President Hassan Rouhani election was based on his “moderate” campaign, which seemed to signal a change in Iran on various issues, including human rights. However, the World Report of 2017 indicates that he hasn’t followed through, as executions, especially for drug-related offenses, continued at a high rate.
Rouhani faces elections for a second term in May 2017, but with the hardline factions dominating the security apparatus and judiciary continued to crackdown on citizens for the legitimate exercise of their rights. This is in complete disregard of current international and domestic legal standards. Iranian dual nationals and citizens returning from abroad were at a greater risk of arrest by intelligence authorities, often being accused of being “Western agents”.
Nazanin Zaghari, who came to Iran to visit her sick mother, has been sentenced to five years in jail. In a letter to her 22-month old daughter, Zaghari writes, “Believe me, I had no idea such a horrifying and painful fate was awaiting you in the country where your mother was born and raised, otherwise, I would’ve never rushed a single moment to pack for or a two-week trip to Tehran in March 2016.” She was arrested in April l, 2016 at Tehran’s airport when returning from her two-week trip to Iran.
But the number of executions are the most concerning, as under Iranian law, many non-violent crimes, such as “insulting the Prophet”, apostasy, same-sex relations, adultery, and drug-related offenses, are punishable by death.
On August 2, authorities announced that they had executed at least 20 alleged members of a group Iran considers a terrorist organization on charges of moharebeh, or “enmity against God”. Human rights groups believe that these individuals were among a group of 33 Sunni Kurdish men arrested in 2009 and 2010.
New amendments in Iran’s penal code also gives judges the ability to use their discretion not to sentence children to death. However, this has not stopped juvenile executions in 2016. On July 18, Amnesty International reported that authorities had hanged Hassan Afshar, who was arrested when he was 17-years old.
In March 2016, the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee noted that flogging was still a lawful punishment for boys and girls convicted of certain crimes. On May 25, Iranian media reported that authorities had flogged 17 miners after their employer sued them for protesting the firing of fellow workers.
Yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as fair trials and the ill-treatment of prisoners have continued unabated. In April, Omid Kokabee, a young physicist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012, underwent surgery to remove his right kidney due to complications from cancer after authorities delayed his access to appropriate medical treatment.
Hundreds of websites, particularly social media platforms, have been blocked in Iran. Intelligence officials continue to monitor citizens’ activities online and hundreds of social media users have been summoned or arrested by the Islamic Revoltionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for commenting on what has been deemed a controversial issue, including fashion.
While Iran would argue that human rights are not an issue within the country, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the situation is getting worse for the Iranian people, as the regime attempts to strangle their voice to retain its power.