United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US Report: Human Trafficking Rises in Iran

            In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department called Iran a “presumed source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.” The number of teenage girls in prostitution has reportedly risen significantly in Tehran. Between 35,000 and 50,000 children are forced by their parents or other adults to beg in the capital’s streets or work in sweatshops. The Islamic Republic has earned the lowest possible ranking on handling human trafficking every year since 2006. The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report.

            Iran is a presumed source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and  forced labor. Iranian and Afghan boys and girls residing in Iran are allegedly forced into prostitution within the country. In Tehran, there has reportedly been a recent significant increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. Iranian women, boys, and girls are purportedly subjected to sex  trafficking in Iran, as well as in Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Europe. Azerbaijani women and children are also believed to be subjected to sex trafficking in Iran. According to some estimates, there are 35,000-50,000 children forced by their parents or other adults to beg in the streets of Tehran or to work in sweatshops; some of these children are also reportedly forced into prostitution in Iran and abroad.
            Afghan migrants and refugees are reportedly subjected to forced labor in Iran. Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to Iran for low-skilled employment such as domestic work and construction. Some are suspected of being subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor, including debt bondage, and experience restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. NGO reports indicate criminal organizations, sometimes politically connected, play a significant role in human trafficking in Iran. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some religious leaders and immigration officials are involved in human trafficking.
            The Government of Iran does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period; this impedes the collection of information on the country’s human trafficking problem and the government’s efforts to curb it. Publicly available information from NGOs, the press, international organizations, and other governments indicate that the Iranian government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges.
Recommendations for Iran
            Share anti-trafficking data with the UN and develop partnerships with international organizations; institute victim identification procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer specialized protection services to victims of trafficking, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; take measures to ensure sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor; increase transparency in government anti-trafficking policies and activities through public reporting; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
            The Government of Iran made no discernible law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability of the victim for purposes of prostitution, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law reportedly is up to 10 years’ imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Constitution and labor code both prohibit forced labor and debt bondage; the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one years’ imprisonment is not sufficient to deter these serious crimes. In addition, the labor code does not apply to work in households. NGOs reported that these laws remained unenforced due to a lack of political will and widespread corruption. There were no reports of investigations or prosecutions of trafficking cases or convictions of trafficking offenders. It was reportedly extremely difficult for female trafficking victims to obtain justice; Iranian courts accorded legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men, and women who were victims of sexual abuse were liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. The government did not report efforts to investigate or punish government employees complicit in trafficking related offenses. There were reports that government officials were involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls; some officials that operated shelters for runaway girls reportedly forced them into prostitution rings.
            The Government of Iran made no discernible efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. There is no evidence that the government has a process to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations found in the country. Iran has deported large numbers of undocumented Afghans without attempting to identify trafficking victims among them. The government also has reportedly punished victims of sex trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, for example, adultery and prostitution. There were reports that government officials raped individuals held in detention, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. There were no reports that the government referred trafficking victims to protective services. Some welfare organizations unrelated to the government may have helped Iranian trafficking victims.
            The government reportedly opened several shelters for street children in Tehran, though it is unclear what type of services were available to children in these shelters or if the shelters served any child victims of trafficking. There is no information to indicate the government provided assistance to repatriated Iranian victims of trafficking. The Iranian government did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
            There were no reports of efforts by the Government of Iran to prevent trafficking during the past year, such as campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking, to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, or to reduce demand for child sex tourism by Iranians traveling abroad. There was no apparent improvement in the transparency of the government’s reporting on its own anti-trafficking policies or activities and no apparent efforts to forge partnerships with international organizations or NGOs in addressing human trafficking problems. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Rouhani: Diverse Reaction by Iranian Leaders

            Top Iranian leaders used their congratulatory messages to President-elect Hassan Rouhani to offer their own takes on the election results. Some seemed unwilling to concede the defeat of the hardliner “principlist” camp. Other leaders focused on the high turnout rather than Rouhani’s win, claiming the election as a victory for the theocracy. The following are excerpts from their remarks.

Leaders and Politicians
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader
            “Congratulations to the people and to President-elect Hojatoleslam Hassan Rouhani. I urge everyone to help the president-elect and his colleagues in the government, as he is the president of the whole nation.” In a June 15 statement
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, outgoing president
            “I have always deeply believed in the vast and endless capacities of the Iranian nation for development and [achieving] greatness… I believe that all peaks of glory can be conquered by believing and trusting in the Iranian nation and by respecting different interests and tastes.” In June 15 message
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president
            “The new president is expected to use this period of opportunity to efficiently make use of a skilled and sincere study of the situation, which is a precondition for change, to resolve day-t0-day economic problems, and to strengthen and sustain religious, national, and revolutionary values, as well as the hopes that have been created in the people’s hearts.” June 19 in remarks to the press
Mohammad Reza Bahonar, deputy speaker of parliament
            “President-elect Rouhani is non-partisan and other political parties should not feel defeated because his win is a win for the Iranian nation and national unity.” In a June 17 interview with Mehr News
Abbas Araqchi, Foreign Ministry spokesman
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s principles and values of foreign policy are unchangeable, and what changes in practice is methods and styles, and as Mr. Rouhani said, (the protection of) Iranian nation’s rights is the criterion, and any government in any situation is committed to defending them.” 
Vahid Ahmadi, member of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission
            “The June 14 political epic [high voter turnout] enhanced Iran's bargaining power on the international scene. The diplomatic apparatus can… express its views with much more power to materialize people's demands now… Certainly people's high turnout has increased bargaining power on the nuclear issue.” In June 16 remarks published by Fars News Agency
Esmail Kowsari, Tehran member of parliament
            “My recommendation to those who are attempting to make the role of [former President Akbar] Hashemi [Rafsanjani] and [former President Mohammad] Khatami more colorful [in contributing to Rouhani’s victory] is that it is better for them not to continue such an approach, because the people do not accept such an approach and [one] must fundamentally say that the people no longer trust Hashemi and Khatami.” In June 18 comments published by Asriran
Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, Expediency Council member
            Rouhani is a symbol of “rational moderation, true reformism and real principlism.” In June 18 comments published by Entekhab.ir
Hamid Reza Taraghi, Islamic Coalition Party deputy for international affairs
            Rouhani is a “completely moderate face” who is both “a principlist and also a reformist… Our criticism was regarding the Khatami administration’s foreign policy. Mr. Khatami and his associates insisted on becoming closer to America, and even did some lobbying in this regard… Mr. Rouhani made a decision based on the opinion of the Supreme National Security Council and the supreme leader.” In June 17 comments published by Asriran
The Islamic Revolution Steadfastness Front, hardliner political organization
            "Form a cabinet in the decade of progress and justice composed of officials loyal to Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini’s ideals, the blood of the martyrs and the grand clergy; [They should be individuals who] also stand against aristocracy, rent-seeking, cultural laxness and resist against [Global] Arrogance, so that with God’s grace, the country’s movement toward the goals of the fourth decade of the revolution is further accelerated." In a June 19 statement published by Tasnim News Agency
Ayatollah Abbas Kabi, Assembly of Experts member
            “The result of the eleventh presidential elections was another stamp [which proved that] the system’s enemies claiming unrealistic cheating in the [2009] elections [were lying].” In a June 17 interview with Fars News Agency
2013 Presidential Candidates 
Saeed Jalili, chief nuclear negotiator and Supreme National Security Council secretary
            “I extend sincere congratulations to Mr. Rouhani for garnering the trust of the majority of the nation and being selected by the people. I give him sincere congratulations for this… In my opinion, I think, now everyone must ensure that the president-elect, Mr. Rouhani, is successful in dealing with economic situation and the difficulties that exist.” June 15
Mohammad Reza Aref, former vice president
            “The people have shown that they appreciate convergence and understanding as many said that they would not vote, and that my encouragement was extremely valuable.” In June 17 remarks published by the Iranian Labour News Agency
Mohsen Rezaei, former Revolutionary Guards chief
            “I extend my congratulations for the election of Hassan Rouhani both to him and his supporters. I hope from our God that he is able to deal with the economic difficulties the people face.” June 15
Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to the supreme leader and former foreign minister
            “First a congratulations for garnering the vote of the people, the vote of the people is a big indication of support and you must accept that choice. I am hopeful, that God willing, this vote will be even stronger in the future.” June 15
The Revolutionary Guards
            “We are fully prepared to cooperate with the future administration in the framework of all our legitimate duties and missions. The grand and passionate presence of the people in the election on the one hand began a new chapter in the evolutionary movement of the Islamic Revolution and the progress of the country, and on the other hand, signaled another defeat for the enemies’ front.” In a June 16 statement
Yadollah Javani, senior advisor to the supreme leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards
            "The slogans that Mr. Rouhani announced during the elections indicate that he does not belong to the Reformist current at all, rather he is moderate, centered and law abiding and has announced that he will utilize the capabilities of moderate principlists and reformists." In June 19 comments published by Fars News Agency
Hojatoeslam Mojtaba Zolnour, advisor to the supreme leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards
            “The remainders of the [2009] sedition, who [made repeated claims of] cheating and said the election results were predetermined and [that] the people’s participation had no effect received an answer from the people.” In a June 18 interview with Asriran
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of conservative newspaper Kayhan
            “Attempts are being made to show that Hassan Rouhani owes his presidency to the support he received from reformists. It must be said that not only does Rouhani not feel obligated to reformists, but it is reformists who should thank Rouhani as his rise to power provides them an occasion to return to the political stage.” In June 17 comments published by Jahan News

G8 Communique on Iran

            On June 18, the Group of Eight industrialized nations called on Iran to move “without delay” to fulfill its long-delayed obligations in answering questions about its controversial nuclear program. It also called on the international community to fully implement a variety of U.N. sanctions resolutions designed to pressure Tehran into compliance. The following is an excerpt from the joint statement by the G8 the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia – following their summit in Northern Ireland.

            Iran’s nuclear programme, which it continues to develop in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolutions, remains a source of serious concern. We once again urge Iran to comply fully and without delay with these international obligations. We call on the international community to ensure full implementation of UN sanctions. We stress that it is essential and urgent for Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA on all aspects of its nuclear programme, including to resolve questions on its possible military dimensions, and to engage actively and constructively with the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US and the EU High Representative) to find the diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue which we seek. We reaffirm that in line with the UN Security Council’s approved dual track approach, Iran has the ability to avoid further isolation and improve its situation only if it promptly addresses the concerns of the international community. We strongly urge Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations. We note the election of President-elect Rouhani and we invite Iran to use this opportunity to resolve its differences with the international community.


Election: US Reacts to Results

            In two separate statements, the United States called on the Iranian government to heed its people’s will after the surprise election of Hassan Rouhani in the first round of presidential elections. The Obama administration also “remains ready to engage with the Iranian government directly” to reach a diplomatic solution in the long standoff over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

Statement by the White House Press Secretary
            We have seen the announcement by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that Hojjatoleslam Doctor Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election.  We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard.  Yesterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly.  However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.
            It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians.  The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
Statement by Secretary of State John Kerry
            We have seen the announcement by Iran’s Interior Ministry that Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of the country’s 11th presidential election.
            We admire the courage of the Iranian people who went to the polls and made their voices heard in a rigidly controlled environment that sought to limit freedom of expression and assembly. We remain concerned about the lack of transparency in the electoral process, and the attempts to censor members of the media, the internet, and text messages. Despite these challenges, however, the Iranian people have clearly expressed their desire for a new and better future.
            President-elect Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians. In the months ahead, he has the opportunity to keep his promises to the Iranian people.
            We, along with our international partners, remain ready to engage directly with the Iranian government. We hope they will honor their international obligations to the rest of the world in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Rouhani: World Reacts to Election

            World leaders issued diverse reactions to the stunning election of Hassan Rouhani to Iran’s presidency. Governments from Europe to Israel and Russia hoped that his election would mark a turning point in stabilizing the region. Some leaders renewed their willingness to work with Iran to find a diplomatic solution to the controversial nuclear issue. The following are excerpted statements and remarks arranged by country.

The European Union
High Representative Lady Catherine Ashton
            “I remain firmly committed to working with the new Iranian leadership toward a swift diplomatic solution of the nuclear issue.” In a June 15 statement
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius           
            “The expectations of the international community with regard to Iran are significant, especially about its nuclear program and its involvement in Syria…. We are ready to work on them with the new president.” In a June 15 statement
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
            “I trust that he will exercise his responsibility with the sense of prudence and hope, which he had promised in his campaign. We will be particularly looking to see whether there will be change in Iran on the internal and international fronts after the election. It is also important and necessary that Iran complies with its obligations to respect human rights and endeavors to play a constructive role in the region.” In a June 16 statement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            “Let us not delude ourselves. The international community must not become caught up in wishes and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program. It must be remembered that the Iranian ruler, at the outset, disqualified candidates who did not fit his extremist outlook...’” At a June 16 cabinet meeting
President Shimon Peres
            Rouhani “said he will not go for these extreme policies. I am not sure specified his policies. But it will be better, I am sure, and that is why the people voted for him… It [the result] surprised all the experts and all the prophets, and this is really intriguing. Why? Because apparently there are hidden forces and strengths that were unseen or underestimated.” In June 15 remarks to Reuters
Foreign Minister Emma Bonino
            “Italy trusts that, with the new government of Iranian President Rowhani, it will be possible to work at developing bilateral relations and begin without delay a season of renewed comprehension and constructive dialogue between Iran and the international community.” In a June 15 statement
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri
            “In the name of the Lebanese parliament and mine, we offer you our warmest congratulations for the precious popular trust granted to you by the dear Iranian people.”
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah
            “As this political epic, by your blessed election, revived hopes of the dear Iranian people towards all their aspirations, it also renewed the great hopes of all your friends, lovers and brothers of the Arab, Muslim and oppressed peoples who see that you are today the focus of hopes, and who have always found the Islamic Republic the savior for every tyrannized, the relief for every oppressed and the mainstay for every resistant and mujahid [fighter] for Allah’s sake.”
Office of President Vladimir Putin
            Rouhani’s work “will contribute to the prosperity of friendly Iran and further strengthening of Russian-Iranian relations. The Russian president also confirmed readiness for consistent development of mutually advantageous cooperation with Iran in very diverse fields in the interests of ensuring regional security and international stability.” In a June 16 statement
Saudi Arabia
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
            “We are glad to congratulate you in the name of the people and government of Saudi Arabia … wishing greater progress and prosperity for the people of the brotherly Islamic Republic of Iran.” In a June 15 statement
President Bashar Assad
            Syria is determined to "bolster friendly relations and upgrade cooperation" especially in "confronting the plots of hegemony and aggression against the national sovereignty in our region in a way that reflects positively on the peoples of both friendly countries as well as the peoples of the region and the whole world."
The United Arab Emirates
President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan
            “We look forward to working together for the good of this region and the Emirati and Iranian peoples. We are keen to forge relations based on cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” In a June 17 telegram
The United Kingdom
Prime Minister David Cameron
            “I've always believed that the right approach on Iran is to engage, to make a clear offer to the Iranians that there is a different path for them. If they don't go down the path of nuclear weapons, then they can become a full part of the international community. Obviously, we will have to see how the new Iranian government reacts to that, but Britain will stand with America and others in continuing to make that offer.” In June 17 remarks to the press
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
            “We call on him to use the opportunity to set Iran on a different course for the future: addressing international concerns about Iran's nuclear program, taking forward a constructive relationship with the international community, and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran.” In a June 15 statement
The United Nations
Office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
            “The Secretary General has been closely following the eleventh presidential election in Iran held on 14 June and notes with satisfaction the reported high turnout.  He extends his warm congratulations to Mr. Hasan Rowhani, the confirmed winner.
            “The Secretary-General intends to remain engaged with the Iranian authorities and with the President-elect on issues of importance to the international community and the welfare of the Iranian people.  He will continue encouraging Iran to play a constructive role in regional and international affairs.” In a June 15 statement


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