Amnesty International has described 2018 as “a year of shame for Iran” as Iranian authorities arrested more than 7,000 dissidents, including journalists, lawyers, minority rights activists and women who protested against being forced to wear headscarves. The sweeping crackdown led to hundreds being jailed or flogged, at least 26 protesters being killed, and nine people dying in custody amid suspicious circumstances.
“2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East research and advocacy director. “The staggering scale of arrests, imprisonments and flogging sentences reveal the extreme lengths the authorities have gone to in order to suppress peaceful dissent.
During 2018, the Iranian authorities waged crackdown against women’s rights defenders, as at least 112 women human rights defenders were arrested or remained in detention in Iran following sustained protests against compulsory veiling.
Shaparak Shajarizadeh fled Iran after she was released from prison on bail following her peaceful protest in January. She has since claimed that she was placed in solitary confinement and tortured during a custodial sentence that could have lasted up to 20 years.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, her lawyer, as herself arrested in June and faces several charges related to national security for defending those protesting against forced hijab-wearing. She is now held for a five-year sentence for campaigning against the death penalty, according to Amnesty.
Moreover, 11 lawyers, 50 media workers and 91 students were also detained arbitrarily, with at least 20 media workers sentenced to long jail sentences or flogging after unfair trials, the report added.
Mohammad Hossein Sodagar, journalist from the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic minority, was flogged 74 times after his conviction for “spreading lies”, it said. Mostafa Abdi, media professional who works for the Majzooban-e-Noor website, which reports on human rights abuses against the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, was sentenced to 26 years and three months in jail and 148 lashes.
Amnesty said Iran also intensified its crackdown against religious and ethnic minorities, limiting their access to education, employment and other services, amid a deepening economic crisis in the Middle East country that triggered worker-led protests that were brutally suppressed.
Moreover, the report noted that at least 63 environmental activists and researchers were reportedly arrested in 2018. They stand accused, without evidence, of collecting classified information about Iran’s strategic areas under the pretext of carrying out environmental and scientific projects. At least five were charged with “corruption on earth”, a crime punishable by death.