Iran

 

  • ‘Against hopelessness, we need to work not to lose the very small windows of freedom that we can find under this dictatorship’

    CIVICUS speaks to an Iranian woman human rights defender about the causes and significance of the recent protests in Iran, as well as the prospects for change in a country with a closed civic space and a theocratic government that maintains a firm grip on power. She asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 43rd Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The four-week human rights council will sit from 24 February to 20 March, and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate, and for the 47 Council members to address. CIVICUS will be conducting and presenting evidence on a variety of thematic and country-focused issues. Full overview below or jump directly to see our programme of events.

    Country-specific situations

    Nicaragua (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    Our members on the ground have documented serious human rights violations, including attacks on fundamental freedoms and against human rights defenders and journalists. A report issued last year by the OHCHR, mandated by a resolution adopted in 2019, reflected this situation, and recommended enhanced UN monitoring and reporting. Given the lack of political will in the country to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms, and the concerning situation on the ground, CIVICUS calls on states to support a resolution on Nicaragua which calls for such enhanced reporting at the very least.

    Sri Lanka (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    This is a critical time for Sri Lanka, with concerns that the new administration which came to power last year could renege on its Council-mandated human rights and accountability commitments. The resolution adopted at the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council and remains the only process in place which could guarantee justice for victims of human rights violations. Civic space is closing at an alarming rate – since the new administration came to power, civil society members on the ground have been threatened and intimidated, their records destroyed, and human rights defenders and journalists have been attacked. CIVICUS calls for states to encourage cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and international human rights mechanisms, and for Council members to reaffirm their commitment to resolution 40/1, which put into place time-bound commitments to implement the accountability mechanisms in resolution 30/1.

    Iran (Civic space rating:Closed)

    In 2019, Iran erupted into a series of protests against lack of political and democratic freedoms and the deteriorating economic situation. Protesters were met with violent repression through mass arrests and lethal force. Current geopolitical developments have entrenched the regime and exacerbated internal insecurity further. This Human Rights Council Session will discuss the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. CIVICUS supports the renewal of the Special Rapporteur mandate and encourages states to raise concerns about the use of lethal force in protests.

    India (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    India’s civic space rating was downgraded with the last CIVICUS report. A controversial and discriminatory citizenship law has given rise to mass protests across the country, which have been subject to violent crackdowns, leading many injured and at least 25 dead. Jammu and Kashmir remain under severe repression, including through sustained internet shutdown which is reaching its sixth month. Internet was partially restored in January but restrictions remain, making the shutdown the longest recorded in a democracy. Internet shutdowns are also being used across the country in order to hinder freedom of peaceful assembly. CIVICUS encourages States to raise concerns about India, and to call for an investigation into the violent suppression of peaceful protests, and to repeal discriminatory provisions in the Citizenship Law.

    Thematic mandates

    The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

    The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders will be renewed this Session. This is a crucial mandate which has an impact of all CIVICUS’s areas of focus, and we encourage states to eco-sponsor the resolution at an early stage. The Special Rapporteur will present his annual report on HRDs in conflict and post-conflict situations, and reports on his country visits to Colombia and Mongolia. CIVICUS encourages states to affirm their co-sponsorship of the resolution early in the Session.

    Freedom of Expression

    The mandate for the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression is set to be renewed this Session, at a time when internet blackouts in increasingly used as a tactic to limit freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of peaceful assembly. We encourage states to co-sponsor the renewal of this important mandate at an early stage.

    Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB)

    The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief will present his annual report, which this year focuses on the intersection of religion and belief and gender and SOGI rights, and reports on country visits to Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. CIVICUS will be engaging on Sri Lanka and on India, which have both undergone concerning developments with regards to freedom of religion.

    Prevention

    The Chair-Rapporteur of two intersessional seminars on the contribution that the Council can make to the prevention of human rights violations will present the report of the seminars.

    CIVICUS will be highlighting the connection between civic space and prevention – that closures in civic space are often precursors to wider human rights crises, and that by intervening at the civic space level, the Council has a role to play in ensuring that such human rights violations are prevented.


    CIVICUS and members’ events at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (events will be livestreamed @CIVICUS Facebook page):

    27 February (11:00 CET, Room VII), a side event will discuss the current critical situation in Nicaragua, and the importance of an enhanced monitoring mandate.

    2 March (14:00 CET, Room VII), CIVICUS and partners are organising an event on the constitutional and civic space crisis in India. 

    5 March (13:00 CET, Room VII), CIVICUS is co-sponsoring an event led by ICNL and the Civic Space Initiative consortium partners on countering terrorism financing while preserving civic space ----canceled due to the coronavirus

    12 March (12:30 CET, Room XXI), CIVICUS is co-sponsoring a side event on the use of lethal force in protests in Iran and Iraq, and responses from the international community---canceled due to the coronavirus

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Croatia; Cuba; Czechia; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Nepal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Slovakia; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Togo; Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Uruguay.

     

  • CIVICUS urges Iran to stop persecuting human rights defenders and implement Universal Periodic Review recommendations

    Johannesburg. 22 June 2010. Earlier this month, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and a number of civil society groups censured Iran at the UN Human Rights Council for outright refusal to accept key recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

    Iran rejected 45 of the 188 recommendations made to it by diplomatic delegations of different states and took back 20 recommendations to Tehran for further review. Notably, the rejected recommendations included "end to severe restrictions on the rights to free expression, association and assembly" (United States) and the "end to the detention and trials of writers solely for the practice of their right to freedom of expression" (Slovenia).

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

     

    CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.

    Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.

    El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.

    Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.

    Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.

    Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.

    Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

     

  • Detention and disappearance of activists is widespread

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    -Statement on report of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    CIVICUS thanks the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for their report. We are concerned that it shows Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia - Human Rights Council member states from the Middle East – as well as Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and the UAE, all using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to silence civil society and shut down dissent with impunity. 

    Bahrain arbitrarily detained Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab on 9 April 2011 and 13 June 2016 respectively. They are among dozens of human rights defenders whom the authorities have arbitrarily detained, including Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, both subject to mistreatment by officials. The authorities denied them medical treatment and interfered with their family visits. We are particularly alarmed by the Working Group’s reports of reprisals against those who have been subject of an urgent appeal or opinion in Bahrain. This falls far short of the standards that every state, but particularly members of the Human Rights Council, should uphold.

    We condemn Egypt's arbitrary arrest of lawyer Ibrahim Metwally in 2017 en route to attend an HRC session, to present cases of enforced disappearance, and his ill-treatment. His and the cases of 12 others arbitrarily arrested in June 2019 reflect Egypt's closure of civic space.

    In Iraq, we condemn the detention of journalists, protesters and civil society activists. During protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained including Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani.

    Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on women’s and other human rights defenders forms its systematic use of arbitrary detention in which thousands have been detained.

    Those detained in 2018 included Aziza al-Yousef; Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and other women’s rights advocates who also campaigned to end the driving ban, as well as writers, academics and family members of WHRDs. “Charges” were only brought against them in March 2019. They remain in prison, alongside members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA); Mohammed al-Qahtani, and Abdullah al-Hamid; blogger Raif Badawi and human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair.

    Iran systematically arbitrarily detains trade unionists, HRDs, minority rights activists and lawyers like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi.

    Kuwait’s arbitrary arrest in July, of stateless rights activists including Abdulhakim al-Fadhli exemplifies the intersectionality of rights and how guaranteeing civil space bolsters other rights. 

    The UAE’s March 2017 arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of HRD Ahmed Mansoor continues to tarnish the UAE, showing that its “year of tolerance” does not include human rights.

    Mr. President, the report of the Working Group shows that the use of arbitrary detention – often without charge, recourse to access independent legal representation, and in poor conditions of detention – remains an active method to quell dissent across the Middle East. 

    CIVICUS joins civil society in calling for full cooperation with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and we call on states who have instrumentalized arbitrary detention to immediately release those detained and provide justice and remedy to victims and their families. 

    We ask the Working Group: what more can be done to ensure implementation of its appeals and opinions in states where arbitrary detention remains so widespread?

     

  • Halte aux restrictions à la liberté de réunion et d'association en Iran

    Monsieur le Président de la République Islamique d’Iran

    Adresse: Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq., Téhéran

    Numéro de téléphone: +98(21)64451

    A son Excellence, le Président Hassan Rouhani

    Objet : Halte aux restrictions à la liberté de réunion et d'association en Iran

    Votre Excellence,

    Alors que des rapports récents font état de détentions arbitraires et de disparitions forcées d'acteurs de la société civile en Iran, la société civile internationale note avec inquiétude la restriction violente de l'espace civique dans le pays. Nous vous écrivons pour vous exhorter, Excellence, à libérer immédiatement et sans conditions tous les acteurs de la société civile détenus et à respecter les droits à la liberté de réunion et d'association conformément aux conventions internationales et à la Constitution iranienne.

    L'espace civique iranien se rétrécit à un rythme sans précédent - même au regard des normes iraniennes - à mesure que les autorités iraniennes répriment de plus en plus fortement et illégalement l'action civique indépendante. Au cours de l'année écoulée, l'Iran a été témoin de la montée sans pareil des manifestations sociales pacifiques et de la dissidence civique malgré un régime autoritaire et violent. Au cours des deux dernières années, un nombre alarmant d'arrestations et de détentions de militants de la société civile ont eu lieu dans un large éventail de domaines environnementaux, au sein des défenseurs des droits humains, des enseignants et des syndicalistes, des étudiants et des femmes. CIVICUS, une alliance regroupant la société civile du monde entier, et Volunteer Activists Institute, une ONG axée sur la démocratie, les droits humains et la consolidation de la paix dans la région MENA et plus particulièrement en Iran, ont lancé une campagne mondiale pour tenir le gouvernement iranien responsable de ses violations flagrantes des droits à la liberté d'association et à la réunion pacifique dans ce pays.

    Bien que l'Iran soit signataire de la Convention Internationale sur les Droits Civils et Politiques et des dispositions de la Constitution protégeant la liberté de réunion et d'association (articles 26 et 27 de la Constitution iranienne), les militants sont fréquemment détenus et harcelés pour leur travail en faveur des droits humains. Certaines personnalités de la société civile iranienne, comme Nasrin Sotoudeh, qui risque 38 ans de prison et 148 coups de fouet, ont été condamnées à de longues peines de prison pour avoir fourni une assistance juridique à des défenseurs des droits humains, tandis que d'autres attendent leur procès pour de fausses accusations d'espionnage et de "corruption sur la terre" - passible de la peine capitale si elles sont condamnées. La situation des défenseurs des droits humains en prison est également alarmante. En juillet 2019, des experts en droits humains des Nations Unies ont exprimé leur préoccupation face à l'incapacité de l'État de fournir des soins aux détenus, y compris le défenseur des droits humains Arash Sadeghi[1]. Kavous Seyed Emami, professeur à l'Université Imam Sadeq et directeur de la Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, est décédé en prison le 8 février 2018, deux semaines après sa détention à la prison Evin. Les circonstances de sa mort restent incertaines. Parmi les autres militants actuellement détenus figurent Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian et de nombreux autres.

    Nous sommes également extrêmement préoccupés par les nouvelles nominations au plus haut niveau de l'armée (Corps des gardiens de la révolution islamique (IRGC)), qui ont imposé des restrictions sur l'espace civique en créant un nouveau bureau (Baqiattallah) pour organiser les forces sociales et les organisations de la société civile affiliées au gouvernement, afin de marginaliser la société civile indépendante. Ces nouvelles nominations indiquent que l'Iran adopte une stratégie résolument axée sur la lutte contre tout acte de désobéissance civique. Alors que les sanctions et les difficultés économiques ont pour conséquence de pousser les Iraniens à leurs limites et de provoquer des protestations pacifiques, le gouvernement iranien met un terme aux actes de dissidence, et nous sommes extrêmement préoccupés par les mois à venir à l'approche des élections parlementaires de 2020.

    En conséquence, nous, les signataires, demandons au gouvernement iranien d'assurer une meilleure protection des droits à la liberté d'association et de réunion pacifique. Plus précisément, nous demandons :

    • Au gouvernement d’inviter le Rapporteur Spécial sur la Situation des Défenseurs des Droits Humains et le Rapporteur Spécial sur la Liberté de Réunion Pacifique et d'Association à enquêter sur la situation des droits humains en Iran.
    • Que tous les défenseurs des droits humains, y compris, mais sans s'y limiter, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, soient libérés immédiatement et sans conditions, et que toutes les charges retenues contre eux soient abandonnées.
    • D'assurer des protections sensibles au genre pour toutes les femmes défenseures des droits humains qui sont particulièrement ciblées en Iran, et travailler avec la Rapporteuse Spéciale sur la Violence contre les Femmes, ses Causes et ses Conséquences pour s'assurer que toutes les formes de violence contre les défenseuses des droits humains iraniennes sont signalées comme des violences faites aux femmes.
    • D'aligner la pratique de la mise en œuvre des droits à la liberté de réunion et d'association, comme le souligne la Constitution, sur les meilleures pratiques internationales.

    Sincèrement, les signataires :

    1. Volunteer Activists Institute
    2. CIVICUS Alliance Mondiale pour la Participation Citoyenne
    3. Women’s March Global
    4. Center for Human Rights in Iran
    5. Citizens Friend
    6. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
    7. Women Against Violence
    8. The Needy Today
    9. Association de la Jeunesse pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme
    10. CASAD Bénin
    11. Initiative for Peace and Innovation - IPI
    12. Youth initiative for change and development
    13. Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter
    14. AGIR POUR LA SECURITE ET LA SOUVERAINETE ALIMENTAIRE
    15. YOUNG AFRICAN FIGHTERS ORGANISATION YAFO
    16. Anti-Corruption International, Uganda Chapter
    17. Discourage Youths From Poverty
    18. Women Empowerment Group
    19. Organisation des Jeunes pour la Promotion et le Développement
    20. PACOPA
    21. WORLDLITE
    22. SOPEVUDECO ASBL
    23. FHRRDA
    24. Cameroon
    25. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights
    26. Gutu United Residents and Ratepayers Association
    27. Palestinian Center For Communication and Development Strategies
    28. Tim Africa Aid Ghana
    29. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care
    30. APLFT
    31. Advance Centre for Peace and Credibility International
    32. Elizka Relief Foundation
    33. TOfAD
    34. Association pour les victimes du monde
    35. Network of Estonian Non-Profit Organizations
    36. VIFEDE
    37. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
    38. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.
    39. Friends of Emergence Initiatives
    40. Fundacion CELTA
    41. MPS GABON
    42. I2BA
    43. One Future Collective
    44. RECOSREC
    45. Achievers Innovative Advocates International Foundation
    46. GULF LINK VENTURE
    47. Centre for Intercultural Understanding
    48. Ugonma Foundation
    49. Center for Youth Civic Leadership and Environmental Studies - CYCLES
    50. FUNDACION CIUDADANOS
    51. Centre for Social Concern and Development
    52. Curtis business
    53. Bina Foundation for people with special needs
    54. GreenLight Initiative
    55. Community Wellness International
    56. Civic Initiatives Kyrgyzstan
    57. Jeunesse-Assistance
    58. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
    59. Fondation Kalipa pour le Développement
    60. SADF ONG
    61. ASSOCIATION OF UGANDA SCHOOL LEAVING YOUTH -AUSLEY
    62. FINESTE
    63. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
    64. Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa

     

    [1] HCDH (2019) Iran : Des soins médicaux urgents sont nécessaires pour les détenus dont les conditions mettent leur vie en danger - Experts de l'ONU : ohchr.org/FR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24813&LangID=F

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  • HUMAN RIGHTS: ‘People have a great desire for positive stories’

    Saleem VaillancourtCIVICUS speaks with Saleem Vaillancourt, a journalist and media producer who works to promote the rights of Iran’s Bahá’í community and to encourage positive action to realise human rights. Saleem works with the street art for social justice project,Paint the Change.

    Can you tell us how your work began?

    I work closely with the Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker, Maziar Bahari. Maziar’s story is well known. He was jailed in Iran and held in solitary confinement in 2009 after covering the Iran election crisis. He was released after an international campaign and the book he wrote about his ordeal, ‘Then They Came for Me’, was made into a film, ‘Rosewater’, by Jon Stewart. Maziar was no longer simply a journalist; he was also a human rights advocate. Once released, he could talk about all the things going on in Iran that he couldn’t when he was working in Iran.

    Chief among these is the situation of the Bahá’í community, which is the largest religious minority in Iran. They are persecuted by the Iranian government because their beliefs come up against the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam practised by the government. Bahá’ís are routinely arbitrarily detained, held either without charge or under false charges and jailed. They are denied the right to go to university. There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda against them from the state media.

    I’m a Bahá’í and I worked with the Bahá’í community, and also as a journalist and in public communications, and that’s how my path crossed with Maziar. In 2014 he made a documentary, ‘To Light a Candle’, about the story of the Bahá’ís and particularly about the denial of their right to education, and their response, which was to create an informal educational project – an underground university – in which they created opportunities to educate themselves. This is a programme that for 30 years has given thousands of people an education, many of whom have gone on to pursue graduate studies in western universities. It’s a huge success and a major example of constructive resilience, or what Maziar calls peaceful resistance: meeting injustice not with conflict but by building a positive alternative to overcome the situation.

    I joined him for what was meant to be a short time to help promote his film and things grew from there. We created a campaign, ‘Education is not a Crime’, which is a street art and human rights campaign in which we use murals to talk about the story of the Bahá’í in Iran and more broadly to try to address education inequity and uneven access to education in other contexts as well.

    What are the key methods by which you work?

    We create murals, and then the murals have a social media dimension, because we share them online as videos and create local conversations, explaining why we are doing these, and especially relating what we are doing to local stories. For example we painted 20 murals in Harlem in New York, and people in this neighbourhood really saw a parallel in our work between Bahá’ís in Iran and the African-American experience of discrimination and the attempt to overcome discrimination, including in the area of education. We made a documentary about that in 2017, ‘Changing the World One Wall at a Time,’ which has been screened around the world.

    This led to an initiative in Detroit, where we’ve partnered with the City of Detroit and local schools. The city government was already working to encourage school attendance, which is something we care about in terms of access to education. They created a bus route called the ‘GOAL Line’ – GOAL stands for ‘get on and learn’ – but we observed that the bus route had no shelters, so we offered to build some shelters and put artwork on them. The artwork was created in art workshops through a partnership with local students and local artists. The works represent the community in a direct way and create a visual cue in the community around the issue of education. In this activity, we moved from the area of pure awareness-raising to a kind of indirect social action.

    We’re also starting to do a locally orientated street art project in London, producing work with local communities that celebrates local heroes, people who contribute to their community, whether they are known by their community or not. We put them on the side of buildings so they become positive stories that can encourage local young people.

    Another thing we have been doing is producing an oral history video series in the USA, about the Bahá’í community, not only about Iran but also about the work of the community to promote race unity over the past several generations. Again, this is about telling a positive story and something that perhaps helps others in US society to look again at the issue of race – something that is obviously very charged and challenging – and find other ways of addressing it.

    So that’s what I do. It’s a chance for both Maziar and I to talk about issues we think are important, but that are not limited to a focus on the Bahá’í community. Our work is at the intersection of human rights, social action and media. Sometimes it is about raising awareness or fighting instances of violations of human rights, as with the rights of the Bahá’í in Iran, but more and more now it is about finding positive stories and celebrating them through street art or a film or through other media. We want to do this in a way that can help a community see a positive version of themselves and put that at the centre of their own narrative.

    What would you say you do that is different from the conventional work of a human rights organisation?

    Because we are principally a media-driven group, we try to apply our media work to human rights issues and social issues, and we are looking to go beyond human rights awareness-raising to try to contribute to social processes in local communities. The Detroit project is an example of that. So that’s a kind of social action that’s distinct from awareness-raising as a conventional discipline.

    We are trying to do human rights work and social action work together. We see them as different sides of basically the same work. We want to reach audiences that perhaps haven’t been engaged in human rights discussions or social action before, through media and through education workshops. So our focus is not so much on informing policy-makers, but on trying to reach local communities through accessible media and artforms.

    What are the challenges faced when defending the rights of Bahá’í people in Iran?

    I am also involved in IranWire, an independent news website. I know through this that Iranian journalists are targeted. Our site was recently down for a few hours over the course of several days because of a sustained denial of service attack originating from Iran.

    Maziar is continually attacked on Twitter and by Iranian state media, as are other people we work with. Many people who have worked in the public space on the issue of the Bahá’ís are vilified by the Iranian media. When Maziar and others talk to United Nations institutions, they get criticised and there is a lot of disinformation spread about them. It’s clear that the Iranian authorities seek to discredit people through disinformation to try to limit their legitimacy in the international space when they talk about human rights issues happening inside Iran. The Iranian government attempts to control the narrative.

    Turning to your work outside Iran, what would you say the major successes and challenges have been?

    I think the big success we’ve had so far is the initiative to create the murals, especially in Harlem but also around the world: to create a story out of them, and for that story to be something that people respond to, and for us to find a way to relate that story to other situations around the world.

    In the early stage of developing these murals in New York, after we had produced one or two in Harlem, the questions of these parallels between the Bahá’ís and the African-American community started to sit up. It’s not a parallel in terms of scale or severity or even of type, but it’s a parallel in terms of individual experiences and the ideology that has created a situation. African-American people who learned about the project brought that parallel to the fore in our discussions. Here was one community that is struggling identifying with the struggle of another community, that was undergoing the kind of suffering that makes the community more empathetic and more aware of the struggles of another.

    We decided to tell that story as much as we could and in our work in Harlem to work with local artists and local community leaders as much as possible, and to hold educational workshops for young people around the creation of the murals. I think the fact that those murals became possible and were welcomed into the community, that there was the opportunity to see these parallels and to tell that story around the world, and that the story was broadcast inside Iran in Persian on satellite TV and seen by millions of people there, was probably the biggest success.

    I think there’s not so much one major challenge we have been unable to overcome, although there are things that are harder to do than others, but it’s more that nobody is particularly out there asking for anybody to do something positive. I think a lot of people have a great desire, appetite and thirst for encountering positive stories even if they address challenging issues, but it’s not something you see being asked for in market terms, and in terms of what audience there is, and what funding you can get to do projects.

    So it is a challenge to create the audience and explain our reasons for approaching our work as we do, and maintain these projects, because it’s not something that is being asked for in a commercial sense. I don’t necessarily mean commercial in terms of being driven by profit, but even non-profitable works need grants, and while there are grants that are tailored around work that tries to introduce positive narratives, it takes a lot of effort to identify them and to massage an idea into a format that would meet the requirements of a particular grant.

    What more needs to change, and what further support is needed, to enable your work to achieve even more?

    I think there are two levels. At the level of human attitudes, in general the world is in a very difficult place and much of what’s happening is turning people towards conflict. I think what needs to change – in order for the kind of stories we want to produce and tell to be more easily relatable and for people to be able to understand what we are getting at – is that people need to be orientated towards positive stories, towards sharing and finding them, and to seeing the world through the lens of positivity. This is not to deny there are negative things or pretend that everything is fine, but to say that we address a challenge or a difficulty not by more contention but by means of conciliation and friendliness. I think if people’s minds are orientated more that way they would be likelier to seek out or ask for the positive stories we try to tell. I’m not saying we’ve nailed that formula, but that’s our motivation and we’re trying to work in that direction.

    At the structural level I think the kinds of grants, and often the kinds of initiatives that organisations want to support or are asking for, need to change. Again, it is possible to do that in terms of some grants that exist, but there is a lack of a structure and approach that says: this organisation really wants to find positive stories because positive stories change the nature of a society’s view of how to deal with challenging issues.

    So much of what civil society does is about countering things that are negative. This is important work, but I also think that civil society should be going towards what it wants to see in the future. If there could be a harmonious sense across civil society about what the future ought to be, how human rights ought to be respected and what the nature of society should be in order to realise those ideals, then I think we could move towards shared civil society agendas that make it possible to work for these goals more easily.

    In the civil society space, the media space and the human rights space – and partly because we are all too busy but also because there is no clearing house or central organising system – I don’t know who in civil society would want to work in the same way. But I’d love to know more about who’s out there and what they’re doing, in order to more easily find the appropriate partners.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Paint the Change through itswebsite.

     

  • IRAN: ‘Women are the thorn in the sides of hardliners’

    Jasmina RamseyFollowing a year in which women’s rights protests made headlines worldwide - including in Iran, where women’s struggles were symbolised by the resurgence of protests against the mandatory use of hijab - CIVICUS speaks to Jasmin Ramsey, communications director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). Based in New York, CHRI is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit civil society organisation (CSO) of journalists, researchers and human rights advocates who collaborate with an extensive team of independent investigators, civil society activists and human rights defenders inside Iran, which allows CHRI to report on and document real-time, on-the-ground human rights conditions in Iran. CHRI also advocates with governments and international organisations and partners with activists around the world to keep them informed about the state of human rights in Iran and hold the Iranian government to account on its international obligations.

    What were the frustrations that provoked the 2018 anti-hijab protests in Iran?

    Women in Iran have been fighting for their rights since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini, the country’s first supreme leader, took power from the ousted monarchy that year, the hijab was gradually enforced on women until it became law. For the past 40 years, women in Iran have not been allowed in public without covering most of their bodies and hair. If a woman is caught without a veil, she could be subject to various forms of punishment. She could be shamed in public. Men, clerics, sometimes even other women may condemn and insult her for walking around with her hair uncovered. She could also be arrested by various agencies, one of which is the so-called anti-vice or morality police, which is particularly vigilant during summer when it’s very hot and people want to wear less to stay cool. They could pick her up, take her in, charge her and even imprison her.

    Shortly after the compulsory hijab was implemented in Iran, many women - thousands by some estimates - went out into the streets to say they did not support it. Some marched arm in arm with their hair flowing freely demanding that the hijab be a choice, not a requirement. So right away we saw that regardless of what the Iranian government said was best for women, many had the courage to say they should be able to control their bodies and the ways they expressed themselves. But the hijab was enforced anyway with great force until the cost of resistance became very high.

    But women in Iran haven’t backed down. For the past four decades, they have been challenging this law in various ways, including indirectly. For example, in the beginning of the revolution, women had to observe the hijab strictly, barely showing any skin apart from their face and hands. But as the years passed, while some devout women continued to wear the hijab strictly, many others started pushing it back further and further, so today if you walk through the streets of the capital, Tehran, you can see a lot of hair showing at the front and even a little at the back. Women are also now wearing more form-fitting clothing and showing a little more skin as well. Women wear the hijab very fashionably and try to integrate it within their sense of style; they keep on pushing the envelope. It’s very interesting to look at the ways the hijab has been creatively challenged and reformulated by Iranian women throughout the years. Those who wear the hijab by choice also have their own ways of expressing themselves while keeping themselves covered.

    More recently, in 2018, several women - at least 30 - went out into the streets, took off their hijabs in public and waved them either on a stick or with their hands. Some men also did this to support these women. This became the beginning of what appeared to be a new movement - admittedly, a very small one - with women engaging in civil disobedience against the country’s compulsory hijab law, including by walking in the street without a hijab, and then posting pictures of themselves doing so on social media. The vast majority of these women have not shown any desire to make the hijab illegal; instead they are saying it should be a choice. So generally speaking, these are anti-compulsory-hijab protests, not anti-hijab protests.

    How did the protests organise, and how did they get their message out? Was social media important?

    This particular movement was started by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist living in exile in the USA. A few years ago she started a social media campaign, #MyStealthyFreedom, to encourage women in Iran to walk freely without their head covered and submit photos of themselves doing so. It’s not clear whether those women who waved their hijabs in public during the first few months of 2018 and who were arrested for doing so were part of Masih’s campaign. Some said that they were not, and that they did this independently because they wanted to make a statement about something they have believed in all along. Others said they were directing Masih, not the other way around as some judicial officials claimed.

    Masih’s Facebook campaign had been around for a few years, and in late December 2017, a photo of one woman, Vida Movahed, waving her white hijab while standing on a utility box in a busy street in Tehran went viral on social media and she and protesters like her came to be known as the Girls of Revolution Street. She did this one day before mass protests broke out in various cities throughout Iran against a range of other issues. It seems that after that photo went viral, several followed her example. It happened over the course of several weeks and months. Social media played a role in spreading that image, and the image compelled others to go out, but I can’t quantify the extent to which social media propelled things forward.

    How did the authorities react to the protests?

    Women protesters engaging in peaceful acts of civil disobedience came head to head with government hardliners. The security forces - high-ranking officials in the Revolutionary Guards, the Intelligence Ministry and the highest levels of the judiciary - are typically made up of hardline conservatives who tend to support the compulsory hijab for all women. So it is not surprising that protesters were harassed by security agents and some were arrested. At least three were prosecuted and faced suspended prison sentences from three months to two years.

    Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested and jailed shortly after representing some of these women as their attorney. When she was defending one of the arrested protesters, a prosecutor lodged a complaint against her. It is extremely easy to make up a complaint: it is enough to say that by defending a client who questioned a state policy a lawyer is engaging in propaganda against the state. She’s now been charged with many other different things and faces several years in prison.

    Nasrin’s husband, Reza Khandan, and a fellow activist, Farhad Meysami, were also sentenced to six years in prison. One of the pieces of so-called evidence that was used against them were badges that read ‘I oppose compulsory hijab’, which security agents confiscated when they raided their houses. These men who stood by women fighting for their rights now face six years in prison each and have been banned from leaving the country and going online.

    On the other hand, the state is not homogeneous and other sectors have more moderate positions. It is clear that in the long term, faced with such clear-cut civil rights and human rights issues, the state doesn’t really know how to react and is relying on old methods of repression for what it sees as quickly growing problems. It doesn’t have any new solutions to these new issues. Interestingly, there are recent studies commissioned by the government showing that at least half of the Iranian population opposes the compulsory hijab. In one of those studies, conducted by the research group of the current government headed by President Hassan Rouhani, almost half of respondents, women and men, said wearing the hijab should be a choice. A parliamentary group did another study that ultimately offered different scenarios on how to deal with the growing desire for hijab to be a choice, including less strict enforcement. All this indicates that the government is well aware that a significant and increasing part of the population does not stand by this policy, and may be contemplating other options.

    Did the protests experience backlash from conservative groups?

    There were reports on social media of people, both men and women, publicly reprimanding women who were not wearing a hijab. There was also a lot of backlash from conservative media, which published stories accusing protesters of being directed by outside powers. But these are not independent media; they are affiliated with the security agencies. And one group held a ‘Girls of the Revolution (or Revolutionary Girls) Convention’, its name playing on the anti-compulsory-hijab ‘Girls of Revolution Street’ movement. This convention was held in July 2018 at the Shahid Hemmat religious centre in Tehran, and was attended by ‘martyrs’ families’, according to right-wing state media, and also featured a speech by a conservative speaker by the name of Ali Akbar Raefipour.

    Backlash also came from hardliners within the government, both in the executive and the legislative branches, who accused the women of protesting against the hijab law not because they made a choice but because they were being misguided and directed by others. These people refused to acknowledge these women as independent people with minds of their own.

    Besides the compulsory hijab, what other key challenges do women face in Iran? Have women led other protests?

    There are many issues related to the way the legal system treats women. The law views a woman as having half the value of a man, and this comes through in various ways. To begin with, women cannot be Supreme Leader, they can’t be president, or members of the Guardian Council, or even judges. This issue also manifests in their personal lives. For instance, a married woman can’t travel abroad without her husband’s permission. She doesn’t have equal rights when she files for divorce. She can’t pass on citizenship to her children. Women’s inheritance rights amount to half of those of men: a woman will get half the inheritance that her brother receives. In Iranian law, the testimony of a man is often valued at twice the weight of that of a woman. And when it comes to blood money - the financial compensation provided to next of kin in cases of wrongful death or murder - it’s provided at half the rate for female victims. So women are quite literally considered second-class-citizens.

    At the same time, there have been significant improvements since the revolution, and these have happened because women have been fighting for their rights. Getting a divorce isn’t easy for women, but the divorce rate is now higher than it has ever been in Tehran province. We are also now seeing women in big cities who are now able to live alone - not many, but their number is increasing. What we’re also seeing is that women are at the forefront of all the protests, not just those against the compulsory hijab or for women’s rights more generally. For instance, in the face of a government crackdown against lawyers - in an attempt to stop them from defending detainees who had been targeted by the state - female lawyers such as Nasrin Sotoudeh led the peaceful resistance. Nasrin is now in jail for doing so. Women have protested against the state for a variety of reasons, from unemployment to the compulsory hijab. They truly are the thorn in the side of the state, which is possibly why the state goes to such lengths to make sure women stay in their place.

    Iranian women are highly educated and are increasingly taking professional positions. But unemployment among women is much higher than among men, and many women are only employed part-time because they are expected to stay at home and take care of the home and kids. Women also make up a much smaller portion of the skilled workforce and the government ranks. There are currently only 17 women in parliament; this means that less than six per cent of parliamentarians are women. Despite President Rouhani’s promise, there are no female ministers in his government. Women are often advisors or assistants, but they never get the high-level jobs.

    So improvements are happening, but they are uneven and any assessment of these depends on the points of comparison, over time and also regionally. For example, until recently, women couldn’t drive in Saudi Arabia. But women in Iran can drive - and they not only drive cars, but also buses and even big cargo trucks. Of course, there are just a few women all over Iran doing the truck driving, but they are leading, showing others that it can be done. These women are taking on these jobs because they want greater economic rights, which leads to greater independence. This is all part of an ongoing process of change in Iran that’s occurring because of the current conditions and whether the government wants it to or not.

    Much of the change going on is happening on the sidelines rather than on the big stage. And some of these changes are making the Iranian government very nervous. That’s why it’s responding to many of these protests like they’re political threats, because that’s an easy flag to wave. But these are not political issues; these are human issues, issues of human rights. Wearing a hijab is an issue of freedom of expression and religion. Whatever side of it you are on, it should be a choice, plain and simple, say the women protesters in Iran. Protests for labour rights in Iran are not orchestrated by the outside as judicial and security officials claim. They are a reaction to the economic conditions in the country that are driving people onto the streets, say the workers protesting in Iran. No amount of propaganda or spin will get rid of those conditions and the longer the government ignores the roots of the problems, the worse they will get.

    Given the restricted space for civil society in Iran, how best can the international community - including international civil society - show support and solidarity for Iranian women activists?

    It is important to understand that the women’s movement in Iran is independent and has been around for decades. The women who are leading it from inside Iran and taking all the risks to do so say that change has to be brought about by the Iranian people themselves. Iranian activists do not need my or your guidance. What they need is to have their voice and actions amplified, and the human rights abuses committed against them documented and protested against. That is the kind of work that we do at CHRI: we amplify the voices of activists inside Iran and provide coverage of their issues. There is need for nuanced coverage highlighting not just the bad but also the good things that are going on in Iran, so people get a good understanding of the country and its issues and are able to discuss them in a constructive and intelligent way.

    Awareness and constructive advocacy are key. When public officials, businessmen or celebrities engage with Iranian officials, including Iran’s counterparts from other countries and international organisations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), they should bring up human rights issues there that are being protested about by activists and people in the streets. They should ask: why are women being arrested for taking off their hijabs? Why are women kept as political prisoners and denied the right to see their families as punishment for engaging in peaceful protest for their basic rights in prison? Why are people told not to talk to media after their family members have been imprisoned? Why is the right to peaceful protest prosecuted as a national security crime?

    If Iran’s international counterparts don’t bring up these issues, they are giving a green light to anyone inside the country engaged in human rights violations to continue violating these rights. Some of Iran’s international counterparts are already speaking up to some degree: the European Parliament, for instance, recently passed a resolution on Iran, and notably on the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh, and the UN Human Rights Council has been doing so for years. There needs to be more much more done though - more discussion, more engagement, more constructive pressure - because the Iranian government is listening. It does care about its international image, and there is a good chance that it will respond to pressure from institutions such as the UN and EU where there are already channels of communication.

    It is also important that the people of Iran be allowed and enabled to engage and communicate and experience the world outside their country’s borders in the same ways you and I are able to. The government does not allow internet freedom, so other countries should not implement mechanisms that prevent Iranians from accessing tools and services that enable them to bypass online censorship. Iranian authorities do not want activists and others targeted by the state to travel outside the country, and in some cases even outside their provinces, and speak about their issues, so other countries should not help these state actors by doing the same thing and banning Iranians from entering their countries. Most crucially, Iranians should not be blocked from accessing basic humanitarian goods and medicines due to reinstated sanctions. The entire international community must come together to ensure these channels remain open.

    When Iranian people go out into the streets and protest, or protest individually by waving a hijab or calling for the country to revise a policy in a tweet or Facebook post, they are taking major, life-changing risks. Many have been imprisoned for years for doing these things. It is our responsibility, as people who take these rights for granted, to listen, learn and amplify their voices. They are leading the way so we can follow.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with CHRI through itswebsite orFacebook page, or follow@ICHRI and@JasminRamsey on Twitter

     

  • IRAN: A new generation of civic-minded, courageous activists is rising

    Sohrab Razzaghi IranFollowing a year that was characterised by a continued crackdown on fundamental freedoms in Iran, CIVICUS speaks to Sohrab Razzaghi, Executive Director of the Volunteer Activists Institute (VA) a not-for-profit, non-partisan, independent civil society organisation (CSO) based in The Netherlands, whose primary aims are building capacity among activists and CSOs, facilitating information exchange among civil society activists, community peace-building and advocating for the expansion of democracy and human rights in Iran and more generally in the Middle East. VA is the successor of a pioneer Iranian CSO, the Iranian Civil Society, Training and Research Centre, founded in 2001 and based in Tehran until 2007. After fleeing Iran, Sohrab now lives in exile.

    Volunteer Activists recently published a comprehensive new study on civil society in Iran. What were its main findings?

    Our latest report, ‘Civil society in Iran and its future prospects’, which came out in September 2018, analyses the major developments that have taken place since the last previous comprehensive study of Iranian civil society was published in 2010.

    Not only does civil society in Iran currently face problems and challenges different from those of the past, but a whole new generation of Iranian activists has also become engaged, and they have fundamental differences with previous generations. As a result of a lack of understanding of such new phenomena, experts, policy-makers, donors and other stakeholders have not been able to understand and assess the situation accurately. The Volunteers Activist Institute (VA) took it upon itself fill this gap by undertaking a study that seeks to describe and explain major trends, challenges, opportunities and prospects of Iranian civil society, including the current situation of Iranian CSOs, their position within Iranian society and the challenges and restrictions they face.

    Among our main findings is the acknowledgment that Iranian civil society has various facets and faces, and is far from coherent and homogeneous. It comprises both traditionally structured and modern associations, including charities and CSOs focusing on health and hygiene. This branch of civil society has a long history and an extensive social base. CSOs working in these areas usually adapt to government policies and programmes. The government also favours them and encourages their expansion and development. In addition, the Iranian government uses some CSOs that focus on service delivery to advance its policies while it marginalises independent and advocacy CSOs.

    A significant recent development in Iranian civil society has been the emergence of a new generation of civil society activists in fields such as women’s and young people’s rights, community solidarity and the environment. Although their numbers are not large, this new generation has taken upon itself to expand civil society and challenge government policies on the matters they care about. They have launched a number of creative civic initiatives, both online and offline, such as I am Lake Urmia, which mobilised huge efforts to raise awareness of environmental degradation and push for action to prevent northwest Iran’s Lake Urmia from completely drying out. Another initiative, Wall of Kindness, created wall spaces across neighbourhoods where citizens could hang unneeded clothes to be taken by those in need. The Campaign to Change the Masculine Face of Parliament called attention to the scarcity of women legislators and urged for more women to be elected to parliament.

    And then there are the Girls of Enghelab Street, a series of more spontaneous women’s protests against the compulsory use of hijab. These protests were inspired by a woman who in late December 2017 stood on a box in Enghelab (‘revolution’) Street, tied her hijab to a stick and waved it at the crowd as a flag. She was arrested and remained in custody for about a month, but other women later re-enacted her gesture of defiance and started posting their photos on social media, so the protest movement grew from the ground up.

    Civic courage and audacity are two significant characteristics of this new generation of activists who have successfully torn into the power myths of the past. Social protest, including union and labour rights protests, has steadily increased in recent years, and particularly since the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. Their cumulative effect is changing the landscape of Iranian civil society.

     What major changes is civil society currently experiencing in Iran?

    After President Rouhani’s inauguration, Iranian socio-political dynamics gradually started to change. Some marginalised social groups have experienced a limited and controlled comeback, and an atmosphere of societal hope started to take shape. Small openings have appeared through which a discourse on democracy, civil society and civic rights is beginning to make itself heard, although in areas that are deemed sensitive, such as women’s, labour and minority rights, the situation is still very tense and closed.

    These very minor changes have nonetheless created an atmosphere of hope, and civil society is cautiously coming back onto the social stage. But as in the 1990s, the civil society development model is still top-down, as the driving forces behind civil society are governmental agencies that view civil society as a useful tool rather than a force for social change.

    Independent civic action has increased around some issues, including the environment, youth issues and social inequalities. Organised civic action is also in the process of replacing the small, closed-group and underground activism of the period when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President from 2005 to 2013, and recent years have seen the rise of CSOs and networks throughout the country. Some associations and networks, notably environmental ones, that had been blocked during the previous period are now regenerating and regaining force. On the other hand, the social movements that were suppressed following the controversial 2009 election, including women’s rights, student and labour movements, are still being obstructed.

    What is the current state of the freedom of expression?

    While the Constitution of Iran recognises the freedom of speech, several laws list a number of restrictions. The most important laws restricting the freedom of speech are the Islamic Penal Code and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Press Law. Articles 498, 499 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, among others, subordinate the freedoms of speech and association to security considerations. Article 500 of the Penal Code considers any activity that is deemed detrimental to the Islamic Republic or benefits any other group or organisation as a national security offence. Articles 498 and 499 establish that any gathering of more than two people inside the country or overseas, under any name, with the aim of disrupting Iran’s national security, or attendance at such a gathering, constitute national security offences.

    The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Press Law also introduces many restrictions on the freedom of speech. In order to be able to publish newspapers, magazines or any other publication in either print or digital form, individuals and organisations first need to acquire a licence, which is issued by a supervisory board led by the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. According to Article 9 of the Press Law, anyone who wishes to apply for such a licence must pledge allegiance to the Constitution of Iran. Chapter 4, article 6 of the Press Law introduces restrictions on the freedom of speech in the press, specifying areas that are disruptive to the foundation of Islam as well as to general and private rights. According to this article, the press cannot spread news of depravity, corruption, or contents contrary to public virtues. The restrictions far exceed these, however, as they include insult and defamation, falsehoods and rumours. Nevertheless, the law does not define any of these categories. The most problematic category is that of rumours, which applies to any lead that journalists normally follow to get to the core of the truth. Article 6, paragraph 6 also bans the publication of news on confidential issues, which go well beyond military documents to include unlicensed coverage of closed-door sessions of parliament or the courts and judicial investigations. Paragraph 1 of this article also clearly states that the publication and dissemination of so-called pagan news 0 that is, news that goes against Islamic criteria - or news that harms the foundation of the Islamic Republic is not allowed.

    All these bans restrict civil society activists in their quest for transparency and accountability in society and politics, because they are unable to voice the concerns of their stakeholders.

    What is the relationship between Iranian and regional and international civil society and human rights actors?

    Iranian activists and CSOs have been banned from joining regional and international civil society networks for decades, and therefore they have been unable to form strong coalitions and participate fully in exchanges of knowledge, experience and support. There are currently only 25 Iranian CSOs with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and most of them are quasi-governmental entities pursuing government policies rather than advancing citizens’ concerns.

    Legal restrictions and the dominant security environment prevent Iranian activists and CSOs from joining regional and international civil society networks. The Iranian government and its security apparatus are extremely sensitive towards any attempts by activists to connect with global networks and punish them with charges that go as far as espionage.

    Frail regional and international connections have also resulted from, and in turn intensified, activists’ lack of familiarity with regional and international frameworks and limited language and networking skills.

    As a result, representatives of independent civil society from inside Iran rarely attend regional and international conferences or voice civic opinions. The only CSOs that are allowed to attend gatherings such as the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the conferences of the International Labour Organization and the annual summit of the Commission on the Status of Women are quasi-governmental or government-sponsored non-governmental organisations (GONGOs) and those that are connected to the Iranian government’s security apparatus, which operate to promote government policies.

    In contrast, civil society activists, including teachers and factory workers who have tried to connect with regional and international networks, have faced severe penalties for doing so, including long-term imprisonment. Over recent months, eight environmental activists have been arrested and charged with espionage and security offences.

    It is worth noting that it is not just reaching out internationally that is penalised - the security apparatus also criminalises networking among Iranian CSOs inside the country and uses its power to either prohibit such networks from forming or weaken and neutralise existing ones.

    What needs to change for civic space to improve in Iran, and what should global civil society do to help?

    Global civil society should urge the government to establish a simple and transparent procedure for the establishment and operation of CSOs in Iran, and not to interfere in the lawful operation of CSOs.

    We need to find ways to include and engage independent Iranian civil society, as opposed to quasi-governmental civil society, with existing global networks. The initiative on this should be taken by the international civil society community. Two very helpful measures in this regard would be the provision of updated information and knowledge to Iranian activists, and the design and implementation of capacity-building and accelerator projects addressing the specific needs and shortcomings of Iranian civil society.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with Volunteer Activists Institute through its website or Facebook page, or follow @sva_nl on Twitter

     

  • Iran: free Baquer Namazi on second anniversary of his arbitrary detention

    Two years ago, this week, human rights champion Baquer Namazi was arbitrarily arrested and detained by the authorities as he arrived in Iran to visit his detained son. During his incarceration at the notorious Evian prison in Tehran, the 81-year-old Iranian-American’s health has deteriorated significantly in terrible conditions.

     

  • Iran: Freedom of assembly is being violently curtailed

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

     

    Volunteer Activists and CIVICUS note with concern the continued closure of civic space through restrictive laws, arbitrary detention and a crackdown on civil society. 

    The violent response to nation-wide protests in November 2019 resulted in 1,500 killed by police and over 7,000 imprisoned, many of whom have been subjected to torture. We reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s call for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the violence in order to hold those responsible to account.

    This is a further deterioration of closed civic space in which freedom of assembly is severely and violently curtailed, and scores of human rights activists remain detained – including Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nargess Mohammadi, and Farhad Meysami.

    Despite being a signatory to the ICCPR, Iran continues to restrict civic space through ambiguous and overbroad legislation. Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees the right to the freedom of association, but qualified through compliance with “independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic Standards and the foundations of the Islamic Republic.” The Government of Iran continues to repress civic space through legal and extra-legal platforms, including through arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

    In line with recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report, we urge the Government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all protestors and human rights defenders detained for their work. We urge the government to reform its legal framework to facilitate a more open environment for civil society and put an immediate end to all extra-legal processes that curtail civic space.

    We further call on the Council to renew this critical mandate and we ask the Special Rapporteur whether he could expand further on what more could be done to protect human rights defenders in Iran?


    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • IRAN: Political humour as a tool against authoritarian regimes

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic practices and principles, the challenges they encounter and the victories they score in doing so. CIVICUS speaks to the Iranian-born political cartoonist Nik Kowsar, who was jailed for his humorous criticism before eventually emigrating to Canada, where he became a citizen. A former recipient of the international Award for Courage for Editorial Cartooning, he currently resides in the United States.

    1. Would you tell us the story of that crocodile you drew, and how it changed your life?

    Iran CartoonI was born in Iran, and I had always lived in Iran until I had to get out of the country in 2003. I was a geologist by training and a cartoonist by trade. In 2000 I drew a cartoon and went to prison for it. My drawing apparently caused a national security issue: thousands of clergy students gathered and shouted for my death and they sat there for four nights, until I was arrested.

    All I had done was draw a crocodile that was shedding crocodile tears and strangling a journalist, while claiming that the journalist was killing him. The name that I gave the crocodile rhymed with the name of an ayatollah. Of course, I denied any resemblance between the two, but still, you know, there was a political message there. From that day on, I became a sponsor for Lacoste – they didn’t sponsor me, but I started buying the shirts with the crocodile logo for myself, and I always wear them as a symbol and a reminder.

    Long story short, I went to prison and underwent interrogation, and eventually I walked free. But I didn’t quit my job as a cartoonist and I started receiving death threats that eventually got serious, and in 2003 I had to escape. I had to leave my wife and daughter behind – they were only able to join me in Canada four years later, in 2007.

    2. Did you see cartoons as a safer means of expression, a way of saying some things without saying them, when speech is heavily censored?

    In Iran we used to say: ‘We have freedom of speech, what we don’t have is freedom afterspeech’. When you produce content that powerful people or organisations dislike, no matter how that content is packaged, they will try to shut you down by all means, including allegations and criminal charges like undermining national security, working with the enemy, indecency or attacking Islam. Anything can be used against you in Iran – and in other Islamic countries as well. I’ve been working with Tunisian and Palestinian cartoonists, and they all have problems with their governments.

    What is said with a cartoon is more difficult to erase than anything else: a good cartoon is even more valuable than a thousand words, because it stays in your mind for ages. A ‘joke’ is a serious matter: it goes directly to the point, it exposes the absurd. In a way, cartoonists can be the conscience, the moral compass of a society – it is not a matter of right and left, but a matter of right or wrong. So, cartoonists are very important, and it is not wonder that many governments – from Iran to Equatorial Guinea to Turkey – are trying to pressure them into silence.

    3. What have you done since leaving Iran?

    While in Canada, I studied journalism and worked with a news agency for three years. I joined IFEX in 2008, and starting in 2009 I ran a news website specifically for and about Iran. This became one of the top news websites on Iranian issues, although it was filtered and firewalled in Iran. At some point, however, we stopped getting funding; we understood that the Obama administration’s policies towards Iran, their efforts to connect with the regime, were a major reason why other organisations stopped funding us. We had to let it go.

    As a cartoonist with fibromyalgia, who has had to stop drawing as a professional, I now work with Cartoonist Rights Network International. I was once a client, now I am a board member. We are a human rights organisation, focused on the freedom of expression, and we support cartoonists in distress: cartoonists who are oppressed by the regimes in their countries, threatened, arrested or sent to prison.

    Cartoonists are vulnerable, and even more so after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. There is increasing solidarity among them, and they are better connected now, through our organisation and others – but still, they are in danger. What needs to be done is provide a means of sustenance for cartoonists who are in trouble. That’s very difficult, because non-profits are not rich, and also because a cartoonist cannot live off assistance funds forever – they need to be paid to do what they do best.

    Finally, as a geologist and an expert on Iran’s water problems, I am back to working on water issues. Iran has a big water problem, which is possibly going to create big chaos in the near future. There was an uprising in December 2017 and January 2018, and only in cities hit by water crisis and drought, where people were too desperate and felt they had nothing left to lose, were the protests not easily contained and people were killed. We will see more and more clashes in areas that are hit by drought.

    4. Do you think environmental issues, including water, should be treated as political issues?

    Most definitely. That is exactly what I am working on. Water may easily become a major political issue, in Iran and in the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, an already unstable one. Iran has always been a dry country, with rainfall about a third of the median around the world. But for 3,500 years Iranians were able to manage their water resources through various technologies. Over the past 50 years, however, mega-dams and deep wells have ruined our environment and most aquifers have been depleted; as a result, 85 percent of our groundwater is now gone. Climate change has only made it worse: last year, we had 78 percent less snow storage in our mountains compared to the previous year.

    Now, Iranians may be oppressed because of their beliefs and ideas, but when there’s not enough water to drink and produce food, they have reached a tipping point. In Syria the drought worsened from 2006 to 2009, as a result of which a million people from the north-eastern provinces had to leave their lands and migrate to the margins of bigger cities. When the Arab Spring started, it sparked protests in Syria as well – but in this case, they led to civil war. We are talking about farmers and herdsmen, people who had lost their livelihoods, many of whom had joined militant groups. Factor in an intolerant, authoritarian government that could not manage the protests, and there you go. Something similar could happen in Iran.

    5. Are you saying civil war is a likely outcome for Iran? Isn’t there any way pro-democracy forces could turn the discontent in their favour?

    That’s what some of us are worrying about. Pressure for water could, maybe, lead to a democratic opening as well. We are educating the public about the water situation. Unfortunately, many political groups have no clue about environmental issues – they have never cared about them, don’t understand them and don’t see how they could connect to their political struggles. In trying to change this, I am currently working on a documentary about water, connecting the struggles with water shortages that we are seeing in places as diverse as Cape Town in South Africa, Seville in Spain and even the Vatican City and some parts of the US. Our contacts in Iran are collecting material for us and documenting the situation as well, and we are doing a collaborative bilingual project, in English and Persian, to educate the public, including academics and politicians. Because if we don’t do anything about it, rather than democracy what we will get is more uprisings, repression, and hundreds or thousands of people killed in places hit by drought.

    Civic space in Iran is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor,indicating overwhelming restrictions in the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Get in touch with Nik Kowsar through hisFacebook page, or follow@nikahang on Twitter.

     

  • Joint letter in support of the UN General Assembly resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran

    Joint statement

    To: All Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York

    Your Excellencies,

    The undersigned national, regional and international civil society organisations urge your government to support resolution A/C.3/73/L.42 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been presented to the Third Committee in the framework of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. This annual resolution provides an opportunity for the General Assembly to take stock of human rights violations in Iran over the last year and the many other human rights concerns that remain unaddressed in the country, as detailed in reports recently issued by the UN Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and offers key recommendations for how the Government of Iran can better implement its national and international human rights obligations.

    We echo the Secretary-General’s observation that this year has been “marked by an intensified crackdown on protesters, journalists and social media users”, in the wake of the wave of protests that erupted across Iran in December 2017 and continued into 2018. The Iranians authorities have stepped up their repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, jailing hundreds of people on vague and broadly worded national security charges. Those targeted include peaceful political dissidents, journalists, online media workers, students, filmmakers, musicians and writers, as well as human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, minority rights activists, environmental activists, trade unionists, anti-death penalty campaigners, lawyers, and those seeking truth, justice and reparation for the mass executions and enforced disappearances of the 1980s. In a worrying development, the Iranian authorities this year arbitrarily arrested and detained, prosecuted and imprisoned on spurious criminal charges lawyers representing civil society activists and others charged for politically motivated reasons. Judicial authorities have denied detainees accused of national security-related charges access to a lawyer of their choice, particularly during the investigation process.

    The resolution also acknowledges positive steps taken by the Government, including putting into effect an amendment to the country’s drug law which has resulted in fewer executions for drug-related offences being carried out in the country.

    Nonetheless, Iran’s wide use of the death penalty remains of great concern. Iranian law still retains the death penalty for a wide range of drug trafficking offences. Iran also continues to use the death penalty for vaguely worded offences such as “enmity against god” (moharebeh) and “spreading corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz), which do not amount to an internationally recognisable criminal offence. The death penalty is also retained for acts that should not even be considered crimes including some consensual same-sex sexual conduct and intimate extra-marital relationships. The penal code also continues to provide for stoning as a method of execution.

    Also deeply concerning is Iran’s continued use of sentencing to death and executing those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Despite repeated condemnations by UN bodies, to date in 2018, the Iranian authorities have executed at least five people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime of which they were convicted; according to Amnesty International, at least 85 others remain on death row and the real number could be much higher. This horrific practice is a flagrant violation of Iran’s human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as under customary international law, and requires urgent action by UN member states.

    We, as civil society actors, believe that the UN’s ongoing engagement is necessary in order to press Iran to undertake long-overdue reforms and respect the human rights of all in the country. The Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur have repeatedly stressed that various laws, policies and practices in Iran continue to seriously undermine the fundamental rights of the people of Iran, including their rights to life; freedom from torture and other ill-treatment; fair trial; freedom of religion or belief; peaceful exercise of the freedom of expression (online and offline), association and assembly; and equal enjoyment of all to education, to health and to work.

    Violence and discrimination, in law and practice, against individuals on the basis of gender, religion, belief, ethnicity, language, political opinion, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, also remain widespread and continue to be sanctioned by laws, policies and government practices.

    Women and girls experience pervasive discrimination, in law and practice, and receive little or no protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading practices, including domestic violence, marital rape, early and forced marriage and forced veiling.

    In addition, the systematic persecution of Baha’is continues unabated. Other religious minorities including Christian converts, Yaresan (Ahl-e Haq) and Sunni Muslims also face systematic discrimination. This year the authorities have subjected Gonabadi Dervishes to a harsh crackdown, with hundreds arrested and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and over 200 sentenced after grossly unfair trials to harsh prison terms, floggings, internal exile, travel bans, and/or a ban on membership of social and political groups. Ethnic minority activists, including Arabs, Baloch, Kurds and Azerbaijani Turks have also been subjected to widespread patterns of abuse and serious violations of their rights.

    Further to this, Iran has by and large failed to implement key recommendations by UN human rights bodies. For instance, torture and other ill-treatment at the time of arrest and in detention, including prolonged solitary confinement, continue to be committed on a widespread basis and with complete impunity. Judicial authorities also continue to impose and implement sentences that constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments, including floggings and amputations, which amount to torture.

    Cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms is lacking. The Government’s engagement with these entities, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, has been cursory. Despite the Government’s issuance of a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures in 2002 and dozens of UN recommendations urging the Government’s cooperation with them, pending requests for country visits from 10 thematic procedures remain unaddressed. No special procedure has been allowed to visit Iran since 2005. Furthermore, individuals, including human rights defenders, have faced reprisals on the basis of real or perceived contact with UN bodies.

    The continued attention of the international community is required to ensure Iran upholds its international human rights obligations. By supporting resolution A/C.3/73/L.42, the UN General Assembly will send a strong signal to the Iranian authorities that the promotion and respect of human rights is a priority, and that genuine and tangible improvements to the situation are expected to ensure the dignity inherent to all persons in Iran.

    Signatories:

    Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights

    All human rights for all in Iran

    Amnesty International

    Arseh Sevom

    Article 18

    ARTICLE 19

    ASL19

    Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran - Geneva

    AHRAZ - Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran

    Balochistan Human Rights Group

    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights

    Center for Human Rights in Iran

    Centre for Supporters of Human Rights

    Child Rights International Network (CRIN)

    CIVICUS : World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Conectas Direitos Humanos

    Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)

    Gulf Centre for Human Rights

    Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI)

    Human Rights Watch

    Impact Iran

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism

    International Service for Human Rights

    Iran Human Rights

    Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

    Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO)

    Justice for Iran

    Kurdistan Human Rights Network

    Minority Rights Group International

    OutRight Action International

    Reprieve

    Siamak Pourzand Foundation

    Small Media

    The Advocates for Human Rights

    United for Iran

    World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

    6Rang (Iranian Lesbian & Transgender Network)

     

  • Joint letter: Renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran

    TO: Member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council
    15 March, 2019

    Your Excellency,

    We, the undersigned Iranian and international human rights organisations, urge your government to support resolution A/HRC/40/L.15 renewing the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to be tabled during the 40th session of the Human Rights Council. 

    The renewal of this mandate is warranted by the persistence of serious, chronic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the country, which have only become more dire over the past year. The capacity and expertise of the mandate are necessary to address the on-going repression in Iran, including through conducting urgent documentation and urgent actions and through sustained and continuous engagement with the Iranian authorities in order to advance the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

    Discontent with corruption and mismanagement of resources and demands for civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights have led to protests across the country over the last year. These protests and strikes have often been met by arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly. In 2018, at least 5 individuals, including protestors, have died in state custody and authorities have failed to conduct any transparent investigation into the circumstances of their death. State repression has been especially severe against already marginalized communities and ethnic minorities, for whom these issues are particularly acute. The security forces have violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations, beating unarmed protesters and using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons against them.

    The authorities have intensified their efforts to choke off the space for civil society work. Dissenting voices, including journalists, online media workers and human rights defenders, including human rights lawyers, labour rights activists and women’s rights defenders, have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention, simply for speaking out. In 2018, at least 63 environmental activists were arrested. They include eight conservationists who could face the death penalty or long prison terms following a grossly unfair trial for their wildlife conservation work. Space for online expression continues to be closed off as part of efforts to inhibit the free flow of information in the country, as exemplified by the blocking of the popular instant messaging application Telegram.

    Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities have consistently failed to adopt and enact legislation and policies that would address the core human rights violations that people in the country have been facing for decades, despite the many recommendations it has received from UN human rights bodies and through the UPR to that effect, and despite continued popular demands expressed through strikes and protests.

    Long-standing bills pertaining to the protection of children against abuse and violence against women remain stalled, and some of the reforms included in the original drafts have already been watered down by the Guardian Council and the judiciary. In December 2018, a parliamentary committee rejected an amendment to the article on the age of marriage in the Civil Code, which would have banned marriage for girls under 13. Moreover, no legislative efforts were made to abolish the death penalty for individuals under the age of 18 at the time of the offence, which Iran practises “far more often than any other states”, as the Special Rapporteur stressed in his report.

    Meanwhile, as abundantly documented by the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, by the UN Secretary General, and by civil society organizations, legislation, policies and state practices continue to be at odds with international human rights standards on women’s rights, the rights of the child, ethnic minority rights, the rights of recognized and unrecognized religious minorities, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, protection from torture and other ill-treatment, the right to life, due process and fair trial guarantees, as well as the equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. 

    Human rights organisations documented the executions of over 230 individuals in 2018, a decrease from last year, most likely as a result of amendments to the country’s drug law that went into force in November 2017. Authorities executed at least six who were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence. Iranians belonging to ethnic minorities, especially Kurds and Baluchis, have been disproportionately represented in execution statistics. Trials that violated due process and fair trial guarantees led to capital sentences, and death sentences were pronounced against individuals for a large range of offences that do not constitute the most serious crimes under international law. 

    Rampant impunity remains prevalent in the judicial system. The most flagrant example is the systematic impunity that exists with respect to the on-going enforced disappearances and the secret extrajudicial executions of 1988; many of the perpetrators involved continue to hold positions of power, including in key judicial, prosecutorial and government bodies responsible for ensuring that victims receive justice. Indeed, the newly appointed head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, is one of the aforementioned perpetrators, who was the deputy prosecutor general of Tehran in 1988 and a member of the Tehran “death commission”.

    The work carried out by the Special Rapporteur has been critical to amplifying the voices of victims of human rights abuses within the UN system. This work also supports a stifled domestic civil society, identifies systemic challenges, stimulates discussions about human rights within Iran, calls for key human rights reforms, and takes action on a large number of individual cases through individual communications, thereby saving or otherwise impacting the lives of many in Iran.

    For all these reasons, we call on your government to support the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and show that the community of states requires tangible change in the human rights record of the country, in line with Iran’s treaty obligations and UPR commitments. 

    Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
    The Advocates for Human Rights
    All Human Rights for All in Iran
    Amnesty International
    Arseh Sevom
    Article 18
    ARTICLE 19
    ASL19
    Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran (AHRAZ)
    Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G)
    Balochistan Human Rights Group
    Center for Human Rights in Iran
    Center for Supporters of Human Rights
    Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
    CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Conectas Direitos Humanos
    Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)
    Freedom from Torture
    Freedom House
    Freedom Now
    Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) 
    Human Rights Watch
    Impact Iran
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)
    International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Iran Human Rights
    Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
    Justice for Iran
    Kurdistan Human Rights Network
    Minority Rights Group International
    OutRight Action International
    Reprieve
    Siamak Pourzand Foundation
    Small Media
    United for Iran
    West African Human Rights Defenders' Network
    World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
    World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
    6Rang – Iranian Lesbian & Transgender Network

     

  • Outcomes from the UN Human Rights Council...to be continued

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 43rd Session, which was scheduled to run from 24 Feb – 20 March, was suspended after three weeks on 13 March until further notice.

    CIVICUS fully supports the suspension of the Session on public health grounds, and the precautionary measures taken before the suspension. However, we remain concerned that public participation in the Council risks being disproportionately affected, especially in light of the decision to cut General Debates from the 44th Session (June), which removes a key platform for civil society to engage with governments. The UN depends on information from the ground in order to make evidence-based decisions, and we call on states to take steps to ensure that the participation of civil society is not compromised.

    In Nicaragua, a human rights crisis has seen hundreds of thousands flee the country and an ongoing crackdown against human rights organisations, community leaders, and journalists. The situation is compounded by a lack of political will from the government to engage with regional or international mechanisms, or to ensure accountability. CIVICUS welcomes that the draft resolution on Nicaragua tabled during the Session would provide a mandate for enhanced monitoring and reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation at this critical time, and we urge all states to support this resolution when the Session resumes.

    We also call on states to support the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. The 43rd session marked the final one for the current Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and we thank her for her outstanding work during her mandate. Myanmar has undergone significant developments in its human rights framework since the Special Rapporteur began her term – from elections in 2015 which saw a groundswell of hope for positive change, to the dawning realisation of crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. But the curtailment of fundamental freedoms and total crackdown on any criticism of authorities has remained grimly consistent. Those on the ground, the human rights defenders and activists who are trying to achieve change, need international support from the Human Rights Council.

    In late 2019, Iran erupted into a series of protests against the lack of political and democratic freedoms and the deteriorating economic situation. Protesters were met with violent repression through mass arrests and lethal force. When the Session resumes, the Human Rights Council will vote on extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. We welcome support shown by states so far for the renewal of the mandate, and we urge adoption of this resolution when the Session continues.

    What is a Special Rapporteur?
    Special Rapporteur is a title given to an independent expert who works on behalf of the United Nations who has a specific country or thematic mandate from the Human Rights Council. Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations. They can only officially visit countries that have agreed to invite them. Aside from fact-finding missions, Rapporteurs regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. 

    The mandates for Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and opinion, and on human rights defenders, are set to be renewed when the Session resumes. We encourage all member and observer states to show their full support for these mandates by co-sponsorsing the resolutions.

    Just prior to the suspension of the Session, Mary Lawlor was appointed as new Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. We look forward to working with her as she protects those on the frontline of defending human rights around the world, and we thank Michel Forst, the outgoing mandate holder, for his tireless work.

    Towards the beginning of the Session, the High Commissioner’s update on Sri Lanka highlighted ongoing impunity for past grave human rights abuses in the country. The new Sri Lankan government, which came into power in 2019, has said that it intends to renege on Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 which provided commitments to accountability, truth and reconciliation. The human rights space in Sri Lanka has deteriorated sharply under the new administration, and the undermining of this resolution – currently the only route to ensuring transitional justice in Sri Lanka – would not only be fatal to victims and their families, but also a significant setback to the UN itself. We urge states to strongly encourage Sri Lanka to uphold its commitments and reiterate calls for an international accountability mechanism to ensure that accountability remains a possibility.

    Although India was not on the official agenda of this Session, the ongoing crackdown on Kashmir, a discriminatory citizenship law and violent suppression of protests proved an ongoing issue throughout the Session.

    CIVICUS, FORUM-ASIA, ISHR, FIDH, OMCT and ICJ organized a side event to discuss the current situation and ways in which the international community, including the Council, could contribute to constrictive progress. With key partners, CIVICUS also joined important statements on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as on India’s recent discriminatory citizenship law, and we were encouraged to see several states raise their own concerns about India during debates.


    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed

     

    Our joint and stand alone country statements at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council
    Angola Burundi El Salvador  Eritrea Fiji
    India Iraq Iran Jammu & Kashmir Madagascar
    Myanmar Nicaragua Sri Lanka See all statements

     

     

  • Priorités de plaidoyer à la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies

    Le Conseil des droits de l'homme se réunira pendant quatre semaines, du 24 février au 20 mars, et un certain nombre de résolutions critiques sur les droits de l'homme seront débattues et présentées aux 47 membres du Conseil. CIVICUS conduira et présentera des témoignages sur une variété de questions thématiques et de pays. Vous trouverez un aperçu complet ci-dessous ou vous pouvez directement consulter notre programme d'événements.

     

    Situations spécifiques à certains pays

    Nicaragua (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    Nos membres sur le terrain ont documenté de graves violations des droits humains, notamment des attaques contre les libertés fondamentales et contre les défenseurs des droits humains et les journalistes. Un rapport publié l'année dernière par le HCDH, mandaté par une résolution adoptée en 2019, a reflété cette situation et a recommandé un renforcement de la surveillance et de la communication de l'information par les Nations Unies. Étant donné le manque de volonté politique dans le pays pour coopérer avec les mécanismes régionaux et internationaux, et la situation préoccupante sur le terrain, CIVICUS appelle les États à soutenir une résolution sur le Nicaragua qui demande au moins un tel renforcement des activités de suivi.

    Sri Lanka (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    C'est un moment critique pour le Sri Lanka, qui craint que la nouvelle administration, arrivée au pouvoir l'année dernière, ne revienne sur ses engagements en matière de droits humains et de responsabilités, mandatés par le Conseil. La résolution adoptée lors de la 30ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme reste le seul processus en place qui pourrait garantir la justice pour les victimes de violations des droits humains. L'espace civique se referme à un rythme alarmant - depuis l'arrivée au pouvoir de la nouvelle administration, les membres de la société civile sur le terrain ont été menacés et intimidés, leurs dossiers ont été détruits, et des défenseurs des droits humains et des journalistes ont été attaqués. CIVICUS appelle les États à encourager la coopération entre le gouvernement du Sri Lanka et les mécanismes internationaux des droits de l'homme, et les membres du Conseil à réaffirmer leur engagement envers la résolution 40/1, qui met en place des engagements assortis de délais pour mettre en œuvre les mécanismes de responsabilisation de la résolution 30/1.

    Iran (Notation de l'espace public :Fermé)

    En 2019, l'Iran s'est livré à une série de protestations contre le manque de libertés politiques et démocratiques et la détérioration de la situation économique. Les manifestants ont été confrontés à une violente répression par des arrestations massives et une force meurtrière. Les développements géopolitiques actuels ont renforcé le régime et exacerbé l'insécurité interne. Cette session du Conseil des droits de l'homme discutera du renouvellement du mandat du rapporteur spécial sur l'Iran. CIVICUS soutient le renouvellement du mandat du Rapporteur spécial et encourage les États à faire part de leurs préoccupations quant à l'utilisation de la force meurtrière dans les manifestations.

    Inde (Notation de l’espace civique : Réprimé)

    Le dernier rapport de CIVICUS a dégradé la notation de l'Inde en matière d'espace civique. Une loi sur la citoyenneté controversée et discriminatoire a donné lieu à des manifestations de masse dans tout le pays, qui ont fait l'objet de violentes répressions, faisant de nombreux blessés et au moins 25 morts. Le Jammu-et-Cachemire reste soumis à une répression sévère, notamment par la fermeture prolongée d'Internet qui en est à son sixième mois. Internet a été partiellement rétabli en janvier, mais des restrictions subsistent, ce qui fait de cette fermeture la plus longue jamais enregistrée dans une démocratie. Les fermetures d'Internet sont également utilisées dans tout le pays afin d'entraver la liberté de réunion pacifique. CIVICUS encourage les États à faire part de leurs préoccupations concernant l'Inde et à demander une enquête sur la répression violente des manifestations pacifiques, ainsi qu'à abroger les dispositions discriminatoires de la loi sur la citoyenneté.

    Mandats thématiques

    Le Rapporteur spécial sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme

    Le mandat du Rapporteur spécial sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme sera renouvelé lors de cette session. Il s'agit d'un mandat crucial qui a un impact sur tous les domaines d'intervention de CIVICUS, et nous encourageons les États à co-parrainer la résolution à un stade précoce. Le Rapporteur spécial présentera son rapport annuel sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme dans les situations de conflit et d'après-conflit, et rendra compte de ses visites en Colombie et en Mongolie. CIVICUS encourage les États à affirmer leur co-parrainage de la résolution dès le début de la session.

    Liberté d'expression

    Le mandat du Rapporteur spécial sur la liberté d'expression doit être renouvelé lors de cette session, à un moment où les coupures d'Internet sont de plus en plus utilisées comme une tactique pour limiter la liberté d'expression, l'accès à l'information et la liberté de réunion pacifique. Nous encourageons les États à co-parrainer le renouvellement de cet important mandat à un stade précoce.

    Liberté de religion et de croyance (FoRB)

    Le Rapporteur spécial sur la liberté de religion et de croyance présentera son rapport annuel, qui cette année se concentre sur l'intersection de la religion et de la croyance, du genre et des droits OSIG, et rendra compte des visites de pays au Sri Lanka et aux Pays-Bas. CIVICUS s'intéressera au Sri Lanka et à l'Inde, qui ont tous deux connu des évolutions en matière de liberté de culte.

    Prévention

    Le président-rapporteur de deux séminaires intersessionnels sur la contribution que le Conseil peut apporter à la prévention des violations des droits de l'homme présentera le rapport de ces séminaires.

    CIVICUS soulignera le lien entre l'espace civique et la prévention - le fait que les fermetures dans l'espace civique sont souvent des précurseurs de crises plus larges des droits humains, et qu'en intervenant au niveau de l'espace civique, le Conseil a un rôle à jouer pour assurer la prévention de ces violations des droits humains.

    CIVICUS et les événements des membres lors de la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies (les événements seront retransmis en direct sur lapage Facebook de CIVICUS):

    Le 27 février (11h00 UTC+1, salle VII), un événement parallèle discutera de la situation critique actuelle au Nicaragua, et de l'importance d'un mandat de surveillance renforcé.

    Le 2 mars (14:00 UTC+1, Salle VII), CIVICUS et ses partenaires organisent un événement sur la crise de l'espace constitutionnel et civique en Inde.

    5 mars (13:00 UTC+1, Salle VII),CIVICUS co-parraine un événement mené par ICNL et les partenaires du consortium Civic Space Initiative sur la lutte contre le financement du terrorisme tout en préservant l'espace civique.

    Le 12 mars (12h30 UTC+1, Salle XXI), CIVICUS co-parraine un événement parallèle sur l'utilisation de la force meurtrière dans les manifestations en Iran et en Irak, et les réponses de la communauté internationale.

    Membres actuels du Conseil :

    Afghanistan; Afrique du Sud; Angola; Arabie Saoudite; Argentine; Australie; Autriche; Bahamas; Bahreïn; Bangladesh; Brésil; Bulgarie; Burkina Faso; Cameroun; Chili; Chine; Croatie; Cuba; Danemark; Égypte; Érythrée; Espagne; Fidji; Hongrie; Inde; Irak; Islande; Italie; Japon; Mexique; Népal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Pérou; Philippines; Qatar; République démocratique du Congo; République tchèque; Royaume-Uni et Irlande du Nord; Rwanda; Sénégal; Slovaquie; Somalie; Togo; Tunisie;  Ukraine; Uruguay.

     

  • Restricciones a la libertad de reunión y asociación en Irán

    Sr. Presidente de la República Islámica de Irán

    Dirección: Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq., Teherán

    Número de teléfono: +98(21)64451

    A Su Excelencia, el Presidente Hassan Rouhani

    Asunto: Restricciones a la libertad de reunión y asociación en Irán

    Su Excelencia,

    Si bien los informes recientes indican detenciones arbitrarias y desapariciones forzadas de actores de la sociedad civil en Irán, la sociedad civil internacional observa con preocupación la violenta restricción del espacio cívico en el país. Le escribimos para instarle, Excelencia, a que libere inmediata e incondicionalmente a todos los actores de la sociedad civil detenidos y a que respete los derechos a la libertad de reunión y asociación de conformidad con las convenciones internacionales y la Constitución iraní.

    El espacio cívico de Irán se está reduciendo a un ritmo sin precedentes -incluso para los estándares iraníes- en un momento en que las autoridades iraníes reprimen cada vez más y de forma ilegal la acción cívica independiente. En el último año, Irán ha sido testigo del aumento sin precedentes de manifestaciones pacíficas y disidentes de la sociedad civil a pesar de la existencia de un régimen autoritario y violento. En los últimos dos años, se ha producido un número alarmante de detenciones y encarcelamientos de activistas de la sociedad civil en una amplia gama de ámbitos medioambientales, entre defensores de los derechos humanos, docentes y sindicalistas, estudiantes y mujeres. CIVICUS, una alianza de la sociedad civil de todo el mundo, y Volunteer Activists Institute, una ONG centrada en la democracia, los derechos humanos y la consolidación de la paz en la región de Oriente Medio y el Norte de África, y en particular en Irán, han lanzado una campaña mundial para que el gobierno iraní rinda cuentas por las graves violaciones de los derechos a la libertad de asociación y a la libertad de reunión pacífica cometidas contra su pueblo en el país

    Aunque Irán es signatario del Convenio Internacional sobre Derechos Civiles y Políticos y de las disposiciones de la Constitución que protegen la libertad de reunión y asociación (artículos 26 y 27 de la Constitución iraní), con frecuencia se detiene y hostiga a los activistas por su labor en favor de los derechos humanos. Algunas figuras destacadas de la sociedad civil iraní, como Nasrin Sotoudeh, que se enfrenta a 38 años de prisión y 148 latigazos, han sido condenadas a largas penas de prisión por prestar asistencia jurídica a defensores de los derechos humanos, mientras que otras esperan ser juzgadas por acusaciones falsas de espionaje y "corrupción en la tierra", y pueden ser sancionadas con la pena de muerte en caso de que se las declare culpables. La situación de los defensores de los derechos humanos en prisión también es alarmante. En julio de 2019, expertos en derechos humanos de la ONU expresaron su preocupación por el hecho de que el Estado no prestara atención a los detenidos, incluido el defensor de los derechos humanos Arash Sadeghi. Kavous Seyed Emami, profesor de la Universidad Imam Sadeq y director de la Fundación Persa para el Patrimonio de la Vida Silvestre, murió en prisión el 8 de febrero de 2018, dos semanas después de su detención en la prisión de Evin. Las circunstancias de su muerte siguen siendo inciertas. Otros activistas actualmente detenidos son Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, a los que sigue un largo etcétera.

    También nos preocupan mucho los nuevos nombramientos al más alto nivel del ejército (Cuerpo de la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica (IRGC)), que han impuesto restricciones al espacio cívico mediante la creación de una nueva oficina (Baqiattallah) para organizar a las fuerzas sociales y a las organizaciones de la sociedad civil afiliadas al gobierno, con el fin de marginar a la sociedad civil independiente. Estos nuevos nombramientos indican que Irán está adoptando una estrategia decididamente centrada en la lucha contra cualquier acto de desobediencia cívica. Mientras que las sanciones y las dificultades económicas llevan a los iraníes al límite y provocan protestas pacíficas, el gobierno iraní está poniendo fin a los actos de disidencia, y nos preocupan enormemente los próximos meses, a medida que se acercan las elecciones parlamentarias de 2020.

    Así pues, nosotros, los signatarios, pedimos al Gobierno iraní que garantice una mejor protección de los derechos a la libertad de asociación y de reunión pacífica. Más específicamente, solicitamos:

    - El gobierno invite al Relator Especial sobre la situación de los defensores de los derechos humanos y al Relator Especial sobre la libertad de reunión y asociación pacíficas para que investiguen la situación de los derechos humanos en Irán.

    - Que todos los defensores de los derechos humanos, incluidos, entre otros, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi y Sepide Gholian, sean puestos en libertad de inmediato y sin condiciones, y que se retiren todos los cargos contra ellos.

    - Garantizar una protección que tenga en cuenta las cuestiones de género para todas las defensoras de los derechos humanos que son objeto de especial atención en Irán, y trabajar con la Relatora Especial sobre la violencia contra la mujer, sus causas y consecuencias para garantizar que todas las formas de violencia contra las defensoras de los derechos humanos iraníes se notifiquen como actos de violencia contra la mujer.

    - Adecuar la práctica de aplicar los derechos a la libertad de reunión y asociación, como se destaca en la Constitución, a las mejores prácticas internacionales.

    Cordialmente, los abajo firmantes:

    1. Volunteer Activists Institute
    2. CIVICUS Alianza mundial para la participación ciudadana
    3. Women’s March Global
    4. Center for Human Rights in Iran
    5. Citizens Friend
    6. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
    7. Women Against Violence
    8. The Needy Today
    9. Association de la Jeunesse pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme
    10. CASAD Bénin
    11. Initiative for Peace and Innovation - IPI
    12. Youth initiative for change and development
    13. Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter
    14. AGIR POUR LA SECURITE ET LA SOUVERAINETE ALIMENTAIRE
    15. YOUNG AFRICAN FIGHTERS ORGANISATION YAFO
    16. Anti-Corruption International, Uganda Chapter
    17. Discourage Youths From Poverty
    18. Women Empowerment Group
    19. Organisation des Jeunes pour la Promotion et le Développement
    20. PACOPA
    21. WORLDLITE
    22. SOPEVUDECO ASBL
    23. FHRRDA
    24. Cameroon
    25. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights
    26. Gutu United Residents and Ratepayers Association
    27. Palestinian Center For Communication and Development Strategies
    28. Tim Africa Aid Ghana
    29. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care
    30. APLFT
    31. Advance Centre for Peace and Credibility International
    32. Elizka Relief Foundation
    33. TOfAD
    34. Association pour les victimes du monde
    35. Network of Estonian Non-Profit Organizations
    36. VIFEDE
    37. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
    38. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.
    39. Friends of Emergence Initiatives
    40. Fundacion CELTA
    41. MPS GABON
    42. I2BA
    43. One Future Collective
    44. RECOSREC
    45. Achievers Innovative Advocates International Foundation
    46. GULF LINK VENTURE
    47. Centre for Intercultural Understanding
    48. Ugonma Foundation
    49. Center for Youth Civic Leadership and Environmental Studies - CYCLES
    50. FUNDACION CIUDADANOS
    51. Centre for Social Concern and Development
    52. Curtis business
    53. Bina Foundation for people with special needs
    54. GreenLight Initiative
    55. Community Wellness International
    56. Civic Initiatives Kyrgyzstan
    57. Jeunesse-Assistance
    58. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
    59. Fondation Kalipa pour le Développement
    60. SADF ONG
    61. ASSOCIATION OF UGANDA SCHOOL LEAVING YOUTH -AUSLEY
    62. FINESTE
    63. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
    64. Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa

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  • Stop Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly and Association in Iran

    Arabic 

     

    President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

    Address: Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq., Tehran

    Phone number: +98(21)64451

    To His Excellency, President Hassan Rouhani

    Re: Stop Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly and Association in Iran

    Your excellency,

    With recent reports surfacing of the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances of civil society actors in Iran, international civil society notes with concern the violent closing of civic space in the country. We write to urge you, Your Excellency, to immediately and unconditionally release all detained civil society actors and uphold the rights to freedom of assembly and association as per international conventions and the Iranian constitution.

    Iranian civic space is shrinking at an unprecedented pace – even for Iranian standards – as authorities in Iran increasingly suppress independent civic action heavily and unlawfully. In the past year, Iran has seen the unparalleled rise of peaceful social protests and civic dissent despite a violent, authoritarian regime. The last two years have seen an alarming number of arrests and detention of civil society activists across a broad spectrum of environmental issues, human rights defenders, teachers’ and labor unionists, students and women’s rights. To this end CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society around the world, and Volunteer Activists Institute, a NGO focusing on democracy, human rights, and peace building in the MENA region and specifically Iran, have launched a global campaign to hold the Iranian government accountable for its stark violations of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly in the country.

    Despite Iran being signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and provisions in the Constitution protecting freedom of assembly and association (article 26 and 27 of the Iranian constitution), activists are frequently detained and harassed for their human rights work. Some prominent figures of Iranian civil society, like Nasrin Sotoudeh who faces 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, have received lengthy prison sentences for providing legal assistance to human rights defenders, whereas others are awaiting trial on false charges of espionage and “corruption on earth” – punishable by death sentence if convicted. The state of human rights defenders in prison is also alarming. In July 2019, human rights experts from the United Nations expressed concern at the state’s failure to provide care to detainees, including human rights defender Arash Sadeghi.[1] One environmental expert and activist, Dr. Kavous Seyed Emami, a Professor at Imam Sadeq University and Director of Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in prison on 8 February 2018, two weeks after detention in Evin prison. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. Other activists currently detained include Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, and many more.

    We are also extremely concerned with new appointments within the highest ranks of the military (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), who have enforced restrictions on civic space by establishing a new office (Baqiattallah) to organize social forces and government-affiliated civil society organizations, to marginalize the independent civil society. These new appointments signal that Iran is adopting a maximum strategy to forcefully strike against any instances of civic disobedience. As sanctions and economic hardships are pushing Iranians to the limit, and resulting in peaceful protests, the government of Iran is closing down on civic acts of dissent, and we are extremely concerned about the coming months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020.

    As a result, we the undersigned call for the government of Iran to ensure greater protections of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Specifically, we call for:

    • The government to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Associations to investigate the human rights situation in Iran.
    • For all human rights defenders, including but not limited to Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, to be immediately and unconditionally released, with all charges against them dropped.
    • To ensure gender sensitive protections for all which Iranian women human rights defenders are uniquely targeted in Iran, and work with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences to ensure that all forms of violence against Iranian WHRDs are reported as violence against women.
    • To align practice of the implementation of the rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association as highlighted in the constitution to international best practice.

    Sincerely, the undersigned:

    1. Volunteer Activists Institute
    2. CIVICUS Global Alliance for Citizen Participation
    3. Women’s March Global
    4. Center for Human Rights in Iran
    5. Citizens Friend
    6. West African Human Rights Defenders Network
    7. Women Against Violence
    8. The Needy Today
    9. Association de la Jeunesse pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme
    10. CASAD Bénin
    11. Initiative for Peace and Innovation - IPI
    12. Youth initiative for change and development
    13. Future Leaders Network Gambia Chapter
    14. AGIR POUR LA SECURITE ET LA SOUVERAINETE ALIMENTAIRE
    15. YOUNG AFRICAN FIGHTERS ORGANISATION YAFO
    16. Anti-Corruption International, Uganda Chapter
    17. Discourage Youths From Poverty
    18. Women Empowerment Group
    19. Organisation des Jeunes pour la Promotion et le Développement
    20. PACOPA
    21. WORLDLITE
    22. SOPEVUDECO ASBL
    23. FHRRDA
    24. Cameroon
    25. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights
    26. Gutu United Residents and Ratepayers Association
    27. Palestinian Center For Communication and Development Strategies
    28. Tim Africa Aid Ghana
    29. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care
    30. APLFT
    31. Advance Centre for Peace and Credibility International
    32. Elizka Relief Foundation
    33. TOfAD
    34. Association pour les victimes du monde
    35. Network of Estonian Non-Profit Organizations
    36. VIFEDE
    37. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
    38. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.
    39. Friends of Emergence Initiatives
    40. Fundacion CELTA
    41. MPS GABON
    42. I2BA
    43. One Future Collective
    44. RECOSREC
    45. Achievers Innovative Advocates International Foundation
    46. GULF LINK VENTURE
    47. Centre for Intercultural Understanding
    48. Ugonma Foundation
    49. Center for Youth Civic Leadership and Environmental Studies - CYCLES
    50. FUNDACION CIUDADANOS
    51. Centre for Social Concern and Development
    52. Curtis business
    53. Bina Foundation for people with special needs
    54. GreenLight Initiative
    55. Community Wellness International
    56. Civic Initiatives Kyrgyzstan
    57. Jeunesse-Assistance
    58. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
    59. Fondation Kalipa pour le Développement
    60. SADF ONG
    61. ASSOCIATION OF UGANDA SCHOOL LEAVING YOUTH -AUSLEY
    62. FINESTE
    63. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
    64. Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa
    65.  

    66. Unprecedented use of excessive force against peaceful protests

      Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

      The meaningful participation of people in governance is essential for securing human rights, social stability and peace. We share your alarm at the deterioration of civic space and we call on members and observers of the Human Rights Council, over the coming weeks, to listen to the voices of those who are the most affected by the decisions made in this room. 

      We have witnessed popular action increase across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. We are alarmed by the unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly logged violations of civil society rights was against the right to peaceful assembly.

      High Commissioner, we share your serious concerns on India, particularly the discriminatory citizenship law and the violent repression of protests with impunity. In Iran, hundreds of people were killed when security forces unleashed lethal force against unarmed protesters in cities across the country. In Iraq, para-military forces fired live ammunition during protests throughout the country in 2019, killing and injuring hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.

      Finally, High Commissioner, heard throughout the high-level segment commitments made by states to strengthen the Council’s prevention mandate. We have seen time and time again that unwarranted restrictions on civic space, including crackdowns on peaceful protest and attacks against human rights defenders, enable wider human rights violations. The actualization of an early warning system, which takes restrictions of fundamental freedoms into account, would send a clear signal that the Council stands ready to protect, promote and fulfil the right to protect around the world.


      See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council