Iran Human Rights Monitor Monthly Report – January 2020:
January was marked by further clampdown on freedom of expression and assembly in Iran.
Major protests broke out on January 10-13 in reaction to the downing of a passenger airliner by the IRGC.
A Ukrainian Airliner Boeing 737 was shot down early morning on January 8, just minutes after it took off for Kiev, capital of Ukraine, from Tehran’s Khomeini Airport. All the 176 passengers and crew onboard were killed.
Iranian officials claimed that the reason for the plane crash was “technical problems.” But international analysts and media were skeptical of the regime’s claim from the outset and investigations into the Ukrainian plane crash were launched.
Despite denying involvement for three days, the Iranian regime officials finally admitted that the aircraft had been shot down by their anti-aircraft missiles.
Only hours after official admissions, thousands of Iranian people and students took to the streets, to pay homage to the victims of the downing of the Ukrainian airliner and to protest the regime’s concealments.
Angry protests in Tehran and other cities targeted the clerical regime’s leader, Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and other officials, calling for regime change.
Videos obtained from the protests indicate extensive and heavy presence of security forces in the scenes of protests after the sunset.
The footage also show that security forces lobbed tear gas at Iran protesters gathering outside the Amir Kabir University in Tehran and other parts of the capital, in a bid to disperse them.
The semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated with the IRGC, wrote in a report that protesters outside Amir Kabir University tore down a large poster of Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force.
Reports from Tehran say security forces used ambulances to relocate the paramilitary Bassij and other suppressive forces.
Security forces also used pellet guns, plastic bullets, batons and pepper spray to contain the protests. There is no accurate statistics available on the number of arrested participants, but they clearly included a number of college students and student activists.
In addition to violation of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, mistreatment and torture of political prisoners, arrest, detention and handing down of heavy sentences for civil and human rights activists, and inhuman punishments such as execution and flogging are among the common and systematic practices of Iranian authorities every month.
The monthly report of Iran Human Rights Monitor – January 2020 briefly glances over human rights conditions in Iran over the past month.
Iran Human Rights Monitor has recorded at least 24 executions in January including that of two women.
More details on Iran executions and the death penalty can be found in our exclusive January report.
Torture and cruel punishment
Reports in January indicate that the mistreatment and torture of prisoners and human rights activists in Iranian prisons has increased. According to reports, many of those arrested during peaceful protesters in November 2019 are currently under severe torture by security forces.
Reports also show that prisoners in the Greater Tehran Prison are under torture. Prisoners are beaten in their testicles and scalded with boiling water.
Security and intelligence forces prevent news on the condition of detainees from leaking out of prison. Only people and forces with special clearances are allowed to go to the cells of detained protesters.
One of the detainees who was recently released from prison compared prison conditions to “hell”.
Amnesty International received “shocking reports” about sexual assault of a woman, detained in January for participating in protests following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane near the capital city, Tehran. Amnesty International said one of the detainees was a woman, who was taken to a police station and sexually assaulted by a security agent.
In addition to torture carried out systematically in prisons and secret and official detention centers affiliated with the Iranian Judiciary, Iran also issues flogging sentences for social and political “crimes”. In January, Iran issued at least 21 flogging sentences and carried out one flogging sentence in public. According to the Shahreza News state-run website, a 23-year-old man charged with robbery was flogged 74 times in public.
Torture for forced confessions
According to reports, many of those arrested during nationwide protests in November 2019 are under torture to make forced confessions.
Kurd human rights activists have reported that a Kurd activist couple identified as Leila Tirandazi and Arman Vafaie, who have been detained for close to a month, are under torture to make forced confessions.
Leila Tirandazi was only allowed to see her family after 28 days of incarceration. According to her family, she was unable to talk and had numerous scars on her body and even inside her mouth. Kurd human rights activists say that the Kurd civil rights activist is taken for interrogations to the Intelligence Agency in the western city of Sanandaj during work hours and is then transferred to the city’s Correctional Center at night.
Kurd cultural activist Parisa Seifi, arrested on November 12, 2019 by security forces, has only been allowed to contact her family once since her detention. The activist has been told that she can only see her family on the condition that she confesses on television.
Right to assembly and peaceful gatherings
On the morning of January 8, the Iranian regime shot down Ukrainian airliner flight PS752 a few minutes after its takeoff from Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew. The plane was headed to Kiev.
The regime denied it had shot down the plane for three days.
A few hours after the regime admitted that the plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), angry protesters in Tehran and across Iran took to the streets and chanted against the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the IRGC, demanding an end to the regime.
According to reports from Tehran, “security forces used ambulances from institutions such as National Iranian Oil Company, The Social Security Organisation, and Water and Wastewater Company that have private hospitals, to transfer their forces including the Basij around Tehran. They also stationed a number of minibuses that have doors on their sides. Dressed in the latest fashions, agents walked on the streets and started conversations with locals about the airplane shootdown. They then arrested the people who started talking to them. From the way they looked, you would not believe they were agents.”
Security forces used pellets, rubber bullets, batons, pepper spray and tear gas against peaceful protesters. A number of protesters were also arrested, though the exact numbers of detainees is not yet clear.
Many of those arrested were students and student activists. A number of them were released on heavy bail orders. However, the condition of many of those who are still incarcerated is not known.
Freedom of speech and belief
A number of civil rights activists, teachers and academic activists were sentenced to heavy prison terms and flogging in January.
A number of teachers in the northeastern city of Mashhad including Mohammad Reza Ramezanzadeh, Hossein Ramezanpour, Hamidreza Rajaei, Ali Forutan, Mostafa Robati, Saied Haghparast and Hassan Johari who were detained in October and November 2018 and were later released on bail were sentenced to prison in January.
They were sentenced to overall 41 years and eight months of prison, 222 lashes and a 3 million toman fine for “acting against national security by creating an illegal group with the intent of disrupting the country’s security” and “spreading propaganda against the state”.
In January, many of those arrested during the November 2019 and January 2020 protests were tried in closed doors.
Reports indicate that Revolutionary Court judges extort protesters arrested during the protests to set them Free. The two Revolutionary Court judges are Moghisseh and Amouzad.
At their court hearings, the two Revolutionary Court judges tell the jailed protesters to pay them between 100 to 150 million tomans in bribes to win their freedom, otherwise they would be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Siamak Momeni, 18, was among those arrested during Iran protests in November. He attempted suicide on January 25, in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. Judge Amouzad had told Siamak Momeni at court, that he must pay a heavy amount of money to gain his freedom.
Inhumane treatment of prisoners
Iranian authorities continued to deprive prisoners, especially those convicted of politically motivated charges, from receiving medical care, family visits and other basic rights for purposes such as punishment, intimidation or to extract a forced confession.
Denial of treatment
Political prisoner Akbar Bagheri, held at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, was taken to Jail Prison on January 19 due to anemia and pain. Prison doctors said that he should be transferred to a hospital, but he only received a quick check-up in the prison clinic.
The political prisoner suffers from severe intestine, liver and diseases, anemia. He needs urgent medical treatment and surgery in a hospital outside the prison. Previously when he was held at Evin Prison, he was to be taken to hospital for surgery. But in May 2019, he was abruptly transferred to GTP. Since then, he has been denied access to medical treatment.
Political prisoner Motalleb Ahmadian could be paralyzed from lack of proper medical care.
He suffers from infection in the testicles and a fracture of his lumbar spine. But despite his critical conditions, he has been deprived of access to physicians outside the prison. Prison authorities refusing to send him to hospital due to medical expenses.
According to the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which all UN Member States are expected to abide by, “…Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals.”
Political prisoner Mohammad Habibi, held at the GTP, has a bone tumor in the left forearm. He has been denied adequate medical treatment. Mr. Habibi has been taken to hospital several times for medical tests but returned to prison without receiving medical treatment due to medical expenses.
Indefinite solitary confinement, Denial of family visits
Political prisoners Hassan Sadeghi and his wife Fatemeh Mosanna have been deprived of visiting each other. Mrs. Mossanna has met her husband only three times since February 2019.
Amin Vaziri, deputy prosecutor observing political prisoners, has ordered cancellation of visits between the two. Hassan Sadeghi has been denied medical treatment.
Since 2015, Hassan Sadeghi and Fatemeh Mosanna have been serving 15-year prison sentences after being arrested in January 2013 for organizing a mourning ceremony for Hassan Sadeghi’s father who was a member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Unlawful Treatment of Political Prisoners
The Iranian regime has escalated pressure on political prisoners.
Several political prisoners have been transferred from Evin Prison to the notorious Greater Tehran Penitentiary (GTP), where is known for its inhumane living conditions. The prison was built in 2015 primarily for holding suspects and inmates convicted of drug-related offenses but the judiciary has also used it to incarcerate activists and dissident.
The law regarding the separation of prisoners based on the type of crime is not being enforced at GTP thus, from time to time, political prisoners have been beaten by non-political inmates who have the support of officials.
Among the prisoners transferred to GTP in January are: Nasef Fahimi, Soheil Arabi, Mehrdad Mohammad Nezhad, and, Mohammad Habibi.
Freedom of religion and belief
Iran has continued to systematically violate freedom of religion and belief. Religious minorities, especially Baha’is and Christians, have faced discrimination, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for their beliefs.
In a new rule that severely discriminates against all unrecognized minority religions in Iran, the state-issued National Identity Card, which is required for almost all government and other transactions, will only allow citizens to register as one of the country’s recognized religions.
This means anyone applying for the card who is not of the official Muslim faith or one of three religious minorities recognized in the Iranian Constitution (Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism) will have to either lie and check the required box on the application for one of those religions, or not receive the card.
Previously, the application for Iran’s National Identify Card, allowed applicants to check a box that was designated “Other” for religion.
In January 2019, Javad Abtahi, an MP from the city of Khomeinishahr in Isfahan Province, wrote to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, demanding the “Other” option be removed from the National Identity Card application.
By offering the “Other” option, the Interior Ministry had “legitimized” religious beliefs not recognized by the Constitution, such as the Baha’i faith, Abtahi said.
Members of Iran’s Baha’i minority would face further discrimination with the news rule which requires citizens to register their religion.
The card is used for all government services, banking activities and the vast majority of other transactions in Iran.
Denying Baha’is their basic rights and access to the fundamental services is violation of the international law.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires freedom of religion and stipulates that “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”
In the meantime, arrests of Baha’i citizens continued.
Young Baha’i couple, Farzaneh Mansouri and Saman Shirvani, were arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Department on January 23 in the orthern city of Qaem Shahr and were taken to an unknown location. They have been banned from contacting their family or getting a lawyer.
Meanwhile, 12 members of Baha’i minority were taken to prison to begin serving their sentences. The Baha’is are, Hadi Asdollah Jaberi, Minou Riazati, Ehteran Sheikhi, and Farideh Jaberi from the city of Bushehr, Bahman Salehi, Khalil Melaki, Bizhan Ahmadi, Saghar Mohammadi, Sheida Abedi, Sohrab Melaki, Firouz Ahmadi, Simin Mohammadi and Maryam Mokhtari from the city of Birjand.
- Iran has bulldozed over the grave of a pastor who was executed by the regime in 1990 for leaving Islam for Christianity.
Rev Hossein Soodmand, who converted before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was arrested and tortured before being hanged after a sharia court convicted him of apostasy. In early December 2019 his unmarked grave, over which his family could only lay a simple slab of stone, was bulldozed. According to Fox News the decision to desecrate Rev Soodmand’s grave would have been made by officials.
- A Revolutionary Court sentenced Christian convert Esmaeil Maghrebi Nezhad to three years in prison on the charge of “insulting sanctities.”
- There is no information on the whereabouts of Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi, an Iranian Christian who was arrested on January 12, 2020. Iranian authorities have not provided any information regarding her whereabouts and well-being since January 12, when she was arrested in Tehran’s Azadi Square.
Persecution of ethnic minorities
Two activists from the Ahwazi Arab minority, were arrested in January by security forces and taken to an unknown location.
- Shahab Siahi, a poet from the town of Hamidieh was arrested on January 27 by the state security forces and taken to an unknown location. The authorities have not since given his family any information about his whereabouts and legal status.
- Saeid Deilami, a rights activist from the city of Shushtar was arrested on January 22. According to local sources, the state security forces raided his home and violently arrested the activist.
Undercover agents of Ministry of Intelligence violently arrested 25 Y/O #HumanRights activist Saeed Deilami. Yesterday, the agents raided his home in Shushtar, SW #Iran beat Mr Deilami before taking him to an unknown location. The reasons for his arrest is unknown. pic.twitter.com/3keJmF7TOo
— IRAN HRM (@IranHrm) January 23, 2020
- Gholamhossein Esmaeili, spokesman of Iran’s Judiciary on January 14 announced the death sentence for three Ahwaz Arab activists accused of killing two security agents. Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a press conference that the two men were involved in shooting which led to the deaths of two agents.
In the past month, Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province has been struggling with devastating floods. The floods were triggered by heavy rainfall in southern Iran, particularly in the Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan and Kerman provinces. The downpour blocked roads and destroyed bridges, crops, and houses. Thousands of people have been displaced.
While rainfall has stopped in the past few days, the floodwaters remain, causing severe damage to farmlands and crops.
The Iranian regime has taken no measures to mitigate the damage from the flood and to protect the people of the region. Even after the flood-hit the region, Iranian authorities have not engaged in relief efforts.
The people of the region are mostly relying on their own to deal with the damages done by the flood. Videos showed people living in mud-filled huts doing what they can to protect their families.
“There are no water purification centers here, no plumbing. Whatever facilities there are have been built thirty years ago,” one of the residents of the flood-stricken regions said in a video posted on social media.
“Flood and took away all our belongings. Our sheep died. We have nothing left,” one of the children of the region said. “The Red Crescent doesn’t even answer the phone.”
“Our homes are broken. Water flooded into our homes. We are all wet and cold.”
Floods in Sistan and Baluchestan in SE #Iran have demolished thousands homes, killed thousands of animals and ravaged hundreds of villages. Locals say authorities have failed to take any measures. pic.twitter.com/BmdUCMOjER
— IRAN HRM (@IranHrm) January 14, 2020
Affected people blame the regime for spending the nation’s wealth on missiles while victims desperately need food and clean drinking water.
The Iranian regime spends 200 million Euros on launching rockets at US bases but puts up a fund to help flood victims. The photo of these funds has been shared on social media.
Glancing over the regime’s media opens a window to the source of problems which could have been prevented.
- More than 37 Kurdish citizens were arrested in Iranian Kurdish towns by security forces. According to Kurdish human rights activists, security forces are pressuring these Kurdish citizens and activists to make forced confessions.
- Iran sentenced a Kurd political prisoner to death in a court in the western province of Sanandaj. Houshmand Alipour was sentenced to death by the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court. The 25-year-old man was accused of being a member of a Kurd dissident group.
Extrajudicial killings of Baluchis and Kurds
Several reports indicate the widespread use of lethal force by Iran’s security forces against Baluchis and Kurds without due process which amounts to arbitrary killings. At least three Kurdish porters were shot to death by the state security forces while several others were wounded.
At least three deaths and several injuries as a result of lethal force by security forces were reported in January in the Baluch areas in the south eastern regions of Iran.
In Kurdistan, an occupation that locals call Kolbari, workers who are hired to carry heavy loads across the border, has increased due to the lack of economic development, increasing poverty and unemployment. The most arbitrary killings were reported in this region.
In southern Sistan and Baluchestan, due to increasing poverty, people transport diesel fuel to make a living. This region encompassed the second largest killings by security forces who killed ordinary citizens under the suspicion that they were transporting smuggled goods or fuel.