Iran Human Rights


Arman AbdolaliDespite the best efforts of Amnesty International activists and others, Armin Abdolali was executed on November 24  for a crime he was accused of committing when he was 17. His execution had been scheduled and postponed several times during the month of October 2021, compounding the agony for himself and his family. Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian government to immediately halt the planned executions of anyone convicted of a crime carried out when they were under the age of 18, and to amend the penal code to explicitly prohibit the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders.





On November 11, 2021 Amnesty International issued a press release noting that an  international “people’s tribunal” on the Iranian authorities’ killing and wounding of thousands of protesters and bystanders during nationwide protests in November 2019 is a powerful initiative against impunity and must serve as a wake-up call to all UN member states. AI Iran researcher Raha Bahreini presented expert testimony at the tribunal, which also included evidence heard from dozens of witnesses, such as protesters, victims’ relatives, torture survivors, healthcare workers and former security officials. Several expert witnesses will also testify before the tribunal, which will be presided over by prominent lawyers and judges. On the same day Amnesty released  a report detailing the deaths of 323 people who were killed by Iran’s security forces during the crackdown on the protests.

On July 23, 2021 Amnesty International issued a press release condemning the use of deadly force against mostly peaceful protests in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Video footage together with consistent accounts from the ground, indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas to disperse protesters, resulting in the deaths of at least eight people and scores of injuries. Many others have been arrested. Protesters took to the streets in Khuzestan—one of Iran’s poorest regions, inhabited largely by Arabic speaking Ahwazis—because of severe water shortages and power outages due to drought and climate change; many were chanting “we are thirsty.” The Iranian authorities have long responded to peaceful protests with violence, including the use of live ammunition and the arrests, torture and mistreatment of those exercising their right to peaceful assembly and expression. Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately cease the use of indiscriminate violence, to release all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly, and to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment.

Nowruz Action

haftsin tableThe Persian holiday Nowruz (“new day”) is an ancient holiday celebrated on the first day of spring to welcome in the new year. Every Nowruz we remember several courageous prisoners of conscience in Iran with Nowruz greetings. Please send cards with Nowruz greetings to let our imprisoned friends know we are thinking of them at this time.

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Amnesty International has been documenting and campaigning around serious human rights violations in Iran including detention of human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, unfair trials, torture and mistreatment in detention, deaths in custody and the application of the death penalty. Iran executes more people than any country in the world, other than China. Ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities face persistent persecution. The Iranian authorities also suppress freedom of expression of a range of civil society actors including attorneys, scientists, environmental activists, artists, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, journalists and bloggers and those expressing their opinions on social media. There has been a worrying trend of imposing extreme sentences against prisoners of conscience such as human rights attorneys Nasrin Sotoudeh who has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison plus 148 lashes and Amirsalar Davoudi, who has been sentenced to 30 years in prison and 111 lashes for his human rights work, including publicizing violations through a channel he set up on the Telegram mobile messaging app and giving media interviews.

Hundreds of others are in detention; many of those serving prison terms have been convicted in unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts on vague charges including “propaganda against the state” or “endangering the security of the state.” Iranian authorities have used these vague charges to suppress the right of its citizens to peaceful expression and association. The Iranian government has also endeavored to prevent Iranians from accessing information by blocking internet sites and even harassing the family members of journalists for BBC Persian and VOA Persian, which continue to broadcast news into Iran.

Executions in Iran

Iran has long held the dubious distinction of being the Number Two executioner in the world (after China). Iran is also among the tiny handful of countries that continue to execute juvenile offenders—those whose alleged crime occurred when they were younger than eighteen. Further compounding the abuses are systemic problems in the Iranian justice system, where suspects are routinely tortured or mistreated to coerce confessions.

A number of troubling executions—both those carried out and those scheduled to take place—illustrate the increasingly outrageous application of the death penalty—not only for those unfairly convicted of criminal offenses, but also for those accused of vague national security offenses.

One of the most controversial and widely condemned executions in many years was the hanging of journalist Rouhollah Zam on December 14, 2020. He had fled Iran in the aftermath of the 2009 post-election protests and had been living in France where he was granted asylum. He was allegedly lured to Iraq in October 2019 where he was abducted under mysterious circumstances and brought to Iran where he stood trial in a Revolutionary Court  on charges of “spreading corruption on earth” in connection with his popular news channel, AmadNews, that he ran on the messaging app Telegram. The channel, which had more than a million followers, shared videos of protests and information about the alleged involvement of various authority figures in corruption. The authorities claimed that his media work involved “espionage” for Israel and France, “cooperation with the hostile state of the United States”, “crimes against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”

juvenile executionsOn 2 August 2021, Sajad Sanjari was executed in secret for a crime that was committed in 2010, when he was just fifteen. He claimed that he stabbed a man in self-defense. Another case of Iran’s zealous use of the death penalty is the execution, on the last day of 2020, of Mohammad Hassaan Rezaiee,  who was sentenced to death for a crime that allegedly occurred when he was sixteen years old, after a conviction based on confessions extracted under torture. His family was told on December 18 that his execution could be carried out in a week. His case is very typical of the many other juvenile offenders who have been sentenced to death in Iran: the incident occurred during a fight among a number of young men from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds in a rural area. In these situations, it is common for authorities to rather arbitrarily select one individual to be pinned as the suspect, when it is unclear exactly what happened during a melee involving knives; the suspect is then subjected to brutal torture to obtain a confession which is used as the primary evidence of guilt. Two other juvenile offenders were executed earlier in 2020, while Amnesty International recorded at least six juvenile executions in 2019. There are at least 90 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran.  In 2019 at least 251 people were executed in Iran. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to treat anyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subjected to the death penalty or life imprisonment.


Arman AbdolaliDespite the best efforts of Amnesty International activists and others, Armin Abdolali was executed on November 24  for a crime he was accused of committing when he was 17. His execution had been scheduled and postponed several times during the month of October 2021, compounding the agony for himself and his family. Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian government to immediately halt the planned executions of anyone convicted of a crime carried out when they were under the age of 18, and to amend the penal code to explicitly prohibit the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders.






An egregious example of the deployment of the death penalty for political purposes is the case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian specialist in emergency medicine. He barely escaped an execution scheduled to take place on December 1 after an international outcry, including a letter signed by 153 Nobel science prizes laureates. and was given a reprieve of unknown duration.

Ahmadreza Djalali

Dr. Djalali was sentenced to death for “corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel-arz) in October 2017 after a grossly unfair trial before Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The court relied primarily on “confessions” that Ahmadreza Djalali says were obtained under torture and other ill-treatment while he was held in prolonged solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. He had been arrested in April 2016 while on a trip to Iran at the invitation of Tehran University to speak about disaster medicine. He was accused of providing information to Israel that was allegedly used in the assassination of several Iranian scientists. Iranian State television aired the “confession” in December 2017. Dr. Djalali could be executed at any time Activists are urged to write to write to the head of the judiciary in Iran via Iran’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva at the following email addresses: [email protected] and [email protected] .

The Iranian authorities are sensitive to international public opinion so it is essential that activists speak out against executions carried out in Iran. Please take action right away and please share the information with all your contacts so we can save Dr. Djalali who is at high risk of imminent execution.

Severe Persecution of Iran’s Ethnic Minorities

The Iranian authorities have a long history of persecuting its ethnic minorities: especially Kurds who live in Northwest Iran, Arabs (also known as Ahwazis) who live in the Southwest, and Baluchis who live in the Southeast. Iranian Kurds and Baluchis are also mostly minority Sunni Muslims (Arab Iranians are either Shi’a or Sunni). Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis live in the most economically disadvantaged regions of Iran, and face persecution for advocating for more rights for their communities. They are also far more likely to be subjected to severe torture and ill-treatment in detention, to be sentenced to death for politically motivated offenses, and to be executed.

Kurdish-Iranian prisoner Zeynab Jalalian

Kurdish-Iranian prisoner Zeynab Jalalian

Since 6 January 2021, at least 96 individuals from Iran’s Kurdish minority, including civil society activists, labor rights activists, environmentalists, writers, university students and political activists have been arrested by the intelligence unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Ministry of Intelligence agents. According to Kurdish human rights groups, in 2020, over 500 Iranian Kurds including human rights defenders, were arrested for politically motivated reasons and charged with broad and vaguely worded national security-related offenses. At least 159 of them were subsequently sentenced to prison terms ranging from one month to 17 years and four received the death penalty.  According to UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, “Kurdish political prisoners charged with national security offences … constitute a disproportionately high number of those who received the death penalty and are executed.”

There has been an alarming rise in executions of minority prisoners; since 19 December 2020, the Iranian authorities have executed at least 53 people, about a third of them Baluchis. “The recent escalation in executions of Baluchis and Ahwazi Arabs raises serious concerns that the authorities are using the death penalty to sow fear among disadvantaged ethnic minorities, as well as the wider population. The disproportionate use of the death penalty against Iran’s ethnic minorities epitomizes the entrenched discrimination and repression they have faced for decades,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Please go here to take action to protest the secret executions of four Ahwazi prisoners on 28 February 2021, and to call for the release of three other Ahwazi prisoners who are being denied proper medical care. The four men who were executed had been severely tortured in prison. They were forced to make confessions of their guilt; a tactic that has been repeatedly used by Iranian authorities to obtain convictions. The authorities have also refused to release their bodies to their families for burial and mourning rituals. Heidar Ghorbani, who is a Kurdish-Iranian, is at imminent risk of execution for “armed rebellion against the state” (baghi), despite serious fair trial violations and the trial court confirming that he was never armed. In August 2021, the Supreme Court rejected his second request for judicial review. His conviction is based on torture tainted “confessions” obtained while he was forcibly disappeared. Please go here to take action calling for his execution to be stayed. Please go here to take action on two Baluchi men who are at imminent risk of execution.

Please go here for more information  and to this press release signed by Amnesty International and 36 other organizations about the  ongoing wave of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, and enforced disappearances by the Iranian authorities, targeting scores of people from Iran’s disadvantaged Kurdish minority.

Amnesty international actions


Nasrin Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a world-renowned Iranian human rights attorney who has won numerous prizes and accolades, including the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament. However instead of honoring such an eminent citizen, the Iranian authorities sentenced her to an astonishing 38 years in prison plus 148 lashes solely for her peaceful advocacy and representation of her clients—one of the harshest sentences ever handed down to a prisoner of conscience in Iran. If she has to serve this entire sentence, she will be in her nineties by the time she is released.

Nasrin Sotoudeh who represented women targeted by Iranian authorities for protesting forced hijab (veiling), has been sentenced on several spurious national security-related charges including “forming a group with the purpose of disrupting national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.” She had first found out that she had been sentenced to five years in prison for “assisting in hiding spies with the intent to harm national security” imposed in absentia when she was arrested in June 2018. In March 2019 it was revealed that she had been sentenced to an additional 33 years plus the lashes.

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Prisoner of Conscience in Need of Urgent Medical Care

Alireza Farshi DizajYekanThe Iranian authorities routinely deny proper medical treatment to prisoners of conscience and others in detention, even when they suffer from injuries directly caused by Iranian agents, such as beatings and torture during arrest or interrogation. Human rights defender Alireza Farshi DizajYekan, who has advocated for the rights of Iran’s Azeri (Turkish speaking) minority. Alireza Farshi DizajYekan was arbitrarily arrested on 21 July 2020 to serve his prison sentence. He was sentenced to two prison terms after grossly unfair proceedings in Revolutionary Court. He was convicted of charges including  “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system” and “founding groups with the purpose of disrupting national security” for his peaceful human rights activities in support of the rights of the Azerbaijani Turkic community, including his role in submitting a letter to the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Tehran He is being held in Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary and is being denied access to adequate health care, including specialized eye treatment and treatment for Diabetes. He was told he would need urgent treatment to prevent the loss of vision in one eye, as a result of injuries suffered when he was severely beaten during his arrest.  Please take action by writing to the Head of the Judiciary  Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Alireza Farshi DizajYekan and calling for him to receive immediate medical care:

His Excellency Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei
c/o Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Email: [email protected] or   [email protected]

PERsecution of Labor Activists

For more than a year, since International Workers’ Day in 2018, Amnesty International has documented the arrests of hundreds of workers and other labor rights activists in the context of a campaign by the authorities to repress social unrest and public dissent. Courts have handed down prison sentences to dozens of them, in at least 38 cases compounding these by ordering those convicted to be flogged as well.

The Iranian authorities should also initiate impartial, independent and effective investigations into allegations that some labor rights activists, including Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, whose testimonies Amnesty International has documented in detail, have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention in recent months. Anyone found responsible should be brought to justice in trials that meet international fair trial standards.

On May Day (May 1) 2019 Iranian authorities arrested large numbers of labor rights activists for taking part in peaceful protests. The organization renews its calls on the Iranian authorities to lift their unlawful ban on independent trade unions and allow workers to hold peaceful gatherings, including on International Workers’ Day, and to exercise their right to form and join independent trade unions.

Press Release on Abuse of Labor Activists


Nowruz Action

The Persian holiday Nowruz (“new day”) is an ancient holiday celebrated on the first day of spring to welcome in the new year. Every Nowruz we remember several courageous prisoners of conscience in Iran with Nowruz greetings. Please send cards with Nowruz greetings to let our imprisoned friends know we are thinking of them at this time.

Take Action

Iran Newsroom

September 15, 2021 • Press Release

A Decade of Deaths in Custody Unpunished Amid Systemic Impunity for Torture in Iran

Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials, said Amnesty International following yesterday’s reports of yet another suspicious death in custody.

September 1, 2020 • Report

Detainees in Iran flogged, sexually abused and given electric shocks in gruesome post-protest crackdown

Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors, a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, …

April 20, 2020 • Report

Death penalty 2019: Global executions fell by 5%, hitting a 10-year low

Saudi Arabia executed a record number of people in 2019, despite an overall decline in executions worldwide, Amnesty International said in its 2019 global review of the death penalty published …

February 26, 2019 • Report

Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018

The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them …

December 9, 2018 • Report

Oppressive, sexist policies galvanize bold fight for women’s rights in 2018

Women activists around the world have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018, Amnesty International said today as it launched its review on the state …

December 4, 2018 • Report

Iran committing crimes against humanity by concealing fate of thousands of slaughtered political dissidents

By concealing the fate and whereabouts of thousands of political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and secretly executed in prison 30 years ago, Iranian authorities are continuing to commit crimes …

April 29, 2018 • Report

Iran: New evidence reveals deliberate desecration and destruction of multiple mass grave sites

New evidence including satellite imagery, photo and video analysis show that the Iranian authorities are deliberately destroying suspected or confirmed mass grave sites associated with the 1988 massacre in which thousands …

August 1, 2017 • Report

Iran vilifies human rights defenders as ‘enemies of the state’

Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

November 15, 2016 • Report

Iran: Macabre propaganda videos feature forced ‘confessions’ of executed Sunni men

Iran’s authorities have used crude propaganda tactics to dehumanize death penalty victims in the eyes of the public and divert attention away from the deeply flawed trials that led to their death sentences, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

July 15, 2016 • Report

Health taken hostage: Cruel denial of medical care in Iran’s prisons

Iran’s authorities are callously toying with the lives of prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners by denying them adequate medical care, putting them at grave risk of death, permanent disability or other irreversible damage to their health, according to a new report by Amnesty International published today.