The subject of human rights in Iran, has been the point of contention between the Iranian officials and international bodies for almost the entire existence of this regime over the past four decades.
The Iranian authorities have heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Iran’s security forces have used lethal force to crush protests, killing thousands, and arbitrarily detaining tens of thousands of protesters.
The regime has also targeted human rights defenders, political activists and dissidents to silence growing dissent.
The regime has invented more than 70 methods of torture, including severing hands and feet, gouging eyes, pressing prisoners’ heads with vise, and rape (especially against women).
Human rights abuses in Iran also includes executions, brutal punishments such as amputation and flogging, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, degrading behavior with prisoners, etc.
The Iranian authorities have managed, in the span of four decades, to silence the soaring wave of discontent within the country through the systematic use of indefinite solitary confinement of political prisoners, physical torture of student activists, and denial of basic due process rights to all those detained for the expression of dissenting views.
Let us look at some other key areas of the human rights abuse in Iran.
Iran’s deliberate use of capital punishment has been a constant source of international outrage and condemnation.
According to several independent international bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran and Amnesty International, Iran is the leading state in executions per capita, second only to China in terms of figures. Iran also tops the charts in the number of executions of minors and juvenile offenders.
The most heinous case of crime against humanity by the clerical regime was the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran. The death sentences against 30,000 political prisoners, who were mostly members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, were handed down after “trials” that lasted as little as a minute.
The victims were hanged in groups and then taken away in refrigerator trucks for secret mass burial in undisclosed mass graves. In subsequent years, a number of those sites were destroyed as part of the regime’s ongoing effort to conceal evidence of the killings. Groups like Amnesty International have warned that further construction projects are planned for mass gravesites soon, and that the clock is ticking for the international community to thoroughly investigate the 1988 massacre before the details become irreversibly obscured.
The Iranian regime has also carried out a large number executions based on drug-related charges, including crimes not considered major offences according to international norms. Their methods include public hanging and stoning of convicts.
Another aspect of human rights violations in Iran icluds torture and corporal punishment, public lashing, maiming, and public humiliations are common and mandated by law. Former political prisoners’ accounts reveal the extensive use of rape, beating, starvation, mock executions and other forms of torture being widespread and common against dissidents. Many prisoners died under torture and secretly buried.
One case highlighted in recent years was that of Kahrizak Prison, shedding light on the mass-scale torture and rape of demonstrators arrested during 2009 uprisings.
Iran has been criticized on several reprises for obtaining forced confessions from prisoners through torture. Last November, Amnesty International published a report condemning the Iranian regime for broadcasting forced confessions of prisoners to justify their executions.
Women have always had an exceptional role in Iran, especially being the most educated female population in the Middle East. However, under the Islamic republic, they are strictly limited in realizing their true potentials.
In terms of personal and social freedoms, Iranian women are subject to stringent rules and regulations. Women are required to wear the hijab (head veil) in all public places or face corporal punishment. In some cases, vigilantes sanctioned by the regime have staged acid attacks against women for not adhering to the dress code.
Women are also banned from public events such as sports matches. As for civil rights, Iran’s laws explicitly classify women as second-class citizens. A woman’s share of inheritance is half of what a male relative is entitled to. Moreover, Iranian women are banned from traveling abroad without the permission of a male family member. The testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man and in some cases, it is not even acceptable. Marriage and divorce laws are also skewed in favor of men.
Iranian women’s access to education and work are also legally limited in Iran. Some faculties, especially in technology and engineering, remain the exclusive domain of male students in Iranian universities.
Women are restricted in work life. Men are legally allowed to ban their wives from working. Access to administrative functions and job titles are also limited to women. Political roles and offices are largely banned for women and too many hurdles make it practically impossible for women without deep ties and favors from state officials to make it into leadership roles. Those few who have made it to the parliament or executive branch are regularly sidelined and have ceremonial and non-enforcing authority.
Iran’s ethnic and religious landscape is diversified, with a Persian Shiites constituting the majority of Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis, as well as religious minorities, such as Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Bahais. Members of these groups are constantly subject to systematic state-run discrimination and persecution.
The earliest act of suppression against minorities under the post-1979 clerical rule was the violent quelling of the 1979 Kurdish uprising, where security forces and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) led a massive military operation in Kurdistan province, leading to the deaths of thousands.
Minority rights violations in Iran has been the subject of UN General Assembly resolutions and Amnesty International condemnations. Ethnic minorities in Iran are often subjected to land and property confiscations, denial of state and para-state employment, restrictions on social, cultural, linguistic and religious freedoms. This often results in further human rights violations, such as the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, grossly unfair trials of political prisoners before “Revolutionary Courts,” corporal punishment and use of the death penalty, parallel to movement restrictions and denial of other civil rights.
Ethnic minority activists are incarcerated, tortured and executed, often under trumped-up charges and unfair trials. Conversion from Islam to other religions is severely punished under an apostasy law and religious minorities are persecuted and legally punished for professing or exercising their religion.