Human Rights Activists in Iran (also known as HRAI and HRA) is a non-political and non-governmental organization comprised of advocates who defend human rights in Iran. HRAI was founded in 2005.


HRAI’s goals consist of promoting, safeguarding and sustaining human rights in Iran. The organization keeps the Iranian community and the world informed by monitoring human rights violations in the country and disseminating the news about such abuses. Additionally, HRAI strives to improve the current state of affairs in a peaceful manner and supports strict adherence to human rights principles.

Management and Human Resources

The organization consists of three main groups divided into partners, members and managers. HRAI’s partners include its official associates and volunteers. The organization is managed by a central council consisting of the heads of departments all of whom are democratically elected.


  • Department of Statistics and Publications

    The Department of Statistics and Publications is responsible for the management and production of statistical data and analysis. This department manages all news releases and administers our websites. It also safeguards the organization’s intellectual property such as books and media productions.

  • Administrations and Public Affairs

    This department is responsible for the administration of human resources as well as public affairs.

  • Human Resources and Accounting

    This department is responsible for recruitment and financial affairs.

  • International Affairs and Relations

    This department manages the organization’s activities throughout the world.

  • Legal Department

    The Legal Department is responsible for providing and managing the organization’s legal affairs. It also seeks to expand our legal resources.


In general, HRAI’s mission is to protect the human rights of all Iranian citizens regardless of their religion, political views, social status, gender or ethnicity. Our organization defends freedom of speech, association and press. We oppose capital punishment including stoning. We strive to protect the environment and are advocates of women’s rights, children’s rights, labor rights, gay rights, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. The organization condemns the expulsion of college students as a form of punishment for their political beliefs and fights for the right to education.


The organization uses five different methods to achieve its goals:

  • 1.

    Reporting and News Dissemination

    The Department of Statistics and Publications is responsible for the management and production of statistical data and analysis. This department manages all news releases and administers our websites. It also safeguards the organization’s intellectual property such as books and media productions.

  • 2.


    HRAI strives to educate the public and groups on the principles of human rights and how to protect them in the community. We believe that such a knowledge ultimately improves human rights in the country.

  • 3.

    Legal assistance

    HRAI seeks to provide direct, legal assistance to the victims of human rights violations using attorneys and legal entities at its disposal. These services are provided pro bono. We also take necessary legal actions to defend and protect the victims.

  • 4.


    To fight against human rights violations, it is not enough to only support the victims of such crimes. The organization believes that human rights violators must be placed under pressure to face the outcome of their actions. Consequently, using peaceful means, we stage street campaigns, sit-ins and demonstrations in order to exert pressure on human rights abusers.

  • 5.

    International Engagements

    Because human rights are universal and transcend borders, the responsibility to protect such rights lies with all nations. Accordingly, HRAI seeks help from international groups including the United Nations in order to raise awareness, provide support for the victims, and fight against human rights violations.

  • 6.

    Politics and HRAI

    HRAI doesn’t belong to any political parties and is not associated with any government. The organization doesn’t support any particular ideology and doesn’t accept financial and non-financial aid from governments or political groups. Members of political parties are not permitted to join HRAI. In short, independence, neutrality, fairness and tolerance are the pillars of our organization.

  • 7.

    Financial Resources

    HRAI receives donations from individuals and non-profit entities only. Because the organization seeks to remain independent, it doesn’t accept financial aid from neither political groups nor governments. These limitations are essential to maintaining our autonomy. Before March 2011, the organization received donations only from members and partners. But since then, HRAI has also been accepting donations from National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit, non-governmental organization in the United States of America.


First period – From inception to activism

In February 2006, a small group of Iranian activists gathered together to organize their protests against violations of human rights in the country. That effort lay the foundation of a larger vision that ultimately led to the establishment of an organization later known as Human Rights Activists in Iran. On those days, our members’ common interests were largely centered around defending political prisoners, and the group lacked any kind of resources but those available for free to the general public.

HRAI continued to thrive by relying on its young members’ energy, commitment and enthusiasm while operating in an ad hoc, trial and error fashion. But that small group eventually flourished into one of the biggest and oldest human rights organizations in the country. From those humble beginnings, the group quickly expanded its efforts beyond defending prisoners of conscience and attracted talented individuals to that end.

In the following two years, HRAI members met with the families of victims affected by human rights violations and provided financial and moral support to political prisoners and their loved ones. Our members attended gatherings and actively collected information which was complied into a handbook used by everyone in the organization to further their knowledge. HRAI also staged several peaceful street campaigns, distributing handouts to educate the public.

This period of our history lasted through February 2009. By that time, HRAI had succeed in establishing itself in the eyes of the public as a new organization committed to equality while opposing discrimination and autocracy in the society. But before long, the first wave of arrests began to sweep over the organization.

Second period – From activism to March 2, 2010

As HRAI continued to grow, a large number of new members and partners joined the organization, and the public’s need to interact and communicate with us increased. During a short period of time when the country’s political atmosphere was slightly open, and activism was somewhat tolerated by the Islamic government, we officially registered our organization in Iran through legal means. This act brought about a series of fundamental changes to our infrastructure and policies, transforming HRAI from a semi-secret organization into one which openly operated in Iran.

During this time, new committees were formed, and HRAI members began to take on specific responsibilities that allowed them to specialize in a particular area. Partly because of a relaxed political environment that dominated the country at the time, HRAI decided to disclose its leaders’ names publicly and expand its activities throughout the country. This decision was also a tactical maneuver designed to counteract the prevalent suspicion Iranian authorities have always had towards secret and semi-secret societies. By publicly disclosing the names of our leaders, we hoped to neutralize such suspicions that have historically led to brutal crackdowns in the past.

By the time we were operating in the open, the organization was run by 30 managers and consisted of more than 25 committees and sub-committees. Our members’ bold approach together with their ingenuity and sense of purpose contributed to a series of actio.ns that were, without a doubt, unprecedented in our history. Some of our efforts during this stage included the following activities which spread from one end of the country to another:

We organized cultural events such as competitions among bloggers focused on defending human rights. We began publishing Peace Line which became the first human rights journal in the country. We published and distributed numerous books all of which were free of charge, including several thousand copies of principles advocated by CEDAW addressing women’s rights. We continued to distribute more handouts, brochures and CDs during various campaigns. We reached out to victims and their next of kin to obtain the necessary legal consent in order to save juvenile offenders from execution. The Committee for the Right to Education organized numerous meetings throughout the country to condemn the expulsion of college students as a form of punishment for their political beliefs. Our news agency, HRANA, was established and began to operate as the country’s first press association exclusively addressing issues related to human rights. We organized a worldwide campaign to save Farzad Kamangar from execution and staged peaceful demonstrations and protests in several cities including Sanadaj. We published thousands of reports and documents about human rights violations in Iran. We wrote and released several books on human rights issues. We reached out to religious and ethnic minorities throughout the country and established an unprecedented tie with them that has allowed us to pool our resources together as equal partners. We began addressing environmental issues and civic duties and rights in the society. We sought out children in the labor force and provided them with an opportunity to get an education.
By the time the country was involved in the highly contested presidential elections of 2009, HRAI was a well-organized group focused on its operations and ready to expand its reach even further. Given the relaxed political environment during the election and temporary forms of freedom bestowed upon the society, we staged more campaigns to inform and educate the public on our mission to defend human rights. However, the temporary freedom soon came to an end as the security forces began to brutally crackdown on the demonstrators after the election results were announced.

Third period – From March 2, 2010 till today

The military-style crackdown of our organization on March 2, 2010 left our members even more determined than before to re-group and ultimately rebuild the necessary infrastructure needed to continue our work despite the security risks that threatened each and every one of us.

This period of reconstruction moved forward according to our plans as we drew strength from our firm beliefs, knowledge and experiences that guided us through those tumultuous times. Shortly after this crackdown, HRAI successfully registered itself in the United States of America as a non-profit and charitable organization. During this period, the organization also focused on attracting and retaining talented individuals, employing technology efficiently in its daily operations, and obtaining appropriate sources of financial support.

As a direct result of such efforts, HRAI was invited to join the annual Non-governmental Organizations Conference sponsored by the United Nations. Subsequently, HRAI representatives attended two conferences held in Geneva and New York City. The organization was also invited to join World Movement for Democracy and participated in various events sponsored by the Parliament of Canada, the United States Congress and the European Parliament.

Alongside the efforts to rebuild the organization, HRAI strengthened its news agency and expanded the publication and distribution of HRANA Newspaper. We also began printing our monthly journal, Peace Line, again and resumed distributing pamphlets and handouts to the public. During this period, the establishment of the Fourth Pillar became another one of our accomplishments which allowed us to fight against censorship and Internet filtering imposed by the Islamic government in Iran. Furthermore, we painstakingly developed an online statistical database to document human rights abuses in our country and have begun efforts to build an online library for our members.

Today, while relying on its past experiences, HRAI continues to operate as a human rights organization managed democratically by its members.