This week in human rights in Iran
In an April 25 interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, human rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh expressed disappointment over the approval of the “Plan to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice”. She deems the implementation of this plan harmful for the Iranian people and government in the long term, since “the presence of unofficial and unaccountable forces in any society could lead to catastrophes no one can account for or address.” On April 23, the Guardian Council judged that this plan does not contradict Sharia law or the constitution, and therefore confirmed it.
On May 13, two international labor groups, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Road Transport Union filed a complaint against Iran to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), over the arrests of labor activists including Mahmoud Salehi, Ebrahim Madadi, Davood Razavi, and Osman Esmaeili.
On the same day, some workers employed in production centers in Sanandaj signed a statement calling for the unconditional release of Salehi.
Freedom of expression
On May 5, traditional Iranian musician Mohammad-Reza Shajarian gave a speech in which he protested the ban on the broadcast of his voice and restrictions on organizing concerts. He said: “It’s a few years that I don’t have permission to sing for my own people and country.”
On May 6, Shahin Najafi, an Iranian singer living in Germany, reacted to an announcement by an Iranian website on establishing a prize of 500 million tomans for bombing his concert venues. He sees this as an attempt to sow tension between Iranian singers inside the country and those outside. Human rights lawyer Mehrangiz Kar considers the website’s announcement as a clear crime according to the law on computer crimes and describes it as a terroristic act. To date, the Commission to Determine Instances of Criminal Content has shown no reaction to this threat.
On May 11, over 700 university students published an open letter calling for an end to the repressive atmosphere in Iranian universities.
On May 14, Shahla Lahiji, a writer on women’s issues, announced in an interview that she will not participate in the Tehran International Book Fair. After suggesting 55 books for publication since last year and not receiving permission for any, Lahiji sees no reason to participate in the Fair.
On May 15, civil rights activist Atena Daemi was sentenced to seven years in prison for her writings on Facebook, the contents of her cell phone, and her participation in protests. One of the charges against her is insulting the Supreme Leader, which came about due to jokes found on her phone.
After the arrest of Narges Mohammadi, deputy director of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a wave of protests against her detainment began on May 6. Abdolkarim Lahiji, head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said in an interview with Radio France that the principle of freedom for lawyers does not receive official recognition in the Islamic Republic, and that sometimes even lawyers themselves are handed vague charges and long-term prison sentences for defending their clients.
Over the last two weeks, reports of disturbances in mobile communication softwares such asTelegram have emerged in Iran. At the same time, the Basij announced that it is offering the software Salam as an alternative to Viber and WhatsApp. Some see this as an attempt by the government to bring citizens’ conversations on the Internet under its control.
In a May 13 article, the newspaper Ghanoon (“Law”) reported of eavesdropping and recording of conversations and locations of citizens through a program installed on cell phones via Aval and Irancell sim cards, without the permission of subscribers.
On May 9, UN human rights experts Ahmed Shaheed and Christof Heyns, condemned the rise in executions in Iran in recent months, particularly in the number of unannounced executions. More than 340 people have been executed in Iran in 2015, among them 6 political prisoners.
On May 15, Amnesty International published a statement expressing concern over the possible execution of Mohammad Ali Taheri, a prisoner of conscience and founder of the Erfan-e Halgheh movement.
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