April 16, 2013

State Department Report Condemns Iran’s Human Rights Violations

Washington, D.C.—The Iranian government’s human rights

violations have escalated since the 2009 presidential elections, according to
the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 Iran Country Report on Human Rights
Practices. The report, which was issued on April 19, is part of a series that
the State Department issues annually covering the human rights situation in
each country. This year’s report highlights Iranian government abuses spanning
from censorship to torture which are most commonly inflicted on journalists,
activists, and minorities throughout the country.

“The most egregious human rights problems were the government’s
severe limitations on citizens’ right to peacefully change their government
through free and fair elections; restrictions on civil liberties, including the
freedoms of assembly, speech, and press; and the government’s disregard for the
physical integrity of persons whom it arbitrarily and unlawfully killed,
tortured, and imprisoned,” said the report.

Internationally, the State Department remains apprehensive about
Iran’s unwillingness to submit required reports to the United Nations Human
Rights Council and the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights. “The government ignored or denied repeated requests for visits
from UN special rapporteurs,” the report noted. In addition to its complete
disregard for the global community, the report heavily criticized the
government’s lack of transparency to its own citizens. Overall, there are no
laws regarding this matter. The government is not required to release
information to the public, nor does it grant access to those seeking government

In addition to transparency issues, the report examines
Iranians’ incapacity to freely express themselves despite laws meant to protect
citizens’ freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. The report notes, “The
constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, except when
the words are deemed ‘detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the
rights of the public.’” This clause has extended the government’s reach across
all communication channels, particularly the internet. “NGOs reported that the
government continued to increase its control over the Internet during the year
as more citizens used it as a source for news and political debate,” the report

A number of cyber organizations were created by the government
to police the Internet, restricting material it considers threatening to
national security, according to the report. Recently, Supreme Leader Khamenei
began organizing the Supreme Council for Cyber Space to work with the Ministry
of Communications, with the supposed goal of protecting Iranians from online
dangers. In most instances, these organizations monitor Internet communications
to collect identifiable information on dissenters. Cyber cafes have also been
required to log clienteles’ login information and install security cameras in
their establishments.

In addition to increased cyber security, the government slams
higher education institutions with heavy censorship in order to prevent
activism from flourishing. Government steps have included “banning independent
student organizations, imprisoning student activists, purging faculty,
depriving targeted students from enrolling or continuing their education based
on political or religious affiliation or activism, and restricting social
sciences and humanities curricula.”

Further, the government took steps to limit educational
opportunities for women by blocking courses and programs and instituting
admission quotas.  These developments lie at the top of a plethora of
obstacles to social, economic, and political participation faced by Iranian
women. The report indicates that even though the constitution “provides for
equal protection for women under the law,” the government fails to ensure equal
protection. Examples cited include the disregard of marital rape and domestic
violence, womens’ inability to initiate divorce proceedings, and
the fact that women cannot transmit citizenship to their children or noncitizen

Iran’s constitution is also supposed to grant equal rights to
ethnic minorities. Again, in this instance, the government has failed to
enforce the laws of its constitution. In fact, the report cites a 1985 law
called the Gozinesh (selection) law, which creates barriers to keep “Non-Shia
ethnic minorities from fully participating in civic life.” Though the
constitution of the Islamic Republic boasts the freedom of religion, the
Gozinesh law and many other practices, as the report said, “…make access to
employment, education, and other areas conditional on devotion to the Islamic
Republic and the tenets of Shia Islam.” The report also criticizes the lack of
access to these basic institutions for refugees in the country.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons (LGBT) are
also targets of discrimination. Iranians suspected of being gay face societal
abuses, acts of violence and constant pressure. Citing a Human Rights Watch
study, the report found that “family members threatened and abused many young
gay men, who also faced harassment from religious scholars, schools, and
community elders.” Again, security forces monitor the internet to collect
information on members and supporters of the LGBT community.

The Department of State placed heavy emphasis on the
disappearances, prolonged trials, extended prison sentences, torture, and
wrongful imprisonment that plague the government’s justice system.

The report cites several instances of alleged torture, including
accusations that Evin Prison authorities tortured and killed Sattar Beheshti, a
blogger, while he was in custody in November 2012. Poor conditions and
overcrowding, denial of medical treatment, and instances of torture considered
punishment by the government (i.e. amputations), are all common occurrences in
Iran’s largest prisons.

The report notes that the government has taken a few steps to
hold security forces accountable for human rights abuses, and refers to
documents that do not permit torture or discrimination. However, these measures
have proved superficial, as authorities who are accused of human rights abuse
are immediately released after a few days of detainment, and the government
fails to implement the laws and regulations stated in the referred documents.

to Iran’s lack of transparency, heavy censorship and discrimination throughout
civil society, the State Department anticipates that abuses will only increase
with the upcoming presidential election in June.

National Iranian American Council reiterates its condemnation of the Iranian
government’s human rights abuses and again urges Iranian authorites to grant
the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed
Shaheed, unhindered access to investigate the human rights situation in the
country. NIAC calls on the government of Iran to release all prisoners of
conscience, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh; halt the systematic violations of human
rights documented by Dr. Shaheed and the State Department; and to fully
cooperate with the UN human rights monitor.




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