United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

New Human Rights Watch Report on Iran

            In 2012, Iran put opposition leaders under house arrest, harassed and arrested civil society activists, and prevented opposition candidates from running for parliament, according to the new World Report by Human Rights Watch. The following are excerpts from the Iran chapter with a link to the full text at the end. 

Freedom of Assembly, Association, and Voting
            Security forces prevented peaceful demonstrations marking the anniversary of February 2011 anti-government protests. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi remained under house arrest at this writing.
            On February 21, the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 religious jurists, disqualified more than 2,000 candidates running for seats in Iran’s March 2 parliamentary election on ill-defined criteria. The Iranian judiciary announced on December 31, 2011, that calls for an election boycott constituted “a crime.”
            At this writing, dozens of activists affiliated with banned opposition parties, labor unions, and student groups were in prison. The judiciary targeted independent and unregistered trade unions. In May, a revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced Reza Shahabi, a prominent labor rights activist working with the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, to six years’ imprisonment for “conspiracy against the national security” and “propaganda against the regime…”
Freedom of Expression and Information
            According to Reporters Without Borders, 48 journalists and bloggers were in Iran’s prisons as of August 2012. On April 4, a revolutionary court notified Mansoureh Behkish, a prominent blogger and supporter of the Mourning Mothers, that she had been sentenced to four-and-a half-years for “propagating against the regime” and “assembly and collusion against national security.” Behkish had been active on behalf of families of victims of the 2009 post-election crackdown and 1988 prison massacres.
Women’s Rights
            Iranian women face discrimination in personal status matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A woman needs her male guardian’s approval for marriage regardless of her age, and cannot pass on her nationality to her foreign-born spouse or their children. A woman may not obtain a passport or travel outside the country without the written permission of a male guardian.
            Several universities banned female enrollment in several academic fields, including engineering and the sciences, and set quotas limiting the number of women in university courses as well as gender segregation in several higher education facilities.
Treatment of Minorities
            The government denies freedom of religion to adherents of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. Authorities conducted a campaign targeting Baha’is in the northern city of Semnan. According to the Baha’i International Community, at least 17 Baha’i-owned businesses have been shut down, and 22 Baha’is have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 6 months to 6 years since 2009.There were 111 Baha’is detained in Iran’s prisons as of September 2012.

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