Iran Human Rights Monitor Monthly Report – March 2019
Devastating flash floods wash away lives and properties
In the final days of March and the beginning of the Persian New Year, Iran was hit by a wave of rainstorms which caused devastating flash floods throughout the country. Dozens of cities and villages drowned and thousands of people lost everything they had.
The floods, which affected 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces, began during the Nowruz Persian New Year celebrations March 21.
The first wave of flash floods hit northeastern Iran on March 19, followed by a second wave in western and southwestern Iran on March 25. State media said at least 44 people have been killed.
Scattered reports, however, indicate at least 200 people have died.
According to an internal police report, at least 90 people were killed third wave of flash floods on Monday, April 1, engulfed the western city of Poldokhtar in Lorestan province.
The government aid was too little and too slow. Before sending aid workers, the regime dispatched the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the paramilitary Bassij to prevent any outbreak of protests.
Interior Ministry officials have threatened to arrest and punish those who spread the news in social media in a bid to prevent further leaking of reports indicating the actual scale of damages.
Many social media users observed that residents, often themselves victims of the floods, rushed to help others, while the authorities did very little, or nothing.
In Shiraz, home owners, mechanics, restaurant owners, and other businesses offered free services to the thousands of stranded tourists who had come to the city for the New Year’s festivities.
The Iranian government, for years, has been destroying the environment through its destructive policies.
The reason behind Iran’s increasing floods is the deforestation of more 30% of the northern forests, the destruction of vegetation in pastures and fields, the lack of levees, and flood walls in flood areas, the lack of river dredging, the unnatural gathering of heavy sediments behind dams, broken dams, the unconventional building of villas in agricultural land which is mostly carried out by those affiliated with the government, and the construction on river banks and river areas.
Deforestation is carried out in full by the government with “33% of forests in Iran having been destroyed”, according to state-run media. That means that the 18 million of hectares of Iran’s forests have shrunk to just 12.4 million.
Salamat News state-run website also reported a few years ago that the main cause of floods was due to environmental damages.
“Floods are not only the result of natural disasters. It is rather the result of environmental destruction. They are the result of the changes made to natural lands, deforestation and the destruction of native vegetation. Reducing vegetation and changes in land will cause runoff from precipitation to increase by more than 30 times in some places,” the website wrote.
It’s obvious that these environmental damages are systematic and the result of government mismanagement.
There were 15 executions of which one was carried out in public.
On Thursday, March 14, 2019, a prisoner was publically hanged in Jahrom, south of Iran.
Also on Monday, March 11, three prisoners in Birjand Prison, northeastern Iran, charged with killing two armed agents of the regime, were also executed. Two of those executed were father and son.
A day prior to that, the Iranian regime executed another prisoner in Zahedan Central Prison, southeastern Iran. He was married and a father of two children. Some sources have mentioned that he was a former member of Iran’s national kickboxing team.
These executions were carried out after Ebrahim Raisi, one of the men in charge of the mass executions in 1988 massacre, was recently appointed as the head of Iran’s judiciary by the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
During his speech at the inauguration ceremony, Raisi emphasized on the course of massacre, execution, and suppression to safeguard the regime in the past 40 years. He said that he would consider Khamenei’s recent “second phase” statement as his covenant and that the regime’s security is his absolute priority and that justice is subsidiary compared to it.
Torture, inhuman or degrading punishment
Reports indicate that in March 2019, mistreatment and torture of prisoners and human rights activists continued in Iran prisons.
Three activists including permeant human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, labour activist Jafar Azimzadeh and Mostafa Motowri were sentenced to flogging.
Lawyers, human rights defenders
After three years of imprisonment, the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was re-arrested on June 13, 2018, to serve a five-year sentence issued for her in absentia in 2016 on the charge of association and collusion with the intent of sabotaging national security, by citing a sit-in outside the Justice Ministry’s Lawyers Guild.
While she was in prison, a new file was opened for her which included seven more charges. Her case was examined in December 2018 and again on February 4, 2019, by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court in her absence and while the lawyer of her own choosing was also prevented from attending the trials and handling her case.
On March 11, 2019, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband informed the public through his Facebook account that another 34 years and 148 lashes have been issued for her.
This ruling led to tremendous outrage across the world with Amnesty International calling the trials as “grossly unfair.” The National Lawyers Guild of France has posted up her big picture on their building, declaring that “all French lawyers stand beside Nasrin Sotoudeh.”
Ms. Sotoudeh has opposed her unfair trials and chosen not to attend them. In a letter published on March 30 in her Facebook account, she declared, “I do not wish to participate in any way in this game of injustice. Let the judges of the Revolutionary Courts play on their own.”
The charges levelled against her are solely because of her peaceful human rights work, including her defense of women protesting the compulsory veil, and her outspoken opposition to the death penalty.
Inhumane treatment of prisoners
Denial of treatment
Prison authorities have intensified pressure on political prisoners in Raja’i Shahr and Urmia Central prison by depriving them of medical treatment.
International laws on treatment of prisoners state that those who require specialized treatment or surgery not available in detention facilities should be transferred to appropriate institutions or civilian hospitals. Iran’s own prison regulations stipulate similar standards. Unfortunately, Iranian authorities routinely ignore these rights protections that ensure medical care for prisoners.
- Despite suffering kidney disease, political prisoner Ali Badrkhani, held at Urmia Central Prison, has been denied access to medical treatment outside the prison. The political prisoner has been locked up with ordinary criminals which violates the principle of separation of prisoner categories.
- The warden of Raja’i Shahr Prison, has refused to authorize hospital transfers for ill political prisoner Abolghasem Fouladvand despite suffering from heart failure. The care he needs is not available in prison and medical advice recommends his transfer to Tehran Heart Center for treatment.
Lack of due process
Labor activist Arsham Rezaei (Mahmoud) has been issued a total of 8.5 years in prison at a trial took place on March 15 without a lawyer and a prior notice.
Judge Mohammad Moghiseh sentenced the 27-year-old construction-building painter a lengthy prison sentence for the charges of “spreading propaganda against the state,” “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the supreme leader.”
Arsham Rezaei was arrested along with two other men on January 7, 2019, by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison.
Rezaei was sentenced without a lawyer during his trial. It is not clear whether he was denied the lawyer by the judge or could not obtain one in time given that he was denied prior notice of the trial.
Freedom of religion and belief
Two members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority, were arrested in March 2019.
Saeed Nasseri was arrested on March 21, when he went to Evin prison’s prosecutor office to follow up on the situation of his brother who was arrested just days before and his wife who was arrested 40 days ago.
The Iranian Judiciary sentenced 23 prisoners who belong to the Sufi Dervish order to hefty prison terms and lashes. The dervishes have been sentenced to overall 190 years of prison, 46 years of exile, 1,776 lashes, a 46 year travel ban and a 46 year ban on involvement in social and political activities.
All the dervishes are currently detained in the Greater Tehran Prison.
The sentences are final and not subject to review.
The dervishes refused to go to court to hear their sentences in protest to the “illegal house arrest” of their religious leader, and not receiving due process. They also said that the believed that the courts were “inquisition style”.
Most of the dervishes have received between 6 to 9 years of prison while one of the men identified as Mostafa Abdi has received 26 years of prison. Each of the jailed men have also been sentenced to 74 lashes.
Persecution of ethnic minorities
In March 2019, at least eight Ahwazi Arabs and 24 Kurdish people were arrested by the state security forces.
The Iranian regime has always repressed and discriminated against ethnic minorities under various pretexts.