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Title:  Iran Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                               IRAN* 
 
 
*The United States does not have an embassy in Iran.  This report draws 
heavily on non-U.S. Government sources. 
 
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 after a populist 
revolution toppled the monarchy.  The Government is dominated by Shi'a 
Muslim clergymen.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the Leader of the Islamic 
Revolution and functions as the Chief of State.  He is also the 
Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.  President Ali Akbar Hashemi-
Rafsanjani, first elected in a popular vote in 1989, was reelected in 
1993.  The Constitution, approved in l980 by popular referendum and 
revised in 1989, provides for a 270-seat unicameral Islamic Consultative 
Assembly, or Majles.  The Government seeks to ensure that public policy 
is consistent with its view of political and socio-religious values, but 
serious differences exist among the various factions within the 
leadership.  The Government reinforces its power by arrests, summary 
trials, and executions, as well as various other forms of intimidation. 
 
Several government agencies are responsible 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 which is coequal with the regular military.  These 
organizations regularly commit serious human rights abuses.  
Paramilitary volunteer forces known as hezbollahis or basijis also 
conduct vigilante actions. 
 
Iran has a mixed economy.  The Government owns the petroleum and 
utilities industries and the banks.  Oil exports are the primary source 
of foreign exchange.  The economy has not yet recovered from the 
disruptions of the 1979 revolution and the destruction from the Iran-
Iraq war.  Iran remains isolated from international financial markets.  
Economic performance is adversely affected by corruption and government 
mismanagement.  Unemployment in 1995 was estimated at 30 percent, and 
the annual rate of inflation was about 50 percent. 
 
The Government continues to be a major abuser of human rights.  There 
was no evidence of improvement in 1995.  Systematic abuses include 
extrajudicial killings and summary executions; widespread use of torture 
and other degrading treatment; disappearances; arbitrary arrest and 
detention; lack of fair trials; harsh prison conditions; and repression 
of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion.  
In March the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) extended for 
another year the mandate of its Special Representative on Human Rights 
in Iran.  In August the U.N.'s Sub-Commission on Prevention of 
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities approved a resolution 
condemning the "extensive and continuing human rights abuses" by the 
Government. 
 
The ruling clerics effectively control the electoral process, thereby 
denying the people the right to change their government.  The Government 
denies the universality of human rights, conceals its abuses of human 
rights, and obstructs the activities of human rights monitors. 
 
Throughout 1995 the Government exercised a heavy hand in censorship.  It 
banned satellite dishes, closed several newspapers, prevented 
individuals from speaking in public, and forcibly broke up public 
protests.  Despite these attacks on the freedom of expression, a lively 
and open debate on political, economic, and social issues exists.  Women 
face legal and social discrimination, and important worker rights are 
restricted. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
Given the lack of basic procedural safeguards in political trials, most 
of the executions ordered in such cases amount to summary executions.  
The U.N. Special Representative on Human Rights in Iran has cited the 
Government's "extensive" use of the death penalty.  Similarly, in a 1995 
report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or 
Arbitrary Executions noted "the persistent allegations of violations of 
the right to life in the Islamic Republic of Iran."  Although the 
domestic press stopped reporting most executions in 1992, executions 
appear to continue at a rate of several hundred a year.  Exiles and 
human rights monitors report that many of those executed for alleged 
criminal offenses were actually political dissidents. 
 
The outlawed Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-Iran) reported that 
the Government executed 10 of its members following their arrest for 
unspecified political activity.  Seven of them were executed at Orumiyeh 
Prison in September.  They were identified as Shahabadin Taheri, Sanar 
Taheri, Teymour Ibrahimi, Muhammad Amin, Avaz (sic), Rahiam (sic), and 
Rashid Abubakri.  Another victim, Sayed Ibrahim Taheri of the village of 
Pirdabad, was reportedly tortured to death.  His body was returned to 
his family in August.  The last two victims were Khoda Karam Ibrahimi, 
who reportedly died after 2 years of torture at Kermanshah Prison, and 
Mohammad Ali Norouzi, who reportedly died after being tortured at 
Nagadeh Prison. 
 
An unidentified member of the Fedayeen, an outlawed Marxist group, was 
reportedly executed for political activity in the city of Langrud in 
1995. 
 
Security forces reportedly used excessive force in crowd control.  In 
April they opened fire on crowds of demonstrators protesting high fuel 
and water prices in Islamshahr and Akbarabad, two poor suburbs of 
Tehran.  At least a dozen demonstrators were reportedly killed. 
 
According to the international human rights group, PEN, the body of 
Ahmad Miralai, an author and translator, was discovered under suspicious 
circumstances in an alley in Tehran on October 24.  Earlier that day, 
Miralai had been scheduled to introduce author V.S. Naipaul at a 
lecture.  Government officials initially informed Miralai's family that 
Miralai had died of a stroke.  Following an autopsy, whose results have 
not been released, the family was informed he had died of a heart 
attack.  Miralai was one of 134 prominent writers who in 1994 signed an 
open letter protesting excessive official censorship. 
 
Amnesty International reported in 1995 that Haji Mohammad Ziaie, a 
leader of Iran's Sunni Muslim community, died in July 1994 under 
suspicious circumstances following his interrogation by security forces 
in the city of Laar.  Five days after receiving a summons to report to 
the local security forces in Laar for questioning, Ziaie's body was 
found mutilated some 200 kilometers from the city.  Ziaie was a critic 
of the Government's treatment of Iran's Sunni Muslims. 
 
The Government continued to assassinate political opponents abroad.  On 
July 10, three members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian group 
advocating the overthrow of the Government, were assassinated in 
Baghdad, Iraq.  Investigations of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism 
abroad continued in 1995.  For example, the trial of Kazem Darabi, an 
Iranian charged with murdering four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin 
in 1992 under instructions from the Iranian Government, continued in 
Germany. 
 
The Government took no action during the year to repudiate the religious 
ruling calling for the death of British author Salman Rushdie and anyone 
associated with publishing his book, The Satanic Verses (see Section 
2.a.). 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
No reliable information is available on the number of disappearances.  
However, in 1994 the UNHRC conveyed to the Government the names of 506 
missing persons.  In the period immediately following arrest, many 
detainees are held incommunicado, a situation that amounts to temporary 
disappearance. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Credible reports indicate 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 the soles of the feet.  Reports of flogging, 
stoning, amputations, and public executions also are common.  Government 
security forces reportedly tortured some 24 Kurds arrested in August and 
September (see Section 1.d.). 
 
Some prisoners are held in solitary confinement or denied adequate 
rations or medical care to force confessions.  Female prisoners have 
reportedly been raped or otherwise tortured while in detention.  In the 
past, prison guards have intimidated the family members of detainees and 
have sometimes tortured detainees in their presence.  In August a 
credible eyewitness reported seeing several prisoners at a Tehran 
prison.  He described them as emaciated, with swollen and bloodied 
faces. 
 
Throughout the year, the Governments of Iran and Iraq made little 
progress in resolving the issue of soldiers missing in action during the 
Iran-Iraq War.  In its 1994 report, the International Committee of the 
Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that the fate of almost 19,000 Iraqi 
prisoners of war in Iran "remained unknown." 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Although the Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, 
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 local Revolutionary Guard offices. 
 
The security forces often do not inform family members of a prisoner's 
welfare and whereabouts.  Even if a prisoner's whereabouts are known, 
security officials may still deny visits by the prisoner's family 
members and legal counsel.  In addition, families of executed prisoners 
do not always receive notification of the prisoner's death.  In cases 
where the families are notified, they may be required to pay expenses 
for the delivery of the deceased's body. 
 
According to Human Rights Watch, in July the Government arrested Java 
Rouhani, the son of the Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, along with 24 of 
the Ayatollah's followers in the city of Qom.  At year's end, the 
detainees were still being held without charge at an undisclosed 
location (see Section 2.a.). 
 
According to KDP-Iran, in August and September the Government arrested 
26 Kurdish civilians from the regions of Orumiyeh and Salmas and charged 
them with membership in that organization.  The men were reportedly 
tortured and face the death penalty. 
 
In January 1996, the Government released Abbas Amir Entezam, a former 
deputy minister in the government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan.  
Entezam was arrested in 1979 on charges of espionage and sentenced to 
life in prison. 
 
Adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face arbitrary arrest and 
detention.  The Government appears to adhere to a practice of detaining 
a small number of Baha'is at any time.  Two Jews are believed to be in 
prison because of their religion, and a Christian leader named Beni Paul 
is also reportedly in detention. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Iran has two court systems:  the traditional court system,  which 
adjudicates civil and criminal offenses; and the Islamic Revolutionary 
Courts, which were established in 1979 to try "political" offenses, 
narcotics crimes, and "crimes against God."  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.  In the 
absence of postrevolution laws, the Government advises judges to base 
their decisions on Islamic law.  These courts are not fully independent.  
The Revolutionary Courts may consider cases normally in the jurisdiction 
of the civil and criminal courts and also may overturn their decisions.  
Assignment of cases to either system of courts appears to be haphazard.  
The Supreme Court has limited authority to review cases. 
 
Defendants tried in the Revolutionary Courts are not granted fair 
trials.  They are often held in prolonged pretrial detention without 
access to attorneys, and their attorneys are rarely afforded sufficient 
time to prepare their defense.  Defendants are often indicted for such 
vague offenses as "moral corruption," "antirevolutionary behavior," and 
"siding with global arrogance."  Defendants do not have the right to 
confront their accusers or the right to appeal.  Summary trials of 5 
minutes are common, and some trials are conducted in secret.  Others are 
show trials intended to highlight a coerced public confession. 
 
During 1995 the Government began implementation of a law reorganizing 
the court system.  Among its provisions, the law authorizes judges to 
act as prosecutor and judge in the same case.  The rights of defendants 
are further eroded by the fact that many judges retired after the 
revolution, and others were disbarred for ideological reasons.  The 
Government has replaced them with judges who are regarded as politically 
acceptable to the regime. 
 
In 1995 the Government conducted a highly publicized show trial 
covicting three women of involvement in the 1994 murders of Reverend 
Mehdi Dibaj and Reverend Tateos Michaelian, two of three Evangelical 
Christian leaders murdered under suspicious circumstances that year.  
The women were also convicted for bombing Ayatollah Khomeini's tomb near 
Tehran in 1994 and for plotting to bomb a shrine in Qom.  The court 
sentenced Farahnaz Anami to 30 years' imprisonment and Batol Vaferi and 
Maryam Shabazpour to 20 years' imprisonment for their involvement in 
these incidents.  During the trial, the women confessed to their 
involvement in the murders and their association with the outlawed 
opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq.  Foreign diplomats and members 
of the international press, who attended the trial at the invitation of 
the Government, were skeptical of the women's claims and the fairness of 
the trial. 
 
There are no available estimates on the number of political prisoners.  
However, the Government often arrests persons on trumped-up criminal 
charges when their actual "offenses" are political.  In October 1994, 
the U.N. Special Representative issued a report which noted that he had 
requested the Government to provide information on 78 reported political 
prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution states that "reputation, life, property, (and) 
dwelling(s)" are protected from trespass except as "provided by law."  
However, security forces enter homes and offices, monitor telephone 
conversations, and open mail without court authorization.  In April, the 
Government began enforcing a ban on the ownership of satellite receiving 
dishes (see Section 2.a.).  The move provides security forces with a 
pretext for entering private homes. 
 
Paramilitary volunteer forces, including the basijis and hizbollahis, 
and other security forces monitor the social activities of citizens.  
Such organizations may harass or arrest women whose clothing does not 
cover the hair and all of the body except hands and face, or those who 
wear makeup.  Enforcement of such standards of public morality varies 
with the political climate and the jurisdiction. 
 
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."  In practice, the Government exerts strong control 
over most publications.  Some newspapers are associated with factions in 
the Government.  They reflect different views and criticize the 
Government but are prohibited from criticizing the concept of the 
Islamic Republic or promoting the rights of ethnic minorities. 
 
The Government exercised a heavy hand in censorship throughout 1995.  In 
February the Government banned the daily newspaper, Jahan-e Eslam, after 
it had published editorials written by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, a former 
Minister of Interior and a hard-line radical, which were critical of 
President Rafsanjani.  The Government charged Jahan-e Eslam with 
violating Article 6 of the Press Law, which asserts the "importance of 
honoring religious sanctities and of respecting national interests and 
security." 
 
In March the Government banned the monthly magazine, Takapu, for 
printing "vulgar poems."  In May the Government banned the university 
student weekly, Payam-e Daneshjou, for "habitual defamation."  The 
popular student paper is known for its criticism of government leaders, 
including President Rafsanjani.  In October the Government banned the 
daily newspaper, Tus, which is published in Mashad and known for its 
criticism of the Government.  A court convicted Tus's editor, Mohamed 
Sadeq Javadi Hessar, of "slander" and "divulging secrets."  Hessar was 
sentenced to 6 months in prison and 20 lashes, but was later released on 
bail (see Section 1.e.).  At year's end, there is no information on 
whether Hessar's punishment had been imposed. 
 
The Government also seized an edition of the daily newspaper, Payam, 
reportedly because the paper published articles about embezzlement at 
the Bank-e Saderat, a corruption case which involved relatives of senior 
government officials. 
 
The Government took other action to suppress freedom of the press and 
freedom of expression.  In March the Ministry of Islamic Culture and 
Guidance introduced new regulations that expanded the Government's 
supervision of the filmmaking industry.  In response, 214 filmmakers 
issued a public letter in June calling on the Government to ease these 
controls. 
 
In June the Government introduced a revised press law which would 
increase government control of the press.  For example, it would require 
journalists to obtain licenses from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and 
Guidance.  One reporter for the newspaper Salam said in an interview 
that if the draft were enacted into law, the result would be "legal and 
clear censorship."  The move was opposed by both journalists and the 
banned political party, the Freedom Movement.  The draft law had not 
been approved by year's end. 
 
Those whose public comments offend the Government risk censorship and 
arrest.  In January and in June, Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, a 
preeminent clerical leader, issued two public letters criticizing the 
Government.  His second letter criticized arbitrary detention, torture, 
and extrajudicial killings.  The Government reportedly detained 25 of 
his followers from the city of Qom, including his son, Javad Rouhani, 
apparently because of Rouhani's criticism.  The detainees are being held 
without charge in an undisclosed location (see Section 1.d.). 
 
In March Ayatollah Ebrahim Haj Amini-Najafabadi was prevented from 
completing a sermon at a mosque after he made critical remarks about the 
Government.  The following week, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Qomi 
protested:  "When a person like Ayatollah Amini ... who is pious from 
head to toe and loves Islam ... says something, gives a word of advice, 
it is not right to censor his remarks."  The Government banned former 
Interior Minister Mohtashami from delivering a speech on August 16 at 
the Teacher Training University in Tehran. 
 
Paramilitary vigilante groups known as the hezbollahi and basiji also 
harassed public speakers.  In July such vigilantes incited a crowd to 
attack prominent Islamic intellectual Abdol Karim Soroush, who was 
delivering a speech in a mosque in Tehran on Shiite theologian Ali 
Shariati.  After the attack, more than 100 professors signed a letter to 
President Rafsanjani complaining about the incident.  In October a 
hezbollahi mob prevented Soroush from delivering a scheduled speech at 
the University of Tehran.  Because of these incidents, Soroush left Iran 
in December out of fear for his safety.  In July a mob disrupted a 
memorial service held in Tehran for Karim Sanjabi, a former foreign 
minister in the government of Mehdi Bazargan and a leader in the 
constitutionalist group the National Front. 
 
In March the Government released from detention Azizollah Amir Rahimi, a 
former general, who was arrested along with his son in November 1994.  
Before his arrest Rahimmi had distributed open letters and gave 
interviews in which he called on President Rafsanjani to step down and 
organize free elections.  
 
The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance is charged with pre-
publication review of books to ensure that they do not contain offensive 
material.  The Ministry inspects foreign printed materials prior to 
their release on the market.  However, some books and pamphlets critical 
of the Government are published without reprisal.  On August 22, a 
hezbollahi group firebombed a bookstore in Tehran, because it sold a 
book titled "And God Laughs Only on Mondays."  The author had earlier 
received permission from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance 
for publication.  The Agence France Presse reported that arsonists 
kidnaped a bookstore employee and severely beat the man before releasing 
him.  Later at a Friday sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati justified the 
attack, stating:  "Propaganda, articles, speeches and books which are 
contrary to Islam and to public chastity and to the interests of the 
country are forbidden."  He also said that "if someone acted on the 
basis of the imam's (Ayatollah Khoemeni) guidelines he should not be 
reprimanded by anybody." 
 
The Government made no effort to repudiate the 1989 religious decree 
condemning to death British author Salman Rushdie for his book, The 
Satanic Verses, which the Government considers blasphemous.  Nor did the 
Government move to repudiate its promise of a cash award to any person 
who kills Rushdie or anyone associated with publishing his book. 
 
The Government owns all broadcasting facilities, and their programming 
reflects its political and socioreligious ideology.  On April 22, the 
Government began implementation of its law prohibiting the ownership of 
satellite dishes. 
 
Academic censorship persists, even though restrictions on academic 
freedom have eased since the immediate postrevolutionary period.  
According to Human Rights Watch, the deputy dean of the law school at 
the University of Tehran, Dr. Javad Tabatabai, was dismissed after 
criticizing a 1994 law reorganizing the country's court system.  
 
Government informers are said to be common on university campuses and 
monitor classroom material.  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 reportedly 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."  It also provides for the 
establishment of political parties, professional associations, and 
religious groups provided they do not violate the principles of 
"freedom, sovereignty, (and) national unity" or question Islam or the 
Islamic Republic.  In practice, most independent organizations are 
banned, coopted by the Government, or moribund. 
 
Demonstrations against economic conditions occurred in two poor suburbs 
of Tehran in April.  In putting down these demonstrations, security 
forces reportedly killed a dozen individuals and arrested dozens more 
(see Section 1.a.). 
 
In August the Ministry of Interior refused to grant a license to the 
Freedom Movement, a political group founded in 1961 and declared illegal 
in 1991.  The Ministry's decision effectively precludes the party from 
participating in the parliamentary election in 1996.  The Ministry 
claims that it has granted licenses to nearly "150 political formations, 
trade societies, expert-scientific groups, and religious minorities' 
associations."  No major opposition faction is evident among the 
licensed groups. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
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."  Religion is almost 
inseparable from government.  The President and many top officials, 
including the Speaker of the Parliament and many parliamentary deputies, 
are Shiite clergymen. 
 
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, who include Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, 
Baluchis, and other ethnic minorities.  During the year there were 
reports that Sunni Muslims in the southeastern province of Sistan va 
Baluchistan, and in the northwestern province of Kurdistan, protested 
the suppression of their religious rights by local authorities. 
 
The Constitution recognizes Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.  
Members of these religions elect representatives to reserved 
parliamentary seats.  They are free to practice their religion and 
instruct their children, but the Government interferes with the 
administration of their schools. Harassment by government officials is 
common (see Section 5). 
 
Non-Muslims may not proselytize Muslims.  After three evangelical 
Christian ministers were killed in 1994, Christian Iranians reportedly 
are exercising greater self-censorship to avoid accusation of 
proselytization.  The Government tried and convicted three women for 
involvement in the murders of two of those ministers (see Section 1.e.).  
It maintains that the investigation into the murder of the third 
minister, Reverend Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, is still underway. 
 
According to an unconfirmed report, in April authorities in Tehran 
arrested the Reverend Khosrow Khodadadi, a Muslim convert to 
Christianity and the pastor of the closed  
 
Pentecostal Assyrian Church in Hamadan.  Although he was released in 
June, the authorities did not inform his family of his whereabouts for 3 
weeks after his arrest.  Reverend Khodadadi was reportedly mistreated 
while in custody.  Prior to his arrest, Reverend Khodadadi had long been 
harassed for his adherence to Christianity.  Fearing for his life and 
the safety of his wife and children, he fled from Iran to Turkey in 
1994.  In November of that year, he was deported from Turkey back to 
Iran, where authorities ordered him to move away from his hometown of 
Hamadan to Tehran.  The Government reportedly refuses to grant Reverend 
Khodadadi and his family permission to leave the country. 
 
The Government regards the Baha'i community, the largest non-Muslim 
minority with 300,000 to 350,000 members, as a "misguided sect."  It 
prohibits Baha'is from teaching and practicing their faith and 
maintaining links with coreligionists abroad. 
 
In 1993 the Majles approved legislation that prohibits government 
workers from membership in groups that deny the "divine religions."  The 
Government uses such terminology to describe members of the Baha'i 
faith.  The law also stipulates penalties for government workers who do 
not observe "Islamic principles and rules."  The Government also denies 
Baha'is access to higher education. 
 
In January 1996, a Revolutionary Court in city of Yazd found Zabihullah 
Mahrami, a member of the local Baha'i community, guilty of apostasy 
after he refused to severe his ties to the Baha'i community.  The court 
sentenced Mahrami to death and also ordered the confiscation of his 
assets, on grounds that he did not have any Muslim heirs.  Mahrami's 
wife and children are Baha'is.  Mahrami appealed to the Supreme Court, 
which in February rejected the verdict and referred the case back to a 
civilian court, rather than a revolutionary court, for further 
consideration. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Citizens may travel to any part of Iran, although there have been travel 
restrictions to Kurdish areas during times of heavy fighting.  People 
may change their place of residence without obtaining official 
permission.  The Government requires exit permits for draft-age males 
and citizens who are politically suspect.  Some Iranians, particularly 
those whose skills are in short supply and who were educated at 
government expense, must post bonds to obtain exit permits.  A woman 
needs permission from a male relative to obtain a passport (see Section 
5). 
 
The Government permits Iranian Jews to travel abroad but often denies 
them the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens.  The 
Government does not normally permit all members of a Jewish family to 
travel abroad at the same time. 
 
The Government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
estimate that there are approximately 1.5 million Afghan refugees in 
Iran.  Some 90,000 of these have been repatriated.  Others live 
seminomadic lives or reside in government settlements.  The UNHCR also 
estimates that there are about 600,000 Iraqi Kurdish and Shi'a Muslim 
refugees displaced by the Gulf War.  The Government of Iran has provided 
assistance to these refugees. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Iran is ruled by a group of religious leaders and their lay associates 
who share a belief in the legitimacy of a theocratic state based on the 
late Ayatollah Khomeini's interpretation of Shi'a Islam.  There is no 
separation of state and religion.  The clerics dominate all branches of 
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 is effectively controlled by 
the ruling clerics, consequently depriving citizens of the right to 
change their government. 
 
Regularly scheduled elections are held for the President, members of 
Parliament (the Majles), and members of the Assembly of Experts, a body 
responsible for selecting the successor to the Leader of the Revolution.  
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 and religious suitability.  
It accepts only candidates who support a theocratic state, but clerics 
who disagree with government policies have also been disqualified. 
 
The Majles exercises a considerable amount of independence from the 
executive branch, but its decisions are reviewed by the Council of 
Guardians.  Vigorous parliamentary debates take place on various issues, 
and in some cases the Majles has defeated laws proposed by the executive 
branch.  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 9 of 270 
Majles seats, and there are no female cabinet members. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government represses local human rights groups and has been 
uncooperative with international groups.  In 1995 the U.N. Special 
Representative on Human Rights in Iran, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, resigned 
after 9 years of service.  The Government had refused to permit Pohl to 
visit Iran since 1991; however, it granted permission for a visit in 
February 1996 to Pohl's successor, former Canadian diplomat Maurice 
Danby Copinthorne.  The Government has also granted permission for 
visits by several human rights monitors, including the U.N. Special 
Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Religious Intolerance, 
the U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Freedom of Expression, 
Human Rights Watch, and the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights.  The 
Government also has permitted visits by the ICRC. 
 
The Government has established a human rights committee in the Majles 
and a human rights commission in the judiciary, but observers believe 
that they lack independence.  Government officials regularly assert that 
Iran should be judged by Islamic, rather than Western, human rights 
principles, and they reject the universality of human rights. 
 
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. 
 
   Women 
 
Although domestic violence is known to occur, little is known about its 
extent.  Abuse in the family is considered a private matter and seldom 
discussed publicly.  There are no official statistics on the subject. 
 
Discrimination against women has increased since the revolution.  In 
general, women suffer discrimination in the legal code, particularly in 
family and property matters.  It is difficult for many women, 
particularly those residing outside large cities, to obtain any legal 
redress.  Although women may be educated and employed in the 
professions, social constraints tend to inhibit their educational and 
economic opportunities.  Illiteracy and the lack of university degrees 
also affect their standing.  The enforcement of conservative Islamic 
dress codes has varied considerably since the death of Ayatollah 
Khomeini in 1989.  Nonetheless, such dress codes persist and are 
enforced arbitrarily. 
 
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.  A 1986 law on marriage and 
divorce limits the privileges accorded to men by custom and traditional 
interpretations of Islamic law; it recognized divorced women's rights to 
a share of the property acquired during marriage and increased alimony 
rights. 
 
In 1995 the Government permitted women to attain the rank of judges.  
However, since  the Government does not permit female judges to preside 
over legal hearings, it is unclear what practical effect this change in 
law will have. 
 
The Government's views on women's rights were exemplified in an 1994 
open letter to the U.N. Special Representative from the President's 
Special Advisor on Women's Affairs, Shahla Habibi.  In the letter, 
Habibi accused "Western emancipation" of causing "corruption, 
prostitution, Lesbianism, and widespread venereal disease." 
 
   Children 
 
Most children have access to education though the 12th grade as well as 
to some form of health care.  There is no known societal pattern of 
child abuse. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There is no available information on whether the Government has 
legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the disabled. 
 
   Religious Minorities 
 
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.  Muslims who 
convert to Christianity also suffer discrimination. 
 
University applicants are required to pass an examination in Islamic 
theology.  Although public-school students receive instruction in Islam, 
this requirement limits access of most religious minorities to higher 
education.  Applicants for public-sector employment are similarly 
screened 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. 
 
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 reportedly 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. 
 
The persecution of Baha'is persisted unevenly in 1995.  The Government 
continued to return some property previously confiscated from individual 
Baha'is, although the amount returned is a fraction of the total seized.  
Property belonging to the Baha'i community as a whole, such as places of 
worship, remains confiscated.  Other government restrictions have been 
eased, so that Baha'is may currently obtain food ration booklets and 
send their children to public schools.  However, the prohibition against 
the admission of Baha'is to universities appears to be enforced.  
Thousands of Baha'is 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. 
 
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 government control.  
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 have 
frequently 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 
which 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 
work. 
 
The Revolutionary Guards, a military force established after the 
revolution, forcibly broke up at least two labor strikes in 1995.  In 
July the Guards broke up a 3-day strike at the Benz  
 
Khavar auto manufacturing plant in Islamshahr where workers had been 
demanding a pay increase.  The Guards placed some workers under arrest.  
In August the Guards also broke up a protest over layoffs at a private 
textile factory in the city of Ghaemshahr. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Workers do not have the right to organize independently and negotiate 
collective bargaining agreements.  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 country.  No information is 
available on mechanisms used to set wages. 
 
   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. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
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 exempts workers in 
agriculture, domestic service, and some small businesses.  By law, women 
and minors may not be employed in hard labor or, in general, night work.  
Information on the extent to which these regulations are enforced is not 
available. 
 
   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.  
Information on the share of the working population covered by the 
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 has reportedly 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.   
 
(###)


[end of document]

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