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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Iran

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Iran, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3ac.html [accessed 31 August 2014]
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.
IRAN[1]*

 

 

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 and their lay allies. 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 Consulative Assembly, or Majles. The Government seeks to ensure that public policy is consistent with its view of political and socioreligious values, but serious factional differences exist within the leadership. The Government reinforces its power by arrests, summary trials and executions, and various 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 such abuses such arbitrary arrests and torture.

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 is still recovering 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 1994 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 1994. In March, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR) concluded that the Government's "continuing" abuse of human rights justifies international scrutiny. The United Nations extended for another year the mandate of Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, its Special Representative on Human Rights in Iran. Systematic abuses include arbitrary arrests and detentions, widespread use of torture, lack of fair trials, summary executions, and repression of the freedoms of speech, press, and association. A prominent social critic and historian, Ali Akbar Saidi-Sirjani, died in detention in November, 10 months after his arrest on improbable criminal charges. The Government claims Saidi-Sirjani died of a heart attack but did not permit an independent autopsy. The Government failed to provide adequate protection for three Evangelical Christian leaders who were murdered in 1994. Women face legal and social discrimination, important worker rights are restricted, and the Government continues to persecute the adherents of the Baha'i faith. There is a lively and open debate on political issues but the ruling clerics effectively control the electoral process, thereby denying the people the right to change their government. The Government conceals its abuses and obstructs the activities of human rights monitors.

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. 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.

On February 25, the Government executed Faizullah Makhubat, 78, a Jew who had been detained under harsh conditions for 22 months at Evin Prison in Tehran. A leading member of Iran's Jewish community, Makhubat was convicted of espionage and sabotage. After taking delivery of the body, Makhubat's family members discovered that the eyes had been gouged out, the teeth broken, and contusions and bruises covered the body.

In November, Ali Akbar Saidi-Sirjani, a leading intellectual dissident, died in detention 8 months after his arrest on the improbable charges of drug trafficking and espionage. Authorities claimed the cause of death was a heart attack, but members of Saidi-Sirjani's family maintain that he had no history of heart disease or drug problems. The Government did not allow an independent autopsy.

A best selling author, Saidi-Sirjani was a prominent advocate of abolishing censorship. He emphasized Iran's pre-Islamic tradition of respect for individual rights and of fighting tyranny. He was arrested on March 14 with journalist Niazi Kermani, reportedly because they had published a work questioning the principles of the 1979 revolution. Iranian newspapers published their alleged confessions to crimes of moral turpitude. Five members of the outlawed Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran were reportedly executed in February at Diselabad Prison in Kermanshah for engaging in unspecified political activity. The victims, who were allegedly tortured prior to execution, were: Hossein Sobhani, Rauf Mohammadi, Bahman Kosravi, Ghaderi Moradi, and Adel Abdollahi. Three Evangelical Christian ministers were murdered by unknown assailants. The Government had accused them of seeking converts among Muslims. The Rev. Mehdi Dibaj, a pastor of the Assemblies of God church, was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to death for apostasy. He was released from prison in January after his case received international publicity, but was abducted and murdered. His body was discovered on a Tehran street in July.

The Rev. Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, who served as Chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers and Secretary General of the Assemblies of God church, was abducted in February and found dead a few days later. Prior to his murder, Rev. Hovsepian-Mehr reportedly refused to sign a declaration from the then Ministry of Islamic Guidance stating that Iranian Christians enjoyed full constitutional rights. The Rev. Tateos Michaelian, the pastor of St. John Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Tehran, and acting chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers (a position he assumed after the abduction of Rev. Hovsepian-Mehr), was abducted in June. According to the Government, the Rev. Michaelian's body was discovered in July, stuffed into a large freezer, with bullet wounds in the throat and the back of the neck.

In response to an inquiry from the U.N. Special Representative, the Government in October claimed that the ministers were murdered by operatives of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an opposition group seeking the Government's overthrow. Although there is no evidence that the Government was involved in the killings, it bears responsibility for trying the Rev. Dibaj for apostasy and fostering an atmosphere of religious intolerance.

In February security forces reportedly killed a number of Sunni Muslims who staged a demonstration in the city of Zahedan to protest the Government's destruction of a local mosque. In August a large spontaneous demonstration broke out in the city of Qazvin after the Majles rejected a proposal to designate the city as a separate province. The Government dispatched troops to quell the disturbance, which reportedly attracted up to 100,000 demonstrators. During their efforts to restore order, the troops reportedly killed dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds.

The Government continued to assassinate political opponents abroad. On January 4, a member of the Revolutionary Command of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, Taha Kermani, was assassinated in Corum, Turkey. Prior to his murder, Mr. Kermani was designated a refugee by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On March 10, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran was assassinated in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. A member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, Ahmad Sadi Lahijani, was assassinated in Ghalebeih, Iraq, on May 29. On June 24, a member of the Revolutionary Command of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, Osman Mohamad Amini, was murdered in his apartment in Copenhagen. On November 14, a monarchist opposition figure, Ali Mohammed Assadi, was stabbed to death in Bucharest.

Investigations of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism abroad continued in 1994. In December a court in France convicted three Iranians of the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar and his assistant, Katibeh Fallouch. Defendents Ali Vakili Rad and Massoud Hendi were sentenced to life and 18 years, respectively. The prosecutor said the crime was organized from "within the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran."In 1993 the Government of Switzerland requested the extradition from France of two Iranians indicted in the 1991 murder in Geneva of Karem Rajavi, the brother of the leader of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, Masud Rajavi. Instead, the French Government expelled the suspects to Iran on December 29, 1993. The two were among 13 Iranians indicted by the Swiss Government for the murder; the other 11 were at large at the time of the indictments.

The trial of Kazem Darabi, an Iranian citizen charged with murdering four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin in 1992 under instructions from the Iranian Government, continued in Germany.

b. Disappearance

No reliable information is available on the number of disappearances in 1994. However, in 1994 the UNCHR conveyed to the Government in 1994 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.

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.

A German engineer, Helmut Szimkus, was released from Evin prison in Tehran on July 1 after serving 5 1/2 years for alleged spying. Szimkus later told reporters that he was tortured in prison and claimed he had witnessed guards torture children in the presence of their parents to extract confessions from the adults. In September the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a report on "unresolved humanitarian issues" from the Iran-Iraq war. The ICRC noted that the Government violated the Third Geneva Convention by failing to identify combatants killed in action and exchange information on those killed or missing. According to the report, the fate of almost 19,000 Iraqi prisoners of war (POW's) in Iran "remained unknown." The report criticized the Government for obstructing ICRC efforts to register and repatriate POWs.

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. If known, the prisoner still may be denied visits by family and legal counsel. In addition, families of executed prisoners do not always receive notification of the prisoner's death. The family of Bahman Samandir, a Baha'i exeucted by the Government in 1992, has still been unable to recover his body.

In August security forces arrested some 3,000 persons in Qazvin, after army troops had quelled disturbances in that city (see Section 1.a.). Credible reports indicated that many of the detainees were released only after they signed a false confession indicating they were members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq.

Adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention. One Baha'i, Ramazan Ali Zolfaqari, was convicted of apostasy, imprisoned, and released on Janury 6. His conviction is still in effect. As of August, about eight Baha'is were imprisoned because of their beliefs. 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 absense of post-revolution laws, the Government advises judges to base their decisions on Islamic law. Moreover, 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. These defendants 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. Two highly publicized show trials occurred in 1994: one for a person accused of bombing a religious shrine in Mashhad; the other for a person accused of bombing Ayatollah Khomeini's tomb near Tehran. The Government accused the charged individuals with membership in the Mojahedin-e Khalq. Rather than conduct a genuine investigation into the bombings, the Government linked them to themurders of the Evangelical Christian clerics (see Section 1.a) and characterized all of these events as a Mojahedin plot.

In August the Majles approved 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 defendents 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.

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 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. The wife of writer Saidi-Sirjani reported that, after her husband's arrest in March, the Anti-Vice Department of the Revolutionary Prosecutor's office raided her home, seized her husband's papers, and sealed the library (see Section 1.a.).

Paramilitary volunteer forces known as the Basiji 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 the freedom of the press, except when published ideas are "contrary to Islamic principles, or are detrimental to public rights." In practice, the Government controls most publications. Newspapers are generally associated with various 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 may harass or shut down independent publishing houses that are overly critical of public policy. Nonetheless, some independent publishers out of favor with the Government continue to survive. In October a bimonthly newspaper, Asr-e Ma (Our Era), was launched by a former government minister. It has called for the establishment of political parties.

Those whose comments offend the Government risk arrest and summary punishment. In 1994 Azizollah Amir Rahimi, a former general, distributed open letters and gave interviews to the foreign media in which he called on President Rafsanjani to step down and organize free elections. Rahimi and his son were reportedly detained on November 1 for his comments. No information on the status of their cases was available at year's end.

In October 134 prominent writers distributed an open letter protesting excessive official censorship. In response, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati delivered a sermon on November 11 in which he warned that Muslims might take some unspecified "action" against the writers. The semiofficial Tehran Times cautioned against freedom of speech, editorializing that such freedom does not permit publication of "unsocial, immoral and seditious articles."The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance ensures that books do not contain offensive material prior to publication. It inspects foreign printed materials prior to their release on the market. However, some books and pamphlets critical of the Government are published without reprisal.

In March the Government reaffirmed as binding and irrevocable the 1989 religious decree condemning to death British author Salman Rushdie for his book, "The Satanic Verses." The Government considers the book blasphemous. It made no public move to repudiate its promise of a cash award to any person who kills Rushdie.

The Government owns all broadcasting facilities, and their programming reflects its political and socioreligious ideology. In June officials reportedly seized 1,995 satellite receiving dishes and videotapes in the port of Bandar Abbas. The Majles passed a law in January 1995 banning the import and distribution of satellite dishes and calling for the removal of existing satellite dishes. But the law had been declared unconstitutional by the Council of Guardians at press time, so its enforcement is uncertain.

Academic censorship persists, even though restrictions on academic freedom have eased since the immediate postrevolutionary period. However, in May Supreme Leader Khamenei said in a speech at the Islamic Open University that the university's atmosphere "must be protected from the penetration of poisonous and anti-Islamic thoughts" and that the university's administration "is justified in preventing the expression of any remarks against Islamic and revolutionary values."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." Numerous unplanned demonstrations occurred throughout Iran in 1994 (see Section 1.a.).

The Constitution 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, co-opted by the Government, or moribund.

In February the Ministry of Interior granted licenses to some 80 political and professional organizations out of an estimated 400 applications. No major opposition faction was evident among the licensed groups. Authorities continue to monitor the activities of the Freedom Movement, a political group founded in 1961 and declared illegal in 1991.

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 mullahs (Islamic 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.

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. Three Evangelical Christian ministers were killed in 1994. One, who had converted to Christianity in 1983, had been sentenced to death for apostasy in December 1993 and released in response to an international appeal (see Section 1.a.).

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 their faith and maintaining links with coreligionists abroad. In October 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."

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.

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 UNHCR estimate that there were approximately 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Iran in late 1994. The majority have been integrated into local society. Others live seminomadic lives or reside in government settlements. The UNHCR repatriated more than 110,000 refugees to Afghanistan in 1994 and is supervising the repatriation of many more. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurdish and Shi'a Muslim refugees, displaced by the aftermath of the Gulf War, remained in Iran in 1994. The Government of Iran 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 Ayatollah Khomeini's interpretation of Shi'a Islam. There is no separation of state and religion. The clerics dominate all branches of government completely. 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 Majles exercises a considerable amount of independence from the executive branch, but its decisions are reviewed by the Council of Guardians (see below). 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. 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.

Women are underrepresented in government. They hold 9 out 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 in general is uncooperative with foreign groups. The Government continued to refuse in 1994 the repeated requests by the U.N. Special Representative to visit Iran.

In November 1994, the Government hosted a German-Iranian Human Rights Seminar in Tehran. It permitted the German participants to visit a prison in Esfahan, and permitted a second visit by journalists to Evin prison in Tehran. The Government also has established a human rights committee in the Majlis and a human rights commission in the judiciary, but observers believe they lack independence. Government officials state repeatedly that Iran should be judged by Islamic, rather than Western, human rights principles.

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

Women

Discrimination against women has increased since the revolution. On January 31, Mina Kalout was reportedly stoned to death in Evin Prison. Kalout, a married woman, was accused of committing adultery with her cousin, Abdol-Hussein, who was executed for the offense. On February 22, Homa Darabi, a pediatrician, reportedly immolated herself to protest the Government's discriminatory policies. Prior to her death, Darabi had been dismissed from an academic position for failing to adhere strictly to the Islamic dress code. On March 2, Tahereh Ghan'e, a married woman with children, was reportedly stoned to death in Qom for alleged adultery. On May 5, a female student of medicine and women's activist at Beheshti University was found strangled to death. Her arm had been broken, as well. Although the Government claimed the student had committed suicide, 1,000 female students staged a sit-in on May 9 to protest what they believed to be her murder.

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.

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. In 1986 the Majles passed a 12-article law on marriage and divorce that limited the privileges accorded to men by custom and traditional interpretations of Islamic law. The 1986 law also recognized divorced women's rights to a share of the property couples aquire during their marriage and increased alimony rights.

The Government's views on women's rights were exemplified in 1994 by an open letter to the U.N. Special Representative from the President's Special Advisor on Women's Affairs, Shailia Habibi. In the letter, Habibi explained that legal restrictions on a women's freedom to travel--a woman needs permission from a close male relative to obtain a passport--are "consensual" because such restrictions "are designed to preserve the unity and sanctity of the family." She also accused "Western emancipation" of causing "corruption, prostitution, Lesbianism, and widespread venereal disease."

Children

There is no known pattern of child abuse.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Kurds seek greater autonomy and continue to suffer government prosecution. In August the Government reportedly razed 17 Kurdish villages.

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 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 1994. 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.

People with Disabilities

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

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.

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

Section 2 73 of 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

The labor law prohibits employment of minors under 15 years of age and places special restrictions on the employment of minors under 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 one weekly rest day, normally Fridays, and at least 12 leave 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. Accordingly, it draws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.

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