Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 February 2020, 21:14 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Iran

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Iran, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 23 February 2020]
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 (Tier 3)

Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iranian and Afghan boys and girls residing in Iran are forced into prostitution within the country. Iranian women, boys, and girls, are subjected to sex trafficking in Iran, as well as in Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Europe. Azerbaijani women and children are also subjected to sex trafficking in Iran.

Afghan migrants and refugees are subjected to forced labor in Iran. Men and women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iraq migrate voluntarily to Iran, or through Iran, to other Gulf states, particularly the UAE, and Europe, seeking employment. Some are subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor, including debt bondage, through the use of such practices as restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. NGO reports indicate criminal organizations, sometimes politically connected, play a significant role in human trafficking to and from Iran, particularly across the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan in connection with the smuggling of migrants, drugs, and arms. Unconfirmed reports indicate that religious leaders and immigration officials are involved in human trafficking.

The Government of Iran does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts with the international community during the reporting period; this impedes the collection of information on the country's human trafficking problem and the government's efforts to curb it. Publicly available information from NGOs, the press, international organizations, and other governments nonetheless indicate that the Iranian government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges. For these reasons, Iran is placed on Tier 3 for a seventh consecutive year.

Recommendations for Iran: Significantly increase efforts to investigate trafficking offenses and prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, including officials who are complicit in trafficking; institute victim identification procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer protection services to victims of trafficking, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; cease the punishment of victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked; and increase transparency in government anti-trafficking policies and activities through public reporting.


The Government of Iran made no discernible law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability of the victim for purposes of prostitution, removal of organs, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law reportedly is up to 10 years' imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Constitution and Labor Code both prohibit forced labor and debt bondage; the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one year's imprisonment is not sufficient to deter these serious crimes. In addition, the Labor Code does not apply to work in households. NGO sources report that these laws remain unenforced due to a lack of political will and widespread corruption. There were no reports of investigations or prosecutions of trafficking cases or convictions of trafficking offenders. It was extremely difficult for women in forced prostitution to obtain justice; first, because Iranian courts accord legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to testimony by men, and second, because women who are victims of sexual abuse are liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. There were no reports of government officials being investigated or punished for complicity in trafficking offenses during the reporting period.


The Government of Iran made no discernible efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. There is no evidence that the government has a process to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations found in the country. Iran has deported large numbers of undocumented Afghans without attempting to identify trafficking victims among them. The government also has reportedly punished victims of sex trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, for example, adultery and prostitution. There were no reports that the government referred trafficking victims to protective services. Some welfare organizations unrelated to the government may help Iranian trafficking victims. The Iranian government did not provide foreign victims of trafficking with a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.


There were no reports of efforts by the Government of Iran to prevent trafficking during the past year, such as campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking, to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, or to reduce demand for child sex tourism by Iranians traveling abroad. A news report indicated that in February 2012, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended a two-day trilateral summit with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan in Islamabad; one of the summit's agenda items was transnational organized crime, including human trafficking. There was no improvement in the transparency of the government's reporting on its own anti-trafficking policies or activities and no apparent efforts to forge partnerships with international organizations or NGOs in addressing human trafficking problems. According to UNHCR, in June 2011, the Iranian government began re-registering Afghan refugees – a group vulnerable to trafficking – extending the validity of their registration card to one year. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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