Freedom of expression, association and assembly were severely restricted. Political dissidents, women’s and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from travelling abroad. Torture and other ill-treatment were common and committed with impunity. Women as well as religious and ethnic minorities faced discrimination in law and in practice. At least 360 people were executed; the true total was believed to be much higher. Among them were at least three juvenile offenders. Judicial floggings and amputations were carried out.
The security forces, including the paramilitary Basij militia, continued to operate with near total impunity and there was virtually no accountability for the unlawful killings and other serious violations committed at the time of mass, largely peaceful protests following the 2009 presidential election and in earlier years.
In March, the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Special Rapporteur to investigate human rights in Iran; the government refused to allow him to visit the country. In October, the UN Human Rights Committee considered Iran’s record on civil and political rights. In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran.
Iranian troops attacked bases of PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan), an armed group that advocates autonomy for Iran’s Kurds, in Iraqi Kurdistan; at least two civilians were killed and hundreds of families in Iraqi Kurdistan were displaced. PJAK’s combatants reportedly include people recruited as child soldiers.
International tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme heightened in November when the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran could be secretly constructing a nuclear weapon; the government denied this. The government accused Israel and the USA of being behind several murders of Iranian scientists possibly linked to Iran’s nuclear programme, including physicist Dariush Rezaienejad, killed in July by an unidentified gunman in Tehran. The government denied allegations by the US authorities implicating senior Revolutionary Guard officials in a plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the USA.Top of page
The authorities maintained the tightened restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly imposed before, during and following the 2009 mass protests and sought to impose further restrictions. Parliament discussed draft laws that would further restrict freedom of expression, association and assembly, including the activities of NGOs and political parties.
The authorities refused permission for demonstrations on 14 February called in solidarity with the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and conducted pre-emptive arrests. However, demonstrations went ahead in Tehran, Esfahan, Kermanshah, Shiraz and elsewhere. They were violently dispersed by security forces, who arrested scores and killed at least two people. Subsequent demonstrations were also forcibly dispersed.
The security forces clamped down on provincial demonstrations, reportedly using excessive force, and arrested scores, possibly hundreds, of protesters. In Khuzestan, dozens of members of the Ahwazi Arab minority were said to have been killed before and during demonstrations in April to commemorate protests in 2005. Scores of environmental protesters calling for government action to halt the degradation of Lake Oroumieh were arrested in East Azerbaijan province in April, August and September.
The government maintained close control over the media, banning newspapers, blocking websites and jamming foreign satellite television channels. Scores of journalists, political activists and their relatives, film-makers, human rights defenders, students and academics were harassed, banned from foreign travel, arbitrarily arrested, tortured or jailed for expressing views opposed to those of the government. Some arrested in previous years were executed following unfair trials.
Security officials continued to arrest and detain government critics and opponents arbitrarily, often holding them incommunicado and without access to their families, lawyers or medical care for long periods. Many were tortured or ill-treated. Scores were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials, adding to the hundreds imprisoned after unfair trials in previous years.
Repression intensified against human rights defenders, including lawyers. Many were arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned or harassed. Others remained in prison after unfair trials in previous years; they included women’s and minority rights activists, trades unionists, lawyers and students. Many were prisoners of conscience. Independent trade unions remained banned and several union members remained in prison.
Political suspects continued to face grossly unfair trials often involving vaguely worded charges that did not amount to recognizably criminal offences. They were frequently convicted, sometimes in the absence of defence lawyers, on the basis of “confessions” or other information allegedly obtained under torture during pre-trial detention. Courts accepted such “confessions” as evidence without investigating how they were obtained.
Torture and other ill-treatment in pre-trial detention remained common and committed with impunity. Detainees were beaten on the soles of the feet and the body, sometimes while suspended upside-down; burned with cigarettes and hot metal objects; subjected to mock execution; raped, including by other prisoners, and threatened with rape; confined in cramped spaces; and denied adequate light, food, water and medical treatment. Up to 12 people reportedly died in custody in suspicious circumstances, including where medical care may have been denied or delayed; their deaths were not independently investigated. At least 10 others died during unrest at Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj near Tehran in March. No allegations of torture or ill-treatment were known to have been investigated by the authorities; those who complained of torture faced reprisals. Harsh prison conditions were exacerbated by severe overcrowding.
Sentences of flogging and amputation continued to be imposed and carried out. Sentences of blinding were imposed.
Women were discriminated against in law and in practice, including by a mandatory dress code. Women’s rights activists, including those involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign to demand legal equality for women, were persecuted and harassed. The draft Family Protection Bill, which would exacerbate discriminatory law against women, remained before parliament pending final approval. Some universities began segregating students by gender.
People accused of same-sex sexual activities continued to face harassment and persecution, and the judicial punishments of flogging and the death penalty.
Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluch, Kurds and Turkmen, suffered ongoing discrimination in law and in practice. The use of minority languages in government offices and for teaching in schools remained prohibited. Activists campaigning for the rights of minorities faced threats, arrest and imprisonment.
Members of religious minorities, including Christian converts, Baha’is, dissident Shi’a clerics and members of the Ahl-e Haq and Dervish communities, faced continuing persecution following repeated calls by the Supreme Leader and other authorities to combat “false beliefs” – apparently an allusion to evangelical Christianity, Baha’ism and Sufism. Sunni Muslims continued to face restrictions on communal worship in some cities and some Sunni clerics were arrested.
Hundreds of people were sentenced to death. At least 360 executions were reported by official sources, although other credible information suggested over 274 other executions, with many prisoners executed secretly. Up to 80 per cent of executions were for alleged drug-related offences, often imposed on people living in poverty and marginalized communities, particularly Afghan nationals. An amended Anti-Narcotics Law came into force in January; people sentenced to death under it appeared to be denied the right to appeal.
The number of public executions quadrupled; at least 50 were reported officially and a further six were recorded from unofficial sources. At least three juvenile offenders – people sentenced for offences committed when they were under 18 – were executed; a further four cases were reported by credible sources. No stoning executions were reported, but at least 15 people sentenced to death by stoning remained on death row, including Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Thousands of other prisoners were held awaiting execution.