Bahai News - Iran Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
U.S. Department of State
Iran Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
February 26, 1999.
The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 after a
populist revolution toppled the Pahlavi monarchy. The Government is
dominated by Shi'a Muslim clergy. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the Supreme
Leader of the Islamic Revolution and functions as the Chief of State and
the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Seyed Mohammad Khatami was
elected to a 4-year term as President in a popular vote in February
1997. A popularly-elected 270-seat unicameral Islamic Consultative
Assembly, or Majles, develops and passes legislation. All legislation
passed by the Majles is reviewed for adherence to Islamic and
constitutional principles by a Council of Guardians, which consists of
six clerical members, who are appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six
lay jurists, who are appointed by the head of the judiciary and approved
by the Majles. Candidates for most elective offices are screened
carefully for their ideological beliefs by the regime. The Government
seeks to conform public policy to its political and socio-religious
values, in particular the tenets of Shi'a Islam, but there are serious
factional differences within the leadership. The judiciary is subject
to government and religious influence.
Several agencies share responsibility 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. Paramilitary volunteer forces known as Basijis,
and gangs of street thugs, known as the Ansar-e Hezbollah (Helpers of
the Party of God), who often are often aligned with specific members of
the clergy, act as vigilantes. Both regular and paramilitary security
forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses.
Iran has a mixed economy. The Government owns the petroleum,
banking, insurance, power, and most large-scale manufacturing
industries, and controls access to foreign exchange. Large charitable
foundations called bonyads, most with strong connections to the
Government, control properties and businesses that were expropriated
from the former Shah and figures associated with his regime. The
bonyads exercise considerable influence in the economy, but do not
account publicly for revenue and pay no taxes. Basic foodstuffs and
energy costs are subsidized heavily by the Government. Oil exports
account for nearly 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Economic
performance is affected adversely by government mismanagement and
corruption, and was made worse during the year by the low price of oil.
Unemployment in 1998 was estimated to be at least 25 percent, and
inflation was an estimated 25 percent.
The Government's human rights record remained poor; despite some
improvements in a few areas, serious problems remain. The Government
restricts citizens' right to change their government. Systematic abuses
included extrajudicial killings and summary executions; disappearances;
widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment; harsh prison
conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of due process; unfair
trials; infringement on citizens' privacy; and restrictions on freedom
of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The
Government manipulates the electoral system and represses political
dissidents. Increased debate in the country over President Khatami's
expression of interest in promoting greater attention to the rule of law
and the development of civil society led to factional struggle and
occasionally to violent tactics by hard-line elements opposed to change.
A trend toward greater freedom of expression and thought was reversed
late in the year through arbitrary arrests, the closure of
reform-oriented publications, and the murders of several dissident
writers. Religious minorities, in particular Baha'is, came under
increasing repression by conservative elements of the judiciary and
security establishment. The Government restricts the work of human
rights groups. Women face legal and social discrimination, and violence
against women occurs. The Government discriminates against religious
and ethnic minorities and restricts important workers' rights.
Vigilante groups enforce their interpretation of appropriate social
behavior through intimidation and violence.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
U.N. representatives, including the U.N. Special Representative on
Human Rights in Iran, Maurice Copithorne, and independent human rights
organizations continue to note the absence of procedural safeguards in
criminal trials. Inhuman punishments are used in some cases, including
stoning (see Section 1.c.). In 1992 the domestic press stopped
reporting most executions; however, executions appear to continue in
substantial numbers. The U.N. Special Representative reported an
estimated 199 executions in 1997, many of those attributable to drug
convictions. Human Rights Watch reported "hundreds" of
executions during the year after trials that failed to comply with
minimum international standards.
Ruhollah Rouhani, a Baha'i, was executed in July after having served
9 months in solitary confinement on a charge of apostasy stemming from
allegedly having converted a Muslim woman to the Baha'i faith. The
woman maintained that her mother was a Baha'i and that she herself had
been raised a Baha'i. Rouhani was not accorded a public trial or
sentencing for his alleged crime, and no sentence was announced prior to
his execution. Two other Baha'is, Sirus Zabihi-Moghaddam and Hadayat
Kashefi-Najafabadi, were tried alongside Rouhani and later sentenced to
death by a revolutionary court in Mashad for practicing their Baha'i
faith. Their sentences were under appeal before the Supreme Court of
Iran at year's end. Six Baha'is are on death row. Baha'is face severe
repression, and are particularly vulnerable during times of social and
political unrest (see Section 2.c.).
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the death in May of Ruhollah
Kakhodah-Zadeh, a businessman and an active member of Tehran's small
Jewish community. Kakhodah-Zadeh was hanged in prison without benefit
of public charge or legal proceeding, although there were reports that
he was ordered executed for helping Jews leave Iran. HRW also reported
the killing of Sunni prayer leader Molavi Imam Bakhsh Narouie in the
province of Sistan and Baluchistan in southeast Iran, which led to
protests from members of the local Sunni community who believed that
government authorities were involved in the murder (see Section 2.c.).
Prominent opposition figure Dariush Foruhar and his wife were stabbed
to death at their residence in November in a manner that led many human
rights observers to believe that the couple was murdered for their
political beliefs. The Forouhars were under continual monitoring by
state security officials. Dariush Forouhar had been active in Iran's
prerevolutionary National Front Movement, and had served as labor
minister in an early postrevolution government. However, since that
time he had spoken out frequently against the abuse of power of the
revolutionary government, in particular with respect to human rights
abuses. Supreme Leader Khamanei, President Khatami, and other senior
officials condemned the murders.
Several other prominent and active political dissidents also were
killed late in the year. In November the body of writer and translator
Majid Sharif, whose published political views included advocacy for the
separation of state and religion, was discovered in a Tehran morgue
several days after his mysterious disappearance. In December the body
of Mohammad Mokhtari, a prominent poet and literary critic, also was
discovered at a Tehran morgue after he disappeared 6 days earlier.
Parviz Davani, a publisher and dissident critic of the Government,
disappeared in August. Amnesty International (AI) received unconfirmed
reports that Davani's mother was contacted by unnamed persons who told
her that her son was killed. Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, a dissident
writer and advocate against censorship, also disappeared in December and
later was found dead. Sharif, Mokhtari, and Pouyandeh were among 134
signatories of the 1994 Declaration of Iranian Writers; several
signatories have been targets of regime harassment and violence since
the release of the Declaration (see Section 2.a.). The Government
investigation of these murders continued at year's end.
Exiles and human rights monitors allege that many of those executed
for criminal offenses, primarily narcotics charges, are actually
political dissidents. A November 1995 law criminalized dissent and
applied the death penalty to offenses such as "attempts against the
security of the State, outrage against high-ranking Iranian officials,
and insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Leader
of the Islamic Republic." President Khatami advocated allowing
criticism of the Government on several occasions throughout the year,
but offered no official protection to critics. In June the daily
newspaper Hamshahri reported the public hanging of four men in Ahvaz, in
southern Iran, for "insulting" Supreme Leader Khamenei, and
Investigations of the killing of political dissidents abroad
continued during the year. The Istanbul Court of Appeal upheld the
conviction of an Iranian national for complicity in the 1996 murder of
Zahra Rajabi and Ali Moradi, who were both associated with the National
Council of Resistance (NCR), an exile group that has claimed
responsibility for several terrorist attacks within Iran. The U.N.
Special Representative reported that Italian security authorities
continued their investigation into the 1993 killing in Rome of Mohammad
Hossein Naghdi, the NCR's representative in Italy.
The Government announced in September that it would take no action to
threaten the life of British author Salman Rushdie, or anyone associated
with his work, "The Satanic Verses." The announcement came
during discussions with the United Kingdom regarding the restoration of
full diplomatic relations. Several revolutionary foundations and a
number of Majles deputies within Iran repudiated the Government's pledge
and emphasized the "irrevocability" of the fatwa, or religious
ruling, calling for Rushdie's murder by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The
15 Khordad Foundation raised the bounty it earlier had established for
the murder of Rushdie.
No reliable information is available on the number of disappearances.
In the period immediately following arrest, many detainees are held
incommunicado and denied access to lawyers and family members.
A Christian group reported that between 15 and 22 Iranian Christians
disappeared during 1997 and the first half of 1998. Those who
disappeared reportedly were Muslim converts whose baptisms had been
discovered by the authorities.
There was an increase in the disappearances of prominent writers and
dissident figures during the latter part of the year, many of whom were
found dead (see Section 1.a.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
There are numerous, credible reports 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 on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also
have reported beatings about the ears, inducing partial or complete
Stoning and flogging are expressly prescribed by the Islamic Penal
Code as appropriate punishment for adultery. Article 102 of the Code
states, "the stoning of an adulterer or adulteress shall be carried
out while each is placed in a hole and covered with soil, he up to his
waist and she up to a line above her breasts." Zoleykhah Kadkhoda,
who had been arrested on charges of adultery and stoned to near death in
August 1997, reportedly was released in November 1997 after widespread
international criticism of the punishment.
Faraj Sarkuhi, a magazine editor critical of the government who
disappeared in 1996, later reappeared and was convicted in 1997 of
"spreading antigovernment propaganda" and sentenced to a year
in jail. He was released in January. In April Sarkuhi was allowed to
visit his family in Germany. Sarkuhi used this opportunity to describe
the torture he had suffered while in detention, including repeated
beatings about the head and to the feet with a wire cable. Sarkuhi
spent more than 9 months in solitary confinement and was forced to admit
to false charges that he was a spy of Germany and France. On one
occasion, Sarkuhi reported, his torturers tied a rope around his neck to
feign impending execution.
In the course of a wide-ranging Tehran municipality corruption case,
which concluded in the indictment and trial of former Tehran Mayor
Hossein Gholam Kharbaschi (see Section 1.e.), several defendants accused
police and prison officials of using torture to coerce admissions of
guilt and statements implicating the Mayor. These confessions allegedly
were coerced at so-called "special detention centers"
affiliated with, but outside the official prison system. Several of
those tortured reportedly brought cases against the police for improper
interrogation methods, and the U.N. Special Representative reported that
152 Majles deputies sent a letter to Supreme Leader Khamanei requesting
a high-level inquiry into the charges, although no subsequent action
apparently was taken in response. The secretary general of the Islamic
Human Rights Commission, a government-affiliated body, cited the special
detention centers in remarks critical of police tactics in the
Prison conditions are harsh. Some prisoners are held in solitary
confinement or denied adequate food or medical care in order to force
confessions. Female prisoners reportedly have been raped or otherwise
tortured while in detention. In the past, prison guards have
intimidated the family members of detainees and tortured detainees in
the presence of family members.
The Government does not permit visits to imprisoned dissidents by
human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however,
these practices remain common. 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
in local Revolutionary Guard offices. Although reliable statistics are
not available, international observers believe that between scores and
hundreds of citizens are imprisoned for their political beliefs.
The security forces often do not inform family members of a
prisoner's welfare and location. Even if these circumstances are 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. Those who do receive such
information may be forced to pay the Government to retrieve the body of
At least 26 editors and writers either were detained, jailed, fined,
or prohibited from publishing their writings during the year (see
Adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face arbitrary arrest and
detention. The Government appears to adhere to a practice of keeping a
small number of Baha'is in detention at any given time. According to
the U.N. Special Representative and Baha'i groups, at least 14 Baha'is
are in prisons, including 6 men, convicted of either apostasy or
"actions against God" and sentenced to death. Thirty-six
Baha'is associated with the Baha'i Institute of Higher Learning were
detained arbitrarily in a September government raid on offices and
residences associated with the Institute (see Section 2. c.). Four of
those arrested remained in custody at year's end.
The Government enforced house arrest and other measures to restrict
the movements and ability to communicate of several senior religious
leaders whose views on political and governance issues are at variance
with the ruling orthodoxy. The clerics include Ayatollah Hassan
Tabataei-Qomi, under house arrest for more than 13 years; Ayatollah
Mohammad Sadeq Rowhani, under house arrest for more than 12 years; and
Ayatollah Yasub al-Din Rastgari, under house arrest since late 1996.
Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the former designated successor of
Iran's late Spiritual Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and an outspoken
critic of Iran's current leader, remains under house arrest and
heightened police surveillance (see Section 2.a.). Dissident clerics'
followers reportedly have been detained and tortured by government
Human Rights Watch reported that in April, about 40 bazaar
shopkeepers and teachers were detained for leading protests against the
restrictions on Ayatollah Montazeri in his home town of Najafabad.
Montazeri's son-in-law, Hadi Hashemi, was detained in May and held
incommunicado. Mohammad Movahedi Savoji, the son of a Member of
Parliament, also was arrested in May and sentenced to 20 months'
imprisonment in September for speaking out against the harsh treatment
of Ayatollah Montazeri.
In September 1994, 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 Iranian Government
failed to identify combatants killed in action and failed to exchange
information on those killed or missing. The report criticized the
Government for obstructing ICRC efforts to register and repatriate
prisoners of war (POW's).
Iran agreed to the release of 5,584 Iraqi POW's in April, and news
organizations reported intermittent meetings throughout the remainder of
the year between Iranian and Iraqi government officials toward reaching
a final agreement on the remaining POW's held by each side. An Iranian
government official was quoted in the press as pledging to settle the
remaining POW issues with Iraq by March 1999. A June press report also
described joint Iran-Iraq search operations to identify remains of those
missing in action.
The Government does not use forced exile, but many dissidents leave
the country because they feel threatened.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The court system is not independent and is subject to government and
There are two primary court systems: Traditional courts, which
adjudicate civil and criminal offenses; and Islamic Revolutionary
Courts, which were established in 1979 to try offenses including those
against internal or external security, narcotics crimes, and official
corruption. A special clerical court also exists to examine alleged
transgressions within the clerical establishment. The Supreme Court has
limited authority to review cases.
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.
If a situation is not addressed by statutes enacted after the 1979
revolution, the Government advises judges to give precedence to their
own knowledge and interpretation of Islamic law rather than rely on
statutes enacted during the Shah's regime.
Trials in the Revolutionary Courts are notorious for their disregard
of international standards of fairness. A law authorizes Revolutionary
Court judges to act as prosecutor and judge in the same case, and judges
are appointed for their ideological beliefs. Often, pretrial detention
is prolonged and defendants lack access to attorneys. Indictments are
often for undefined offenses such as "antirevolutionary
behavior," "moral corruption," and "siding with
global arrogance." Defendants do not have the right to confront
their accusers. Secret or summary trials of 5 minutes are not unknown.
Others are show trials intended to highlight a coerced public
confession. In 1992 the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights concluded
that "the chronic abuses associated with the Islamic Revolutionary
Courts are so numerous and so entrenched as to be beyond reform."
The Government has undertaken no major reform of the Revolutionary Court
system since that report.
Much attention was focused on the fairness of the court system during
the high profile trial in June of the former Mayor of Tehran, Gholam
Hossein Kharbaschi, on corruption charges. Kharbaschi criticized the
proceedings as unfair, in particular the conflict of interest on the
part of the judge, who also served as prosecutor. Testimony offered in
support of the charges against Kharbaschi reportedly was coerced from
detained municipality officials under harsh treatment (see Section
It is difficult for many women, particularly those residing outside
large cities, to obtain any legal redress. A woman's testimony is worth
only half that of a man's, making it difficult for a woman to prove a
case against a male defendant. In addition, the families of female
victims of violent crime reportedly must pay the assailant's court
The Government frequently charges members of religious minorities
with crimes such as "confronting the regime" and apostasy, and
conducts trials in these cases in the same manner as is reserved for
threats to national security. Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the head of the
judiciary, stated in 1996 that Baha'ism was an espionage organization.
In October a Revolutionary Court in Mashad sentenced to death Sirus
Zabihi-Moghaddam and Hedayat Kashefi-Nejafabadi, two Baha'is arrested in
October 1997, in a secret trial on a finding of "waging war against
God." A third defendant in the same trial, Ataollah
Hamid-Sasirizadeh, was given a 10-year sentence. Among the charges
against the defendants were "activism in the administration of the
Baha'i faith; misleading Muslims; and espionage on behalf of foreign
powers." The defendants were denied the right to choose their own
counsel, or to consult family or coreligionists during their extended
pretrial detention period.
Independent legal scholar and member of the Islamic clergy
Hojatoleslam Sayyid Mohsen Saidzadeh was detained in June for his
outspoken criticism of the treatment of women under the law (see Section
5). While detained prior to his appearance before the special clerical
court convened to hear his case, Saeidzadeh was denied access to his
lawyer, and was prevented from receiving visits from his wife and other
family members. Saeidzadeh reportedly was found guilty of the charges
against him, freed from detention, and barred from clerical activities
for 5 years. Human Rights groups outside Iran noted reports that
Saeidzadeh's sentence also included a prohibition on publishing. He had
ceased authoring a monthly column on legal issues since the time of his
In September authorities rearrested former deputy prime minister and
longtime political dissident Abbas Amir-Entezam for comments he made
questioning the legitimacy of the extended power invested in the office
of Iran's Supreme Leader, and for criticizing the torture of prisoners
(see Section 2.a.).
No estimates are available on the number of political prisoners.
However, the Government often arrests persons on questionable criminal
charges, usually drug trafficking or espionage, when their actual
"offenses" are political.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution states that "reputation, life, property, (and)
dwelling(s)" are protected from trespass except as "provided
by law;" however, the Government infringes on these rights.
Security forces enter homes and offices, monitor telephone
conversations, and open mail without court authorization.
The Basijis, other security forces, and the Ansar-e Hezbollah monitor
the social activities of citizens. Such organizations harass, beat, or
arrest women whose clothing does not cover the hair and all of the body
except the hands and face, or those who wear makeup. Vigilante violence
may include attacking young persons believed to be too foreign in their
dress or activities, invading private homes, and abusing unmarried
couples. Authorities occasionally enter homes to remove television
satellite dishes, or to disrupt private gatherings where unmarried men
and women socialize, or where alcohol, music, or other forbidden
activities are offered or take place. Enforcement appears to be very
arbitrary, varying widely with the political climate and the individuals
involved. There are penalties for those who do not follow the Islamic
dress code at work (see Sections 5 and 6.a.).
A well-coordinated and nationwide government raid of more than 500
homes and offices owned or occupied by Baha'is suspected to have
connections to the Baha'i Institute of Higher Learning took place in
September, during which instructional materials, office equipment, and
other items of personal property were confiscated (see Section 2.c.).
The effort apparently was designed to disrupt the operation of the
Institute, which serves as the only alternative source of higher
education for most Baha'is, who are denied entry to the state-controlled
In the past, prison guards have intimidated family members of
detainees (see Section 1.c.). Iranian opposition figures living abroad
have reported harassment of their relatives in Iran.
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;" however, in practice the Government
restricts freedom of speech and of the press. The Government exerts
strong control over most media, particularly publications, by, among
other methods, controlling access to newsprint and to foreign exchange
to purchase newsprint. The Government directly controls television and
radio broadcasting networks.
Newspapers represent a wide variety of political and social
perspectives, some allied with particular figures within the Government.
Many subjects of discussion are tolerated, including criticism of
certain government policies. However, generally prohibited materials
include faultfinding comment on the personality and achievements of the
late leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini; direct criticism of
the Supreme Leader; assailing the principle of velayat-e faqih, or rule
by a supreme religious leader; and promotion of the rights or autonomy
of ethnic minorities.
Complaints against journalists, editors, and publishers frequently
are levied by public officials and even rival publications. The
practice of complaining against the writings of journalists crosses
ideological lines. Offending writers are subject to trial, with fines,
suspension from journalistic activities, lashings, and imprisonment all
common punishments on findings of guilt for offenses ranging from
"fabrication" to "propaganda against the State" to
"insulting the leadership of the Islamic Republic."
Police frequently raid newspaper offices, and Ansar-e Hezbollah mobs
continue to attack the offices of liberal publications and bookstores
without interference from the police or prosecution by the courts.
The record on freedom of expression was mixed during the year. The
Government took steps to encourage an environment of greater tolerance
in the early part of the year. This included easing issuance of
licenses for new publications, a policy that sparked a large increase in
reported circulation of print media. President Khatami and others in
the Government made statements indicating that criticism and debate were
healthy for society, which encouraged publishers and journalists to test
the bounds of expression. The ensuing public debate on a wide variety
of topics quickly raised the level of concern among antireform elements,
which saw the increased openness as an invitation for
"disunity" and chaos in the society. Supreme Commander of the
Revolutionary Guards Rahim Safavi, a vehement critic of the new
openness, told a gathering of the Guards' officers in April that
"we have to cut the throats of some and cut out the tongues of
others," in referring to "liberals" in the society.
Safavi's remarks formed part of a backlash against the limited reform
measures undertaken by the Government. The judiciary took the lead in
this effort, closing several publications and jailing writers and
editors for overstepping the bounds of allowable expression, including
Jameah, the newspaper that had printed Safavi's leaked remarks. In
November judiciary head Mohammad Yazdi said that freedom of the press
"should not undermine Islamic fundamentals," and that whoever
criticizes the civil and criminal laws "oversteps the limits of
liberty, since this legislation is inspired by Islamic sacred law."
At least 12 publications were banned or suspended during the year.
In addition, at least 26 editors and writers either were detained,
jailed, fined, or prohibited from publishing because of what they wrote.
Following the closing of Jameah, its writers and editors began work on
another reform-oriented publication, Tous, which also came under the
attack of anti-reform elements. Tous was closed in September, and its
editor and publisher were jailed for about a month. Authorities revoked
the license of the weekly magazine Khaneh after it reportedly printed a
letter from a reader harshly critical of the policies of former Supreme
Leader Khomeini. During the trial of the mayor of Tehran, the offices
of the publications Hamshahri, Iran, and the Iran Daily News were raided
by police. Each of those publications had been supportive of the mayor
in his trial on corruption charges.
The Government monitors carefully the statements and views of Iran's
senior religious leaders to prevent disruptive dissent within the
clerical ranks. In November 1997, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a
cleric formerly designated as the successor to Iran's late Spiritual
Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, called into question the authority of the
current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamanei, criticizing his increasing
intervention in government policy. The comments sparked attacks by
Ansar-e Hezbollah mobs on Montazeri's residence and a Koranic school in
Qom run by Montazeri. These events prompted Ebrahim Yazdi, the leader
of the Iran Freedom Movement, and 54 others, to issue an open letter
calling on the Government to respect Montazeri's rights. Yazdi
reportedly was detained later for 11 days for his role in this
Independent legal scholar and Islamic cleric Hojatoleslam Sayyid
Mohsen Saidzadeh was detained in June because of his criticism of the
treatment of women under the law (see Section 1.e. and 5).
In September authorities rearrested former deputy prime minister and
long-time political dissident Abbas Amir-Entezam for comments he made
questioning the legitimacy of the extended political power invested in
the office of the Supreme Religious Leader, and for criticizing torture
and mistreatment of prisoners. Amir-Entezam's comments came in the wake
of the killing of the former head of Iran's prison authority, Assadullah
Lajeverdi. He had been criticized by Lajeverdi family members and
officials associated with the Bureau of Prisons. Amir-Entezam's
attorney said that he had been charged with "making false
accusations" and "insult." Amir-Entezam has spent 17
years in jail under the Islamic Republic for alleged espionage. Human
Rights groups have protested the fact that he was never given a proper
Further violence and harassment was directed against signatories of
the 1994 Declaration of Iranian Writers, which declared a collective
intent to work for the removal of barriers to freedom of thought and
expression. The association of international writers, PEN, reported in
October the questioning by a Revolutionary Court of signatories Mohammad
Pouyandeh, Mohammad Mokhtari, Houshang Golshiri, Kazem Kardevani, and
Mansour Koushan in connection with their attempts to convene a meeting
of the Iran Writer's Association. Mokhtari and Pouyandeh later
disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and both were found dead.
Signatory Mansour Koushan reportedly fled to Norway during the year,
while another signatory, Faraj Sarkuhi, was allowed to leave for
Germany, where he provided reports of the mistreatment he had received
while in jails in 1997 and 1998 (see Section 1.c.).
The Government owns all television and radio broadcasting
facilities; programming reflects the Government's political and
The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance is charged with
screening books prior to publication to ensure that they do not contain
offensive material. However, some books and pamphlets critical of the
Government are published without reprisal. The Ministry inspects
foreign printed materials prior to their release on the market.
The Government effectively censors Iranian-made films, since it is
the main source of funding for Iranian film producers, who must submit
scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding
President Khatami announced in September that the Government would
take no action to threaten the life of British author Salman Rushdie, or
anyone associated with his work, "The Satanic Verses" (see
Section 1.a). However, his remarks were repudiated by other parties,
including the 15 Khordad Foundation, which claims to have financed a
bounty for the murder of Rushdie.
Academic censorship persists. In his 1996 interim report, the U.N.
Special Representative noted the existence of a campaign to bring about
the "Islamization of the universities," which seemed to be a
movement to purge persons "who fight against the sanctities of the
Islamic system." Government informers who monitor classroom
material are said to be common on university campuses. 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 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;" however, in practice the
Government restricts freedom of assembly and closely monitors gatherings
to ensure that they do not constitute uncontrolled anti-government
protest. This includes funeral processions and Friday prayer
gatherings. Many instances were reported during the year of Ansar-e
Hezbollah disruptions of gatherings of university students and other
groups. Police and military forces often do not intervene in these
cases. In one such incident in September, Ansar-e Hezbollah thugs
attacked Vice President Abdollah Nuri and Culture Minister Attaollah
Mohajerani, who are both closely associated with President Khatami's
reform program, during a Friday prayer gathering in Tehran. Authorities
sought to break up spontaneous celebrations that followed Iran's
qualification for the World Cup soccer finals because the celebrations
featured male-female commingling and flaunting of the Islamic dress code
The Government limits the freedom of association. The Constitution
provides for the establishment of political parties, professional
associations, and religious groups provided that they do not violate the
principles of "freedom, sovereignty, and national unity," or
question Islam or the Islamic Republic. Several new political parties
were established and registered with the Government during the year.
However, several other applications were rejected.
The U.N. Special Representative noted in his October report that
elections for the leadership of the Iran Bar Association took place in
December 1997, with candidates required by the government to meet
certain qualifications. The Bar Association was reported in August to
have sent a letter to the Minister of Justice detailing its
recommendations for improvement of the court system.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Government restricts freedom of religion. The 1979 revolution
resulted in the creation of an Islamic Republic, the central feature of
which is rule by a "religious jurisconsult." Its senior
leadership, including the Spiritual Leader of the Revolution, the
President, the head of the judiciary, and the Speaker of the Majles, is
composed principally of Shi'a clergymen. 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," and recognizes Jews,
Christians, and Zoroastrians as "protected religious
minorities." Religions not specifically protected under the
Constitution do not enjoy freedom of activity. This most directly
affects the nearly 350,000 followers of the Baha'i faith, who
effectively enjoy no legal rights in the society. In addition, the
Government is highly suspicious of the proselytizing of Muslims by
non-Muslims and may be harsh in meting out its response, in particular
against Baha'is and evangelical Christians.
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, drawn largely from Kurdish, Arab,
Turkoman, Baluchi, and other ethnic minorities.
Human Rights Watch reported the killing of Sunni prayer leader Molavi
Imam Bakhsh Narouie in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan in
southeast Iran, leading to protests by members of the local community
who believed that authorities were involved in the murder.
Majdhub Alishahi, an adherent of the Sufi tradition, reportedly was
executed on charges of adultery and homosexuality after a coerced
confession in 1996. Sufi organizations outside Iran reported an
increasing level of repression by the authorities of Sufi religious
Religious activity is closely monitored by the Ministry of Islamic
Culture and Guidance; non-Muslim religious activities often require the
approval of or licensing by the Ministry. Christians, Jews, and
Zoroastrians legally are permitted to practice their religion and
instruct their children, but may not proselytize Muslims. The
Government interferes with the administration of their schools, and
harassment by government officials is common (see Section 5).
Oppression of evangelical Christians continued during the year.
Christian groups reported instances of government harassment of
churchgoers in Tehran, in particular against worshipers at the Assembly
of God congregation in Tehran. Instances of harassment cited included
conspicuous monitoring by authorities outside Christian premises to
discourage Muslims or converts from entering, and entry to the church
premises by armed Revolutionary Guards who subsequently demanded
identity papers of worshipers inside. Christian church leaders are also
subject to pressure from government authorities to sign pledges that
they would not evangelize Muslims or allow Muslims to attend church
services. Iranian Christians International (ICI) detailed the cases of
Alireza and Mahboobeh Mahmoudian, converts to Christianity and lay
leaders of the Saint Simon the Zealot Osgofi Church in Shiraz, who were
forced to leave Iran permanently in June after continued harassment by
government authorities. The ICI reported that Alireza Mahmoudian had
lost his job because of his conversion and had been repeatedly beaten by
Basiji and Ansar-e Hizbollah thugs on orders from Ministry of Islamic
Guidance officials. His wife, Mahboobeh, also had been the subject of
intimidation, principally through frequent and aggressive interrogation
by government officials.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the death in May of Jewish
businessman Ruhollah Kakhodah-Zadeh, who was hanged in prison without a
public charge or legal proceeding (see Section 1.a.). While Jews are a
recognized religious minority in Iran, allegations of official
discrimination are frequent. Jewish leaders in Iran reportedly are
reluctant to draw attention to official mistreatment of their community
due to fear of government reprisal.
The year was particularly difficult year the Baha'i community. The
Government regards the Baha'i community of 300,000 to 350,000 members,
whose faith originally derives from a strand of Islam, as a
"misguided" or "wayward" sect. The Special
Representative noted in his September report that pressures on Baha'is
from the judiciary apparently increased during the year. The execution
of Ruhollah Rouhani and the death sentences confirmed against two other
Bahai's in Mashad (see Section 1.a.), along with the arbitrary roundup
of students and faculty associated with the Baha'i Institute of Higher
Learning, marked a renewed level of persecution and state-directed
intimidation of a community that is always at risk, but particularly so
during times of political ferment.
Baha'is may not teach or practice their faith or maintain links with
coreligionists abroad. The fact that the Baha'i world headquarters
(established by the founder of the Baha'i faith in the 19th century in
what was then Ottoman-controlled Palestine) is situated in what is now
the state of Israel exposes Iranian Baha'is to government charges of
"espionage on behalf of Zionism," in particular when caught
communicating with or addressing contributions to Baha'i administrative
Broad restrictions on Baha'is appear to be geared to destroying them
as a community (see Section 5). Baha'i marriages are not recognized by
the Government, leaving Baha'i women open to charges of prostitution.
Children of Baha'i marriages are not recognized as legitimate and,
therefore, are denied inheritance rights. Sacred and historical Baha'i
properties have been confiscated systematically. Baha'is are not
allowed to bury and honor their dead in keeping with their religious
tradition, while historic Baha'i gravesites have been confiscated, and
in many cases desecrated or destroyed. In October three Bahai's were
arrested in Damavand, a city north of Tehran, on the grounds that they
had buried their dead without government authorization.
Group meetings and religious education, which often take place in
private homes and offices, are curtailed severely. Public and private
universities continue to deny admittance to Baha'i students, a
particularly demoralizing blow to a community that traditionally has
placed a high value on education. Denial of access to higher education
appears aimed at the eventual impoverishment of the Baha'i community.
In September authorities launched a nationwide operation to disrupt the
activities of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Learning, also known as the
"Open University," established by the Baha'i community shortly
after the revolution to offer higher educational opportunities to Baha'i
students who had been denied access to high schools and universities.
The Institute employed Baha'i faculty and professors, many of whom had
been dismissed from teaching positions by the Government as a result of
their Baha'i faith, and conducted classes in homes or offices owned or
rented by Baha'is. In the assault, which took place in at least 14
different cities, 36 faculty members were arrested, and a variety of
personal property, including books, papers, and furniture, were either
destroyed or confiscated. Government interrogators sought to force the
detained faculty members to sign statements acknowledging that the Open
University was now defunct and pledging not to collaborate with it in
the future. Baha'is outside Iran report that none of the 36 would sign
the document. Four of those arrested in September remained in custody
at year's end.
The Government appears to adhere to a practice of keeping a small
number of Baha'is in arbitrary detention, some at risk of execution, at
any given time (see also Section 1.d.). There were 14 Baha'is reported
to be under arrest for practice of their faith at year's end, 6 under
sentence of death (see Section 1.a.). Baha'is regularly are denied
compensation for injury or criminal victimization. Government
authorities claim that only Muslim plaintiffs are eligible for
compensation in these circumstances. Baha'is are prohibited from
government employment. A 1993 law prohibits government workers from
membership in groups that deny the "divine religions,"
terminology the Government uses to label members of the Baha'i faith.
The law also stipulates penalties for government workers who do not
observe "Islamic principles and rules."
The Government restricts the movement of several senior religious
leaders, some of whom have been under house arrest for years (see
Sections 1.d. and 2.d.), and often charges members of religious
minorities with crimes such as drug offenses, "confronting the
regime," and apostasy (see Section 1.e.).
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel,
Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government places some restrictions on these rights. Citizens
may travel to any part of the country, although there have been
restrictions on travel to Kurdish areas during times of occasional heavy
fighting. Citizens may change their place of residence without
obtaining official permission. The Government requires exit permits (a
validation stamp placed in the traveler's passport) for draft-age males
and citizens who are politically suspect. Some citizens, particularly
those whose skills are in short supply and who were educated at
government expense, must post bonds to obtain exit permits. The
Government restricts the movement of several religious leaders (see
Sections 1.d., and 2.c.).
Citizens returning from abroad are sometimes subject to search and
extensive questioning by government authorities for evidence of
antiregime activities abroad. Cassette tapes, printed material, and
personal correspondence and photographs are subject to confiscation.
Such actions reportedly increased late in the year as authorities noted
the increased activity of dissident groups outside the country.
The Government permits Jews to travel abroad, but often denies them
the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens. The
Government normally does not permit all members of a Jewish family to
travel abroad at the same time. Baha'is often experience difficulty
getting passports. Iranian women must obtain the permission of their
husband, father, or other living male relative in order to obtain a
passport for travel abroad.
The law contains provisions for granting refugee status in accordance
with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its
1967 Protocol. The Government generally cooperates with the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations
in assisting refugees. Although the Government generally provides first
asylum, pressure was applied on some refugees to force them to return to
their home countries.
The country hosts a very large refugee population. The Government
and the UNHCR estimate that there are approximately 1.4 million Afghan
refugees in the country. Of this total, about 21,200 are accommodated
in refugee camps administered by the Government. The rest subsist on
itinerant labor, often moving from place to place within the country.
As of September, the UNHCR estimated that 1,525 Afghans refugees were
repatriated to Afghanistan during the year, continuing the low trend of
recent years. There were reports in December that the Government
forcibly repatriated Afghan refugees, although the lack of a UNHCR
presence in Afghanistan due to continued instability in that country
made these reports difficult to verify.
The UNHCR estimates that there are about 580,000 Iraqi Kurdish and
Arab refugees in Iran, and reported 9,232 returnees to Iraq during the
year, through September.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The right of citizens to change their government is severely
compromised. The Supreme Leader, the recognized Head of State, is
selected for a life term by the popularly-elected Assembly of Experts.
The Assembly itself is restricted to clerics. The Government
effectively manipulates the electoral system to its advantage. There is
no separation of state and religion, and clerics dominate the
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 for elections is effectively
controlled by the ruling clerics.
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, political, and religious
suitability. It accepts only candidates who support a theocratic state;
clerics who disagree with government policies also have been
Regularly scheduled elections are held for the President, members of
the Majles, and members of the Assembly of Experts, a body responsible
for selecting the successor to the Supreme Leader.
Seyed Mohammad Khatami was elected President in May 1997. The
Interior Ministry estimated that over 90 percent of the eligible
population voted in the presidential election. During the campaign,
there was considerable government intervention and censorship. The
Council of Guardians reviewed 238 candidates, including a woman, but
only allowed 4 individuals to run. Three were clerics; all were men.
Khatami garnered nearly 70 percent of the vote, his greatest support
coming from the middle class, youth, minorities, and women.
The election results were particularly notable because Khatami was
not the regime's preferred candidate. In a break with precedent,
Supreme Leader Khamenei let it be known that he preferred Majles Speaker
Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri. Prayer leaders also supported Nateq-Nuri in their
sermons. The regime attempted to censor public debate by restricting
the campaign coverage of some technocratic and modern left publications,
particularly the pro-Khatami daily, Salam. As the election neared,
Khatami was evicted from his campaign headquarters. Despite the
regime's clear preference for Nateq-Nuri, the election results were not
disputed, and the regime does not appear to have engaged in election
fraud--possibly due to Khatami's early and overwhelming lead. The
results appear to indicate that citizens demanded change within the
limits allowed by government control of the electoral process.
The Government in 1997 nullified election results from the spring
1996 Majles elections in several districts, including Malayer, Astara,
Elections were held in the fall for the 86-member Assembly of
Experts. The Council of Guardians disqualified numerous candidates,
leading to criticism from many observers that the Government improperly
pre-determined the election results.
Preparations were begun late in the year for the election of local
councils throughout the country, the first such elections since the 1979
revolution. Vigorous parliamentary debates take place on various
issues. 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 13 of 270
Majles seats, and there are no female cabinet members. In 1997
President Khatami appointed the first female vice president (for
environmental protection) since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Masoumeh
Ebtekar, following his in inauguration. Minister of Culture and Islamic
Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani appointed a second woman to a senior post,
Azam Nouri, when he chose her in 1997 as his deputy. A woman was also
appointed as a district mayor of Tehran. President Khatami also
appointed a woman to serve as Presidential Adviser for Women's Affairs.
A small number of women serve in the judiciary as advisers but not fully
enabled judges; their authority is limited principally to family law
Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians elect deputies to specially
reserved Majles seats. However, the UN Special Representative noted in
his September report frequent assertions that religious minorities are,
by law and practice, barred from being elected to a representative body
(except to the seats in the Majles reserved for minorities), and from
holding senior government or military positions. Religious minorities
are allowed to vote, but they may not run for president.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government continued to restrict the work of local human
rights groups. The Government denies the universality of human rights
and has stated that human rights issues should be viewed in the context
of a country's "culture and beliefs."
International human rights NGO's, such as Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International, are not allowed to establish offices or conduct
regular investigative visits to Iran.
The ICRC and the UNHCR both operate in the country. However, the
Government did not allow U.N. Special Representative for Human Rights in
Iran, Maurice Copithorne, to visit the country during the year, and
complained that his annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission
was biased and reflected "an absence of accurate understanding of
Islamic norms." Copithorne was last allowed entry to Iran to
gather information for his yearly report in 1996. In his September
report, he noted his concern about the infrequency of even written
communication from the Government in response to his inquiries regarding
specific cases. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
visited Iran in February to inaugurate a conference on Asian human
rights issues. She reportedly had received assurances from the
Government that Special Representative Copithorne would be allowed to
visit later in the year, but this never occurred.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) was established in 1995
under the authority of the Head of the Judiciary, who sits on its Board
as an observer. In 1996 the Government established a human rights
committee in the Majles. Most observers believe these bodies lack
independence. The U.N. Special Representative cited press reports that
the IHRC fielded 2,450 complaints from March 1997 through March 1998,
half from women and 50 percent against the police. The Secretary
General of the IHRC, Mohammad Ziaei-Far, reportedly complained about the
use by police of "special detention centers" to conduct
coercive interrogations of detainees (see Section 1.c.) and acknowledged
widespread human rights violations.
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 is
seldom discussed publicly. There are no official statistics on the
Women have access to primary and advanced education, but social and
legal constraints tend to inhibit their professional opportunities. The
state enforces gender segregation in most public spaces. While the
enforcement of conservative Islamic dress codes has varied with the
political climate since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, the
fact remains that what women wear in public is not entirely a matter of
personal choice. Women are subject to harassment by the authorities if
their dress or behavior is considered inappropriate, and may be
sentenced to flogging or imprisonment for such violations. In April a
girl detained by authorities on suspicion of having an inappropriate
relationship with a man reportedly committed suicide in detention. The
Majles passed a law in April restricting the publication of pictures of
women in the Iranian print media, including pictures of foreign women,
unless fully covered as prescribed by the Islamic dress code. There are
penalties for failure to observe Islamic dress codes at work (see
Discrimination against women is reinforced by law through provisions
of the Islamic Civil and Penal Codes, in particular those sections
dealing with family and property law. The Majles approved a bill in
April mandating segregation of the sexes in the provision of medical
care. The bill provided for women to be treated only by female
physicians and men by male physicians and raised questions about the
quality of care that women could receive under such a regime,
considering the current imbalance between the number of trained and
licensed male and female physicians and specialists. Upon first review,
the Council of Guardians rejected the law pending an amendment to assure
funding, but approved it in a subsequent review in November.
The minimum legal age of marriage for women is 9, although marriage
at that age is rare. All women, no matter the age, must have the
permission of the father or a living male relative in order to get
married. The law allows for the practice of Siqeh, or temporary
marriage, a Shi'a custom in which a woman or a girl can become the wife
of a married or single Muslim male after a simple and brief religious
ceremony. The Siqeh marriage can last for a night or as little as 30
minutes. The bond is not recorded on identification documents, and
according to Islamic law, men may have as many Siqeh wives as they wish,
although these wives are not granted rights associated with traditional
The Penal Code includes provisions that mandate the stoning of women
and men convicted of adultery (see Section 1.c.). 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 Government issued a 12-point
"contract" to serve as a model for marriage and divorce that
limits the privileges accorded to men by custom and traditional
interpretations of Islamic law. The model contract also recognized a
divorced woman's right to a share in the property that couples acquire
during their marriage, and to increased alimony rights. In November the
Majles passed a law granting custody of minor children to the mother in
certain divorce cases when the father was proven unfit to care for the
child. Women who remarry are forced to give up to their father custody
of children from earlier marriages. Muslim women may not marry
non-Muslim men. The testimony of a woman is worth only half that of a
man's in court (see Section 1.e.).
Most children have access to education through the 12th grade, and to
some form of health care. There is no known pattern of child abuse.
People With Disabilities
There is no available information regarding whether the Government
has legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled.
However, the Cable News Network (CNN) reported in 1996 on the harsh
conditions in an institution for retarded children who had been
abandoned by their parents. Film clips showed children tied or chained
to their beds, in filthy conditions, and without appropriate care. It
is not known to what extent this represents the typical treatment of the
disabled in Iran.
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 (see
Section 2.d.). For example, members of religious minorities are barred
from becoming school principals. Muslims who convert to Christianity
also suffer discrimination. Apostasy, or conversion from Islam to
another religion, may be punishable by death.
University applicants are required to pass an examination in Islamic
theology. Although public-school students receive instruction in Islam,
this requirement limits the access of most religious minorities to
higher education. Applicants for public-sector employment are screened
in similar fashion 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, and reports of discrimination against
practitioners of the Sufi tradition surfaced during the year. Muslim
men are free to marry non-Muslim women, but marriages between Muslim
women and non-Muslim men are not recognized.
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 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.
Property belonging to the Baha'i community as a whole, such as places
of worship, remains confiscated. Baha'i graveyards have been
confiscated and defiled. Other government restrictions have been eased;
Baha'is currently may obtain food ration booklets and send their
children to public schools. However, the prohibition against the
admission of Baha'is to universities remains. Thousands of Baha'is who
were 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 (see Sections 1.d. and 2.c.).
The Kurds seek greater autonomy from the central Government and
continue to suffer from government discrimination. The Kurds' status as
Sunni Muslims serves as an aggravating factor in their relations with
the Shi'a-dominated government. Kurds often are suspected of harboring
separatist or foreign sympathies by government authorities. Human
Rights Watch reported in September 1997 that in the wake of the Gulf War
and the creation of an autonomous Kurdish zone in northern Iraq, Iranian
authorities increased their military presence in Kurdish areas of Iran,
which often led to human rights abuses against Kurds. Abuses included
destruction of villages, forced migrations, and widespread mining of
Azeris are well integrated into the Government and society, but
complain of ethnic and linguistic discrimination. The Government
traditionally has viewed Azeri nationalism as threatening.
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 the Government to
exert control over workers. 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 frequently have 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
that 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
There are no known affiliations with international labor
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers do not have the right to organize independently and negotiate
collective bargaining agreements. No information is available on
mechanisms used to set wages.
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
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. There is no
information available on the Government's policy on forced and bonded
labor by children.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for
The 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 permits children to
work in agriculture, domestic service, and some small businesses. By
law women and minors may not be employed in hard labor or, in general,
in night work. Information on the extent to which these regulations are
enforced is not available. There is no information available on the
Government's policy on forced and bonded labor by children (see Section
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.
Under current poor economic conditions, many middle-class citizens must
work two or even three jobs to support their families. The daily
minimum wage was raised in March 1997 to $2.80 (8,500 rials). This wage
apparently is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for
a worker and family. Information on the share of the working population
covered by 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 reportedly has 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.
It is not known whether workers can remove themselves from hazardous
situations without risking the loss of employment.
*The United States does not have an embassy in Iran. This report
draws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.
[end of document]
©Copyright 1999, U.S. Department of State
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