The former head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, rose to the presidency in June instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity related to the mass enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions of 1988, reflecting systemic impunity in Iran.
Presidential elections were held in a repressive environment with a markedly low turnout. Authorities barred women, members of religious minorities and critics from running, and threatened to prosecute anyone encouraging election boycott.
Covid-19 and corruption deepened Iran’s economic crisis, characterized by high inflation, job losses and low or unpaid wages.
Environmental experts criticized the authorities’ failure to address Iran’s environmental crisis, marked by loss of lakes, rivers and wetlands; deforestation; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; and land sinking.
Iran continued to provide military support to government forces in the armed conflict in Syria.
A Belgian court sentenced Iranian diplomat Assadollah Asadi to 20 years’ imprisonment for his role in a thwarted bomb attack against a rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France in 2018.
From March 2021 until today, the authorities of the Islamic Republic denied UN Human Rights Council and other UN experts and independent observers entry to Iran.
The authorities continued to heavily suppress the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They banned independent political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations, censored media and jammed satellite television channels.
The authorities blocked social media platforms, which included Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Signal, Twitter and YouTube. Security and intelligence officials carried out arbitrary arrests for social media postings deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “un-Islamic”.
The authorities imposed internet shutdowns during protests, hiding the scale of violations by security forces.
Several thousand men, women and children were interrogated, unfairly prosecuted and/or arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Among them were protesters, journalists, dissidents, artists, writers, teachers and dual nationals. Also among them were human rights defenders, including lawyers; women’s rights defenders; defenders of LGBTI people’s rights, labour rights and minority rights; environmentalists; anti-death penalty campaigners; and bereaved relatives demanding accountability, including for mass executions and enforced disappearances in the 1980s. Hundreds remained unjustly imprisoned at the end of the year.
Dissidents and journalists based abroad faced intensified threats, and their families in Iran were interrogated and/or arbitrarily detained in reprisal for their work. In July 2021, US prosecution authorities charged four Iranian agents for conspiring to abduct Iranian-US journalist Masih Alinejad from US soil.
Security forces deployed unlawful force, including live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests.
Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread and systematic, especially during interrogation. Torture-tainted “confessions” were broadcast on state television and consistently used to issue convictions.
Prison and prosecution authorities, working under the judiciary, held prisoners in cruel and inhuman conditions characterized by overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate food and water, insufficient beds, poor ventilation and insect infestation, and denied many of them adequate medical care, placing them at greater risk of Covid-19.
Increasingly, the authorities transferred women prisoners of conscience to squalid conditions in prisons far from their families in reprisal for continuing to denounce human rights violations while imprisoned.
At least 200 prisoners died in suspicious circumstances involving allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, including the denial of adequate medical care.
The Penal Code retained punishments violating the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, including flogging, blinding, amputation, crucifixion and stoning.
Women and girls
Women faced discrimination in law and practice, including in relation to marriage, divorce, employment, inheritance and political office.
Discriminatory compulsory veiling laws led to daily harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and denial of access to education, employment and public spaces.
Gender non-conforming individuals risked criminalization unless they sought a legal gender change, which required gender reassignment surgery and sterilization.
The military continued to characterize homosexuality as a “perversion”. Military exemption cards issued to gay and transgender individuals indirectly disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent, putting them at risk of violence.
Ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, faced discrimination, curtailing their access to education, employment and political office. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remained the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education.
Ethnic minorities remained disproportionately affected by death sentences imposed for vague charges such as “enmity against God”.
Religious minorities, including Baha’is, Christians, Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Yaresan and Sunni Muslims, suffered discrimination in law and practice, including in access to education, employment, child adoption, political office and places of worship, as well as arbitrary detention, and torture and other ill-treatment for professing or practising their faith.
People born to parents classified as Muslim by the authorities remained at risk of arbitrary detention, torture or the death penalty for “apostasy” if they adopted other religions or atheist beliefs.
The death penalty was imposed after unfair trials, including for offences not meeting the threshold of the “most serious crimes” such as drug-trafficking and financial corruption, and for acts not internationally recognized as crimes. Death sentences were used as a weapon of repression against protesters, dissidents and ethnic minorities.
The authorities continued to cover up the number of those killed during November 2019 protests, dismissed complaints by victims’ families, and praised security forces for the crackdown. Throughout the years, security forces dispersed peaceful gatherings of relatives seeking justice and beat and temporarily detained them.
The authorities continued to conceal the truth surrounding the January 2020 shooting down of Flight 752 by the Revolutionary Guards, which killed 176 people, and harassed, arbitrarily detained, tortured or otherwise ill-treated bereaved relatives for seeking justice.