Washington, DC – Iranian authorities raided the office of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and her Center for Defenders of Human Rights yesterday, seizing computers and confidential information about clients. The official reason given for the raid was to investigate tax evasion. Ebadi disagrees, saying, “I am not in a position to say what was the reason they came to my office today, but I know that those men who came knew they were not here for any tax-related issues.” Ebadi went on to say, “The government has problems with the reports that the center issues.”
While the reason given for the raid was to investigate tax evasion, no warrant was provided and many believe this was an attempt to limit Ebadi’s activities and to send a warning to other human rights defenders.
Ebadi and the Center for Defenders of Human Rights focus on violations of human rights by the Iranian government, including but not limited to juvenile executions, harassment of student and labor activists, prison conditions, religious and cultural discrimination.
Since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, human rights organizations and political activists have come under increased pressure with dozens of students being imprisoned and many more harassed.
The international community has repeatedly condemned Iran for its human rights violations including the harassment and false imprisonment of students, political activists, and foreign researchers. Amnesty International has condemned Iranian violations and “is particularly concerned about the execution of children and individuals who were minors when their crimes were alleged to have taken place” and “indiscriminate use of violence” to suppress demonstrations.
In response to the raid on her office, Ebadi told Reuters, “We will protest against it. It will not deprive us from our rights activities.”