Human Rights Activists and the Atlantic Council’s joint panel on Iran human rights

HRANA – “A surge in Crackdowns Across Iran” Panel Discussion was held yesterday, 27 September 2022 in person at Atlantic council building in Washington DC. The panel discussion that was hosted jointly by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) and Atlantic council was also broadcasted online through various channels.

The discussion Moderated by Holly Darges from Atlantic council’s Iran Source included diverse speakers and panelists from US Department of States, Atlantic Council, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Baha’is of the United States, and Human rights Activists in Iran (HRA).

William F. Wechsler the senior Director of Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East programs of Atlantic Council started the seminar by welcoming the guests. He also mentioned that the initial objective of the event at the early stages of planning has been “to call attention to dynamic that was happening inside Iran that was not getting as much attention and now, of course, the world is watching”, then he continues to remind us that Iran threatens neighbors in the region and in the rest of the world however “the first people that it threatens and the first victims are the people in Iran itself.” After setting the tone for the panel discussion ahead, Wechsler introduces the Keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Press, and public diplomacy of US Department of State, Jennifer Gavito.

“The government of Iran has denied Iranians their human rights including through severe restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression. For decades political decent has been met with violent repression from the Iranian regime”, Das Gavito expressed concerns for the human right situation in Iran.

Das Gavito mentions the recent violent crackdown on peaceful protestors following the Mahsa Amini’s Death and the increased pressure on Iranian women by the Morality Police. Then she speaks of brave women who fight for their fundamental rights and continues to say, “The protests that we are seeing throughout Iran in spite of the government retaliation and attempts to obfuscate reality show very clearly that the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic of Iran do not see eye to eye”.

“The United States strongly supports the human rights of all Iranian women including the right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves without fear of violence” DAS Gavito then emphasizes that Iran’s human rights abuses is not limited to suppression women’s rights and peaceful assembly, rather Iran has a large number of political prisoners. She mentions the violation of rights of religious minorities by Iranian Government who have been targeted for their beliefs as well. DAS Gavito promised the people of Iran that the American government will hold the violators of human rights accountable. As an example, she pointed to the recent sanction of the moral security police and high-rank officials and said that the actions of the American government will not be limited to these cases and sanctions.

After DAS Gavito, Holly Darges, as the Moderator, gave a general explanation about the panel process and the general description of the events of the recent protests in Iran, and noted that the suppression of protests and the human rights situation in Iran is at a very critical stage. Darges then introduces all the panelists and starts the panel by Yeganeh Rezaian.

Yeganeh Rezaian, Journalist and Senior Researcher at the committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) spoke about her experience of encountering the Morality police as a woman who lived in Iran and her arrest and transfers to the same detention center where Mahsa Amini had been taken to. She continues by reminding that many women in Iran have a similar experience and are repeatedly detained for their choice of clothing. She also pointed to the courage of the new generation in Iran and said that the new generation is fundamentally different from its previous generations and does not bow down to the police and the ruling class.

Ms. Rezaian, who as a journalist has a history of being imprisoned in Iran, emphasized the importance of keeping track of arrests and the role of journalists, by saying Journalists working in international media have many restrictions on traveling to Iran, preparing documents and news reports, and that is why they usually only refer to the reports prepared by journalists inside Iran – despite the many restrictions. This is in a situation where the arrest of Iranian journalists and the pressure on them has increased dramatically in recent days, and this issue has made providing information more challenging than before.

Furthermore, she raised concern about increasing arrests of journalists even local journalists in very small towns, she claimed at least half of journalists arrested in recent days have been women and asked the international community to increase the pressure on Iran for the suppression and arrests of journalists in Iran.

Senior Advocacy Coordinator at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), Skylar Thompson, started her remarks by reporting on the alarming situation of women and human rights in Iran. While presenting a heat map of current protests, Thompson highlights that just in the first 10 days of protests, “protests are spanning 93 cities at least there are in 30 of 31 provinces, they are in 18 universities” she then continues by saying that these protests are not just in urban streets of Tehran, but they are spawning geographically, class, gender, and age wise.

Skylar Thompson presented statistics on the repression of protesters in recent days in Iran, stating according to HRA’s documentation received to this point the youngest person killed was a 16-year-old boy, and she added, A 10-year-old girl was also targeted in these protests. she was shot by the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but fortunately she survived, although she is in critical condition.

According to Thompson, the senior advocacy coordinator at HRA the situation of human rights has exacerbated during Raisi’s term. She mentioned the upward trends in executions, the return of public executions after two years, and the execution of minor offenders. She also mentioned the surge in inhumane retaliation sentences such as amputation of hands and blinding of eyes.

Mrs. Thompson further pointed to the actions that the international community is obliged to take, such as sanctioning the officials behind suppression, as well as sanctioning institutions that violate women’s rights in Iran, and said: “The fact that the American and Canadian governments have imposed sanctions on the Morality Police and some officials is a positive step, but we do not know who the Canadian government has specifically sanctioned. On the other hand, the silence of countries like England is questionable, and we still do not know the result of the decision and possible actions of the European Union.

In addition, in answer to a question raised by the audience, Mrs. Thompson addressed the difficult livelihood situation of workers and teachers in Iran. She pointed out that teachers had organized many protest rallies in recent months, which led to the arrest of more than 150 teachers’ union activists.

Senior Researcher MENA region at Article 19, Mahsa Alimardani, raised concerns regarding free flow of information due to the internet disruption and blocking of many online services in Iran during recent protests.

Alimardani, as an expert in the field of technology and communication, discussed the challenges of communication in Iran in the last eleven days and that the Islamic Republic has used new methods to limit access to the Internet. She discussed the difference between the communication restrictions in recent events and what happened in November 2019 and explained that even though this time the internet was not cut off completely like in November 2019 and some Iranians have been able to use the internet in recent days. She added that the disruptions are more strategic than before and at hours that protests usually increase after 4pm, outages and other disruptions increase.

Alimardani Also spoke about Satellite Internet (Namely Starlink) and called the lifting of U.S. sanctions in this regard a positive step. She also warned of the vast disinformation in this regard and even malwares and unsafe apps that have claimed by their downloads users in Iran can connect to Starlink.

Despite the existing challenges, Alimardani expressed hope about the possibility of using satellite internet but also warned that the excessive attention to Starlink in recent days has been a bit misleading and has caused attention to be taken away from the actions that can be taken, such as providing safe and secure VPNs for users in Iran.

Anthony Vance, director of public affairs of the Baha’is of the United States, was another speaker at the meeting who addressed the problems of the Baha’is in Iran and said that the pressure on the Baha’is of Iran has increased systematically in the government of Ibrahim Raisi, especially since June. Depriving Baha’is of education, destroying their homes and spreading hatred against the Baha’i community are only a few examples of the oppression that Vance mentioned.

At the end of the joint meeting of the group of human rights activists in Iran and the Atlantic Council, the Panelists Answered questions submitted by the audience.

 

Watch the full video:

Baha’i Citizen Saba Sefidi Arrested In Tehran

On January 11, Baha’i citizen Saba Sefidi, resident of Tehran, was arrested after an appearance at Branch 2 of Evin Courthouse.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the reason for Sefidi’s arrest and the charges against her are still unknown at the time of writing.

Regarding the prosecution and harassment of Baha’is by Iran’s regime, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson stated that HRA strongly condemned these discriminatory acts against religious minorities in Iran. She asked that the regime take action to ensure Iranian people, and particularly Baha’i citizens, are entitled to the freedom of religion and can perform religious acts freely.

According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

The deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

Pedram Abhar’s House Searched While He Remains Detained in Unknown Detention Center

On Tuesday, November 23, security forces raided and searched Baha’i citizen Pedram Abhar’s house in Tehran. On November 21, security forces arrested Pedram Abhar at his father’s home in Shiraz.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, at the time of arrest, they also searched the house and confiscated several family belongings such as identity cards, passports, cell phones, pictures and books related to the Baha’i faith. While Baha’i citizen, Pedram Abahar is still in detention in an unidentified detention center, his house in Tehran was searched by security forces again on Tuesday.

“On Sunday morning, November 21, at 10 am., Mr. Abhar departed from Shiraz to Bushehr,” an informed source told HRANA. “While he was at a rest stop on the road, he was surrounded by three cars. They arrested and transferred him back to his parents’ home in Shiraz. About 13 security agents searched the house. Yesterday, his parents went to the courthouse to find out about their son. However, they did not get an answer. Finally, this morning, Mr. Abhar was allowed to make a short call to his parent.”

Regarding this report, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson stated that HRA strongly condemned these discriminatory acts against religious minorities in Iran. She asked that the regime take action to ensure Iranian people, and Bahai’s citizens in particular, are entitled to the freedom of religion and can perform their religious acts freely.

According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

The reason for Abhar’s arrest, the charges against him, the security institution responsible for the arrest, and the detainee’s whereabouts are all unknown as of this writing.

Victims of November 2019 Protests Call for Concrete Action Ahead of The Anniversary

NOVEMBER 15, 2019: A sudden and substantial hike in the cost of fuel sparks unrest across Iran. Individuals across the country pour into the streets in what soon becomes mass protests covering a reported 104 cities across Iran. 

 

As the anniversary of the November protests approaches, HRA has spoken with Iranians calling for concrete action against those responsible for violent crackdowns against protesters including arbitrary and incommunicado detention, illegal use of force, and torture among other serious violations. For nearly two years, perpetrators have, for the most part, enjoyed widespread impunity. Domestically, some have even seemingly been rewarded. Indeed, individuals such as now-President Ebrahim Raisi, a known and serious violator, have risen to top positions of power.

Soheila, a 45-year-old mother whose son was shot in the November 2019 protests, highlights the shortcomings of the judiciary in Iran, telling HRA, “I hope that accountability will mean that next time, my child, instead of taking to the streets, can work through established pathways to hold corrupt people accountable for their actions.”

November 2019 saw the deaths of several hundred Iranians  (227 were verified by HRA) in what is arguably a state-sanctioned arbitrary deprivation of life. In addition over 7,100 were arbitrarily detained, some remain detained today. Although the violations noted above have been extensively documented, little has been done to hold perpetrators accountable.

Figure 1: reported November 2019 protest points -black denotes locations where the killing of protester(s) were reported (Human Rights Activists in Iran)

 

Elika, 25, told HRA, “Without accountability for violations that occurred in November 2019, the cycle of repression and violence will not end. Those that intend to perpetrate future abuse [on us] need to see accountability. Maybe then they will take a moment to think before pulling the trigger.”  In a recent post in the Atlantic Council IranSource blog, Skylar Thompson, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator, stated similarly, “Without concrete action to fight the plague of impunity that covers Iran, these violent events will only continue to occur and the Iranian people will continue to suffer.”

Iran has proven unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible through domestic judicial frameworks. This unwillingness is paired with the fact that Iran’s judiciary is in no way impartial and is in fact led by the very perpetrators responsible for the noted violations. Unfortunately, violations of fair trial standards have become status quo.

When asked what accountability looks like to him, Hafez, 22, told HRA, “They should handcuff the perpetrators. […]. They should be prosecuted in a public court and imprisoned.” He continued, “Once handcuffed, perpetrators should have to look the victim’s mother in the face to calm her heart.” Nazanin, 32, told HRA that accountability, in her view “is [the Islamic Republic] honestly and openly admitting wrongdoing.”

HRA has identified 54 individual and seven institutional violators connected to the November 2019 protests. It Is noteworthy that a number of those violators have also been complicit in numerous additional acts of repression against protesters including in 1988, 2020 (protests over the shooting down of Ukrainian airliner), 2021 (protests over resource mis-management in Khuzestan), and many instances in between. This repeated action is a direct consequence of the lack of accountability.

The following section lists notable individuals responsible for repeated serious and widespread rights violations. Extensive and credible documentation is readily available. HRA calls on the international community to hear the pleas of Iranians like Hafez, Nazanin, and Elika and utilize available documentation to take concrete action against those responsible.

*For a more in-depth look at the listed violators visit www.spreadingjustice.org or select a name and be directed to a violator profile that includes several data points including an overview of violations, employment history, as well as additional evidentiary documentation. 

 

Government 

Mojtaba Raei
Special Governor, Najafabad City of Isfahan Province
Deputy Governor of Isfahan

Roham Bakhsh Habibi
Police commander of Fars Province

Lotfollah Dezhkam 
Representative of the Supreme Leader, Fars Province
Friday Imam of Shiraz

Leila Vaseghi
Governor of Quds City

Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
Ministry of Interior
Chairman of the Security Council
Deputy Leader of the Islamic Republic Police Force

Jamal Alami Nisi
Governor of Ahvaz and Chairman of the Ahvaz City Security Council

Masoumeh Khanfari
Governor of Karoun City

Nik-Mohammad Balouch-Zehi
Director General, Information and Communications Technology Department of Sistan and Baluchestan Province

Seyed-Vahid Haghanian aka “Vahid” or “Sardar (General) Vahid”
Executive and Special Affairs Deputy of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader’s office

Saeed Jalili
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council

 

Police 

Ali-akbar Javidan
Kermanshah Police Chief

Hossein Rahimi
Head of Tehran Police Forces

Hossein AshtariFard
Commander of the police force of the Islamic Republic

Gholamreza Jafari
From November 12, 2019 to now: Commander of the Hormozgan Police Force

Hassan Karami
Command of the Special Unit of the Police Force

Mohammad-Hossein Babakalani
Retired Police Force

Saeed Motaharizadeh 
North Khorasan Police Chief

Reza Papey
Police commander of Mahshahr City

Abdolreza Nazeri
Commander of the Kerman Police Force

Ruhollah Geravandi
Dezful Police Commander

Manouchehr Amanollahi 
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Police Commander

 

IRGC

Kioumars Heydari
Brigadier General IRGC

Hossein Taeb
Former Head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization

Hassan Shahvarpour
Commander of the Khuzestan Provincial IRGC force (Valiasr IRGC base)

Masoud Khorramnia
Second Brigadier General (IRGC)
Commander-in-chief of West Azerbaijan province

Mohammad-Esmaeil Kowsari
Senior Commander, IRGC

Hossein Salami
Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC

Mohammad-Reza Yazdi
Senior Commander of IRGC

Gholamreza Soleimani Farsani
Commander of Sahib al-Zaman IRGC in Isfahan province

Gholam-hossein Gheibparvar
Commander of the Basij
Deputy Commander of the IRGC, Imam Ali’s HQ

Mousa Ghazanfar-Abadi
Former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals of Tehran

 

Judiciary 

 

Dadkhoda Salari Manzari
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Kerman City

Heydar Asiabi
Senior Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Alireza Aghajari
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Pardis city, the former prosecutor of Mahshahr city

Peyman Samadi
Prisoner Supervisor in Ward 9, Evin Prison
Deputy Director of the 2nd Brigade in Fashafoyeh Prison

Mehdi Mohammadi
Deputy Prosecutor of Boroujerd

Hamid Golinejad
Head of Branch 101 of the 2nd Criminal Court of Urmia

Ali Esfahani
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Isfahan Province

Ali Zare
General and Revolutionary prosecutor of Najafabad city in Isfahan province

Yahya Jafari 
Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Mohammad-javad Heshmati Mohazzab
Senior Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Mohammad-Hossein Sadeghi 
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Kermanshah Province

Hamid Mohammadi
Head of Evin Prison

Mansour Mohammadi Khabbaz
Public and revolutionary prosecutor of Dezful

Abbas Hosseini-Pouya 

Public and Revolutionary prosecutor of Khuzestan Province

Hamid Asgaripour
Shahriar County Public Prosecutor and Revolution

Mahamad-Reza Amouzad Khalili
Judge, Head of Branch 24 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran

Seyed-Ahmad Zargar
Judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Tehran

Iman Afshari
Judge, Head of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran

Mohammad Mahdi Mahmoodi
Deputy Chief Justice of the General and Revolutionary Courts of Shiraz
Head of the 2nd Criminal Court
Judge of Branch 101 of the 2nd Criminal Court of Shiraz

Ali Alghasi-Mehr
General prosecutor of Tehran

 

Media 

 

Hossein Shariatmadari
Kayhan Institute

Abdolali Ali-Asgari
Head of the Islamic Republic Broadcasting Organization (IRIB)

Ameneh-Sadat Zabihpour
Interrogator-Reporter

____________________________________________________

For further inquiries please contact Skylar Thompson, Senior Advocacy Coordinator Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) at [email protected]

 

HRA Presents Spreading Justice at Human Rights Council 48 Side Event

On September 21st, a number of prominent human rights organizations, including HRA, Impact Iran, HURIDOCS, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation , hosted a virtual discussion in the margins of the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on how online databases can help monitor human rights in Iran and support accountability efforts.

 

In an announcement of the event, Impact Iran stated, ​​”In recent years, human rights organizations have developed a range of online tools that have strengthened the capacities of rights defenders to advance evidence-based reporting and advocacy aimed at generating a culture of accountability and transparency in pursuit of the realization of human rights for all persons.”

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Dr. Javid Rehman delivered the event’s opening remarks, in which he highlighted the important work of the organizations represented by the panel. He mentioned Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s OMID Memorial, the Spreading Justice’s Initiative by Human Rights Activists in Iran, and Impact Iran’s Iran Rights Index, which is a culmination of work by the Impact Iran Secretariat and coalition members including HRA.

“The individual characteristics of the different databases that are the topic of discussion today… all indicate that civil society organizations have clear goals in their well-coordinated documentation efforts,” Rehman stated. “Each of these databases serves a valuable goal for public information advocacy, memorialization, or support accountability mechanisms.”

In demonstrating how HRA’s Spreading Justice database can contribute to accountability efforts, panelist and HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson outlined the functions and goals of the project.

“Spreading justice is a database of Iranian Human Rights violators, both individual and institutional violators,” Thompson said. “This database, which is available in both English and Farsi, currently contains over 250 profiles, ranging from Iranian president Ibraham Raisi himself to lesser known violators that continually commit heinous acts, and yet fly almost silently under the radar.”

On the functions of the database, Thompson said,  “If an individual were doing research on an individual victim’s case, they could, for example, search Nazanin Ratcliffe and find all violators associated with her case.”

The profiles also include detailed legal reviews prepared by experts in international human rights law. HRA collects information from open source research, and through its wide network of volunteers inside Iran. Volunteers receive training aimed at strengthening organizational documentation capacity, which includes online security, diversity and inclusion, neutrality, informed consent.

“The information that is collected through this network is extremely important to our work,” Thompson said. “It also gives us unparalleled access to victims.”

On the use of the database, Thompson stated that there is a real need for governments to work alongside civil society, in their efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, and added that this was a core motivation behind the development of Spreading Justice.

She continued, “If we can begin to close the accountability gap in Iran, we will begin to see a disruption in the continuous cycle of abuse,” Thompson said. “The truth is that the international community has a number of tools available to hold perpetrators of serious human rights violations accountable, particularly when domestic judicial remedies are unavailable, such as is the case in Iran. The use of these tools is lacking.”

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