Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Head of government President: Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Death penalty retentionist
Population 74.4 million
Life expectancy 71.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 33/35 per 1,000
Adult literacy 82.3 per cent
An intensified clampdown on political protest preceded and, particularly, followed the presidential election in June, whose outcome was widely disputed, deepening the long-standing patterns of repression. The security forces, notably the paramilitary Basij, used excessive force against demonstrators; dozens of people were killed or fatally injured. The authorities suppressed freedom of expression to an unprecedented level, blocking mobile and terrestrial phone networks and internet communications. Well over 5,000 people had been detained by the end of the year. Many were tortured, including some who were alleged to have been raped in detention, or otherwise ill-treated. Some died from their injuries. Dozens were then prosecuted in grossly unfairmass "show trials". Most were sentenced to prison terms but at least six were sentenced to death.
The election-related violations occurred against a background of severe repression, which persisted throughout 2009 and whose victims included members of ethnic and religious minorities, students, human rights defenders and advocates of political reform. Women continued to face severe discrimination under the law and in practice, and women's rights campaigners were harassed, arrested and imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and at least 12 people died in custody. Detainees were systematically denied access to lawyers, medical care and their families, and many faced unfair trials. Iran remained one of the states with the highest rates of execution and one of very few still to execute juvenile offenders: at least 388 people were executed, including one by stoning and at least five juveniles.
International tension persisted over Iran's nuclear enrichment programme. In March the UN Security Council voted to extend economic and political sanctions. In September, the government revealed the existence of a hitherto unknown enrichment facility.
Iran continued to host almost 1 million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan. They had limited access to social services and education.
Presidential election – widespread abuses
The authorities intensified their crackdown on critics and opponents of the government in the months preceding the 12 June presidential election, in which the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was officially declared the winner. Only three of the 474 other applicants were permitted to stand. Mass protests broke out in response to the official result, declared on 13 June, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets. Security forces, notably the paramilitary Basij, were deployed to suppress the protests by force, particularly after the Supreme Leader ordered an end to demonstrations on 19 June. However, protests continued to the end of the year on significant days such as the religious festival of Ashoura on 27 December. The authorities disrupted mobile phone and internet communications, including social networking sites, to prevent information circulating. They prevented foreign journalists from covering demonstrations, expelling some, and security officials controlled the content of newspapers. Security forces raided university campuses, injuring students. The authorities accused the US and UK governments of organizing the unrest, which those governments denied.