Iran Human Rights will be publishing a series of articles highlighting some of the NGOs working on human rights related issues inside Iran. Highlighting these NGOs does not mean IHR has any cooperation or particular relations with them. Iran Human Rights, July 7, 2015: Imam Ali Relief Society (also known as The Society of Students Against Poverty) is among the most active NGOs in Iran. In 2010 they gained consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. All of its members are volunteers, including its CEO and co-founder, Zahra Rahimi. They are a diverse group of about 3000 members helping to protect children and empower women heads of households (mainly mothers).
Their focus is on street children, children deprived of education or a birth certificate, and children affected by crime. They also support juvenile offenders sentenced to prison or death. To date, the Relief Society has helped save more than twenty juvenile offenders from execution and facilitated the release of more than seventy others. One of their main objectives is to help reform Iran's Islamic penal code for children under 18 years of age. Through its activities Relief Society volunteers seek to decrease social issues in Iran through the increased participation of educators, scholars, philanthropists, and concerned citizens. They are currently busy expanding their activities across the country to help more victims and raise social and cause conscious awareness among a broader range of Iranian citizens. Their offices, called "Iranian Houses", also serve as community-educational centers for women, child workers and children deprived of education. The centers provide women heads of households with entrepreneurship skills training and also psychological and legal support. Currently Iranian Houses directly support approximately three thousand children and 200 mothers. The centers are located in marginalized neighborhoods across Iran - there are currently 12 locations in Tehran and the Greater Tehran Area with additional locations in Karaj, Alborz, Isfahan, Kerman, Shiraz, Mazandaran, Golestan, Khorrasan, Hormozgan, Qom, Kermanshah, and Bushehr. However, the Relief Society faces the closure of some of their centers, they lease most of them and annual repair and maintenance fees are becoming too costly. In the last two years, with financial aid from citizens and donors, the NGO has succeeded to buy a few of its locations. Funds for the organization are collected through public donations and also Relief Society volunteers help financially support various projects or judicial cases. For example, if Relief Society is helping a juvenile offender on death row, each member will donate $10 to pay for the majority of the amount needed to save the prisoner's life. Volunteers also collect donations through selling various merchandise and food products to the public through the organization's website. In recent years funds have been received from outside the country, though the volume has been low due to sanctions and the difficulties in sending money to Iran. Background The history of the NGO dates back to the 1990's when numerous university students came together. Under the mentorship of Sharmin Meymandi Nejad, a professor and original founder of the Relief Society, the students would regularly visit a children's hospital for cancer patients and help lift the spirits of the patients. Gradually they formed the foundation of their work by examining the social problems in Iran. They concluded that they cannot be silent and pledged to be the watchful eyes of society. Follow Imam Ali Relief Society on Facebook and Twitter @ImamAliSociety