Can you help us?” And enough time would have gone by and there would have been sufficient level of enmity that those guys would have probably been hostages and we’d have had another situation. But within 30 minutes I had my counterpart on the phone. Within an hour and a half we had a deal. It was clear they were going to come out and we were going to not make this a bad moment in what we were trying to achieve. So that’s a benefit that came out of the whole process.
And even now, we are working on other things, and look, Jason Rezaian is sitting here because --
MR ISAACSON: Jason – is that – Jason is the wonderful Washington Post reporter who was held, and I think the Secretary helped get him out. Jason, thank you for being with us. 
SECRETARY KERRY: But this is – this is a tough one. But I think we’re going to make some progress in the next months.
MR ISAACSON: And can you envision five to ten years from now Iran being more of a partner than an adversary?
SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t want to make any guesses. That’s too fraught with too many variables. It really is, Walter. I mean -- look, the hope is – everybody understands that Iran is going through certain change. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have a vision that was a vision that was carried out in the context of sitting down with us and negotiating. There were those in Iran who didn’t want to do that.
MR ISAACSON: And should business leaders here trade and open up relations with Iran more now?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s up to them if they have business that they do. It’s open to that and --
MR ISAACSON: Would that help our foreign policy?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, certain businesses are open to that. It’s not generically open to every business yet. We still have sanctions in place from our – what we call our primary sanctions that were put in place because of state support for terror or human rights abuse or missile shoots or arms (inaudible).
MR ISAACSON: And are we better off in those fields now?
SECRETARY KERRY: We’re better off in the last few months.
SECRETARY KERRY: There were some – we had to sanction – we sanctioned additionally a few months ago because of a missile shoot. We’re prepared to do that again if we have to. Our hope is that we can continue to open the aperture.
And there are those in Iran – we had people bitterly opposed to the deal here in America; they had people bitterly opposed to the deal in Iran. It was a very tough fight there, just as it was a tough fight here. But that’s the nature of change. I mean, you have to fight for something that’s rational.
—June 28, 2016, at the Aspen Ideas Festival
CIA Director John Brennan
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that Iran had been helpful in the fight against ISIS. Is that how you see Iran’s role there?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I think the Iranians have a vested interest in doing what they can to prevent the growth of ISIS in that area, because ISIS has a very strong anti-Shia dimension to it, so there are some things that the Iranians can do and even some things that the Iranians have done that have helped to inhibit the further growth of ISIS.
But there are a lot of things that Iran does that tends to facilitate terrorism, and they still are the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, on balance, would you say Iran is more helpful in the fight against terrorism or less?
JOHN BRENNAN: On balance, I think they have to do more. I think they have done some things, but they need to demonstrate their commitment to helping defeat these terrorist organizations and being able to work with regional states, their neighbors and doing it in a way that is really going to be designed to destroy these organizations.

—June 29, 2016, on PBS Newshour 


Iran in 2016 Fragile States Index

Iran’s ranking on the annual Fragile States Index improved slightly compared to 2015. The Fund for Peace ranks 178 countries based on their levels of stability and the pressures they face as reflected by twelve indicators. Iran ranked 47 in 2016 compared to 44 in 2015, with one being the most unstable. Its stability ranking was similar to that of Cambodia and Gambia. Lebanon was the closest Middle Eastern country in terms of ranking at number 40.  

On the pressure assessment scale ranging from alert to warning to stable and sustainable, Iran was rated as “high warning.” During the last decade, the economy has worsened the most out of any of the indicators. Iran has also seen an increase in brain drain and erosion of state legitimacy.  



Click here for the full ranking and more information about the indicators.
Tags: Reports

Financial Task Force Keeps Iran on Blacklist

On June 24, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) announced that it will keep Iran on its list of high-risk countries. The inter-governmental body, however, welcomed Iran’s commitment to address its record on money laundering and financing terrorism, and, as a result, suspended some restrictions for a year while Iran attempts to improve deficiencies. But the FATF warned that it would reinstate its counter-measures if Iran fails to improve. The group, whose 37 members met in South Korea, also decided to keep North Korea on its blacklist. The following are excerpts from the FATF statement.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). In order to protect the international financial system from money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) risks and to encourage greater compliance with the AML/CFT standards, the FATF identified jurisdictions that have strategic deficiencies and works with them to address those deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system.
Jurisdictions subject to a FATF call on its members and other jurisdictions to apply enhanced due diligence measures proportionate to the risks arising from the jurisdiction
The FATF welcomes Iran’s adoption of, and high-level political commitment to, an Action Plan to address its strategic AML/CFT deficiencies, and its decision to seek technical assistance in the implementation of the Action Plan. The FATF therefore has suspended counter-measures for twelve months in order to monitor Iran’s progress in implementing the Action Plan. If the FATF determines that Iran has not demonstrated sufficient progress in implementing the Action Plan at the end of that period, FATF’s call for counter-measures will be reimposed. If Iran meets its commitments under the Action Plan in that time period, the FATF will consider next steps in this regard.
Iran will remain on the FATF Public Statement until the full Action Plan has been completed. Until Iran implements the measures required to address the deficiencies identified in the Action Plan, the FATF will remain concerned with the terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat this poses to the international financial system. The FATF, therefore, calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to continue to advise their financial institutions to apply enhanced due diligence to business relationships and transactions with natural and legal persons from Iran, consistent with FATF Recommendation 19. The FATF urges Iran to fully address its AML/CFT deficiencies, in particular those related to terrorist financing.
The FATF will continue to engage with Iran and closely monitor its progress. 

Click here for the full statement. 


Iran Files ICJ Complaint to Reclaim Assets

Iran has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice to reclaim some $2 billion in assets frozen in the United States, President Hassan Rouhani announced on June 15. Tehran’s move is a response to an April 2016 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that held Iran financially responsible for terrorist attacks dating back to the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut. The court ordered that the frozen assets be made available to compensate more than 1,000 victims of terrorist acts linked to Iran, such as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
Rouhani discussed the complaint, filed the previous day, at a gathering to break the Ramadan fast. He described the U.S. courts’ decisions as “illegal” and vowed to recover Iran’s assets along with compensation. The assets in question include some $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accumulating interest, held by Citibank in New York. They were part of the central bank’s foreign currency reserves. In April, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the court ruling was “highway robbery” in an interview with The New Yorker.
The following are excerpted remarks by Rouhani and a portion of the International Court of Justice press release.
President Hassan Rouhani
“The government will follow the case until the nation's rights are realized and the money is back, along with its compensation.”

“American courts have issued illegal verdicts and claimed that these assets should be allocated to the Americans and the families of those who were killed in Lebanon; it is not clear what Americans were doing in Lebanon and how does this issue concern Iran.”

—June 15, 2016, at an iftar event
International Court of Justice
Iran institutes proceedings against the United States with regard to a dispute concerning alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity
THE HAGUE, 15 June 2016. The Islamic Republic of Iran (hereinafter “Iran”) instituted proceedings yesterday against the United States of America (hereinafter “the United States”) before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with regard to a dispute concerning “violations by the Government of the United States of America of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between Iran and the United States of America which was signed in Tehran on 15 August 1955 and entered into force on 16 June 1957” (hereinafter “the 1955 Treaty”).
The Applicant explains that the United States, having for many years taken “the position that Iran may be designated a State sponsoring terrorism (a designation which Iran strongly contests)”, has adopted a number of legislative and executive acts 1 that have the practical effect of subjecting the assets and interests of Iran and Iranian entities, including those of the Central Bank of Iran (also known as “Bank Markazi”), to enforcement proceedings in the United States, even where such assets or interests “are found to be held by separate juridical entities . . . that are not party to the judgment on liability in respect of which enforcement is sought” and/or “are held by Iran or Iranian entities . . . and benefit from immunities from enforcement proceedings as a matter of international law, and as required by the [1955] Treaty”.
Iran further argues that, as a consequence of these acts, “a wide series of claims have been determined, or are underway, against Iran and Iranian entities” and that United States courts “have repeatedly dismissed attempts by Bank Markazi to rely on the immunities to which such property is entitled” under United States law and the 1955 Treaty. It further maintains that “the assets of Iranian financial institutions and other Iranian companies have already been seized, or are in the process of being seized and transferred, or at risk of being seized and transferred, in a number of proceedings” and explains that, as of the date of its Application, United States courts “ha[ve] awarded total damages of over US$ 56 billion . . . against Iran in respect of its alleged involvement in various terrorist acts mainly outside the USA”.
The Applicant claims that the above-mentioned enactments and decisions “breach a number of provisions of the [1955] Treaty”.
Click here for the full text.

Click here for more information on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. 


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