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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Iran

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Iran, 30 January 1996, available at: [accessed 26 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 after a populist revolution toppled the monarchy. The Government is dominated by Shi'a Muslim clergymen. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and functions as the Chief of State. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, first elected in a popular vote in 1989, was reelected in 1993. The Constitution, approved in l980 by popular referendum and revised in 1989, provides for a 270-seat unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majles. The Government seeks to ensure that public policy is consistent with its view of political and socio-religious values, but serious differences exist among the various factions within the leadership. The Government reinforces its power by arrests, summary trials, and executions, as well as various other forms of intimidation.

Several government agencies are responsible for internal security, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Ministry of Interior, and the Revolutionary Guards, a military force established after the revolution which is coequal with the regular military. These organizations regularly commit serious human rights abuses. Paramilitary volunteer forces known as hezbollahis or basijis also conduct vigilante actions.

Iran has a mixed economy. The Government owns the petroleum and utilities industries and the banks. Oil exports are the primary source of foreign exchange. The economy has not yet recovered from the disruptions of the 1979 revolution and the destruction from the Iran-Iraq war. Iran remains isolated from international financial markets. Economic performance is adversely affected by corruption and government mismanagement. Unemployment in 1995 was estimated at 30 percent, and the annual rate of inflation was about 50 percent.

The Government continues to be a major abuser of human rights. There was no evidence of improvement in 1995. Systematic abuses include extrajudicial killings and summary executions; widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment; disappearances; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of fair trials; harsh prison conditions; and repression of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. In March the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) extended for another year the mandate of its Special Representative on Human Rights in Iran. In August the U.N.'s Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities approved a resolution condemning the "extensive and continuing human rights abuses" by the Government.

The ruling clerics effectively control the electoral process, thereby denying the people the right to change their government. The Government denies the universality of human rights, conceals its abuses of human rights, and obstructs the activities of human rights monitors.

Throughout 1995 the Government exercised a heavy hand in censorship. It banned satellite dishes, closed several newspapers, prevented individuals from speaking in public, and forcibly broke up public protests. Despite these attacks on the freedom of expression, a lively and open debate on political, economic, and social issues exists. Women face legal and social discrimination, and important worker rights are restricted.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Given the lack of basic procedural safeguards in political trials, most of the executions ordered in such cases amount to summary executions. The U.N. Special Representative on Human Rights in Iran has cited the Government's "extensive" use of the death penalty. Similarly, in a 1995 report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions noted "the persistent allegations of violations of the right to life in the Islamic Republic of Iran." Although the domestic press stopped reporting most executions in 1992, executions appear to continue at a rate of several hundred a year. Exiles and human rights monitors report that many of those executed for alleged criminal offenses were actually political dissidents.

The outlawed Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-Iran) reported that the Government executed 10 of its members following their arrest for unspecified political activity. Seven of them were executed at Orumiyeh Prison in September. They were identified as Shahabadin Taheri, Sanar Taheri, Teymour Ibrahimi, Muhammad Amin, Avaz (sic), Rahiam (sic), and Rashid Abubakri. Another victim, Sayed Ibrahim Taheri of the village of Pirdabad, was reportedly tortured to death. His body was returned to his family in August. The last two victims were Khoda Karam Ibrahimi, who reportedly died after 2 years of torture at Kermanshah Prison, and Mohammad Ali Norouzi, who reportedly died after being tortured at Nagadeh Prison.

An unidentified member of the Fedayeen, an outlawed Marxist group, was reportedly executed for political activity in the city of Langrud in 1995.

Security forces reportedly used excessive force in crowd control. In April they opened fire on crowds of demonstrators protesting high fuel and water prices in Islamshahr and Akbarabad, two poor suburbs of Tehran. At least a dozen demonstrators were reportedly killed.

According to the international human rights group, PEN, the body of Ahmad Miralai, an author and translator, was discovered under suspicious circumstances in an alley in Tehran on October 24. Earlier that day, Miralai had been scheduled to introduce author V.S. Naipaul at a lecture. Government officials initially informed Miralai's family that Miralai had died of a stroke. Following an autopsy, whose results have not been released, the family was informed he had died of a heart attack. Miralai was one of 134 prominent writers who in 1994 signed an open letter protesting excessive official censorship.

Amnesty International reported in 1995 that Haji Mohammad Ziaie, a leader of Iran's Sunni Muslim community, died in July 1994 under suspicious circumstances following his interrogation by security forces in the city of Laar. Five days after receiving a summons to report to the local security forces in Laar for questioning, Ziaie's body was found mutilated some 200 kilometers from the city. Ziaie was a critic of the Government's treatment of Iran's Sunni Muslims.

The Government continued to assassinate political opponents abroad. On July 10, three members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian group advocating the overthrow of the Government, were assassinated in Baghdad, Iraq. Investigations of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism abroad continued in 1995. For example, the trial of Kazem Darabi, an Iranian charged with murdering four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin in 1992 under instructions from the Iranian Government, continued in Germany.

The Government took no action during the year to repudiate the religious ruling calling for the death of British author Salman Rushdie and anyone associated with publishing his book, The Satanic Verses (see Section 2.a.).

b. Disappearance

No reliable information is available on the number of disappearances. However, in 1994 the UNHRC conveyed to the Government the names of 506 missing persons. In the period immediately following arrest, many detainees are held incommunicado, a situation that amounts to temporary disappearance.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Credible reports indicate that security forces continue to torture detainees and prisoners. Common methods include suspension for long periods in contorted positions, burning with cigarettes, and most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and the soles of the feet. Reports of flogging, stoning, amputations, and public executions also are common. Government security forces reportedly tortured some 24 Kurds arrested in August and September (see Section 1.d.).

Some prisoners are held in solitary confinement or denied adequate rations or medical care to force confessions. Female prisoners have reportedly been raped or otherwise tortured while in detention. In the past, prison guards have intimidated the family members of detainees and have sometimes tortured detainees in their presence. In August a credible eyewitness reported seeing several prisoners at a Tehran prison. He described them as emaciated, with swollen and bloodied faces.

Throughout the year, the Governments of Iran and Iraq made little progress in resolving the issue of soldiers missing in action during the Iran-Iraq War. In its 1994 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that the fate of almost 19,000 Iraqi prisoners of war in Iran "remained unknown."

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, there is reportedly no legal time limit on incommunicado detention nor any judicial means to determine the legality of detention. Suspects may be held for questioning in jails or local Revolutionary Guard offices.

The security forces often do not inform family members of a prisoner's welfare and whereabouts. Even if a prisoner's whereabouts are known, security officials may still deny visits by the prisoner's family members and legal counsel. In addition, families of executed prisoners do not always receive notification of the prisoner's death. In cases where the families are notified, they may be required to pay expenses for the delivery of the deceased's body.

According to Human Rights Watch, in July the Government arrested Java Rouhani, the son of the Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, along with 24 of the Ayatollah's followers in the city of Qom. At year's end, the detainees were still being held without charge at an undisclosed location (see Section 2.a.).

According to KDP-Iran, in August and September the Government arrested 26 Kurdish civilians from the regions of Orumiyeh and Salmas and charged them with membership in that organization. The men were reportedly tortured and face the death penalty.

In January 1996, the Government released Abbas Amir Entezam, a former deputy minister in the government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. Entezam was arrested in 1979 on charges of espionage and sentenced to life in prison.

Adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention. The Government appears to adhere to a practice of detaining a small number of Baha'is at any time. Two Jews are believed to be in prison because of their religion, and a Christian leader named Beni Paul is also reportedly in detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Iran has two court systems: the traditional court system, which adjudicates civil and criminal offenses; and the Islamic Revolutionary Courts, which were established in 1979 to try "political" offenses, narcotics crimes, and "crimes against God." Many aspects of the prerevolutionary judicial system survive in the civil and criminal courts. For example, defendants have the right to a public trial, may choose their own lawyer, and have the right of appeal. Trials are adjudicated by panels of judges. There is no jury system. In the absence of postrevolution laws, the Government advises judges to base their decisions on Islamic law. These courts are not fully independent. The Revolutionary Courts may consider cases normally in the jurisdiction of the civil and criminal courts and also may overturn their decisions. Assignment of cases to either system of courts appears to be haphazard. The Supreme Court has limited authority to review cases.

Defendants tried in the Revolutionary Courts are not granted fair trials. They are often held in prolonged pretrial detention without access to attorneys, and their attorneys are rarely afforded sufficient time to prepare their defense. Defendants are often indicted for such vague offenses as "moral corruption," "antirevolutionary behavior," and "siding with global arrogance." Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers or the right to appeal. Summary trials of 5 minutes are common, and some trials are conducted in secret. Others are show trials intended to highlight a coerced public confession.

During 1995 the Government began implementation of a law reorganizing the court system. Among its provisions, the law authorizes judges to act as prosecutor and judge in the same case. The rights of defendants are further eroded by the fact that many judges retired after the revolution, and others were disbarred for ideological reasons. The Government has replaced them with judges who are regarded as politically acceptable to the regime.

In 1995 the Government conducted a highly publicized show trial covicting three women of involvement in the 1994 murders of Reverend Mehdi Dibaj and Reverend Tateos Michaelian, two of three Evangelical Christian leaders murdered under suspicious circumstances that year. The women were also convicted for bombing Ayatollah Khomeini's tomb near Tehran in 1994 and for plotting to bomb a shrine in Qom. The court sentenced Farahnaz Anami to 30 years' imprisonment and Batol Vaferi and Maryam Shabazpour to 20 years' imprisonment for their involvement in these incidents. During the trial, the women confessed to their involvement in the murders and their association with the outlawed opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq. Foreign diplomats and members of the international press, who attended the trial at the invitation of the Government, were skeptical of the women's claims and the fairness of the trial.

There are no available estimates on the number of political prisoners. However, the Government often arrests persons on trumped-up criminal charges when their actual "offenses" are political. In October 1994, the U.N. Special Representative issued a report which noted that he had requested the Government to provide information on 78 reported political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution states that "reputation, life, property, (and) dwelling(s)" are protected from trespass except as "provided by law." However, security forces enter homes and offices, monitor telephone conversations, and open mail without court authorization. In April, the Government began enforcing a ban on the ownership of satellite receiving dishes (see Section 2.a.). The move provides security forces with a pretext for entering private homes.

Paramilitary volunteer forces, including the basijis and hizbollahis, and other security forces monitor the social activities of citizens. Such organizations may harass or arrest women whose clothing does not cover the hair and all of the body except hands and face, or those who wear makeup. Enforcement of such standards of public morality varies with the political climate and the jurisdiction.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, except when published ideas are "contrary to Islamic principles, or are detrimental to public rights." In practice, the Government exerts strong control over most publications. Some newspapers are associated with factions in the Government. They reflect different views and criticize the Government but are prohibited from criticizing the concept of the Islamic Republic or promoting the rights of ethnic minorities.

The Government exercised a heavy hand in censorship throughout 1995. In February the Government banned the daily newspaper, Jahan-e Eslam, after it had published editorials written by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, a former Minister of Interior and a hard-line radical, which were critical of President Rafsanjani. The Government charged Jahan-e Eslam with violating Article 6 of the Press Law, which asserts the "importance of honoring religious sanctities and of respecting national interests and security."

In March the Government banned the monthly magazine, Takapu, for printing "vulgar poems." In May the Government banned the university student weekly, Payam-e Daneshjou, for "habitual defamation." The popular student paper is known for its criticism of government leaders, including President Rafsanjani. In October the Government banned the daily newspaper, Tus, which is published in Mashad and known for its criticism of the Government. A court convicted Tus's editor, Mohamed Sadeq Javadi Hessar, of "slander" and "divulging secrets." Hessar was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 20 lashes, but was later released on bail (see Section 1.e.). At year's end, there is no information on whether Hessar's punishment had been imposed.

The Government also seized an edition of the daily newspaper, Payam, reportedly because the paper published articles about embezzlement at the Bank-e Saderat, a corruption case which involved relatives of senior government officials.

The Government took other action to suppress freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In March the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance introduced new regulations that expanded the Government's supervision of the filmmaking industry. In response, 214 filmmakers issued a public letter in June calling on the Government to ease these controls.

In June the Government introduced a revised press law which would increase government control of the press. For example, it would require journalists to obtain licenses from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance. One reporter for the newspaper Salam said in an interview that if the draft were enacted into law, the result would be "legal and clear censorship." The move was opposed by both journalists and the banned political party, the Freedom Movement. The draft law had not been approved by year's end.

Those whose public comments offend the Government risk censorship and arrest. In January and in June, Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, a preeminent clerical leader, issued two public letters criticizing the Government. His second letter criticized arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The Government reportedly detained 25 of his followers from the city of Qom, including his son, Javad Rouhani, apparently because of Rouhani's criticism. The detainees are being held without charge in an undisclosed location (see Section 1.d.).

In March Ayatollah Ebrahim Haj Amini-Najafabadi was prevented from completing a sermon at a mosque after he made critical remarks about the Government. The following week, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Qomi protested: "When a person like Ayatollah Amini ... who is pious from head to toe and loves Islam ... says something, gives a word of advice, it is not right to censor his remarks." The Government banned former Interior Minister Mohtashami from delivering a speech on August 16 at the Teacher Training University in Tehran.

Paramilitary vigilante groups known as the hezbollahi and basiji also harassed public speakers. In July such vigilantes incited a crowd to attack prominent Islamic intellectual Abdol Karim Soroush, who was delivering a speech in a mosque in Tehran on Shiite theologian Ali Shariati. After the attack, more than 100 professors signed a letter to President Rafsanjani complaining about the incident. In October a hezbollahi mob prevented Soroush from delivering a scheduled speech at the University of Tehran. Because of these incidents, Soroush left Iran in December out of fear for his safety. In July a mob disrupted a memorial service held in Tehran for Karim Sanjabi, a former foreign minister in the government of Mehdi Bazargan and a leader in the constitutionalist group the National Front.

In March the Government released from detention Azizollah Amir Rahimi, a former general, who was arrested along with his son in November 1994. Before his arrest Rahimmi had distributed open letters and gave interviews in which he called on President Rafsanjani to step down and organize free elections.

The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance is charged with pre-publication review of books to ensure that they do not contain offensive material. The Ministry inspects foreign printed materials prior to their release on the market. However, some books and pamphlets critical of the Government are published without reprisal. On August 22, a hezbollahi group firebombed a bookstore in Tehran, because it sold a book titled "And God Laughs Only on Mondays." The author had earlier received permission from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance for publication. The Agence France Presse reported that arsonists kidnaped a bookstore employee and severely beat the man before releasing him. Later at a Friday sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati justified the attack, stating: "Propaganda, articles, speeches and books which are contrary to Islam and to public chastity and to the interests of the country are forbidden." He also said that "if someone acted on the basis of the imam's (Ayatollah Khoemeni) guidelines he should not be reprimanded by anybody."

The Government made no effort to repudiate the 1989 religious decree condemning to death British author Salman Rushdie for his book, The Satanic Verses, which the Government considers blasphemous. Nor did the Government move to repudiate its promise of a cash award to any person who kills Rushdie or anyone associated with publishing his book.

The Government owns all broadcasting facilities, and their programming reflects its political and socioreligious ideology. On April 22, the Government began implementation of its law prohibiting the ownership of satellite dishes.

Academic censorship persists, even though restrictions on academic freedom have eased since the immediate postrevolutionary period. According to Human Rights Watch, the deputy dean of the law school at the University of Tehran, Dr. Javad Tabatabai, was dismissed after criticizing a 1994 law reorganizing the country's court system.

Government informers are said to be common on university campuses and monitor classroom material. Admission to universities is politicized; all applicants must pass "character tests" in which officials screen out applicants critical of the Government's ideology. To achieve tenure, professors reportedly must cooperate with government authorities over a period of years.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution permits assemblies and marches "provided they do not violate the principles of Islam." It also provides for the establishment of political parties, professional associations, and religious groups provided they do not violate the principles of "freedom, sovereignty, (and) national unity" or question Islam or the Islamic Republic. In practice, most independent organizations are banned, coopted by the Government, or moribund.

Demonstrations against economic conditions occurred in two poor suburbs of Tehran in April. In putting down these demonstrations, security forces reportedly killed a dozen individuals and arrested dozens more (see Section 1.a.).

In August the Ministry of Interior refused to grant a license to the Freedom Movement, a political group founded in 1961 and declared illegal in 1991. The Ministry's decision effectively precludes the party from participating in the parliamentary election in 1996. The Ministry claims that it has granted licenses to nearly "150 political formations, trade societies, expert-scientific groups, and religious minorities' associations." No major opposition faction is evident among the licensed groups.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution declares that the "official religion of Iran is Islam and the sect followed is Ja'fari Shi'ism." It also states that "other Islamic denominations shall enjoy complete respect." Religion is almost inseparable from government. The President and many top officials, including the Speaker of the Parliament and many parliamentary deputies, are Shiite clergymen.

Approximately 90 percent of the population are Shi'a Muslims. Aside from slightly over 1 percent who are not Muslims, the rest of the population are Sunni Muslims, who include Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Baluchis, and other ethnic minorities. During the year there were reports that Sunni Muslims in the southeastern province of Sistan va Baluchistan, and in the northwestern province of Kurdistan, protested the suppression of their religious rights by local authorities.

The Constitution recognizes Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Members of these religions elect representatives to reserved parliamentary seats. They are free to practice their religion and instruct their children, but the Government interferes with the administration of their schools. Harassment by government officials is common (see Section 5).

Non-Muslims may not proselytize Muslims. After three evangelical Christian ministers were killed in 1994, Christian Iranians reportedly are exercising greater self-censorship to avoid accusation of proselytization. The Government tried and convicted three women for involvement in the murders of two of those ministers (see Section 1.e.). It maintains that the investigation into the murder of the third minister, Reverend Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, is still underway.

According to an unconfirmed report, in April authorities in Tehran arrested the Reverend Khosrow Khodadadi, a Muslim convert to Christianity and the pastor of the closed

Pentecostal Assyrian Church in Hamadan. Although he was released in June, the authorities did not inform his family of his whereabouts for 3 weeks after his arrest. Reverend Khodadadi was reportedly mistreated while in custody. Prior to his arrest, Reverend Khodadadi had long been harassed for his adherence to Christianity. Fearing for his life and the safety of his wife and children, he fled from Iran to Turkey in 1994. In November of that year, he was deported from Turkey back to Iran, where authorities ordered him to move away from his hometown of Hamadan to Tehran. The Government reportedly refuses to grant Reverend Khodadadi and his family permission to leave the country.

The Government regards the Baha'i community, the largest non-Muslim minority with 300,000 to 350,000 members, as a "misguided sect." It prohibits Baha'is from teaching and practicing their faith and maintaining links with coreligionists abroad.

In 1993 the Majles approved legislation that prohibits government workers from membership in groups that deny the "divine religions." The Government uses such terminology to describe members of the Baha'i faith. The law also stipulates penalties for government workers who do not observe "Islamic principles and rules." The Government also denies Baha'is access to higher education.

In January 1996, a Revolutionary Court in city of Yazd found Zabihullah Mahrami, a member of the local Baha'i community, guilty of apostasy after he refused to severe his ties to the Baha'i community. The court sentenced Mahrami to death and also ordered the confiscation of his assets, on grounds that he did not have any Muslim heirs. Mahrami's wife and children are Baha'is. Mahrami appealed to the Supreme Court, which in February rejected the verdict and referred the case back to a civilian court, rather than a revolutionary court, for further consideration.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens may travel to any part of Iran, although there have been travel restrictions to Kurdish areas during times of heavy fighting. People may change their place of residence without obtaining official permission. The Government requires exit permits for draft-age males and citizens who are politically suspect. Some Iranians, particularly those whose skills are in short supply and who were educated at government expense, must post bonds to obtain exit permits. A woman needs permission from a male relative to obtain a passport (see Section 5).

The Government permits Iranian Jews to travel abroad but often denies them the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens. The Government does not normally permit all members of a Jewish family to travel abroad at the same time.

The Government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that there are approximately 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Iran. Some 90,000 of these have been repatriated. Others live seminomadic lives or reside in government settlements. The UNHCR also estimates that there are about 600,000 Iraqi Kurdish and Shi'a Muslim refugees displaced by the Gulf War. The Government of Iran has provided assistance to these refugees.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Iran is ruled by a group of religious leaders and their lay associates who share a belief in the legitimacy of a theocratic state based on the late Ayatollah Khomeini's interpretation of Shi'a Islam. There is no separation of state and religion. The clerics dominate all branches of government. The Government represses any movement seeking to separate state and religion or to alter the State's existing theocratic foundation. The selection of candidates is effectively controlled by the ruling clerics, consequently depriving citizens of the right to change their government.

Regularly scheduled elections are held for the President, members of Parliament (the Majles), and members of the Assembly of Experts, a body responsible for selecting the successor to the Leader of the Revolution. The Constitution provides for a Council of Guardians composed of six Islamic clergymen, and six lay members who review all laws for consistency with Islamic law and the Constitution. The Council also screens political candidates for ideological and religious suitability. It accepts only candidates who support a theocratic state, but clerics who disagree with government policies have also been disqualified.

The Majles exercises a considerable amount of independence from the executive branch, but its decisions are reviewed by the Council of Guardians. Vigorous parliamentary debates take place on various issues, and in some cases the Majles has defeated laws proposed by the executive branch. Most deputies are associated with powerful political and religious officials but often vote independently and shift from one faction to another.

Women are underrepresented in government. They hold only 9 of 270 Majles seats, and there are no female cabinet members.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government represses local human rights groups and has been uncooperative with international groups. In 1995 the U.N. Special Representative on Human Rights in Iran, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, resigned after 9 years of service. The Government had refused to permit Pohl to visit Iran since 1991; however, it granted permission for a visit in February 1996 to Pohl's successor, former Canadian diplomat Maurice Danby Copinthorne. The Government has also granted permission for visits by several human rights monitors, including the U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Religious Intolerance, the U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Freedom of Expression, Human Rights Watch, and the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights. The Government also has permitted visits by the ICRC.

The Government has established a human rights committee in the Majles and a human rights commission in the judiciary, but observers believe that they lack independence. Government officials regularly assert that Iran should be judged by Islamic, rather than Western, human rights principles, and they reject the universality of human rights.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

In general, the Government does not discriminate on the basis of race, disability, language, or social status. The Government does discriminate on the basis of religion and sex.


Although domestic violence is known to occur, little is known about its extent. Abuse in the family is considered a private matter and seldom discussed publicly. There are no official statistics on the subject.

Discrimination against women has increased since the revolution. In general, women suffer discrimination in the legal code, particularly in family and property matters. It is difficult for many women, particularly those residing outside large cities, to obtain any legal redress. Although women may be educated and employed in the professions, social constraints tend to inhibit their educational and economic opportunities. Illiteracy and the lack of university degrees also affect their standing. The enforcement of conservative Islamic dress codes has varied considerably since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. Nonetheless, such dress codes persist and are enforced arbitrarily.

Under legislation passed in 1983, women have the right to divorce, and regulations promulgated in 1984 substantially broadened the grounds on which a woman may seek a divorce. However, a husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. A 1986 law on marriage and divorce limits the privileges accorded to men by custom and traditional interpretations of Islamic law; it recognized divorced women's rights to a share of the property acquired during marriage and increased alimony rights.

In 1995 the Government permitted women to attain the rank of judges. However, since the Government does not permit female judges to preside over legal hearings, it is unclear what practical effect this change in law will have.

The Government's views on women's rights were exemplified in an 1994 open letter to the U.N. Special Representative from the President's Special Advisor on Women's Affairs, Shahla Habibi. In the letter, Habibi accused "Western emancipation" of causing "corruption, prostitution, Lesbianism, and widespread venereal disease."


Most children have access to education though the 12th grade as well as to some form of health care. There is no known societal pattern of child abuse.

People with Disabilities

There is no available information on whether the Government has legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled.

Religious Minorities

The Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and Baha'i minorities suffer varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and public accommodations. Muslims who convert to Christianity also suffer discrimination.

University applicants are required to pass an examination in Islamic theology. Although public-school students receive instruction in Islam, this requirement limits access of most religious minorities to higher education. Applicants for public-sector employment are similarly screened for their adherence to Islam.

Religious minorities suffer discrimination in the legal system, receiving lower awards in injury and death lawsuits and incurring heavier punishments than Muslims. Sunni Muslims encounter religious discrimination at the local level.

In 1993 the U.N. Special Representative reported the existence of a government policy directive on the Baha'is. According to the directive, the Supreme Revolutionary Council reportedly instructed government agencies to block the progress and development of the Baha'i community; expel Baha'i students from universities; cut the Baha'is' links with groups outside Iran; restrict the employment of Baha'is; and deny Baha'is "positions of influence," including those in education. The Government claims that the directive is a forgery. However, it appears to be an accurate reflection of current government practice.

The persecution of Baha'is persisted unevenly in 1995. The Government continued to return some property previously confiscated from individual Baha'is, although the amount returned is a fraction of the total seized. Property belonging to the Baha'i community as a whole, such as places of worship, remains confiscated. Other government restrictions have been eased, so that Baha'is may currently obtain food ration booklets and send their children to public schools. However, the prohibition against the admission of Baha'is to universities appears to be enforced. Thousands of Baha'is dismissed from government jobs in the early 1980's receive no unemployment benefits and have been required to repay the Government for salaries or pensions received from the first day of employment. Those unable to do so face prison sentences.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Although the Labor Code grants workers the right to establish unions, there are no independent unions. A national organization known as the Worker's House, founded in 1982, is the sole authorized national labor organization. It serves primarily as a conduit for government control. The leadership of the Worker's House coordinates activities with Islamic labor councils which are organized in many enterprises. These councils also function as instruments of government control, although they have frequently been able to block layoffs and dismissals. Moreover, a network of government-backed guilds issues vocational licenses, funds financial cooperatives, and helps workers find jobs.

The Government does not tolerate any strike deemed to be at odds with its economic and labor policies. In 1993 the Parliament passed a law which prohibits strikes by government workers. It also prohibits government workers from having contacts with foreigners and stipulates penalties for failure to observe Islamic dress codes and principles at work.

The Revolutionary Guards, a military force established after the revolution, forcibly broke up at least two labor strikes in 1995. In July the Guards broke up a 3-day strike at the Benz

Khavar auto manufacturing plant in Islamshahr where workers had been demanding a pay increase. The Guards placed some workers under arrest. In August the Guards also broke up a protest over layoffs at a private textile factory in the city of Ghaemshahr.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers do not have the right to organize independently and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. It is not known whether labor legislation and practice in the export processing zones differ from the law and practice in the rest of the country. No information is available on mechanisms used to set wages.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Penal Code provides that the Government may require any person who does not have work to take suitable employment. This provision has been criticized frequently by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as contravening ILO Convention 29 on forced labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Labor law prohibits employment of minors under 15 years of age and places special restrictions on the employment of minors under age 18. Education is compulsory until age 11. The law exempts workers in agriculture, domestic service, and some small businesses. By law, women and minors may not be employed in hard labor or, in general, night work. Information on the extent to which these regulations are enforced is not available.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code empowers the Supreme Labor Council to establish annual minimum wage levels for each industrial sector and region. It is not known if the minimum wages are adjusted annually or enforced. The Labor Code stipulates that the minimum wage should be sufficient to meet the living expenses of a family and should take inflation into account. Information on the share of the working population covered by the minimum wage legislation is not available.

The Labor Code establishes a 6-day workweek of 48 hours maximum, with 1 weekly rest day, normally Fridays, and at least 12 days of paid annual leave and several paid public holidays.

According to the Labor Code, a Supreme Safety Council, chaired by the Labor Minister or his representative, is responsible for promoting workplace safety and health. The Council has reportedly issued 28 safety directives and oversees the activities of 3,000 safety committees established in enterprises employing more than 10 persons. It is not known how well the Ministry's inspectors enforce regulations.

[1]* The United States does not have an embassy in Iran. This report draws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.

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