NEW YORK, NY – An event titled “One Year of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’: The Ongoing Persecution of Minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran” hosted by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) in partnership with OutRight International was held in New York, at Scandinavia House. The gathering, in the margins of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA-78), addressed the ongoing human rights situation in Iran.
The event was a reminder of the challenges faced by minorities in Iran, especially in the wake of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. The demonstrations, which began a year ago following the tragic death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini, have drawn attention to the Iranian authorities’ excessive use of force and rampant human rights violations.
Independent journalist, Deepa Parent, expertly moderated the session. Opening remarks were courageously delivered by Iranian human rights activists, who, despite the risks, provided virtual comments directly from within Iran.
Dr. Javaid Rehman, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, offered insightful keynote remarks that outlined the challenges and potential paths forward for improving human rights in the country.
Skylar Thompson, representing Human Rights Activists (HRA) presented three key areas the international community can urgently address the cycle of impunity in Iran including through continuing to support UN-led investigations including through the renewal of the FFMI mandate, the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and steadfast support for resolutions on Iran. Second, she added the need for pursuing international pathways to justice notably through the use of universal jurisdiction in light of the unwillingness to investigate violations domestically. She concluded that the continued and united condemnation against violations of human rights and international law are essential because as she stated, “silence is complicity.”
Other panelists, including Simin Fahendej from the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and Awin Mostafazade from Kurdpa, provided rich context to the discussion, shedding light on the depth and breadth of discrimination that various minority groups encounter daily.
As the event concluded, the consensus was clear: the international community must redouble its efforts to address the plight of minorities in Iran. The event, which was open to the media, will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on all who attended.
This side event will gather States, United Nations human rights experts, and NGOs monitoring the situation of human rights in Iran and offer an update on the situation of minorities inside ofIran over the past year in the context of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests and beyond.
Experts will share elements of analysis and provide recommendations as to what should be done going forward, including seeking redress to victims, and holding perpetrators accountable. A particular emphasis will be placed on the specific role of minorities in Iran and the challenges they have and continue to face in light of ongoing persecution at the hands of Iranian authorities.
It has been just over one year since the death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini, which triggered widespread protests throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). While largely peaceful, the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests were met with excessive force from authorities, leading to seemingly endless human rights violations and potential violations of international law.
Next to targeting women in all their diversity for not adhering to the oppressive and forced gender norms and stereotypes as decreed by the regime, the protests also shed light on the widespread discrimination against minority groups inside of the country. Ethnic, religious, sexual and gender minorities are frequently the subject of discrimination in both law and practice.
Despite longstanding and widespread calls for accountability impunity remains the norm, while pressure on minority groups inside of Iran persists and, in some ways, increases, seemingly, with the aim to discourage and crush any form of dissent and protest in the country.
Moderator: Deepa Parent, Independent journalist covering conflict and human rights
Opening Remarks: Iranian human rights activists, virtual remarks from inside of Iran
Keynote Remarks: Dr. Javaid Rehman, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran
As the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council comes to a close, HRA reflects on a month of United Nations advocacy and why sustained international attention on the situation of human rights in Iran is imperative in light of the widespread, ongoing abuse and the disreputable denial by the State.
The 54th Session of the Human Rights Council commenced with a statement by Volker Türk, who acknowledged the passing of Zhina Mahsa Amini and expressed concern over the troubling human rights violations that have unfolded in the past year. This included the introduction of the new Hijab Bill, strict legal penalties, an increased use of the death penalty, and the continued repression at the hands of the morality police.
HRA’s Director of Global Advocacy and Accountability took part in a side event titled “A Year of the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement,” hosted by IHRDC. During this event, she explored the wide-ranging implications of Iran’s new Hijab and Chastity Bill, with particular emphasis on the grave concerns surrounding the expanded authority granted to the Basij forces throughout the country.
Simultaneously, during the 54th session, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) marked the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s passing by expressing concerns about the Iranian government’s intensified repression and reprisals against its citizens. Additionally, the FFM raised alarm regarding new laws, especially those severely curbing the rights of women and girls. Furthermore, HRA continued its engagement with the FFM and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, participating in meetings to support their mandates concerning Iran. Furthermore, HRA actively engaged in meetings with member states during this period continually briefing on emerging issue areas.
139th Session of the Human Rights Committee
In an effort to shed light on significant human rights abuses, HRA, in collaboration with its partners, submitted a formal written update to the Human Rights Committee in early October in preparation for its review of Iran. This update specifically addressed the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, media freedom and the safety of journalists, freedom of expression online, the right to privacy, the situation of human rights lawyers and defenders, and access to information. HRA also engaged in informal dialogues with committee experts regarding human rights in Iran, preparing for the interactive dialogue.
During the session, Thompson emphasized the ongoing human rights violations in Iran, particularly with regards to the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Furthermore, she informed the Committee about the unjust treatment of journalists, charged with national security offenses after trials lacking any semblance of due process, all for simply exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. Thompson stated, “Although repression against the freedom of information was already widespread, with journalists facing arrests, interrogations, imprisonments, surveillance, harassment, and threats, it has escalated since the outbreak of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protests triggered by the death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini in September 2022.”
*Zohreh Elahian, designated by the European Union for her involvement in serious human rights violations, intervenes as part of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official delegation. She appears sitting next to the Chair of the Human Rights Committee. October 9, 2023.
During the same session, the Committee conducted a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in Iran, shedding light on grave violations, including instances of torture, the excessive use of force in response to recent protests, and the status of LGBTI rights. Regrettably, the delegation from the Islamic Republic chose not to provide substantive responses and even resorted to intimidation tactics when questioned about an individual listed on the EU sanctions list. See the Spreading Justice profile of Zohreh Elahian. Elahian’s position within the delegation, and travel to Switzerland as part of Iran’s delegation was questioned by Ms. Marcia Kran as part of the formal dialogue between the Committee and the delegation. Elahian’s travel was also condemned by the Chair of the Delegation for relation with Iran within the European Parliament, Cornelia Ernst.
Following the session, the Human Rights Committee made a poignant observation, stating, “Most of the substantive questions remain unanswered.” Despite persistent inquiries regarding LGBT rights, torture, and the excessive use of force in recent protests, the Committee received no satisfactory responses.
As the session closes HRA remains steadfast in its commitment to amplifying the voices of Iranians on the international stage. Sustained international dialogue and attention is crucial for Iran, as it ensures that the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people are not only heard but also acted upon by the global community. By maintaining consistent focus on Iran, the international community can play a vital role in holding the Iranian government accountable for violations of human rights.
HRA remains committed to working alongside our partners in civil society, the Special Rapporteur, the Independent and International Fact-Finding Mission, State and multinational institutions to support justice and accountability for serious human rights violations and possible crimes under international law.
Finally, HRA urges the United Nations to cease allowing known human rights abusers to travel to and participate in high level dialogues, and to uphold its fundamental principles of promoting peace, security and human rights. Allowing individuals with a documented history of human rights violations to enter UN premises undermines States parties efforts and sends a conflicting message concerning the validity of the sanctions.
According to HRA, at least 5,000 executions in last 10 years, 2,316 drug-related
Every year on October 10th, the World Day Against the Death Penalty is observed globally to promote awareness surrounding the complexities of capital punishment. This day serves as a catalyst for conversations, education, and activism, all aimed at advancing human rights and the global movement to eliminate the death penalty.
As of October 2023, Iran has been executing an average of 10 people per week. From 2013 to 2023, HRANA has identified a total of 5034 executions, out of which 2,316 were drug-related. The majority of those executed were men. Iran has also sentenced 31 juvenile offenders to death, including one for a drug-related offense. It’s important to note that Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which strictly emphasizes that the death penalty should only be used for the “most serious crimes,” and any deviation from this principle would be considered a violation of the Right to Life.
It is crucial to acknowledge that Iran’s domestic judicial system is plagued with numerous due process violations. These violations include coerced forced confessions, torture, inhumane treatment, and a lack of adequate legal representation to name a mere few. Frequently, judges and prosecutors involved in grave right to life violations act with absolute impunity.
It is evident that any death sentence imposed for drug-related offenses represents a clear violation of the right to life. The persistence of such executions, particularly when trials are marred by due process violations, is deeply concerning. Iran should immediately establish a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances.
HRA’s Statistics Center relies on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources. It also incorporates the judicial authorities’ announcements or confirmations of prisoner executions on media, and as such, is exposed to a margin of error representing efforts by the Iranian authorities to omit, conceal, or restrict the collection of such data.
Between October 10, 2022, and October 8, 2023, at least 659 convicts were executed by hanging in Iran, rising to 24% compared to the same period last year. Of these executions, Seven was carried out in public. Many of the defendants were denied a fair trial and due process.
HRANA obtained 580 reports regarding executions and the death penalty in Iran during this period. The identified executed individuals include 17 women and 1 juvenile offender under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime. Compared to the last period, the execution of female offenders has decreased 15%.
According to the reports obtained by HRANA, over this period, Iranian authorities sentenced at least 164 defendants to the death penalty, including at least 5 women, and 2 public executions. Issuing death sentences rose by 84% compared to the last year.
In a State where there are serious due process concerns, with judicial systems headed by judges with nicknames like “The Judge of Death ” the international community mustn’t turn a blind eye. Iran must be made to answer for such egregious violations. Iran should immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view of abolishing altogether.
As the chart below shows a breakdown of executions by capital offense: 56.60% for drug and narcotic offenses, 35.05% for murder, 2.58% for rape, 2.28% for unknown reasons, 1.21% for political or security-related offenses, 0.61% for “Corruption on Earth”, 0.61% for spying, terror, and bombing, 0.46% for “Corruption on Earth” (non-political), 0.46% for ideological, political, or religious reasons, 0.15% for Adultery – Types of consensual sexual relations
The pie chart below displays execution numbers by the province in which they took place. According to this chart, the Alborz (where three overcrowded prisons are located) had the highest number of executions at 15.33%. Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman Provinces come second and third, with 11.53% and 8.65%, respectively.
The chart below depicts the distribution of executions’ information sources. The chart indicates that 63% of HRANA-confirmed executions were not announced by the official Iranian sources. Undisclosed executions are referred to as “secret” executions.
The chart down shows the execution numbers by gender.
The chart below displays execution numbers by the prison where the executions were carried out. The Zahedan Prison And Adel Abad of Shiraz officials have carried out the highest number.
The chart below displays percentage of executions carried out in public Vs the number of executions that were carried out in prison. According to statistics, 1.06% of the executions in Iran were carried out in public.