The 2010 foreign and commonwealth office report PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 02 April 2011 14:40

 

Human rights and democracy

The 2010 foreign and commonwealth office repor

Section: Human rights in countries concern

March 31, 2011

Iran

This document contains the part related to iran, for the full document please click here.


The year 2010 was marked by a determined government crackdown againstprotesters

and a continuation of the suppression of rights that followed the disputedJune 2009 presidential election.

January saw a further wave of arrests, and riotpolice and armed militia members were a

visible presence on streets across thecapital Tehran; peaceful vigils were broken up, and on 28 January,

two youngpolitical prisoners were executed. By mid-February, an overwhelming securitypresence put an

 

 

end to large public demonstrations. Throughout the year arrestsand intimidation continued, particularly among lawyers,

opposition politicians,journalists, student and trade unionists, and religious and ethnic minorities.

Analready heavily proscribed media faced further restriction, and military resourceswere increasingly

used to monitor and restrict internet usage. Alongside the politicalrepression, executions increased

to over 650 in 2010, according to NGO figures, anexecution rate surpassed only by China.

Iran ended the year with human rightsmore restricted than at any time during the last decade.

The opportunity for our Embassy to engage with local human rights groups waslimited due to the

state-sanctioned intimidation of individuals or organisationsworking with the international community

to improve human rights in Iran, includinglengthy sentences for crimes such as “contact with foreign diplomats”.

The majorityof our work continued to focus on highlighting human rights violations, with the

aim of holding Iran to account internationally and showing solidarity with those Iranians whocampaign

for respect for human rights. We played an active role in highlighting thedeteriorating human rights

situation in Iran through EU co-sponsorship of a UNGeneral Assembly resolution on Iran’s human rights record.

As well as being morerobust than in previous years, the UN resolution passed with more votes in favour,

sending a clear signal to Iran that concern about its human rights record is widelyshared by countries

from every continent.We were actively engaged in Iran’s Universal Periodic Review, which was

heldbefore the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in February. Despite the direhuman rights

situation on the ground, Iran presented its report with no mention of the

abuses that had occurred in the months prior. During the debate a large number of countries

expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation, promptingaccusations by the

Iranian delegation of “Western” involvement in the post-electionprotests of June 2009.

The UN report highlighted a wide range of concerns aboutthe human rights situation in Iran,

and about discriminatory legislation. It alsoexpressed concern about the complete lack of meaningful

cooperation with a longlist of UN human rights mechanisms.We called for Iran to end the culture of

impunity by allowing the judiciary toinvestigate allegations of abuse in an independent and transparent manner;

todeclare an immediate moratorium on juvenile executions; and to bring its new penalcode into line

with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights.Iran’s policies are unlikely to

change significantly in 2011. We expect that theauthorities will continue to try to silence those who

have been victims of abuse andthose trying to defend the victims of human rights violations.

The reforms to thepenal code, which remain stalled in the Majlis, will need to be unlocked and debated.

While there are reported to be some welcome additions, including the officialremoval of stoning as a punishment,

a number of other areas must still beaddressed. We will continue to urge Iran to officially

accept and provide unrestrictedaccess to all thematic UN special rapporteurs to enable them to

conductinvestigations under their mandates. We will also urge Iran to allow UN HighCommissioner

for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay unrestricted access to allinterested parties and locations during

her planned visit in 2011.


Access to justice

A dramatic increase in executions in 2010 and the growing number of arrestshighlighted

the importance of fair and transparent access to justice. However, for both drug-related and political cases,

reliable reports continued to emerge of forcedconfessions, staged trials and a lack of access

to independent legal counsel or evenbasic services such as translation and consular access for foreign nationals.

Therewas a report of one execution where the victim did not even know that he had beensentenced to death.

We were deeply concerned about the persistent use of ill-defined or vaguely wordedcharges.

In 2010, there were at least 27 executions on the charge of “moharebeh”(enmity towards God).

This charge has been applied both to political protesters andto those accused of terrorism,

with the distinction being occasionally blurred. Thevague and political nature of the charge

makes any case very difficult to defend, andin a number of instances, the Ministry of Intelligence

reportedly pushed for swift andharsh judgment on the accused.One of the most alarming trends

this year was the increased intimidation andharassment of lawyers. A significant number of lawyers,

particularly those involvedin high profile cases, were arrested, intimidated into dropping sensitive cases,

or forced to flee the country for fear of their and their families’ safety.Mohammad Mostafaei was one example.

He was the original lawyer defendingSakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, condemned to death by stoning for adultery.

Whenher case came to global prominence in July, he gave a number of interviews andreleased

documents into the public domain to highlight the flaws in her case. As aresult, his offices were

repeatedly raided. Refusing to back down, Mr Mostafaei wasarrested a number of times and

questioned about his activities in defending MsAshtiani. Facing growing and determined harassment,

and with another arrestwarrant out against him, Mr Mostafaei was forced to flee Iran.

Close family memberswere then arrested in an attempt to make him return to Iran.

Another lawyer took upMs Ashtiani’s case. When he continued the publicity campaign to

keep her sentencein the global conscience, he too was arrested. He remains in prison.

These werenot isolated cases. A number of other lawyers have been arrested and several havebeen

handed lengthy prison sentences, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh who was given 11years, invariably on

ambiguous charges such as “offences against national security”.In 2010, Iran increased its use of

televised confessions in response to heavycriticism for its human rights abuses from NGOs and from

the internationalcommunity. Used in high-profile cases, including that of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani,

these acts are contrary to Iran’s international and domestic commitments tohuman rights. The UN High

Commissioner for Human Rights and the international

community strongly condemned these televised confessions on a number of occasions in 2010.

Access to justice is central to upholding human rights and we made it a key area of activity,

working closely with the EU and other international states. We repeatedlyraised our concerns

with the Iranian authorities, both in private and publicly. For example, showcasing the struggle

of Iranian human rights defenders was a centralpart of the campaign organised by the Foreign

and Commonwealth Office (FCO) onHuman Rights Day in December.


Rule of law

Law enforcement in Iran is performed by a number of groups. The key duties fall tothe Iranian police,

the Intelligence Ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corpsand the Basij government-sponsored militia.

The actions of each of these branchesin the post-election protests of 2009 contributed to a

climate of fear surrounding their activities and greatly reduced the confidence of ordinary Iranian

citizens in their ability to enforce the law impartially. The year 2010 began with a massive securitycrackdown

on protesters that effectively ended the cycle of post-electiondemonstrations. Subsequently,

there were numerous examples of small scalepeaceful protests and vigils that were broken up

by the violent actions of theauthorities.In a number of high-profile cases, we were aware of

unwarranted raids againstoffices and private houses. There were a number of instances,

including in Mr Mostafaei’s and Dr Shirin Ebadi’s cases, when family members and friends

weredetained in order to put pressure on suspects either to confess or to turn themselvesin.

Alongside other countries, we raised these issues directly with the Iranianauthorities.


Death penalty

The government of Iran continued to use the death penalty extensively. We hadgrave

concerns over its application, not least because of limited respect for fair trialrights, lack of transparency,

and repeated reports of forced confession. Iran also continued to execute those

who committed crimes as minors, and to conduct publicexecutions.Estimates suggest that

Iran executes more people per capita than any other countryin the world. The year 2010

saw a steep increase in the number of executions inresponse to a tough new anti-drugs policy.

Credible reports suggest that theexecution figure rose from at least 388 publicly reported

executions in 2009, to morethan 650 in 2010. Reports indicate that roughly 590 people were

executed for drugstrafficking in 2010.In addition to the number of executions, we also

had serious concerns about themethods used. The Iranian penal code still allows for execution

by a range of methods that we consider to be cruel and that prolong the suffering of thecondemned.

Suspension strangulation – in which the victim is winched slowlyupward – is still applied in some cases,

and stoning sentences were handed down,despite a non-binding moratorium on its use.

Although, we are not aware of anystoning sentences being carried out since 2008,

it is important that Iran abolishesthese sentences in order to meet its international obligations on

minimum standardswhen conducting capital punishments. A bill removing several sentences,

includingstoning, has been stuck in the Iranian parliament for several years.The extent of

international feeling about the use of stoning was made clear to Iran inJuly when the case

of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, sentenced to be stoned onalleged adultery charges,

was brought to global attention. As the case developedand publicity grew, the charges against

her evolved into murder charges for involvement in the killing of her husband.

The international outcry against her stoning may have contributed to the temporary stay

of Ms Ashtiani’s execution, andhighlighted the importance of continuing to raise such cases internationally.

The UK, along with EU partners, continued to raise these concerns with the Iranianauthorities.

This included discussing methods of execution, transparency of judicialprocess in execution cases,

concerns over juvenile executions, and other caseswhere we believe due process was not met.

We raised these concerns in meetingswith Iran and in bilateral and multilateral statements, such as during Iran’s Universal

Periodic Review and in the UN General Assembly resolution on the human rightssituation in Iran.


Torture and other ill treatment

There were frequent and credible reports of torture and repressive treatment of protesters still

detained following the 2009 protests. There are many casesdocumented by protesters and journalists

showing that the most common of thesemethods were beatings by guards, and psychological torture.

There is clear evidence that a large number of confessions, particularly in high-profile cases, areextracted

under duress and later retracted.The use of flogging as a punishment for a wide range of crimes is

frequently applied,as are amputations and “qisas”– an eye for an eye – punishments.

An increase inpublic amputations as a deterrent against robbery was a disturbing trend in the latter half of 2010.

Capital punishments amounting to cruel and degrading treatmentcontinued in 2010 and in a number

of cases the condemned were lashed prior toexecution, increasing their suffering.Despite widespread

internal anger about the treatment of political prisoners, theIranian government’s response remains limited.

Following the public outcry aboutthe death of three detainees in July 2009 after sustained torture in

Kahrizakdetention centre, authorities launched a lengthy investigation. In June, 11 prisonofficers were

convicted, but two sentenced to death were later pardoned by thevictims’ families. Public demands

for senior officials to be held accountablecontinue.Torture is contrary to Article 38 of the Iranian

constitution and the Iraniangovernment claims it does not sanction or permit it.

However, Iran has not yetsigned or ratified the UN Convention against Torture, and shows no willingness to doso.

During its Universal Periodic Review, Iran also rejected a number of recommendations to allow the

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Iran.We continued to raise individual cases directly with

the Iranian government, wherewe believed torture, or cruel and inhumane sentencing had occurred.

In 2010, we repeatedly called on the Iranian government to prosecute those guilty of abuse and we will

continue to follow these cases into 2011. We also urged Iran to sign andratify the UN Convention against Torture,

and to adhere to its protocols.

 

Prisons and detention issues

The Iranian authorities continued to use detention as a political deterrent in 2010.Arrests and intimidation

of groups opposing the government continued. Theseincluded lawyers, opposition politicians, journalists,

student and trade unionists, andreligious and ethnic minorities. Unofficial figures placed the number of

thosedetained since June 2009 in the thousands. A majority were swiftly released, butreportedly with

the explicit threat of re-arrest if they continue to protest againstgovernment policy. Arrests without a warrant,

particularly in political cases,reportedly continued throughout 2010. These often took place at night and

familymembers could spend days without knowing where detainees were being held, letalone on what charges.

The large number of ongoing detentions following the disputed 2009 electionshighlighted a range of

concerns about prison conditions. At a minimum, many of those detained have been subjected to

overcrowded and/or insanitary conditions.As a result of a number of deaths from previous medical conditions,

concerns werealso expressed about the level of medical care provided. Abuse of prisoners’ rightswas also rife,

with numerous reports of violence and sexual abuse against prisoners,regular beatings,

credible allegations of torture and increased and extended use of solitary confinement.

Political prisoners asked us to raise public awareness about the use of solitaryconfinement to

place prisoners under psychological pressure. Reports from NGOsand from those who have been

released suggested that prisoners can spend up to23 hours a day in solitary confinement,

where they were subjected to insanitary andcramped conditions.Iran regularly highlights its

progressive approach to drugs rehabilitation in detentioncentres and its pragmatic approach to HIV and AIDS prevention.

During a visit to adrugs rehabilitation detention centre on 29 April, diplomats were told that prisoners

received clean needles and condoms. However, NGOs cautioned that suchprogrammes are patchily applied,

often at the discretion of the prison governor, andthat many facilities provide no such services.

Iran is to be praised for theseprogrammes, but we would welcome further transparency about the extent of their application.

The treatment of prisoners is central to a number of our human rights concerns.

While we are clear in a number of cases that the detention of prisoners is arbitraryand unlawful,

it is important that their rights are not further violated.

We haveconsistently pushed with the Iranian authorities for a prisoner’s right to due processto be respected,

so that those wrongfully accused are given full opportunity to defendthemselves without prejudice.

In 2010, we called for Iran to show full cooperationwith all UN special procedures,

including on the issues of arbitrary detention andjudicial independence.

These issues were also highlighted in Iran’s UniversalPeriodic Review and in the UN General Assembly resolution.

We continued to raise both the level and use of detention with the Iranian authorities,urging Iran to live up to its domestic and international obligations.


Human rights defenders

With the government having almost total control over the media in Iran,

the work of human rights defenders in promoting civil liberties and highlighting abuses was keyto

showing the true story of what was occurring in post-election Iran.

This madethem a key target of the government crackdown, with a large number of prominentdefenders and

lawyers arrested in 2010.One such case was that of Nasrin Sotoudeh. As one of Iran’s most prominentlawyers,

she worked hard to secure the release of a number of protesters who

hadbeen arbitrarily arrested and jailed without charge following the post-electionprotests.

As a close friend and associate of Nobel laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi, she alsorepresented

Dr Ebadi’s interests in Iran while Dr Ebadi remained in exile. On 4September,

Ms Sotoudeh was arrested on charges of acting against state securityand spreading propaganda against the regime.

There was convincing evidence thatthe charges against her were simply for daring to speak up about ongoing abuses

and for continuing her work as a lawyer despite threats from the authorities and

demands that she drop Dr Ebadi’s case.While detained, Ms Sotoudeh was denied her rights as a prisoner

to visits or regular phone calls from her family. She was held in solitary confinement for an extendedperiod of time.

In protest, Ms Sotoudeh went on hunger strike twice in six weeks, noteating for approximately five of those weeks.

When she was finally granted a familyvisit from her two young daughters, Ms Sotoudeh

was in a grave physical conditionhaving lost a significant amount of weight. On 9 January 2011,

Ms Sotoudeh wassentenced to 11 years in prison and a 20-year ban from practising law and leavingIran.

Her official charges were acting against national security, propaganda againstthe regime and

membership of the Human Rights Defenders' Centre.Despite this ongoing campaign of fear,

lawyers showed courage in continuing their work while facing the real possibility of imprisonment.

It remains vital that they areallowed to continue their work unimpeded and are supported by the

internationalcommunity. Our Ambassador’s blog to mark Human Rights Day focused on NasrinSotoudeh.

The blog generated intense media and government interest in Iran.In addition to statements

highlighting our concerns, we continued to work closelywith the EU in cases involving human rights defenders.

It was important that Iranremained aware that the international community was united in

condemnation of their actions to pervert the course of justice and to silence the oppressed.

Over thecourse of the year, the EU démarched the Iranian authorities on a number of occasions

to highlight our shared concerns. We also held a number of meetingsboth in London with the

Iranian Embassy, and in Tehran with the relevantgovernment ministries to highlight our concerns

and remind Iran of its internationalcommitments.


Freedom of expression

In 2010, freedom of expression continued to be severely restricted, in spite of constitutional

protections for freedom of expression and the press. The crackdownon journalists, bloggers

and opposition figures following the disputed 2009 electionscontinued during 2010, with journalists,

bloggers and filmmakers harassed and

imprisoned: publications suspended; and continued restrictions on internet access.It is clear that,

as in 2009, Iran failed to meet its obligations to protect freedom of expression as a signatory

to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.In early December, Reporters Without

Borders and the Committee to ProtectJournalists identified 37 journalists imprisoned within Iran.

This was the highestnumber of any country in the world. In September, journalist and human

rightsdefender Emadeddin Baghi was sentenced to six years in prison, which was addedto an

earlier one-year sentence imposed in July. Mr Baghi was convicted on thevague charges of

“propaganda against the system” and an offence against nationalsecurity.

In September, young journalist and rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari wasalso sentenced to six years and 74 lashes.

Ms Nazar Ahari’s charges included“disturbing public peace of mind”.

These are typical charges used against journalistsand bloggers. In December, six journalists from Shargh

newspaper were arrested.Two remained in detention at the end of the year.

The Iranian authorities alsocontinued to suspend or close publications.

In June, Amnesty Internationalestimated that at least 20 publications had been banned since the 2009 elections.

Iranian film-makers also faced harassment and imprisonment in 2010.

In December,award-winning Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years’imprisonment and

a 20-year ban on film-making for “propaganda against the system”and participating in a gathering.

He had earlier been released on bail after aninternational campaign launched at the Cannes festival.

The Iranian authorities continued to actively censor the internet, restricting access toa wide range

of sites including Facebook and YouTube and targeting bloggers andonline journalists.

The military-run Cyber Army was reported to have taken a leadingrole in monitoring and

disrupting internet sites and other online tools, including emailand blog sites. In September,

prominent blogger Hossein Derakhshan wassentenced to 19-and-a-half-years in prison, and blogger

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki to15 years. These are the longest sentences ever handed down to bloggers

in Iran.By the end of 2010, Reporters Without Borders estimated that seven bloggers wereimprisoned in Iran.

The Iranian authorities also continued to jam periodically satellite broadcasts intoIran, including BBC Persian,

Voice of America and new entertainment channel Farsi1. In spite of this, Iranians continued to be

inventive in evading censorship throughusing proxies and blogging anonymously.Freedom of

assembly was also severely curtailed in Iran in 2010. The heavycrackdown by the authorities on

widespread protests on Ashura Day on 27December 2009, and a heavy security presence on

the streets during key nationalholidays and anniversaries, contributed to an atmosphere of fear,

providing a strongdeterrent against free association and peaceful protest.During the

Universal Periodic Review of Iran’s human rights in February, Iranexpressed its willingness to accept

visits from UN special rapporteurs. In February,the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of

Opinion and Expression asked to visit Iran.We understand that, by the end of the year, he was still

to receive a response fromthe Iranian authorities.We continued to raise our concerns about freedom

of expression with the Iranianauthorities in private and in public, including the cases mentioned above.

We alsosought to raise awareness of the state of freedom of expression in Iran throughdigital channels.

For example, FCO bloggers from around the world blogged insolidarity with Hossein Derakhshan in September,

seeking to raise the profile of hiscase. We also used Facebook, Twitter and Iranian link-sharing websites,

such asBalatarin, to increase access to information within Iran on the areas where Iran didnot meet

its international obligations, and to show the international community’sconcern about human rights in Iran.


Freedom of religion and belief

Under the Iranian constitution, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism areprotected religions.

However, in 2010, religious minorities in Iran continued to facerestrictions on the right to practise

their religion, and faced discrimination andrestrictions on access to employment and education.

Muslims do not have the rightto change their religion in Iran, and apostasy is punishable under law.

Baha’is, who are not a recognised religious minority, continued to face particular harassment and discrimination.

In August, seven Baha’i leaders were sentenced to20 years in prison, a sentence that

was subsequently reduced to 10 years on appeal.They were acquitted of the original charges relating

to state security and propagandaagainst the regime, but convicted of charges relating to establishing an

illegalorganisation in a trial that failed to meet international standards. Other members of the Baha’i

community in Iran face discrimination, harassment or imprisonment, withreports of more than

50 Baha’is being detained in Iran at the end of the year.Christians from more informal “house churches”,

those who had converted fromIslam and those involved in evangelism faced mounting harassment at the end of 2010.

Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was reportedly sentenced to death oncharges of apostasy in September.

His appeal was still outstanding at the end of theyear. Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani was

arrested in June and was charged withapostasy and blasphemy. Christian Solidarity Worldwide

reported that 25 Christiansfrom house churches were arrested on 26 December, and up to 100 others

weredetained and then released. Both Baha’is and some Christians are regularlyaccused by the

Iranian authorities of acting as foreign agents.We raised the plight of the Baha’i and Christian communities

of Iran repeatedly withthe Iranian authorities during 2010, urging the government of Iran to

cease allharassment and accord them freedom to adhere to their beliefs. We also workedwith EU

partners to lobby the Iranian government on a number of cases involvingreligious freedom.


Women’s rights

A number of worrying practices remained common in Iran, including forcedmarriages, temporary marriages,

and the legal right of a husband to polygamywithout his wife’s consent – or even knowledge.

In addition, a woman has limitedrights within marriage, including being unable to refuse sexual relations with her husband.

The Protection of Family Bill, which further limits a number of a wife’srights within a marriage,

continues to be discussed in the Iranian parliament.

Women continued to be at the forefront of political protest in 2010, and a significantnumber of

high-profile cases involved female activists, journalists, students andlawyers. When larger-scale

protests had ended, mothers of the detained formedsmall vigils to protest against the arrests of their children.

A number of reportsindicated that these were broken up with violence and threats against

future protests.Iran has taken a number of steps to promote female access to education.

Recentfigures indicated that between 60 and 65% of university students were women.

Despite the large number of highly qualified women leaving university, womencontinue to

highlight difficulties in accessing the job market. There are a number of professions that

are barred to women, and a gender bias in favour of maleemployees remains widespread.

We were vocal on women’s rights, including releasing a statement directly to Iranianwomen

on Iranian Women’s Day. We raised concerns about discriminatory laws ona number of

occasions with the Iranian government. The issue was also discussedin the UN General Assembly.

 

Children’s rights

Juvenile offenders continued to suffer because of the low legal ages of maturity inIran in 2010.

Iranian law continued to view girls as young as nine as adults andanswerable for their actions in a court

of law, with the age of maturity for boys set at15. A non-binding moratorium on the use of the death

penalty for crimes committedas a minor issued in 2008 indicated unease about the practice within

the Iraniansystem. Despite this, Iran carried out at least two “juvenile executions” in 2010.

Wecontinued to urge Iran to implement a full ban on juvenile executions and raised theissue

in Iran’s Universal Periodic Review.

Minorities and other discriminated groups

In 2010, there were a number of executions of members of minorities who theauthorities

alleged were involved with terrorist factions. On 9 May, authoritiesexecuted Kurds Ali Heydarian,

Farhad Vakili, Mehdi Eslamian, Shirin Alam Hooli andFarzad Kamangar. There were severe flaws in their trial.

They were executedwithout notifying the families or lawyers of the condemned. Amnesty International

called the executions “a blatant attempt to intimidate members of the Kurdishminority”.

The Iranian authorities have used their fight against the Party of Free Lifeof Kurdistan to suppress

the rights of the Kurdish minority, including cultural andlinguistic rights, with the ostensible aim

of ending the Kurdish call for an independentKurdistan region.Homosexuality in Iran continues

to be illegal and carries extremely harshpunishments, including the death sentence.

One of the most prominent cases in2010 was that of Ebrahim Hamidi.

Mr Hamidi was accused of sexual assault of another male in 2008, when aged 16.

He was sentenced to death on the basis of the “judge’s knowledge” and has been on death row ever since.

In July, it wasrevealed that the person who accused Mr Hamidi had withdrawn his statement,

saying that he had fabricated the story. Since then, the Iranian SupremeCourt hasattempted to overturn

the judge’s sentence, but to date has not been able to do soowing to the original judge blocking it.

At the end of 2010 Mr Hamidi remained ondeath row.We continued to condemn discrimination on

the basis of gender or sexuality andwere very active on the above cases, and in others relating to

these issues. Weregularly raised our concerns with the Iranian Embassy in London, and with theIranian authorities.

 

Antisemitism

The small Jewish population in Iran remains protected as an officially recognisedminority.

However, some antisemitic news articles were reported which accused theJewish population of espionage for foreign countries.

Vitriol against Israel remainedstandard practice from all sections and echelons of government,

with Israel and“Zionists” being blamed for most of Iran’s ills. These comments are widely replayedin the media.

The line between statements against Israel and against Jews outsideIran often remained blurred.

Senior government officials, including the president,continued to cast doubt on the historical accuracy of the Holocaust.


Protection of civilians

Iran is home to the second largest group of long-staying refugees in the world.

According to the Iranian Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs, in Marchthere were 1,065,000

registered refugees and according to the UN HighCommissioner for Refugees, a further 2 million unregistered refugees.

The vastmajority of the refugee population are Afghan and many have been in Iran sincefleeing

Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979. Those who are registeredhave access to some

primary healthcare facilities, primary and secondary educationand some state benefits.

The 300,000 in possession of a temporary work permit areable to work legally and

therefore contribute to municipality taxes. However,unregistered refugees are not able

to access these entitlements and live hand tomouth, working as cheap labour.

Registered refugees must also re-register on anannual basis, a process that is

haphazard and incurs a fee.On 28 June, after a three-year suspension, the tripartite

agreement betweenAfghanistan, Iran and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

was re-activated withthe aim of creating the conditions conducive to voluntary repatriation.

Before thesuspension of the agreement in 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

hadassisted in the return of more than 870,000 refugees since 2002.

Voluntaryrepatriation is the preferred solution for Iran, but the security situation and the

socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan make people reluctant to return.

Owing to thelack of progress made on voluntary repatriation, Iran forcibly deports newly arrivedAfghan

refugees and seeks to disrupt refugee settlement by insisting that refugeeseither re-locate from towns

and cities to refugee settlements or opt for voluntaryrepatriation.There is currently no direct

UK assistance to refugees in Iran. Iran was invited toJanuary's International Conference on

Afghanistan hosted by the UN, UK andAfghanistan in London. Iran declined to accept the invitation,

despite repeatedpublic insistence that Iran should be allowed to play a key role in securingAfghanistan’s future.

In 2011 we expect the situation of the refugee community to get worse.

Highinflation and the introduction of the targeted subsidies plan have removed the subsidy

on basic goods and refugees are not eligible for the cash compensationallowance paid to the poorest Iranians.

They will be hit hardest by the plan and arelikely either to return to Afghanistan

or to seek passage to other countries.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 April 2011 02:04