Articles – ABF blog Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation Mon, 01 May 2017 14:50:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 18690204 Continuing Imprisonment and Mistreatment of Iranian Activists Demonstrates the Regime’s Contempt for Its Human Rights Obligations Thu, 30 Jun 2016 20:19:27 +0000 Iran has recently come under condemnation from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for the treatment of two of its citizens, both of whom have been wrongfully imprisoned and condemned in blatant disregard for its international obligations and promises of civil liberties to its citizens. Zeinab Jalalian and Bahareh Hedayat have been targeted by the Islamic Republic and its regime as enemies of the state because of the political activities. Their treatment is the same as that of thousands of others who have been marked wrongly as enemies of the Islamic Republic, and treated as such. Only by the international community holding Iran responsible for its behavior and by demanding justice for those falsely and wrongly imprisoned can the Iranian government’s behavior be checked.

zei_0Despite being a signer of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a promise to uphold basic civil and legal rights, Iran has repeatedly acted in defiance of this agreement. Ms. Zeinab Jalalian is but one case in many in which the Iranian government repeatedly violated rights which it had previously agreed to uphold, namely the use of torture and the promise of a fair trial. Ms. Jalalian stood bravely in the face of torture and for that we salute. Her refusal to confess to crimes she did not commit was the primary reason the regime began its harsh regime of torture. The treatment that Ms. Zeinab Jalalian has experienced at the hands of the Islamic Republic is utterly horrific. Threats of rape as well as repeated denial of proper legal defense are just small parts of what came to be a clear cut example of the tyranny and barbarity of the current regime of Iran.

235761-1435696441-wideMs. Bahareh Hedayat, a well known and respected leader of students, is another starak example of the regime’s abuse off human rights. Ms. Hedayat was targeted due to her protest organizing and her push for women’s involvement in both education and public life in Iran. The involvement of women in public life and Hedayat’s refusal to limit her speech are both considered to be unacceptable to the Islamic Republic’s leaders and a threat to their power. Hedayat’s punishment was to be repeatedly imprisoned by the Islamic Republic on made up charges of “insulting the supreme leader” as well as treasonous activity against the state. The fact that Iran is now reduced to crafting such charges against those who are willing to speak out against the state only demonstrates the desperation of the leadership of the Islamic Republic to hold onto power.

Both the case of of Ms. Hedayat and Ms. Zeinab demonstrate that the Islamic Republic is not above flagrant disregard for due process, despite its promises to the international community to the contrary. This willingness to sign and then ignore key international legal and political agreements casts a dark shadow on the Islamic Republic, one that the international community cannot ignore.

See the UN reports for Zeinab Jalaian and Bahareh Hedayat.


Iranian Arabs: Ten Years of Oppression and Injustice Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:18:31 +0000 Demonstration in Ahvaz, April 2005

Demonstration in Ahvaz, April 2005



“The honorable judge did not provide any explanation whatsoever regarding his guilty finding, nor about how and why the charges had been brought against me [in the first place], based on what witness testimony, and what objective or subjective evidence. He simply did not consider it important.”
From Mohammad Ali Savari’s complaint to the Judges’ Disciplinary Court


April 15, 2005 was a watershed moment in the protests of our Arab compatriots of Khuzestan Province. The protests opposed the government’s discriminatory and organized policies against the region’s Arab population, consisting of territorial mobilization and modification of the population’s makeup; expropriating fertile lands and expelling the native population; expansion of shantytowns and homelessness; and suppression of Khuzestani Arabs’ cultural, social, and linguistic identity. These protests were also a reaction to the letter ascribed to the then-President’s Chief of Staff, planning the modification of the region’s ethnic population. The demonstrations that had started in the city of Ahvaz quickly spread to other cities of Khuzestan with mainly Arab populations, and continued for at least ten days. Security and military forces violently quashed these protests, causing the death and injury of dozens of Khuzestani Arab citizens. In the following days, months, and years, these forces continued to intimidate, arrest, torture, and execute Arab citizens.

Ten years after these events, the leaders of the Islamic Republic have yet to show a willingness to address and resolve the issues. The regime’s policies continue to be centered on violent suppression of the Province of Khuzestan’s Arab citizens’ protests, which continue to occur periodically. The last round of suppression of these protests resulted in the arrest of dozens of young protesters, after Yuness Asakereh, a poor street vendor from the city of Khorramshahr, set himself on fire in March 2015 and subsequently died of his injuries. This year, much like previous years, on the eve of the anniversary of the 2005 protests, there is a heightened police presence and oppressive atmosphere throughout the region, including in Ahvaz and Hamidieh. Security forces have already arrested dozens of youth and civil and cultural activists.

The Government’s violent treatment of the protestors on April 15, 2005 resulted in a series of violent events. In one year, the cities of Ahvaz, Abadan, and Dezful were subjected to several bombings, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than a hundred others. No group officially accepted responsibility for the Ahvaz bombings. However, a video recording was distributed in the name of Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser (“Mohiuddin Al Nasser Martyrs Brigade”) and Harakat Al-Nazal Al-Arabi Le-Tahrir Al-Ahvaz (“Ahvaz Arabic Liberation Movement”), showing some of the bombings, including the explosion in front of the Natural Resources Organization building and oil pipeline explosions. In the televised confessions of a number of those arrested, broadcast several times on local TV and on Iran’s English language Press TV, 10 of these individuals declared themselves members of Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser (the military wing of the Al-Nazal movement). In subsequent years, Harakat Al-Nazal officially accepted responsibility for some of the oil pipeline explosions.

Government officials never accepted that these bombings were connected to the suppression of Khuzestan’s protest movement. In multiple, and sometimes contradictory, statements, the authorities attributed responsibility to “those loyal to the previous regime, residing in England,” “Fugitive SAVAK (the Shah’s security and intelligence apparatus) members, and family members of the destroyed Monafeqin (MKO),” “Wahabis,” “secessionists,” and/or to groups affiliated with foreign countries including the Great Britain. Following the Ahvaz bombings, dozens of the region’s Arab citizens were arrested and charged with participation in the bombings. According to the Ahvaz prosecutor, a total of 4 cases implicating 45 defendants were opened in the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court’s Special Branch. Iranian Judiciary officials referred to these cases as “Ahvaz Bombing Cases”.  Some of the defendants and their families strongly protested against labelling their cases as “bombing cases” and pointed out that no bombing charges were brought against them in Court.  In closed door trials, the Ahvaz Islamic revolutionary Court sentenced the defendants to death and carried these sentences out for at least 20 of them. Dozens of other Arab Iranian citizens were sentenced to long prison terms.

Saman Bank Bombing in Ahvaz, February 2006  

Saman Bank Bombing in Ahvaz, February 2006

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Ahvaz protests, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) is publishing the stories of 20 Arab Iranians executed in relation to Ahvaz cases, along with the testimonies of two witnesses and a short report that provides extensive evidence of a systematic breach of the defendants’ rights in violation of Iran’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  as well as domestic criminal laws and procedures at all stages of adjudication. ABF reminds the government of Iran of its obligations under international law and points out that the nature and gravity of the charges brought against the defendants do not justify the violation of the inalienable rights of the accused.

Mohammad Ali Savari was 38 years old, married, with five children, a tenured English teacher in the Ministry of Education, and a member of the Vefaq Party and of Shams-e Jonub and Imam Ali Fund cultural organizations. He was one of dozens of Ahavaz’ Arab activists who, along with two of his brothers, spent 10 months in an Ahvaz Information Administration’s solitary confinement cell in connection with the “Ahvaz Bombings Case.” He was under great pressure during detention, was repeatedly tortured, and was eventually hanged along with his brother, Jafar Savari, on September 11, 2007.

Mr. Savari was one of a handful of defendants who got an opportunity to write a protest letter to the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, in which he stated that his confessions were obtained under circumstances caused by “mental and psychological anxiety and stress due to extreme and tremendous physical and psychological torture”; he officially denied those confessions. In an official complaint lodged against the ruling judge with the Judges Disciplinary Court, Mr. Savari further protested the violation of procedural rules by the judge and the interrogators. The complaint was never heard. It contains, however, references to the conditions of adjudication, and the judge’s illegal conduct:

“From the moment I had been arrested until that very moment I had not met with my attorney even for an instant; he denied my attorney’s request to hold a confidential or non-confidential meeting with me, prior to the trial … I did not even know who my co-defendants were and I had not seen them. It was only upon going to prison, and that’s after the trial, that I met them and learned of their names, charges, and sentences. I was fearful of the Ministry of Information representative’s presence in the courtroom. I therefore did not trust the judge, whom I considered to be merely an Information interrogator… The honorable judge did not provide any explanation whatsoever regarding his guilty finding, nor about how and why the charges had been brought against me [in the first place], based on what witness testimony, and what objective or subjective evidence. He simply did not consider it important.”
From Mohammad Ali Savari’s complaint to the Judges’ Disciplinary Court

The Islamic Republic’s security and judicial apparatus used public anger over terrorist bombings in Khuzestan, especially during the month of Ramadan, as an excuse for the closure and eradication of newly-created Arab civil institutions and parties. In their short period of activity in the early 2000’s, these institutions had gained tremendous popularity among the region’s Arab population, so much so that in City Council elections in several Khuzestan towns, a majority of the seats were won by the candidates presented by these institutions. Among the steps taken by judicial and security forces against Arab activists and civil society were: declaring the al-Vefaq Party, as well as cultural organizations such as Shams-e Jonub in Ahvaz and al-Havar in Ramshir, officially illegal; closing local and student publications such as the high circulation newspaper Hamsayeh-ha; and arresting, trying, and in some cases executing these legal parties’ and institutions’ activists.

After enduring years of solitary confinement and incarceration, a number of the defendants in the “Ahvaz Bombings Case” lived to give first-hand accounts of torture and denial of their rights by the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court and the Judiciary Branch in interviews with ABF. Mr. Owdwh Afravi, holder of a Master’s Degree in psychology and retired psychologist of Ahvaz’ Golestan Hospital, who spent six months in Ahvaz’ Information Administration detention center and close to 9 years in exile in Ardebil Prison. Mr. Afravi talked about the extreme pressure exerted on prisoners and detainees in order to extract false confessions:


Afravi, Owdeh6

Owdeh Afravi

“They said anything they wanted: insults, cuss words, humiliation. They beat me so badly the first week that I couldn’t even get up and go to the bathroom. They had broken my ribs, my whole body was bruised, my face was swollen, my vision was affected, my teeth were loose… They kept saying: ‘You are in contact with foreigners, you’re the one who issued the orders for the bombings. You have to tell us who you were in contact with. What went on in your Koran lessons? Is it true that you were supposed to bomb apartments in Ahvaz?’ And I would answer: ‘Is any of this even logical? If there were an organization, wouldn’t there be at least a seal, a weapon, a guideline book, a statement? What organization?! You didn’t even find as much as a knife in my pocket. You found nothing but books in my home.’ And they would simply continue to beat me.”


Tofiq Hammadi, another Arab civil activist and defendant in the case, spent eight months in Ahvaz’ Information Administration detention center and more than three years in Karun Prison and a mental hospital. Interrogators put him under physical and psychological pressure for six months in order to make him confess to participation in the bombings:

“He wanted me to say that I had bombed the Governor’s Building. I mean, he had even drawn a sketch, he had drawn everything. He was even writing everything himself,  that ‘I had gotten the Fiat vehicle and parked it next to the Governor’s Building, that I had gotten in the car with an individual who was the driver, I was sitting in the front and he was seated behind me’… They just wanted us to accept [the scenario]. They would take you to the torture room and would flog you with cables for two to three hours, and then they would bring you back for interrogation. The interrogator would write the question and would tell you what to write in response, and would then take your finger and sign then paper.”

In his interview with ABF, Mr. Hammadi explained what was going on behind the scenes of some of the defendants’ televised confessions:


Tofiq Hammadi

“Several people had come from the National Radio and Television to do the filming. There was a desk and some writing materials in one of the rooms, and they had pre-determined questions as well as answers. They said that we were supposed to express sorrow for what we had done and apologize to the people, and in the end, put our head on the table and cry. They had written a complete scenario… I refused and told them: ‘Send me to court and come and film me there.’ They beat me severely but I still refused to say what they wanted me to say because they wanted me to confess to something I hadn’t done so they could execute me.”

Mr. Afravi, who was in one of the televised confessions, stated:
“One of them was sitting behind a desk and kept hitting my leg with a stick, telling me what to say and how to say it. They wanted something else and I said what I wanted to say. That was why they beat and tortured me for four or five nights, asking why I hadn’t said certain things and why I had spoken a certain way.”

The authorities did not provide the defendants in the case the opportunity to defend themselves. Some defendants did not have any contact with the outside world from the moment they were arrested until they were executed, not even a phone call to their families. Ali Afravi, 18, and Mehdi Navaseri, 20, were two of the Bombing Cases defendants who were hanged in public in Ahvaz’ Kian Pars Square on March 1, 2006. According to Ali Afravi’s family, he had no contact with his family from the day of his arrest on October 27, 2005, until he was executed, a period of about four months. They learned of their son’s confessions and death sentence on television, the night prior to his execution. His father, who was incarcerated at the same time at the Information Administration detention center, was not informed of his son’s fate until two months later.

Abdolreza Navaseri was another one of the defendants in the case who was tried and sentenced to death. At the time of the bombings in 2005, however, he was serving a 25-year sentence at [the city of] Tabas Prison. In a statement regarding Mr. Navaseri’s re-trial, Human Rights Watch observed: “One of the wonders of the Iranian Judiciary is that it can accuse a person of carrying out bombings while he’s in prison. That lays bare the arbitrariness of his conviction.” (November 11, 2006).

In May 2006, in an open letter to the chief judge of Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, seven defense attorneys of the Ahvaz Bombing Cases, objected to the legal proceedings. They pointed out that they had been informed of the trial date only one or at most two days prior to trial, whereas the law requires at least 5 days’ notice, and that it was not possible to study the case file and take notes on 800 pages of material in such a short time. Further, they had not been allowed to meet privately with their clients, and trial sessions had been conducted on an individual basis without the presence of other defendants and their attorneys, which was also against the law. (Attorneys’ Letter).

In a letter to the Head of the Judiciary, Mr. Emadoddin Baqi, head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, who had organized a campaign to defend the rights of the defendants in the case with the participation of local activists and the victims’ families, objected to the sentences issued for nine of the defendants:

“Based on [our] information, some of them had no connection to any explosion. Apparently they were enticed by an individual who had delivered sound bombs to them and had tempted, encouraged, and instigated them to carry out the explosion; some of the defendants were not even aware of what was going on at all. Those defendants who had received delivery of the explosives had changed their minds [about carrying out the bombings] and had either left or hidden the explosives in other locations. What is amazing is that the individual about whom nine people have confessed and was the principle person in instigating [the defendants] and delivering the bombs [to them], is now living in the city of Ahvaz in the open, but those he misled and deceived have been condemned to death.” (Emadeddin Baqi website, June 15, 2006).


In an interview (ILNA, June 25, 2006), Mr. Baqi objected to the fact that a 28- or 30–year-old judge, without sufficient [and proper] education [and experience] was given the power to decide whether the defendants lived or died. He emphasized that even when applying accepted legal and religious norms of the Islamic Republic itself, such death sentences should not have been issued.

In an interview (ILNA, June 25, 2006), Mr. Baqi objected to the fact that a 28- or 30–year-old judge, without sufficient [and proper] education [and experience] was given the power to decide whether the defendants lived or died. He emphasized that even when applying accepted legal and religious norms of the Islamic Republic itself, such death sentences should not have been issued.

Publishing dozens of statements, declarations, and calls to urgent action, international institutions including the U.N. General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, the European Union, as well as international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, protested the execution and mistreatment of the defendants in these cases and demanded an end to the executions. In August and November 2006, three U.N. Special Rapporteurs demanded that Islamic Republic authorities make clarifications regarding the Ahvaz bombings defendants’ claims of torture and unfair trial. The government did not, however, reply to these letters. (U.N. Human Rights website, January 10, 2007).

The Bombing Cases defendants were not the only victims of these cases. Judicial authorities also arrested and/or tried their defense attorneys as well as human rights activists who had objected to illegalities and lack of due process. The trial of the defense attorneys by the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s Office, Branch Seven, on charges of undermining national security, was protested by the U.N. Special Rapporteurs. (U.N. Human Rights website, January 10, 2007). Mr. Baqi was also arrested in October 2007 and sentenced to one year imprisonment by Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch Six, for propaganda against the regime by supporting “Ahvaz terrorist activities, under the guise of defending prisoners’ rights through sending letters to the Head of the Judiciary and the Information Minister, and forwarding a copy to anti-revolutionary websites.” After Mr. Baqi’s arrest, protests and follow-ups in defense of the defendants’ rights in this case ceased inside Iran.

Subsequent to the execution of the Bombing Cases defendants, arbitrary execution of Arab activists continued through the leveling of very serious charges against them. Execution of Arab activists continued in May-June 2012, January-February and May-June 2014, including those of Hashem Sha’bani and Hadi Rashedi, teachers in the town of Ramshir and among the founders of al-Havar Cultural Institute. This is indicative of the ongoing policy of violent suppression through bringing very serious charges without a transparent, fair, and just adjudication process.

A number of factors have been instrumental in prolonging the reign of oppression in Khuzestan. Chief among them are the violent military activities, both real and alleged, of certain Arab groups against economic interests such as oil pipelines and refineries, and the absence of significant protest by civil activists and institutions against the widespread arrest, breaches of legal procedure, and harsh sentences issued to Arab citizens.

As a member of Iran’s civil society, and pursuant to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and to the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, ABF supports Arab Iranian citizens’ demands to lead a life of dignity and to enjoy national resources and cultural and linguistic rights, especially as regards education, and the freedoms of speech, association and peaceful assembly. ABF demands an end to discriminatory practices based on race, ethnicity, religion, and sex, in Khuzestan’s Arab regions. ABF emphasizes that the government and the judicial system bear direct responsibility for upholding international conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in dealing with individuals accused of serious crimes.

By documenting the stories of Arab Iranian victims of arbitrary executions in Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights, ABF recognizes the harm done to them, makes sure they are not forgotten, and stands by their survivors in their quest for justice and reparation.
Read the victims’ stories:

Ali Afravi, Mehdi Navaseri, Ali Motaharinejad, Malek Banitamim, Abdollah Soleimani, Farajollah Ka’ab, Mohammad Ka’abpour, Alireza Asakereh, Zohrab Khalaf Khaziravi, Reysan Savari, Qasem Salamat, Majed Albughbish, Abdolreza Navaseri, Mohammad Ali Savari, Jafar Savari, Abdolreza Sanavati, Ahmad Moramazi, Hossein Asakereh, Abdolhossein Haribi, Zamel Bavi

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
Washington, DC

15 April 2015

Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities:
“Article 4
1. States shall take measures where required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise
fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full
equality before the law.
2. States shall take measures to create favourable conditions to enable persons belonging to minorities to
express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs, except
where specific practices are in violation of national law and contrary to international standards.
3. States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may
have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue.
4. States should, where appropriate, take measures in the field of education, in order to encourage
knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of the minorities existing within their territory.
Persons belonging to minorities should have adequate opportunities to gain knowledge of the society as a whole.
5. States should consider appropriate measures so that persons belonging to minorities may participate fully
in the economic progress and development in their country.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
“Article 14
1. All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;
(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;
(c) To be tried without undue delay;
(d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;
(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;
(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.
4. In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.
5. Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.
6. When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.
7. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.
Article 26
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Article 27
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”

]]> 971 Iran should heed the UN and end illegal house arrest of opposition leaders Fri, 20 Feb 2015 21:45:42 +0000

On four-year anniversary of house arrest, human rights groups call on international community to speak out

The Iranian government should release opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard from their extra-judicial house arrest in compliance with the opinion by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 10 human rights organizations stated today on the fourth anniversary of the political leaders’ detention. These rights organizations (listed below) also urged the international community to continue to call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to heed the opinion of the Working Group to immediately and unconditionally end the illegal house arrest of the political leaders.

“The house arrest of Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Karroubi and Ms. Rahvanard is against Iran’s international obligations as well as its own national laws,” said Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Laureate and Founder and President of the Iranian human rights organization, the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights. “After four years of house arrest the Iranian authorities refuse to bring any charges against these individuals, which shows that this is a political, and not a judicial, calculation.”

This February marks the fourth anniversary of the house arrests. The Iranian authorities detained Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi in their homes on the 14th of February 2011, after the three called for a peaceful demonstration in support of Arab Spring events taking place in Egypt and Tunisia. They had requested a permit, which was denied. At the time, Mousavi argued that in accordance with the Iranian constitution (Article 27), peaceful political rallies in Iran do not require any permission from the government.

Mousavi, former Iranian Prime Minister, and Karroubi, former Speaker of Parliament, were both candidates in the disputed 2009 presidential elections. Rahnavard is Mousavi’s wife and a prominent academic and political figure.

Since being detained, the opposition leaders have not received any judicial process. No charges have been brought against them, they have not been tried, and they have been denied access to lawyers. They have repeatedly called for trials in accordance with Iran’s laws and its constitution, but to no avail.

On August 29, 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that their house arrest was arbitrary and thus illegal under Iran’s international legal obligations. The decision came in response to submissions filed by the International Campaign Human Rights in Iran, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI). The Working Group determined that the house arrests were arbitrary because they had no legal basis and because the three individuals had not been afforded a fair trial. The Working Group also found the detention arbitrary because it resulted from the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. The Working Groups explained:

“[The detainees] met their present fate due to the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and participation in the political activities of the country.”

Over the past year, officials including Head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani and Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi have cited an order by the Supreme National Security Council as the legal justification for the house arrest of the three political leaders. Yet, the Council is not a judicial body, and as such the detainees cannot challenge the order and subject it to judicial review.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an independent UN body mandated to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty alleged to be illegal or arbitrary according to international human rights conventions. Between 2008 and 2013, in a total of 13 opinions, the Working Group has declared 36 cases of detention in Iran to be arbitrary, including the imprisonment of seven community leaders from the Baha’i Faith community, human rights lawyer Mr. Abdolfatah Soltani, and Kurdish journalist Mohamad Sadigh Kaboudvand.

“Iran has consistently ignored the opinions of the Working Group to release individuals arbitrarily detained in Iran’s prisons,” stressed Dr. Ebadi. “It is time the international community spoke out and called on the government of Iran to end these house arrests and all arbitrary detentions in the country.”

The 10 human rights organizations below specifically call the following UN bodies to look into the Islamic Republic’s ongoing house arrest of Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard and the government’s failure to address the Working Group’s opinion:

The High Commissioner for Human Rights;

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion;

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly;

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;

The Members-states of the Human Rights Council.

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Impact Iran
Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
Centre for Supporters of Human Rights
Association of Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva
Arseh Sevom 
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation



Opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Video on the House Arrest

IRAN MUST CLOSE DOWN THE 36-YEAR-OLD ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY COURTS Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:51:22 +0000 On The Anniversary of The First Revolutionary Executions in Iran


Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.36.19 PMThe Revolutionary Courts were born out of the anger of the Iranian people, and these people will not accept any principles outside of Islamic principles. There is no room in revolutionary courts for defense lawyers, because they keep quoting laws to play for time, and this tries the patience of the people … .”
Hojat-ol-eslam Sadeq Khalkhali,
Head of the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, May 13, 1979

Thirty six years ago, on February 15th, 1979, a Revolutionary Islamic Tribunal held its first session in Tehran. The goal of this Extraordinary Tribunal, set up in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iranian monarchy on February 11, 1979, and headed by a Shi’a cleric, Sadeq Khalkhali, was not to dispense justice. The new revolutionary regime, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, used the ad hoc Tribunal to exact revenge, punish those deemed to oppose the revolution and its moral values, and to spread fear among the population. 36 years later, by doing away with due process of law and, in particular, the right to defense, these Revolutionary Courts continue to silence dissent and to spread fear.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.36.07 PMSadeq Khalkhali was appointed by Ayatollah Khomeini, as Shari’a Judge and was instructed “to issue Shari’a-based rulings. For months, no specific procedures were devised for the Revolutionary Tribunal. Its jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of Shari’a  (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars). Arbitrariness, therefore, became rule, taking a toll on the lives of Iranians, as Ayatollah Khalkhali roamed the country.

In a televised address on April 2, 1979, the Founder and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic responded to those who criticized the Revolutionary Tribunal’s process:

There should be no objection to the trial of these people, because they are criminals, and it is known that they are criminals. All this about a lawyer being needed and that their pleas should be listened to — these are not people charged with crimes; they are criminals.”

In such a context, crimes could be defined retroactively and the Revolutionary Tribunals operating across the country tried thousands without clear charges, evidence, and lawyers. Convicts could not appeal their sentences and, for those who were sentenced to death, the execution often took place shortly after their convictions.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.36.30 PMSuch was the case of Dr. Akbar Bahadori, a general surgeon and orthopedist in the armed forces, remembered today for the hospitals he founded in Arak and Tehran. According to the daily Kayhan, Dr. Bahadori, a deputy from Arak in the Parliament before the revolution, was interrogated for twelve hours by the Revolutionary Tribunal of Arak before being executed on May 10, 1979. His charges, as reported in a 1980 Amnesty International report, included:

“collaboration with the ousted regime and trying to re-establish the Shah’s ‘idolatrous’ rule over the weak and defenseless people; collaborating with SAVAK; taking wrong decisions in parliament; bringing pressure to divide the people; crimes against the people and the revolution.”

Nothing much is known about Manuchehr Adibpur, who was charged in Shiraz with “active participation in the murder of the people and suppression of prisoners,” as well as an “illegitimate relationship,” and executed on July 5, 1979. The itinerant religious judge, however, explained the judicial process leading to his execution, including the fact that he never saw Adibpur’s file:

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.36.49 PMI requested that the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor of Shiraz give us what they have at the Revolutionary Tribunal. Unfortunately, these cases were not passed on to us, and, therefore, I sentenced five people to death, based on what was available at the prison or the Islamic Revolutionary Guards headquarters,… I did not think it was even that necessary to examine their cases, anyway.”

When his peer dared question the legality of his action, Khalkhali’s response was clear:

It must be said to him that it is none of his business. It would only be fair if I performed my duty to defrock this pseudo-cleric so that other pseudo-clerics do not dare present themselves against the Islamic nature of Iran.”

Determining offenders’ guilt was not the primary role of the courts, and Ayatollah Khomeini was very clear about those brought before them. In the official decree, formalizing the creation of the Revolutionary Courts on June 17, 1979, the Ayatollah stressed:

You must convene a revolutionary court via the Judiciary. … Their trial must not last longer than two days. They are [already] convicted, but their trial must be held in the presence of domestic and foreign reporters. Peace be upon you.”

Mandated by the Spiritual Leader, the Shari’a Judge was only carrying out his duty diligently.

The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Saveh found Razieh Fuladi, mother of four young children, guilty of adultery, and had her executed on August 30, 1979, three days after her arrest. Her husband took his grief public, noting that she had been flogged and forced to confess.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.04 PMAli Amirshekari, a communist executed on August 23, 1979, was convicted as a “corruptor on earth and at war with God and his prophet” by the Revolutionary Tribunal of Kerman, for “encoded communication with counter-revolutionary groups in Kurdistan and Khuzestan; open opposition [to the regime]; and plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Non-governmental sources attribute his execution to his refusal to denounce, on television, the activities of his brother.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.21 PM19-year-old Jalil Golandami, a registrar for the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI) in Mahabad, was arrested by the revolutionary guards without a warrant on September 27, 1979, at 5:00 p.m., along with a number of other young people. He was executed by firing squad as a “corruptor on earth” and an “enemy of God” eleven hours later, at 4:00 a.m.

Nothing much is known about the case of Karim Aqayun, except that he was executed at dawn, on July 30, 1980, after the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Dezful declared him a “corruptor” for “sedition,” “drinking,” “selling alcoholic drinks,” and “threatening and terrorizing.”

Ayatollah Khalkhali was not the only judge dispensing death sentences in these extraordinary tribunals. To handle the cases of thousands of detainees, theological seminary students, with the equivalent of a high school diploma, were appointed as judges. The new recruits, estimated at 1000 in 1980 and 2000 by 1989, entered a judiciary, purged from university-educated judges lacking “commitment to the principles [of] the Islamic Republic.” The Revolution Courts were thus endowed with a cohort of incompetent judges, loyal to the leadership.

The activity of Revolutionary Courts was not limited to the early days of the Islamic Republic. Over the years, they sentenced to death, arbitrarily and summarily, thousands of citizens of all walks of life. Whether officials of the previous regime, political or religious activists, armed oppositionists, members of ethnic minorities, or people accused of sexual offenses or ordinary crimes, individuals brought before the Revolutionary Courts were denied proper means to defend themselves.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.35 PMToday, the founding principles of the Revolutionary Courts are still in force, at the expense of the rights of the accused and in violation of Iran’s international obligations. The courts are faithful to the views of their founders’, for whom defendants, “whether right or wrong,” should not be defended. Judges continue to rely on Fatwas and religious opinions, issued by religious jurists who have multiple interpretations of the laws. As a result, there is a wide disparity in sentences handed down for the same offenses, making Iranians legally unequal before the law.

Regardless of reforms in 1994 and 2002, limiting their jurisdiction[1], providing the right to an attorney during trials, and a Court of Appeals to review the Revolutionary Courts’ decisions, judges continue to violate due process with impunity. They deny the accused the right to legal counsel when they deem necessary, accept coerced confessions as evidence, and issue politically and religiously motivated sentences. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allows the Revolutionary Courts to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as political and media crimes, whenever they wish to do so.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.49 PMThe young Ya’qub Mehrnahad, a civil society activist in Baluchestan, was executed on August 4, 2008, for promoting accountability and non-violence. His death was a tragedy for his extended family, and more so for his fifteen-year-old brother, who was imprisoned for publicizing his case.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.37.59 PMShirin Alamhuli-Atashgah, a young Kurdish woman who was tried and executed on May 9, 2010, after being subjected to months of torture. She wrote to the judge, “You interrogated, tried, and sentenced me in your own language, even though I could not understand what was happening and was unable to defend myself.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.38.13 PMZahra Bahrami was arrested in December 2009 during post-election Ashura protests. She was sentenced to death on drug charges by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and executed on January 29, 2011. She left behind a son and two daughters.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.38.25 PMMohsen Amir Aslani was a psychologist who gained popularity with his progressive views on Islam. A religious opinion declared him an apostate. The Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death for rape. Three rejection of his sentence by the Supreme Court did not prevent his execution on September 24, 2014.

Bahram Ahmadi was a Sunni activist. He was seventeen at the time of his arrest. Mehdi Qasemzadeh was an ethnic Turk and an Ahl-e Haq follower. The insistance of a Garrison commander to shave the moustaches of the Ahl-e Haq soldiers was at the origin of events leading to his execution. Ramin Aqazadeh Qahremani, Mahmud Asqari, Nader Azarnush, Mansur Eskandari, Mehdi Eslamian, Dhabihullah Mahrami, Esmail Mohammadi, and Maqsud Q. are just a few among the thousands whose trials exemplify the proceedings of an extraordinary and unaccountable judicial body. None of these individuals were given a chance to properly defend themselves.


Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.38.36 PM

In fact, many religious leaders, sources of emulation, continue to see the limited possibility of defense, given the accused as a mere nuisance:

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.38.48 PMThe main problem of our judiciary is that it follows the style of the unhealthy Western judiciary system. In other words, once the file has been transferred from the police to the judiciary; there is the process of appointing a lawyer, followed by the lawyer’s advice to the offender to retract the frank recorded confessions made in the initial stages and to accuse the police of torture, and, subsequently, months of waiting for the trial, then the preliminary verdict, followed by the appeal court stage, and, ultimately, after several months, some feeble verdict is issued. Not only does this fail to act as a deterrent, but it serves to make the thugs and hooligans even more audacious.

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Mehr News Agency, July 22, 2011.

Such statements are not rhetorical. When lawyers persist to defend the rights of their clients by publicizing due process violations in their cases, the Revolutionary Courts have no qualm in intimidating them, including with heavy prison sentences, loss of license, and sometimes forcing them into exile. Over the years, Iranian prisons have hosted scores of lawyers. Today, Abdolfattah Soltani is serving a thirteen-year sentence, while Mostafa Daneshjoo, Farshid Yadollahi Farsi, Amir Eslami, and Omid Behruzi are serving their seven and a half year sentence for “propaganda against the state and acting against national security.”

Nominating Sadeq Khalkhali as the Head of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal in February 1979 and mandating him to roam the country and summarily execute citizens was no accident. The goal of this pseudo-judicial institution was not justice then and it is not now. Successors to the first Shari’a Judge do not have to kill dissidents in great numbers today as Revolutionary Courts in the 1980s successfully eliminated all organized political dissent outside the Islamic Republic ruling factions. Regardless, the death toll is not negligible.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.38.57 PMThe Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation has collected reports and documented at least 13,690 executions (and extra-judicial killings) in the first decade of the Islamic Republic; more than 4,200 in the years 1990-2009, and 3,916 since 2010. The real numbers may be much higher, as many executions have never been reported. While reports of these executions do not always specify the sentencing courts, thousands of these executions are the outcome of Revolutionary Courts. Close to 80% of the executions in the past few years are drug-related cases, tried in Revolutionary Courts, in which defendants have no right to appeal.

The functioning of Islamic Revolutionary Courts severely undermines judicial authority in Iran and violates a multitude of the country’s international obligations. It is time for the Islamic Republic’s leaders to address the legacy of destruction and hatred of these now permanent extraordinary courts and to close them down. The arguments justifying the need for a tribunal that fails to meet all standards of fairness was not convincing in 1979, and it is less so in a 36-year-old republic.


[1]1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh”(enmity with God) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth);

  1. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;
  2. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;
  3. espionage;
  4. smuggling and drug-related crimes;
  5. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.


No More Talk; It’s Time for Iran to Act, Roya Boroumand Fri, 17 Oct 2014 01:12:55 +0000 Roya Boroumand
Executive director, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

Roya BOROUMANDIranians aspired to look past the scandal and violence associated with the 2009 presidential elections in the weeks and months after President Hassan Rouhani’s ascent to office last year. His campaign platform of “hope and prudence” led many citizens to believe that his election would be a first step to bring the long awaited changes necessary to improve the country’s troubling human rights situation.

Business as usual when it comes to human rights has, however, eclipsed this optimism and turned many hopefuls into skeptics. Recently, the reappointment by the Supreme Leader of Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani as head of the Iran’s judiciary has reinforced this increasing cynicism.

In 2009, at the age of 49, Sadeq Larijani became Iran’s youngest chief of the Judiciary — a position that wields considerable power in shaping the Iran’s legal system and deciding the fate of its prisoners. From the beginning, Larijani’s term has been rife with controversy. One of his first decisions as Chief was to appoint Saeed Mortazavi as deputy prosecutor general of Iran. This is despite Mortazavi’s involvement in the death in 2003 of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian Canadian photographer, and in ordering in 2009 several protesters to be held in the notoriously violent Kahirzak Detention Center, leading to the death of three detainees.

During Larijani’s tenure, executions have risen significantly. The number of reportedexecutions during his first year in office was the highest in 10 years. Between 2005 and 2010, execution numbers quadrupled. But with more than 640 reported executions thus far this year, 2014 may well be the worst yet. This makes Iran number one worldwide in executions per capita, with many of these executions violating international human rights law. Larijani’s reappointment can therefore only be described as a calamity for human rights.

And even though I want to believe that no Judiciary seeks to execute innocent people, the Iranian system makes the likelihood of unfair trials and arbitrary killings unacceptably high. Iranians are routinely subject to arbitrary detentions, beating and interrogations without the presence of a lawyer, vaguely worded national security laws, and prejudiced institutions that fail to protect them.

The fact that most executions are carried out in Iran for drug-related offenses — even the possession of small amounts of less than 500 grams — is one of many examples. Though such executions fail to meet international law standards, Larijani’s responseto the human rights defenders’ outcry has been to call on the international community to perceive the judiciary’s actions as a “great service to humanity”, as they represent a result of Iran’s clampdown on drug trafficking. These statements do little to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s laws and practices, explain why the same punishment is meted out to a man convicted for possessing 215 grams of heroin in Varamin and a man accused of armed smuggling of more than 500 kilos of opium and crack in Kerman, or help the family of the woman hanged in Zanjan for possessing 49 grams of crystal meth.

Unfortunately, no independent system inside the country is allowed to monitor, check abusive institutions and individuals, or contribute to eliminate these violations.

The international mechanisms in place to assist the country in this regard have not had much luck in convincing Iran of the benefit of keeping its promise to improve transparency and open a meaningful dialogue on these issues either. Despite issuing a standing invitation in 2002 to UN monitors, the Iranian Government has denied request after request to visit the county since 2005 — further undermining Iran’s treaty obligations and its responsibility to cooperate with the United Nations.

So, it is hard to blame the skeptics. Despite some very modest actions that can be credited to Rouhani’s government, this past year feels like many before it. Iranian leaders continue to forward promises to live up to their pledges and abide by the established international and domestic principles, and norms to protect its people, while flouting these laws in practice and punishing those who criticize them.

Small steps forward are important, but it is only through meaningful and deep reforms that the lives of Iranians will truly improve. These reforms will take time, will require more self-reflection, and necessitate strong will and the cooperation of various ministries and the judiciary. In the short term, however, Iran can begin by complying with the international and national laws already in place to protect citizens’ rights to life, freedom of expression, association, assembly, belief, and religion. And it can grant a long overdue visit by the UN Special Rapporteur appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation in Iran. This would offer a clear signal that the government is committed to cooperation and transparency in the protection and promotion of human rights.

Just a month ago, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif, reiterated in a conversation with his Danish counterpart, the country’s willingness to have “open and clear talks” about human rights. More than one year after Mr. Rouhani took office, statements alone do not suffice. Now is time for Iran to act and abide by its obligations.

25 Years after the Vienna Assassinations, Austria Still Owes Justice to the Victims Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:35:25 +0000 download“No country wants to prosecute a terrorist case. It’s a threat to your government, your stability, to your penal system. A convicted terrorist faces a life sentence, which means, in Austria, at least 15 years. That means that for 15 years you are at risk.”

A “top-level Vienna official” to Time Magazine, March 21, 1994

25 years ago, in July, a meeting took place between Abdol-Rahman Ghassemlou, Secretary General of the DemocraticGhassemlou NL july 14 Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and the Islamic Republic’s emissaries in an apartment in Vienna, Austria. The Kurdish leader had come in good will, to discuss Kurds’ grievances and to end the enmity that had opposed his party to the central government since 1979. The negotiations that had started the previous year ended abruptly in Vienna on July 13th. Ghassemlou’s arguments did not convince his interlocutors, and his good will was punished with bullets.

Austrian police found the bodies of the Kurdish delegation at the meeting location. Dr. Ghassemlou had been hit three times in his temple, throat, and forehead. Fadhil Rassoul, the Iraqi Kurd who had facilitated the meeting, had been shot three times in the head and twice in the neck. Abdollah Ghaderi Azar (Qaderi), PDKI’s representative in Europe, had been hit by 7 bullets in the back of his head and his waist, temple, throat, shoulder, and index finger of his right hand. A final shot to the head was delivered to all three victims. An audio recording of the meeting (made without the knowledge of the Iranian delegation) revealed a conversation on Kurdish demands, the sound of furniture being moved, and shots fired from guns using silencers.

Of the three Iranian government emissaries, one disappeared. Another showed up at the crime scene unharmed, and the third was injured with one bullet and no final shot. The Iranian government emissaries were Mohammad Jafari Sahraroudi (head of the Kurdish Affairs Section of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence), Mostafa Ajoudi (the Iranian Governor of the Province of Kurdistan), and Amir Mansour Bozorgian (a.k.a. Ghaffoor Darjazi), member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp Special Forces.

Ghaderi Azar NL July 2014What happened next was a shock, not only to the devastated families of the victims, but to all Iranian dissidents who had taken refuge in Europe.  The Austrian Police, after observing the crime scene and preliminary investigations, had little doubt about the Iranian emissaries’ involvement in the crime. Sahrarudi and Bozorgian were detained and interrogated by the police. One’s testimony belied the other’s, strengthening the investigators’ suspicion of their involvement in the crime. Despite the incriminating evidence, both were released to return to Iran. It was only on November 28, 1989, months after they had left Austria that arrest warrants were issued for Bozorgian, Sahraroudi, and Ajoudi.

The slow pace of the investigation and the release of the main suspects prompted Dr. Ghassemlou’s widow to file a complaint against the Austrian government for denial of justice. The Austrian court dismissed the case without hearing the evidence. The court also ruled that Ms. Ghassemlou should pay the government legal fees.

The successful assassination in Vienna and the Austrian government’s decision not to prosecute the perpetrators could only encourage the Islamic Republic’s leadership. Sahraroudi was promoted and the Iranian leaders, reassured by the de facto impunity they benefited from, went on to implement their plan to eliminate all active and potential political opponents abroad.  In the five years followingFadhil Rasul Newsletter the Vienna assassinations, five Iranian opposition members were killed in France, one in Switzerland, one in Italy, and Dr. Ghassemlou’s successor at the head of PDKI, along with three companions, were murdered in Berlin.

On the 25th anniversary of the 1989 triple murder, Vienna hosted new negotiations, this time between Iran and the world powers. As in 1989, these negotiations carry, for many, the hope of ending decades of hostility, tensions, and isolation. Today, the tragic outcome of the hope-filled July 1989 negotiations and the no less tragic consequences of the impunity granted to those who ordered and carried out the killing are irrelevant to the international community.

It is no surprise then that, in October 2013, Iran’s leadership, confident in the impunity of its agents, allowed Mr. Sahraroudi, Chief of Staff to the head of Iran’s Parliament, to accompany Ali Larijani to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Geneva. Iran’s confidence was justified. Despite the international arrest warrant against him, Mr. Sahraroudi went back to Iran, untroubled.

On this 25th anniversary, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation pays homage to the memory of Abdol-Rahman Ghassemlou, Abdollah Qaderi Azar, and Fadhil Rassoul and supports the families’ quest for justice by documenting the assassination and ensuring that victims are remembered.  ABF urges the Austrian government to acknowledge the victims’ rights and to take the necessary measures to bring the perpetrators of the Vienna assassination to justice.


A Flogging Interactive in Support of Victims of Torture Thu, 26 Jun 2014 22:40:57 +0000 On December 12, 1997, the United Nations proclaimed June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, with the goal of eradicating torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. On this occasion, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation introduces an Interactive Map of Flogging Sentences with the aim of drawing the attention of Iranians and the international community to a widely implemented and under-reported punishment. In the past 35 years, the implementation of the flogging punishment has caused significant physical and psychological harm to thousands of individuals of diverse ages and social backgrounds.


In the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least 148 crimes are punishable by flogging. The laws related to flogging are broad and encompass a wide array of acts recognized as crimes. The criminal code recognizes corporal punishment (hadd and ta’zir[1]) for offenses such as:  consumption of alcohol, drug use, and petty drug dealing, theft, adultery, “flouting” of public morals, illegitimate relationships, and mixing of the sexes in public.

Flogging is also used in interrogations, presumably to punish the detainee for not telling the truth. In the case of political prisoners, flogging was routinely used in the 1980s. Interrogators continue to use flogging, but its use is more often reported in the case of political detainees from specific political or ethnic groups. Judges have also the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before the execution to maximize the convict’s suffering.[2]

The use of corporal punishment is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is also a party. Corporal punishment that amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, including flogging, is prohibited under international law, and countries cannot justify it by invoking domestic law.[3]

The aim of the Flogging Interactive is to help understand the nature and widespread use of a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment that affects Iran’s population at large and needs to be addressed urgently.

Data from the Flogging Interactive is not exhaustive, since the trauma and the stigma attached to such corporal punishment prevent most victims from reporting it. Further, Iranian authorities do not systematically or thoroughly release information on flogging sentences or their implementation. The situation in Mazandaran Province is particularly alarming, as drinking alcohol and mixing of the sexes is frequent on the Caspian Sea shore, a high traffic vacation spot for Iranians.

noname (1)On June 29, 2009, for example, Hojatoleslam Hassan Asadi, Behshahr Chief Justice, stated that in one year, 1,321 flogging sentences had been implemented in Behshahr, in Mazandaran Province. In another instance, on December 31, 2012, Hojatoleslam Hossein Talebi, the Chief Justice in Mazandaran Province, stated that 10,814 flogging sentences had been implemented throughout the province in a period of 8 months. Very few of these flogging cases have been reported by the media.

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation strongly condemns flogging, which amounts to torture, and calls on the Iranian authorities to eliminate it from Iran’s laws and practice. ABF also calls on victims and witnesses to report flogging cases and to help make more accurate the Interactive Map’s dates. It further hopes that informing Iranian citizens and authorities, as well as the international community, of the scope of such violent punishment imposed on society will be a step toward its elimination.


[1] – Crimes punishable by hadd are those with fixed punishments in Islamic sources. These include crimes such as illicit sex, adultery, sodomy, homosexual behavior between women, and the consumption of intoxicants and are punishable by the death penalty, stoning to death, amputation, and flogging.

– Crimes punishable by ta’zir, unlike those punished by hadd, are those for which punishments are not fixed and instead are left to the discretion of the Shari’a judge. However, most ta’zir crimes are dealt with in the Penal Code, and the judge may or may not apply the punishments prescribed in the Code.

[2] Flogging must be administered, according to the Islamic Republic’s criminal code, to a male detainee while he is standing and stripped of his clothes, with the exception of his genitals. The lashing should not target the man’s head, face, or genitals. Women are to be flogged seated, with their clothes tight to their body. See, Criminal Code, Section 3, Article 176.

[3] The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.” Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, to be part of customary international law.

In his first report to the United Nations General Assembly, on 30 August 2005, Manfred Nowak, then Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, called on states to “abolish all forms of judicial and administrative corporal punishment without delay.” He pointed out that the term “lawful sanctions” in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention against Torture must be interpreted as referring both to domestic and international law. On the basis of the review of jurisprudence of international and regional human rights mechanisms, the Special Rapporteur concludes that “any form of corporal punishment is contrary to the prohibition of torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and that “States cannot invoke provisions of domestic law to justify the violation of their human rights obligations under international law, including the prohibition of corporal punishment.”


The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-governmental organization, founded in April 2001, and dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. The Foundation is an independent organization with no political affiliation and is committed to promoting human rights awareness through education and the dissemination of information as necessary prerequisites for the establishment of a stable democracy in Iran. Please visit us at and All donations are tax deductible.

Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis Fri, 13 Jun 2014 04:02:09 +0000 For Immediate Release

Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis

Accounts of Cases Raise Fair Trial Concerns

hriran(June 12, 2014) — The Iranian authorities should quash the death sentences of 33 Sunni Muslim men, including possibly a juvenile offender, convicted of “enmity against God” (moharebeh), and impose an immediate moratorium on all executions, 18 human rights organizations and one prominent human rights lawyer said today. The call comes amid serious concerns about the fairness of the legal proceedings that led to the men’s convictions and the high number of executions reported in Iran during the last year, including the June 1, 2014 hanging of a political dissident, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, on the same charge.

Information the rights groups gathered suggests that most of the men were arrested by Intelligence Ministry officials in the western province of Kordestan in 2009 and 2010, and held in solitary confinement during their pretrial detention for several months without access to a lawyer or relatives. They are believed to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during that time.

Thirty one of them were tried by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, while one was tried by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran and another by a branch of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj. They were sentenced to death after being convicted of vaguely worded national security offenses including “gathering and colluding against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” “membership in Salafist groups,” “corruption on earth,” and “enmity against God.” The latter two charges can carry the death penalty.

These vaguely worded offenses in Iran’s Islamic Penal Code do not meet the requirements for clarity and precision that international law outlines for criminal law. The authorities, routinely invoke them to arrest and imprison people who have peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly, or to accuse activists of supporting violent or armed opposition groups without evidence, the rights groups said.

Information gathered by the rights groups suggests that all of the men deny any involvement in armed or violent activities and maintain that they were targeted solely because they practiced or promoted their faith, such as taking part in religious seminars and distributing religious reading materials. Sunni Muslims are a minority in Iran, where most Muslims follow the Shia branch of Islam. Most Iranian Sunnis are from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and have long complained of state discrimination against them in both law and practice.

Recent changes to Iran’s penal code require the judiciary to review the cases of the 33 men, and vacate their death sentences on the charge of “enmity against God” if they had not personally resorted to the use of arms. The execution of Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, despite no evidence being presented to the court that he had used arms, suggests that Iranian authorities appear not to implement new provisions of the penal code that could save the lives of these 33 men, and others on death row on the charge of “enmity against God.”

According to his national identity card, at least one of the defendants, Borzan Nasrollahzadeh, is believed to have been under 18 at the time of his alleged offense, which would prohibit his execution under international law, including under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.

Among the group are four men — Hamed Ahmadi, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani and Kamal Molaee — accused of killing Mullah Mohammad Sheikh al-Islam, a senior Sunni cleric with ties to the Iranian authorities. The men have denied the accusation, saying that they were arrested between June and July 2009, several months before the sheikh’s killing, in September. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentences in September 2013, and the sentences have been sent to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences, the official body in charge of carrying out executions. The men are considered to be at imminent risk of execution.

The Supreme Court also confirmed the death sentences of four other members of the group — Seyed Jamal Mousavi, Abdorahman Sangani, Sedigh Mohammadi and Seyed Hadi Hosseini, the rights groups reported. The other 25 men remain on death row pending review by the Supreme Court. Most of them are believed to be held in the Raja’i Shahr and Ghezel Hesar prisons in the city of Karaj. One, Seyed Jamal Mousavi, is reportedly in Sanandaj Prison in Kordestan province.

The rights groups are concerned that authorities sentenced the 33 men to death after trials during which basic safeguards, such as rights of defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards. Information gathered by the groups indicates that at least some of the men were denied access to a lawyer of their own choosing before and during their trials, in breach of Article 35 of the Iranian Constitution, which guarantees the right to counsel.

Their court­-appointed lawyers were not allowed to see them in prison and did not have access to their files, according to information gathered by the groups. A few of the men have alleged that they met their lawyers for the first time a few minutes before the start of their trials. The court proceedings were held behind closed doors and reportedly lasted only between 10 to 30 minutes.

Some of the men also alleged that the judiciary handed down their death sentences based on incriminating statements they were forced to sign under torture and other ill-treatment, in violation of Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution, which prohibits all forms of torture “for the purpose of obtaining confessions.” Several alleged in open letters that they were physically and psychologically abused during their detention. One of the men, Shahram Ahmadi, wrote:

“Officers of the Revolutionary Guards kicked me in the head and face, causing my nose and head to break…I did not receive any treatment for my broken nose…and I currently have breathing difficulties as a result… [My] interrogator knew that I had been injured [in a previous incident of mistreatment]. He purposely punched me in my stomach and I began bleeding heavily from my old wounds. I was hospitalized in Sanandaj Hospital under a fake name… later my wounds became infected but they refused to give me medication.”

The rights groups have found no information indicating that there was any investigation into these allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, contrary to Iran’s domestic law and international law. Article 578 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code provides for the punishment of officials who torture people to obtain confessions. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party, prohibits the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

The irregularities reported in the men’s trials would also violate the fair trial provisions of Article 14 of the ICCPR, which include the presumption of innocence, adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defense and to communicate with a lawyer of one’s choosing, and not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that: “In cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important.”

In view of the apparently flawed legal proceedings, these 18 human rights groups and one prominent human rights lawyer urge the Iranian authorities to immediately halt the execution of these men and quash their sentences. Authorities should, at the very least, grant these men retrials in proceedings that comply with international standards of fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty.

The 33 men are, in an alphabetical order: Hamed Ahmadi, Shahram Ahmadi, Alam Barmashti, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani, Seyed Shaho Ebrahimi, Varia Ghaderifard, Mohammad Gharibi, Seyed Abdol Hadi Hosseini, Farzad Honarjo, Mohammad Keyvan Karimi, Taleb Maleki, Kamal Molaee, Pouria Mohammadi, Keyvan Momenifard, Sedigh Mohammadi, Seyed Jamal Mousavi, Teymour Naderizadeh, Farshid Naseri, Ahmad Nasiri, Borzan Nasrollahzadeh, Idris Nemati, Omid Peyvand, Bahman Rahimi, Mokhtar Rahimi, Mohammadyavar Rahimi, Abdorahman Sangani, Amjad Salehi, Behrouz Shahnazari, Arash Sharifi, Kaveh Sharifi, Farzad Shahnazari, and Kaveh Veysi.

Iran remains the second largest executioner in the world, after China. In 2013, according to Amnesty International figures, the Iranian authorities officially acknowledged 369 executions. However, reliable sources have reported that hundreds of additional executions took place in 2013, bringing the total to over 700. According to Amnesty International, as of May 25, 151 executions during 2014 have been acknowledged by the authorities or state-sanctioned media, while reliable sources have reported at least 180 additional executions, for a total of 331.

The rights groups are:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Justice for Iran

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

Arseh Sevom

Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran

Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G)

Baloch Human Rights Organization

Center for Combating Racism & Discrimination against Arabs in Iran

Centre for Supporters of Human Rights

Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Iran Human Rights

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Step by Step to Stop Death Penalty (LEGAM)

Mehrangiz Kar

Nobel Women’s Initiative

Siamak Pourzand Foundation

United for Iran

 For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

United for Iran

Director – Firuzeh Mahmoudi

+1 510 435 4131

Amnesty International

International Press Office

Phone : +44 (0) 20 7413 5566
Phone : +44 (0) 7778 472 126
Email :

Human Rights Watch

In New Your, Faraz Sanei (English, Persian)

+1-212-216-1290; or +1-310-428-0153 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @farazsanei

In Washington, DC, Joe Stork (English): +1-202-299-4925 (mobile); or
In Cairo, Tamara Alrifai (English, Arabic, French, Spanish): +20-122-751-2450 (mobile); or Follow on Twitter @TamaraAlrifai

Iran: Defending Workers’ Rights is Disrupting Public Order Fri, 02 May 2014 02:32:56 +0000 noname“It is four years now that I am denied the chance to accompany my children to school because of my union and guild activities in defense of the legitimate rights of my co-workers … and in the hope that today’s … students, and fathers, mothers, [and] political, civil, and labor rights activists of tomorrow, would not go to prison because of their concerns for their livelihood and their children’s advancement.” Reza ShahabiUnion activist and political prisoner, first day of school, September 2013

Today many workers around the world celebrate and honor International Worker’s Day. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, workers are denied the right to organize a May Day march, and some languish behind prison walls. Twenty-three activists of the Tehran Vahed Bus Company (SVATH) Union were reportedly arrested today for participating in a May 1st gathering in Azadi Square, Tehran . The Iranian authorities ignore the recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and continue to punish labor activists, in violation of Iran’s constitution and its international obligations, simply for exercising or attempting to exercise their right to assemble and to secure safe, humane, and just work conditions. 

Iran is a founding member of the ILO, a tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives, and one of the first countries in the sub-region to join the organization. The ILO has 185 Member States and provides a space for all stakeholders to debate and elaborate labor standards and policies.

noname (1)Iran has ratified 13 ILO Conventions, including five of the eight core conventions (covering the elimination of forced labor, child labor, and discrimination).  Iran has not ratified two of the original and most fundamental ILO conventions:  Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949. 

The principle of freedom of association, at the core of the ILO’s values, is a right proclaimed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, which Iran has ratified in June 1975. The right to organize and form employers’ and workers’ organizations is the prerequisite for sound collective bargaining and social dialogue. Nevertheless, in Iran, authorities deny workers the right of association, illegally suspend or interfere with workers’ and employers’ organizations, and, in some cases, trade unionists are beaten, detained, and sentenced to years of imprisonment.

Membership in the ILO carries with it the obligation to respect freedom of association principles in national legislation and practice. Employers and workers’ organizations can thus bring complaints against Iran. The Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA), established by the ILO in 1951, studies complaints, whether or not the country concerned has ratified the relevant ILO conventions. The Committee examines the facts with the government concerned and, if it concludes that freedoms of association standards or principles are violated, it issues a report through the Governing Body and makes recommendations on how the situation could be remedied. Governments are subsequently requested to report on the implementation of its recommendations.

Over the years, the ILO has reported and made recommendations to Iran with regard to forced labordiscrimination in employment, the right to equal remuneration, and weekly rest, among others, and the CFA has accepted complaints – related to the right to freely associate and organize – brought against the Iranian government.

On July 25, 2006,  the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) brought a joint complaint against the Iranian Government concerning violations of the principles of freedom of association, protection of the right to organize and to collectively bargain, as they pertained to the case of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed), or bus drivers’ union.

The CFA reviewed the case, addressed the allegations, and called on the government of Iran to implement the Committee’s recommendations reported since 2006. Eight years later, the complaint status remains active as Iran continues to deny the workers fundamental rights. The CFA’s latest report and recommendations, released on March 2014, states that:

noname (2)“… the employees at Sherkat-e Vahed had been disgruntled for many years and complained of low wages and long working hours; use of outdated buses; drivers’ fatigue caused by heavy road congestion; staff redundancy and management’s corruption.  However the established “workers’ organizations” at their company had not addressed these workplace issues and concerns. These “workers’ organizations” are the only government-recognized representatives of the labour force in Iran but are not independent of the government.

Whenever workers have been persecuted for trying to organize or bargain collectively, or strikes have been repressed, even violently, there has been no evidence of engagement by the “workers’ organizations” on the side of the workers. As a result the workers at Sherkat-e Vahed studied the International Labour Organization (ILO) literature on trade unions and human rights and after a few years formed their own organization to represent the interest of the workers at their company. They attempted to form a union, the Tehran Vahed Bus Company (SVATH) union. “

The Committee’s review of the facts notes that, to date, the government has not provided any indication in relation to the de facto recognition of the SVATH.  This lack of recognition deprives the group of any protection against any form of discrimination related to their trade union membership or their trade union activities.  In fact, the initial efforts of the workers at the Vahed Bus Company to organize were met with harassment and subsequent firing. When the workers attempted to formalize their union, at a meeting in May of 2005, they were violently attacked and arrested. The authorities charged them with, “disturbing public order” and “illegal trade union activities.”

noname (3)

In the subsequent crackdown, hundreds were arrested, including Mr. Mansoor Osonlou, a worker with the bus company for over 20 years and a union leader. Mr. Osonlou was charged with “inciting an armed revolt.”  He was detained several times between 2005 and 2008 and finally served a five-year sentence at Evin Prison until freed in 2013 and forced into exile.

According to the complaint by the ICFTU and the ITF, the government authorities and the employer allegedly committed several and continued acts of repression against the local trade union at the bus company, including:  “harassment of trade unionists and activists; violent attacks on the union’s founding meeting; the violent disbanding, on two occasions, of the union general assembly; and the arrest and detention of large numbers of trade union members and leaders under false pretenses of disturbing public order and illegal trade union activities.”

In order to address the situation, and considering Iran’s response (1) to its previous recommendations, the CFA made the following recommendations to the Islamic Republic of Iran [the Government]:

  •  Pending the implementation of the legislative reforms, the Committee urges the Government to indicate the concrete measures taken in relation to the de facto recognition of the SVATH union, irrespective of its non-affiliation to the Confederation of Iranian Workers’ Trade Unions.
  •  The Committee once again requests the Government to provide a detailed report of the findings of the State Inspection Organization (SGIO) and the Headquarters of the Protection of Human Rights into the allegations of the workplace harassment during the period of the union’s founding, from March to June 2005. It once again requests the Government, in light of the information revealed by these examinations, to take the necessary measures that all employees at the company are effectively protected against any form of discrimination related to their trade union memberships or activities.
  •  The Committee requests a copy of the court’s judgment on the action initiated by the union concerning the attacks on union meetings in May and June 2005, once it is handed down.
  • Encouraged by the new Government’s stance against the detention of social and trade union activists, the Committee urges the Government to secure, without further delay, Mr. Shahabi’s parole, pardon, and immediate release from prison, the dropping of any remaining charges, as well as the restoration of his rights and the payment of compensation for the damage suffered, requesting that the Government keep it informed in this regard.

At the time of the ILO’s publication of its Interim Report and the aforementioned recommendations regarding the complaints against the Islamic Republic of Iran, labor activists are still serving time or facing severe punishments.

nonameMr. Reza Shahabi, treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, who has been in custody since June 2010, is serving a six-year prison sentence. Mr. Shahabi has suffered from a number of serious health problems as a result of the brutal treatment he received when he was arrested in 2010 and the denial of medical treatment.

Mr. Reza Shahabi’s case is not unique. Mr. Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, Mr. Ebrahim Eisapour, Mr. Ebrahim Mostafapour, Mr. Ghasem Mostafapour, Mr. Hamidreza Borhani, Mr. Shahrokh Zamani, Mr. Mohammad Jarrahi, Mr. Mohammad Molanaie, Mr. Yousef Abkharabat, Mr. Reza Tamimi, Mr. Vahed Seyedeh, Mr. Mehdi Farahi Shandiz, Mr. Mohammad Karimi, Mr. Ghasem Mostafapur, Mr. Ebrahim Soltani, Mr. Jamlal Minashiri, and Mr. Hadi Tanumand are just a few of the workers serving sentences and charged with “assembly and collusion against national security,” “disturbing public order,” and “engaging in illegal trade union activities.”

noname (1)In honor of International Worker’s Day, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation calls on the parole, pardon, and immediate release of these prisoners.

 The plight of independent labor activists in Iran requires urgent attention.  The international community should hold the government of Iran accountable to internationally agreed upon obligations and should urge it to implement the ILO recommendations and to ensure that the rights of workers to organize and to improve their working conditions are respected in law and practice.


(1)- The Islamic Republic of Iran’s reply to CFA

  1. In its communication dated 13 October 2013, the Government reaffirms its commitment to the implementation of fundamental principles and rights at work, tripartism and social dialogue. The Government also indicates that its new initiatives are aimed at settling the cases pending before the Committee. Recalling the importance of the Committee’s recommendations, the Government reiterates its full preparedness to cooperate with the International Labour Standards Department. 
  2. Concerning the above recommendations (a) and (b), the Government submits that the Minister of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare has repeatedly urged the judiciary to do its utmost to seek the parole and pardon or to shorten the prison term of Mr Reza Shahabi to the shortest possible. The Government indicates that it fervently continues to seek his release in the shortest time possible. In respect of the allegations of ill-treatment to which Mr Ebrahim Madadi and Mr Reza Shahabi have been subjected while in detention, the Government indicates that in June 2013, it has communicated the Committee’s request to the Senior Adviser of the Chief of the Judiciary and the High Council for Human Rights. In July 2013, it wrote to the Ministry of Justice, seeking an independent investigation of the cases and information thereon. The Government states that despite its earnest and genuine intention to positively comment on these allegations as soon as possible, it has to wait for the report of the judiciary. The Government affirms that it has not spared any effort in reminding the judiciary of the importance of the fundamental principles and rights at work and the need for the protection of freedom of association. The Government assures the Committee that it will continue to do its utmost to genuinely address its concerns, including obtaining a fair and final pardon of Mr Reza Shahabi. The Government is optimistic that its sincere efforts may bear fruit in the near future as the new Government is categorically against any form of detention of the social and trade union activists. 
  3. In reply to recommendation (c), the Government forwards a copy of the draft amendments to the Labour Law which were submitted to Parliament on 2 December 2012. The Government explains that the text of the proposed amendments is being meticulously examined by various special committees of Parliament. Upon their final examination, the proposed bill will be submitted to Parliament for final approval. The Government also indicates that the draft amendments are the fruit of long and laborious consultations initiated by the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare, the Iranian Confederation of Employers’ Associations and the three most representative workers’ confederations, including the Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions, the High Council of Workers’ Representatives and the Confederation of the Islamic Labour Councils. The results of the social partners’ deliberations are duly incorporated in the proposed amendments. The Government requests the Committee, in the context of ILO technical cooperation, to make its comments on the draft so as to ensure that it is in full compliance with the respective ILO instruments. 
  4. With regard to recommendation (d), the Government indicates that as per the Labour Law, all workers’ and employers’ organizations are requested to freely and without constraint register their associations with the Ministry of Labour to help the Government to fulfil its reporting obligations toward the ILO and other pertinent international organizations. According to the Government, once the members of the Syndicate of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company submit their registration request together with the by-laws of their association to the Department General of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare of Tehran Province, the request will be duly processed in line with the provision of Chapter VI of the Labour Law. The Government indicates that so far, no such action has been taken in this regard by the syndicate. 
  5. According to the Government, the Labour Law provides that the Tehran Vahed Bus Company (SVATH) union, as an alleged trade union, can exercise its de facto and de jure right to freely embrace the membership of the Confederation of Iranian Workers’ Trade Unions. Since its coming into being, the latter has provided wide opportunities for trade unions’ activists of all walks of trade to enter into collective bargaining with both the government and major enterprises over the protection of trade union rights of its members. The Government further indicates that the Suburban Drivers’ Association, as a member of the above Confederation, has succeeded in taking some giant steps for the protection of the rights of professional drivers all over the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reportedly, the Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions has attempted twice to invite the SVATH union to examine the possibility of affiliation. 
  6. The Government reiterates, as regards the clashes of 2005, that its officials were not in any manner involved in the incidents. It states that due to the separation of powers, it may not reasonably intervene or take sides in trade union disputes or urge the judiciary to abrogate their rulings and decisions. The Government indicates that the 2005 labour dispute between the two contending parties shall be heard on its merits by the competent court. 
  7. Concerning the allegations of barring workers to freely form their associations or exercise their trade union rights, the Government indicates that, according to the Labour Law, no employer is allowed to threaten trade union activists for their legal representation or unilaterally and prematurely terminate their employment contracts. In such cases, upon receiving a worker’s complaint, the Labour Inspection Office of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare will conduct a thorough and immediate investigation and refer the offender to the legal authority. 
  8. In reply to recommendation (e), the Government submits a copy of the by-law on Managing and Organizing Labour Demands (dealing with demonstrations and assemblies) adopted by the National Security Council on 11 July 2011. It further indicates that it welcomes the possibility of an ILO technical cooperation for the training of its disciplinary forces for the proper management of labour protests.


The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-governmental organization, founded in April 2001, and dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. The Foundation is an independent organization with no political affiliation and is committed to promoting human rights awareness through education and the dissemination of information as necessary prerequisites for the establishment of a stable democracy in Iran. Please visit us at and All donations are tax deductible.

Khuzestan: A Tragic Cycle of Mismanagement, Injustice, and State Violence Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:29:48 +0000 q1 Ali Batrani was a 17-year-old youth, whose tortured body was found on April 18, 2005, in the Karun River in Ahvaz, a city in the Arab-majority Khuzestan province in southwest Iran. He had been arrested on April 15, the first day of a 10-day-long protest that had begun in Ahvaz and, following the shooting deaths of protesters, spread to other towns.  A brutal crackdown ended the protest, but Khuzestan has witnessed chronic unrest ever since.  Each following year, the members of Iran’s Arab minority attempt to commemorate the deadly events of April 2005, while the security forces take over neighborhoods, control communications, and preventively detain scores of activists. The result is a build-up of grievances and a cycle of violence with no end in sight.

Ali Batrani was a 17-year-old youth, whose tortured body was found on April 18, 2005, in the Karun River in Ahvaz, a city in the Arab-majority Khuzestan province in southwest Iran. He had been arrested on April 15, the first day of a 10-day-long protest that had begun in Ahvaz and, following the shooting deaths of protesters, spread to other towns.  A brutal crackdown ended the protest, but Khuzestan has witnessed chronic unrest ever since.  Each following year, the members of Iran’s Arab minority attempt to commemorate the deadly events of April 2005, while the security forces take over neighborhoods, control communications, and preventively detain scores of activists. The result is a build-up of grievances and a cycle of violence with no end in sight.

q2Discrimination in access to education, employment, and adequate housing are among the host of issues raised by members of the Arab minority in Khuzestan, who also demand respect for their Arab identity and cultural rights. As more families join the ranks of those stricken by grief and anger, successive governments have made no serious attempts to address these grievances. Rather, by severely restricting the Arabs’fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of association and expression or that of enjoying their own culture, the authorities have contributed to creating an environment of fear that silences peaceful activists, isolates victims, prevents the circulation of information, and encourages some to resort to violence.

The April 2005 protests did not take place in an extraordinary context. In fact, it was the absence of significant change and hope that has and continues to feed dissatisfaction in Arab-dominated and oil-rich Khuzestan Province.

In his report, following a visit to Iran in July 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Milan Kothari, drew attention to “neglect” and the “uneven distribution of development resources from the national authorities in Tehran.” In some poor neighborhoods of Ahvaz, he had observed:

ifcedfjj“… a complete lack of basic services impacting negatively on the populations’ health status, in addition to contributing to severe security problems. Most poor neighborhoods were unpaved, open-air sewage was sometimes observed and uncollected garbage blocked streets, obstructing traffic and access from the outside in case of emergencies.”

 The Special Rapporteur also pointed out that:

 “… lands traditionally cultivated by Iranian Arabs, which were expropriated by the Government for remarkably low prices, in order to provide space for development projects and plantations, such as the Dekhoda sugar-cane project. The affected population had no access to legal remedies to challenge the legitimacy and legality of the expropriation orders.”

It is in such a context that the publication of a letter – ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi – led to days of unrest. The letter, the authenticity of which was denied by the government a day after its publication, emphasized the promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations, thus reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province.

Demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, in Shelangabad, a poor neighborhood in Ahvaz. The protest spread to towns such as Mahshahr and Hamidiyeh, drawing thousands of protesters after the security forces opened fire on protesters in Malashiyeh and Shelangabad. The use of excessive force against an initially peaceful protest and the death of several protesters, including Razi Abayat and Musa Shamusi, led to several days of unrest and violence in the province, during which protesters blocked roads and took control of some government offices and police stations. 

The protest organizers had highlighted “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects, such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab population, as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.” They also demanded an official apology to the Arabs of the region.

Scores of protesters were killed during the April 2005, unrest and hundreds were injured before the demonstrations subsided. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s defense minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005)  Estimations from unofficial sources vary, but the most recent published list of victims includes 64 names. Furthermore, the Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200.

In the aftermath of the protests, local authorities added to the population’s grief and anger by refusing to return to their loved ones, immediately, the bodies of those who had been killed. In some cases, they even demanded the payment of a fine before doing so. Ali Batrani’s family told Amnesty International that the authorities returned Batrani’s body more than three weeks after he was found in the river, and they had to pay for the authorization to bury him.

q3There is no indication that an official investigation into the shooting of the protesters in Shelangabad and Malashiyeh, on the 15th, the continued persecutions and silencing of civil society in the province were not conducive to calm. In the months following the protests, a series of bombings in Ahvaz (and Tehran) claimed 22 lives. Further clashes, attacks of security forces, attempted terror attacks, and the bombing of gas pipelines were also reported. As a result, scores of people were arrested, coerced into confessing, tried summarily, and executed. The blatant violations of due process in these prosecutions led to widespread protests by human rights defenders inside the country.

The death toll has confbdjicgbtinued to rise in Khuzestan over the years, as the Iranian authorities suppress, heavy-handedly, attempts at gathering or protesting on various occasions, including on the anniversary of the April 15, 2005, events.

In November 2005, following the annual Eid al-Fitr prayer, and in respect to the Noeid tradition, Ahvazi Arabs marched peacefully towards Lashgarabad to visit the families of those who were killed in April. On their way back, protesters were caught on the 5th bridge of the Karun River between two contingents of revolutionary guards and bassij forces. Many were arrested, and some jumped into the river to avoid arrest. At least two people, Ahmad Na’ami and Yaser Savari, drowned. 

Two years later, again on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr (12 October 2007), a demonstration in Hamidiyeh led to numerous arrests. Though no casualties were reported that day, several detainees were found dead a few weeks later. In a January 2008 letter to Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization reported:

According to the relatives of those held in custody, the Ministry of Information and Security has refused to divulge any information on their whereabouts, condition and the charges against them. Recently some of the families were told to collect the dead bodies of their family members from morgues in the barrack of Army 92nd Division. We have received reliable reports that they have died under torture.” 

The letter names seven victims, including Ali Obidavi (Savari), Ghayban Obidavi, and Ali Chaldavi.

Every year, prior to the anniversary of the April protest, authorities cut off internet connections, closely monitor phone conversations, establish checkpoints, control the residents, and intimidate and arrest activists and young people.

q4On April 15, 2011, however, and in conjunction with the “Arab Spring,” demonstrations were organized in Khuzestan. The protests intensified in Hamidiyeh and Ahvaz and, again, the official response was to brutally crack down on protesters. The reported death toll was 12, including Ali Nisi,Abdolrahman Badavi, and Mohammad Shakhi Mo’arabi, 20 were injured, and hundreds arrested. Another six Iranian Ahvazi Arabs have reportedly been tortured to death in the custody of security and intelligence forces in connection with anti-government demonstrations that swept across Khuzestan on the 2011 and 2012 anniversaries of the 2005 unrest.

In February 2012, referring to local activists, Human Rights Watch reported the  arrest of 65 Arab residents during security sweeps since late 2011. In the towns of Hamidiyeh, Shush, and Ahvaz  the authorities carried out arrests “in response to anti-government slogans and graffiti spray-painted on public property, expressing sympathy for the Arab Spring and calling for a boycott of Iran’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 2, 2012.” At least two of the detainees, Mohammad Kaabi and Nasser Alboshokeh Derafshan died in detention facilities run by local intelligence officials in Shush and Ahvaz.

q5The execution, on trumped-up charges, of the poet and teacher HashemSha’baninejad and his cellmate Hadi Rashedi, a chemistry teacher, in January 25, 2014, was a reminder of the tragic losses brought about by the current status quo. Sha’baninejad taught Arabic language and literature in a high school, while studying for a master’s degree in political science. Rashedi used his free time to teach students who did not master Persian language and had difficulties in school. The peaceful activities of the two men, founders of the group Al-Hewar (Dialogue), were aimed at eliminating discrimination and defending the culture, identity, and heritage of Iran’s Arab minority.  They were killed convicted of “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God”), and “acting against the country’s national security.”

So far, Iranian authorities’ response to the Arab minority’s unrest has been harsh. They have executed, imprisoned, and silenced activists or forced them into exile. Little has been done, however, to improve living conditions in the towns and neighborhoods in which the 2005 protests started.  Years after the Special Rapporteur, Milan Kothari, visited the area, persisting problems feed the local population’s frustration and anger, and lives are lost. The February 2014 list of demands presented by a City Council member from Malashiyeh – an incubator of protest with about 50,000 inhabitants – reveals the dismal living conditions of the population.

The Malashiyeh representative’s demands to the Ahvaz City Council include, among other things, asphalting streets, setting up a hospital with 24-hour health units and ambulances, bringing public buses to the area and creating bus stations, setting up a fire station, solving the gas problem, solving the sewer issue, which for 6 years he has unsuccessfully brought to the attention of the relevant administration, and finding a solution for swamps and sewer wells and channels that are surrounding the area and overflowing, setting-up police stations and solving security problems, looking into the education problems in schools, and, a luxury item, creating green spaces.

The government’s neglect in investigating and implementing policies, with a view of eradicating discrimination and poverty in Khuzestan, the lack of remedy for protests’ victims, and impunity for perpetrators will continue to trigger protests, arrests, violence, and casualties. President Rouhani has pledged moderation in his electoral campaign and has committed to addressing minorities’ grievances. The anniversary of the April 15th protests is a good opportunity to take steps towards addressing these grievances.

Releasing those who have been arrested, preventively, before the April 15th anniversary could be a good first step, as would be the creation of an independent commission of inquiry, including independent experts and members of civil society in Khuzestan. The commission should be tasked with hearing the families of those who died in the 2005 protests or in its aftermath and investigating reports of abuse by security forces and the judiciary. The commission should publish a report of its investigations and make recommendations on remedies.

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation believes that addressing the legitimate grievances of Iran’s Arab minority is a necessary step towards ending the cycle of violence in Khuzestan and urges the Iranian government to follow the recommendations made over the years by the United Nations human rights rapporteurs.

The Government should respect and fully protect the rights of Iran’s minorities “to assemble peacefully and associate freely … and take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law,” as recommended by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association and other UN rapporteurs.

The government should also start implementing the 2006 recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. For example:

  • Improve the quality of basic services provided to poor neighbourhoods, including access to drinking water, taking note of the CESCR general comment No. 15, which lists the elements to the right to water as including availability and quality;
  •   Develop specific policies to expand access to basic amenities to distant and minority predominant regions;
  •   Be increasingly transparent in the development of policies, including by the publication of data concerning not only beneficiaries, but also the population not yet covered by the programmes, and open in the assessment of priorities and results, with space for public monitoring, including full participation of the intended population;
  • Conduct in-depth investigation of property confiscation cases, especially when involving ethnic and religious minorities, and ensure that no abuses were or will be committed against those groups.


The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-governmental organization, founded in April 2001, and dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran. The Foundation is an independent organization with no political affiliation and is committed to promoting human rights awareness through education and the dissemination of information as necessary prerequisites for the establishment of a stable democracy in Iran. Please visit us at and All donations are tax deductible.