President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Address: Pasteur St., Pasteur Sq., Tehran
Phone number: +98(21)64451
To His Excellency, President Hassan Rouhani
Re: Stop Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly and Association in Iran
With recent reports surfacing of the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances of civil society actors in Iran, international civil society notes with concern the violent closing of civic space in the country. We write to urge you, Your Excellency, to immediately and unconditionally release all detained civil society actors and uphold the rights to freedom of assembly and association as per international conventions and the Iranian constitution.
Iranian civic space is shrinking at an unprecedented pace – even for Iranian standards – as authorities in Iran increasingly suppress independent civic action heavily and unlawfully. In the past year, Iran has seen the unparalleled rise of peaceful social protests and civic dissent despite a violent, authoritarian regime. The last two years have seen an alarming number of arrests and detention of civil society activists across a broad spectrum of environmental issues, human rights defenders, teachers’ and labor unionists, students and women’s rights. To this end CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society around the world, and Volunteer Activists Institute, a NGO focusing on democracy, human rights, and peace building in the MENA region and specifically Iran, have launched a global campaign to hold the Iranian government accountable for its stark violations of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly in the country.
Despite Iran being signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and provisions in the Constitution protecting freedom of assembly and association (article 26 and 27 of the Iranian constitution), activists are frequently detained and harassed for their human rights work. Some prominent figures of Iranian civil society, like Nasrin Sotoudeh who faces 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, have received lengthy prison sentences for providing legal assistance to human rights defenders, whereas others are awaiting trial on false charges of espionage and “corruption on earth” – punishable by death sentence if convicted. The state of human rights defenders in prison is also alarming. In July 2019, human rights experts from the United Nations expressed concern at the state’s failure to provide care to detainees, including human rights defender Arash Sadeghi. One environmental expert and activist, Dr. Kavous Seyed Emami, a Professor at Imam Sadeq University and Director of Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in prison on 8 February 2018, two weeks after detention in Evin prison. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. Other activists currently detained include Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, and many more.
We are also extremely concerned with new appointments within the highest ranks of the military (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), who have enforced restrictions on civic space by establishing a new office (Baqiattallah) to organize social forces and government-affiliated civil society organizations, to marginalize the independent civil society. These new appointments signal that Iran is adopting a maximum strategy to forcefully strike against any instances of civic disobedience. As sanctions and economic hardships are pushing Iranians to the limit, and resulting in peaceful protests, the government of Iran is closing down on civic acts of dissent, and we are extremely concerned about the coming months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020.
As a result, we the undersigned call for the government of Iran to ensure greater protections of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Specifically, we call for:
- The government to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Associations to investigate the human rights situation in Iran.
- For all human rights defenders, including but not limited to Nasrin Sotoudeh, Narges Mohammadi, Farhad Meysami, Esmail Bekhshi, Sepide Gholian, to be immediately and unconditionally released, with all charges against them dropped.
- To ensure gender sensitive protections for all which Iranian women human rights defenders are uniquely targeted in Iran, and work with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences to ensure that all forms of violence against Iranian WHRDs are reported as violence against women.
- To align practice of the implementation of the rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association as highlighted in the constitution to international best practice.
Sincerely, the undersigned:
Volunteer Activists Institute
CIVICUS Global Alliance for Citizen Participation
Women’s March Global
Center for Human Rights in Iran
West African Human Rights Defenders Network
 OHCHR (2019) Iran: Urgent medical treatment needed for detainees with life-threatening conditions – UN experts: ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24813&LangID=E