Back to top
18 اوت 2023

Iran: Alarm over mass arrests of human rights defenders in advance of the anniversary of the September 2022 nationwide protests

Front Line Defenders has learned of the arrest of dozens of human rights defenders from all over the country in the past 72 hours. Since 16 August 2023, at least twelve human rights defenders were arrested and arbitrarily detained in the Northern province of Gilan alone. According to the grassroot feminist collective Bidarzani, women human rights defenders including Jelveh Javaheri, Forough Sami’nia, Matin Yazadani, Yasaman Hashdari, Negin Rezaie, Zahra Dadres, Zohreh Dadres, Vahedeh Khoshsirat, Shiva Shahsayah, Sara Jahani, Azadeh Chavoshian, and the human rights defender Houman Taheri, were violently arrested and their houses raided as reprisal for their advocacy for women’s rights.

On 17 August 2023, a day after the arbitrary arrests of the human rights defenders, Tasnim, a state run news agency close to the intelligence services, published an article in which the human rights defenders were accused of planning to “incite riots on the anniversary of the autumn 2022 riots,” “receiving funds under the cover of the financial support to vulnerable families of the victims” and connection with hostile media outlet.” These online accusations occurred while the whereabouts of defenders and access to lawyers are yet unknown.

The arrests and attacks appear to be aimed at silencing human rights defenders and pressuring their family members, especially women’s rights advocates, in advance of the anniversary of the September 2022 natiowide protests. In September 2022, the death in Morality Police custody of a 22-year-old young woman, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, resulted into nation wide protests for several months. Iranian authorities have been particularly targeting civil society members, women human rights defenders and those working on the rights of women and girls in Gilan and Kurdistan provinces, where many other human rights defenders have also reported threats.

Front Line Defenders is seriously alarmed about the arrests, temporary detentions and physical assaults of human rights defenders in advent of September 2022 protests anniversary and expresses additional concern at the online defamation campaign targeting them. Front Line Defenders urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders who have been wrongfully detained.

Front Line Defenders also calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure that the treatment of human rights defenders while in detention adheres to the conditions set out in the United Nations ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', including immediate access to lawyers. Front Line Defenders reminds the Iranian authorities of its obligation under the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), especially Article 22, where Iran is obliged to recognize the right to freedom of association and urges the Iranian authorities to refrain from arresting human rights defenders and to investigate the use of State media outlet to target their work.