Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO); December 22, 2022: Human rights defenders have always been under repression by the Islamic Republic. However, their targeted and systematic repression has dramatically increased in recent years. In its 2019/2020 Human Rights Defenders report, Iran Human Rights documented 54 human rights defenders which doubled in 2021 with more than 100 human rights defenders.
This upward trend continued in 2022, reaching a peak with the current report documenting 218 human rights defenders who have been arrested and harassed in less than three months. While the Islamic Republic is considered one the biggest repressive states in the world, this report shows that the targeted crackdown on human rights defenders, was unprecedented following the outbreak of nationwide protests, even for the Islamic Republic.
Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “Three months have passed since the beginning of the nationwide protests in Iran. Changing the political system is the core protest demand but the demands of those who take to the streets at the risk to their lives, is even greater than a change of system. The people of Iran have stood up to claim all the rights millions have been deprived of for decades. All protesters who took to the streets are themselves human rights defenders according to the UN definition. Human rights defenders play an important role in the ‘Woman, Life, Liberty’ revolution.”
This report shows that the Islamic Republic’s response to any human rights activism is violent crackdowns, and that the situation of human rights defenders has significantly deteriorated compared to last year. Many activists were unlawfully arrested “preemptively” at their homes and locations other than protests. Activists like Golrokh Irayi-Ebrahimi, Milad Fadayi, Saba Sherdoost and Majid Tavakoli. A significant number of defenders also suffer from illnesses. Arash Sadeghi was arrested despite suffering from a rare form of cancer. Rapper Toomaj Salehi is facing charges that carry the death penalty for his protest songs. There are also teachers who were arrested or faced reprisals for refusing to hand over names of protesting/striking students and pupils, with one losing her life due to a heart attack from the pressure.
Lawyers willing to represent protesters and other human rights defenders have been particularly targeted at an unprecedented rate with at least 46 subjected arrests or legal action.
Iran Human Rights calls on civil society worldwide to support their colleagues who are fighting for their fundamental rights under such difficult circumstances in Iran. Artists, Bar Associations, workers’ unions, journalists, women’s activists and others can help save their lives by being their voices. We call on well-known figures to take coordinated action by each following up on the situation of one of the people listed in this report, and to be their voice in interviews and public appearances.
Many of the human rights defenders are behind bars in dangerous conditions; international pressure and raising the political cost of the repression, is the only way to reduce the pressure on them.