Thank You for Supporting Human Rights in Iran: ABC’s 2018 in Review
December 21, 2018
Graffiti in Sanandaj, September 2018: "Execution is State Murder"
2018: A Crucial Year for Iran
When it comes to Iran, 2018 has been a year of brash voices and loud proclamations. This year, a new chapter seems to have opened in Iranians’ struggle for justice and freedom as protests swept the country starting in late December 2017, energizing old and new forms of resistance. Though the world’s attention was not always focused, protests and strikes continued almost daily through the year, ranging from January women’s protests against the compulsory hijab to the Gonabadi Darvishes’ February resistance to the arrest of their spiritual leader to the September truck driver’s strike to the ongoing Ahwaz steel workers’ strike. Workers, farmers, teachers, women, members of ethnic groups, and people from all walks of life expressed anger and demanded accountability for the ruling elite’s corruption and mismanagement and resulting dire economic situation, while shouts of “They looted us in the name of the religion!” and “Mr. Supreme Leader lives like a god while the people beg!” registered a broad dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Many observers failed to grasp the crucial importance of these movements and what they portend for future radical change, thus the charged language of the powerful dominated headlines and nuclear issues too often eclipsed popular struggle for justice and accountability. While the world failed to grasp the unprecedented nature of these various expressions of resistance, Iranian authorities noted their significance and launched a pernicious campaign of repression that has already claimed numerous victims.
Iran's judiciary dealt harshly with those who participated in the protests. Women who took to the streets in protest of the compulsory hijab early in the year were arrested, as was Farhad Meysami, a women's rights campaigner. Scores of Gonabadi darvishes were arrested in a February crackdown on demonstrations meant to protect their spiritual leader from arrest. Hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs were arrested in April after taking to the streets following a fatal coffeehouse fire. Kurdish activists were jailed for protesting early September executions, including one who demanded that the "machinery of death must stop." Some met less fortunate fates than jail time: Vahid Heidari died suspiciously in custody just days after being caught in sweeping arrests of protesters of Arak. Officials threatened demonstrating bazaar merchants and truck drivers with the death penalty. Lawyers who sought truth and due process for clients involved in the protests were met with harsh reactions by judiciary officials. A lawyer who attempted to follow up on the case of Vahid Heidari, Mohammad Najafi, was given a sentence of jail time and lashes rather than answers in the case. Lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh, who had taken on the cases of several women compulsory hijab protesters, was arrested in mid June.
The judiciary's failures to respect rule of law and protect citizens, the Revolutionary Courts' continued silencing of dissent 40 years after their inception, and the Revolutionary Guards' ability to act with impunity combine to exact a heavy toll on activists and ordinary citizens. Human rights defenders continued to be harassed, including Narges Mohammadi, as did other civil society activists, like a group of environmental activists arrested and exposed to heavy sentences. Imprisoned defendants like Narges Mohammadi and Arash Sadeghi have continued to have their basic rights to medical care in custody denied. Iran's judiciary also handed down and implemented death sentences in hasty, politically charged proceedings, including Gonabadi Darvish Mohammad Salas and two men executed in November for “economic corruption” offenses sentenced by special tribunals. The judiciary also carried out executions abruptly and secretly, like those of Zaniar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi, previously given death sentences in closed and doubtful trials on the basis of coerced confessions.
Documenting evil and memorializing victims is only part of our work on behalf of justice; with an eye to the future, we also continued to strengthen the culture of human rights and democracy in Iran, equipping those calling for change with tools to articulate a positive vision. We also advocated for victims of violations, ensuring that even the smallest voice might be heard in the halls of power. You helped us bring to the world the voice of the voiceless.
Our documentation work is more than an archive: it is also the foundation of an armory of information we and other advocates use to hold perpetrators accountable and encourage the reform required for a future in which the rights of all Iranians are respected.
This year, ABC worked to elevate the issue of qassameh sentencing -
Memorialization: The Truth Shall Not Fade into Oblivion
In 2018 ABC continued documenting the violation of the right to life in Iran, including more than 233 executions so far this year (due to lack of independent investigation in Iran, these statistics are neither exact nor exhaustive.) Though a welcome decrease from the staggering highs of past years (509 in 2017 and 592 in 2016), even one execution is a tragedy in a system which relies on coerced confessions to convict and denies defendants the right to proper defense.
Strengthening Human Rights and Democracy
This year, ABC added more than 140 new documents to our human rights and democracy library. This searchable database makes available to the Persian speaking readership texts and international legislation on human rights, writings on democracy and ethics of citizenry, as well as victims’ testimonies, and reports on the situation of human rights in Iran, and offers English speakers an extensive set of translated resources related to the Iranian judiciary and the history of Iranians' struggle for a government which respects their rights.
Since its inception, ABC has been committed to the fight against the death penalty, an irrevocable punishment that is handed down by an Iranian judiciary which does not respect minimum standards of fairness and transparency. As part of this ongoing campaign, and to educate our citizenry about this complex issue, ABC translated into Persian and made available comparative information on the use of capital punishment and abolitionist efforts worldwide, including “Ohio Bishops: Replace Death Penalty with Mercy, Conversion”;“Great Majority of Native American Tribes in U.S. Don’t Practice Death Penalty”; “Death Penalty Expert Robin Maher: The Importance of Effective Defense for Mentally Ill Defendants”; and “Pope Francis: Death Penalty an Inhumane Measure that Abuses Human Dignity”.