One year after Iranian political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam was honored with the DW Freedom of Speech Award, DW's Ole Tangen Jr. spoke with  human rights lawyer and Amnesty International's researcher on Iran, Raha Bahreini, about the current situation in the country.

DW: I found this quote from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year, in which he said: "In this country there is freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of choice. Then he continued, "However, freedom in the Islamic Republic, like in other parts of the world, has a framework." In light of that, I wonder how you would answer the question: Is there free speech in Iran?

Raha Bahreini: The severity of the situation when it comes to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly is well-documented and well-established. The Iranian authorities have heavily suppressed the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. And our research at Amnesty International shows that, in fact, they have intensified their crackdown on these essential rights.

Basically there are hundreds of people who have been imprisoned unjustly because they have simply exercised their right to freedom of expression. These include peaceful political dissidents,  journalists, online media workers, students, filmmakers, musicians as well as human rights defenders.

By human rights defenders, I mean people who are exercising their right to freedom of expression and association in order to defend and promote human rights. They include lawyers, women's rights activists, minority rights activists and trade unionists. All these different groups of human rights defenders have been at the receiving end, suffocating under oppression. In recent years, Amnesty International has documented the growing number of human rights defenders who have been sentenced to hard prison camps, in many cases for more than a decade.

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