Iran: Election Amid Repression of Dissent and Unrest
June 9, 2009
The Iranian presidential elections are to be held this month on 12 June. The candidates are: theincumbent President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; Former Prime Minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi (backed by former president,MohammadKhatami); and Mehdi Karroubi, a former parliamentary speaker.
While Amnesty International welcomes pledges from some of the candidates to address the prevailing discrimination against women in the country – an issue which has been forced to the forefront of the debate by the efforts of women’s rights activists - and ethnic minorities and to tackle economic issues to improve the welfare of the population, there are other serious human rights concerns which also need addressing. These include severe curtailments of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and a high recourse to the death penalty (including against juvenile offenders) as well as incidents of people being stoned to death.
The election period has also seen increased repression, both of people expressing their opinions directly about the elections, or of those seen to be opposed to the system in some way, including students, women's rights activists, lawyers and unrecognized religious minorities, such as the Baha’is and the Ahl-e Haq.
Amnesty International is also concerned that all but four of the candidates have been excluded from standing, including all women, on the grounds of discriminatory criteria. The Council of Guardians is the body which screens all candidates for election to “ensure their suitability for the Presidency”. Article 115 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran stipulates that candidates must be from “religious and political personalities” [Persian: rejal] and possess: “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness; a good past record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.” In previous elections, the majority of candidates registered were disqualified under these criteria, including all women. The exclusion of women appears to have been as a result of an interpretation of the word rejal as meaning “men”.
Amnesty International is concerned about the increasing number of arrests in recent weeks leading up to the presidential elections, which indicates worsening repression of people who want to express their opinions:
In the pre-election period, Amnesty International has received reports suggesting increased waves of arbitrary arrests and harassment targeting in particular members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minority communities, including Baha'is and converts from Islam, students, trade unionists and women’s rights activists.
By imprisoning people for merely expressing dissenting views, the Iranian authorities are stifling the free debate which is a pre-requisite of elections. Citizens should be able to freely express their grievances and their demands so that candidates can address them.
Note to editors:
For more information, please see:
Iran: Women’s Rights Defenders Defy Repression MDE 13/018/2008: