Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran

About the Memorial

 

The Vision

Omid: a Memorial in Defense of Human Rights is a project aimed at creating and populating an electronic database of human rights violations in Iran and making the information available to the public in Farsi and in English. The Project, launched by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) in 2002, is dedicated to the victims of the Islamic Republic since it was established in 1979. Omid’s ultimate goal however is to be an impartial historical record that includes victims of human rights violations since December 10, 1948.*

 ABF neither supports nor opposes the political views of the victims whose stories it records. Omid includes the names of the individuals whose human rights, their right to life and due process of law in particular, were violated, regardless of their deeds.

Omid's ambition is to alleviate the anguish, injustice, and legacy of hate produced by long-term human rights abuses

 Victims need to know that society acknowledges their suffering. To achieve social peace and democratic stability in Iran in the future, society must know about the human rights abuses that have taken place and the harm done to victims. Such recognition is crucial in the process of building democracy and preventing the recurrence of new episodes of violence and atrocities. This documentation effort is an attempt to address the frustration and helplessness felt by the victims and survivors of decades of unheeded violence and abuses.

It is Never Too Early to Start

ABF believes that serious, systematic, and publically accessible documentation aimed at raising awareness on the scope and the nature of past human rights abuses is a necessary component of any transition to a sustainable democracy based on the rule of law and the respect of citizens’ rights.

Because the Islamic Republic of Iran does not allow the proper investigation of human rights abuses by independent experts inside Iran, nongovernmental organizations have a duty to pursue this goal.

By creating this electronic memorial, ABF follows in the footsteps of many other NGOs and government bodies around the world

Nations such as Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Germany, and Peru have established memorials and national commissions of truth and reconciliation to advance their transitions to democratic rule. Omid itself cannot and does not intend to act as a truth commission; its aim, rather, is to promote the establishment of an official truth commission in Iran and ensure, regardless of when and how transition occurs, that victims are remembered and society is informed about past human rights abuses.

Omid also bears witness to the close connection between the disregard for human rights and political violence. Founded on the persecution of its citizens, the Islamic Republic of Iran has predictably few qualms about using violence as a component of its foreign policy. By commemorating its victims regardless of their nationality, Omid testifies to this reality.

This electronic memorial is a symbolic act against terror. The victims, whom their persecutors tried to silence, reappear through Omid and question the conscience of the perpetrators, of the Iranian people, and of humanity at large.

The Methodology

ABF empowers victims, relatives, friends, and society at large by engaging them through a common truth-seeking project and encouraging them to become investigators and document the cases they know.

Omid's information is drawn from statements issued by Iran's authorities, official Iranian newspapers and media, national and international human rights organizations' reports, political and civil society organizations, and testimonies. ABF’s researchers strive to collect the best available information. However, any investigation conducted outside the country without free access to victims and official records is by nature constrained and incomplete. Thus, Omid's list  will always be a work in progress.

In this virtual memorial, each individual has a dedicated page

Visitors to the website can browse the Memorial alphabetically or chronologically or use the search engine in English or Farsi. Based on the availability of the data, they can use biographic search criteria such as name, gender, nationality, and religion or focus on the violation using criteria such as the date, place, and mode of execution, or the charges leveled against the executed individual.

The page dedicated to each victim of execution is designed to provide biographic information and bring focus to the violation of due process of law in the case. ABF strives to make these pages accessible to visitors who are unfamiliar with Iran’s history, its laws and practices, and specific episodes of violence. Its researchers collect documents and other relevant information through published and unpublished sources. They interview victims, witnesses, experts and practitioners, political actors, and bystanders alike to verify the information. They expose the human rights violations, provide, when possible, historical background to cases, and draw the legal context in which human rights violations have occurred.

The Memorial pages are updated as the research progresses and new information becomes available. ABF provides the public, victims, and survivors with the possibility to add to Omid or correct the information in existing cases through electronic forms available on the website. These forms are designed to get detailed information on victims and their legal cases and, in the process, educate the users about due process of law and human rights documentation.

ABF prioritizes its sources’ privacy and security and respects their desire for anonymity

From January 2006, the launching date of the website, to January 2013, ABF has received close to 2,500 electronic forms and e-mail communications regarding those who were killed from Iran and countries around the world. ABF verifies the information sent through these forms to the best of its ability or presents the information as such.

The response to Omid’s call for information and the testimonies of victims’ relatives and friends are the expression of a real need that ABF is committed to address.

The technology

Omid's first database, Analyzer, was provided and customized by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group**, which has advised truth commissions, United Nations missions, and NGOs around the world. Analyzer is a free and open source application specifically designed to organize human rights data for statistical purposes. 

In 2013, the Memorial’s data was moved to a new database specifically tailored to ABF’s needs. The new database, built on Analyzer’s model in consultation with HRDAG’s staff and Analyzer’s programmer, is called “Omid” and is also a free and open source. Omid collects information from multiple sources to create more accurate and detailed records on the victims and acts of human rights violations. Available sources are recorded in the database ensuring that information is not lost and remains easily accessible. Duplicate records on individual victims, which users may encounter on the browse page of the Memorial, are gradually identified and carefully matched.

 

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* On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran was among the member states who voted in favor of the Declaration, thus committing its government to promote and protect human rights.

** The Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) began its collaboration with ABF when based at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC. HRDAG joined the Benetech Initiative in Palo Alto, California at the end of 2003 and until 2013 when it took the step to be an independent non-profit organization. Over the years, HRDAG has continued to provide ABF staff with valuable advice in data processing methodology and technology.