Iranian Repression: Architects of Human Rights Abuse in the Islamic Republic


Credit: FDD

“While representing political prisoners in the Soviet Union 45 years ago, I noted that ‘vacation time in the West is prison time in the Soviet Union,’ with the regime imprisoning dissidents while Western governments adjourned,” notes Prof. Irwin Cotler, the chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.

“This phenomenon found expression this summer, as there was barely any international condemnation while the Iranian regime carried out systematic arrests and sentenced leaders at all levels of civil society on trumped-up charges, reminiscent of the old Soviet tactic of ‘give us the people and we will find the crime,’” he writes in the foreword to “Profiles of Iranian Repression: Architects of Human Rights Abuse in the Islamic Republic,” a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). 

The report documents human rights violations committed by 12 senior officials in the Islamic Republic. By adding these individuals to U.S. sanctions lists within the context of a broader economic pressure campaign, Washington can boost the morale of protesters, challenge the regime’s radical Islamist ideology, and make Tehran pay for its behavior, writes Tzvi Kahn, a senior Iran analyst at FDD, and the report’s principal author. At the same time, America can send a message to its allies that the Iranian people deserve their robust and concerted support, says Kahn (right), a Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. 

In particular, the regime escalated its assault on 10 fundamental civil society groups throughout the summer, adds Cotler, an emeritus professor of law at McGill University:

  • First, the regime escalated its targeting of journalists this summer, conducting arrests for merely expressing criticism of political and religious leaders on social media….
  • Second, the regime conducted widespread arrests of environmentalists, arresting more than 40 environmental activists, rangers, and even some of their family members over the course of two days in May.…..
  • Third, in addition to the imprisonment of Canadian-Iranian Professor Seyed-Emami and Iranian-American environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, the regime escalated its targeting of dual citizens, in keeping with its tradition of holding foreign nationals hostage for political leverage. ….
  • Credit: defendlawyers

    Fourth, the regime has attacked leaders of all cultural sectors, including writers, models, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians. ….

  • Fifth, the regime renewed its crackdown on religious minorities.
  • Sixth, the regime intensified its onslaught against women’s rights activists by jailing record numbers this summer for protesting the compulsory hijab….
  • Seventh, the regime continued to target labor rights activists for simply exercising their right to freely assemble.
  • Eighth, the regime escalated its arrests and convictions of students for similarly attending peaceful protests.
  • Ninth, the regime increased its persecution of leading educators.
  • Lastly, the regime has arrested a significant number of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers [including Nasrin Sotoudeh – above] since January of this year and, this summer, harassed and arrested leading lawyers acting on behalf of imprisoned civil society activists.


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