The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Iran

By Vexen Crabtree 2018


#bahá'í_faith #equality #freedom #human_rights #iran #judaism #politics #tolerance

Islamic Republic of Iran

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Land Area1 628 550km21
LocationAsia, Middle East
Population75.6m (2011)2
Life Expectancy75.58yrs (2017)3
GNI$16 395 (2017)4
ISO3166-1 CodesIR, IRN, 3645
Internet Domain.ir6
CurrencyRial (IRR)7

Iran is amongst the very worst places in the world at ensuring any human rights and freedoms, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Iran does worse than average in opposing gender inequality9, its Global Peace Index rating10, fighting corruption11, LGBT equality12 and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights13. And finally, it falls into the bottom 20 in fighting anti-semitic opinions14, commentary from Human Rights Watch15, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms16, eliminating modern slavery17 and in supporting press freedom18. "Authorities [in 2017] continued to target journalists, online media activists, and human rights defenders in an ongoing crackdown"19. There is no religious freedom, or freedom of thought, in Iran20,19, with minorities being heavily persecuted, and broadcasted attacks on all religious groups that are not Shia Muslim, "with the Bahá'ís and Jews being the most frequent targets"21.

1. Politics and Freedom

#antisemitism #burundi #corruption #eritrea #france #freedom #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #Iran #mass_media #peace #politics #slavery

Although in August 2017, a legal change "raises the bar" for what results in a mandatory death sentence for drug offenses, the rate of executions remained high in 2017, and it is unclear how much of an effect the change will have:

The judiciary continued to execute individuals at a high rate, particularly for drug offenses. Human rights groups reported that Iran executed at least 476 individuals as of November 27, 2017, including five individuals who were sentenced to death for crimes they allegedly committed as children. [...]

Iranian courts, and particularly revolutionary courts, regularly fell short of providing fair trials and used confessions obtained under torture as evidence in court. Authorities routinely restrict detainees´ access to legal counsel, particularly during the investigation period. [...]

Authorities continued to restrict freedoms of expression, association, and assembly and prosecuted dozens of journalists, online media activists, and trade unionists on charges of “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “assembly and collusion to disrupt national security,” merely for exercising their legitimate rights. [...]

Former presidential election candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, as well as Mousavi´s wife Zahra Rahnavard, who is a scholar, have remained under house arrest without charge or trial since February 2011. [...]

Iran continues to provide the Syrian government with military assistance and plays an influential role alongside Russia and Turkey in the Syria negotiations currently taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan. Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)19

Anti-Semite Opinions (2014)14
Pos.Lower is better
81S. Korea53
World Avg36.8
Corruption (2012-2016)11
Pos.Higher is better
Avg Score11
2New Zealand90.6
World Avg43.05
Global Peace Index (2012)10
Pos.Lower is better10
2New Zealand1.24
126S. Africa2.32
World Avg2.02

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)15
Pos.Higher is better
117N. Korea-10
World Avg-1.9
Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)13
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
166Papua New Guinea9
169St Kitts & Nevis9
171Cook Islands9
World Avg15.1
Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)16
Pos.Lower is better
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
153Myanmar (Burma)153
155Central African Rep.155
World Avg79.7

Press Freedom (2013)18
Pos.Lower is better18
177N. Korea8390
World Avg3249

Slavery (2018)17
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims17
156Congo, DR1.37
161S. Sudan2.05
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory22. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends23. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life24. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves25.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery26. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity27. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.28. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi17, Eritrea17, Indonesia29) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery30.

"In 2017, Human Rights Watch documented that Iran´s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had recruited Afghan children residing in Iran to fight as combatants in Syria in its Fatemiyoun division"19.

2. Gender Equality

#gender #Iran #misogyny #politics #women

Gender Inequality (2015)9
Pos.Lower is better9
122Sao Tome & Principe0.52
World Avg0.36

Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

Year Women Can Vote31
Pos.Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
144Equatorial Guinea1963
World Avg1930

Iran is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women.

In Iran, women are subjugated under men. Permission from husbands must be sought in order for officials to process paperwork including passports and marriage19, and husband have dictatorial control over home lives.


3. LGBT Equality and Tolerance

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #Iran #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)12
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence32. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws33. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries32. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

"Under Iranian law, same-sex conduct is punishable by flogging and, in the case of two men, can be punished by the death penalty"19.

4. Iran Overall National and Social Development

#human_development #Iran

Social & Moral
Development Index
Pos.Higher is better
World Avg53.8

The Social and Moral Development Index concentrates on moral issues and human rights, violence, public health, equality, tolerance, freedom and effectiveness in climate change mitigation and environmentalism, and on some technological issues. A country scores higher for achieving well in those areas, and for sustaining that achievement in the long term. Those countries towards the top of this index can truly said to be setting good examples and leading humankind onwards into a bright, humane, and free future. See: What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life.

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#bahá'í_faith #canada #christianity #iran #islam #judaism #zoroastrianism

There is no religious freedom, or freedom of thought, in Iran20,19. When it comes to religious freedom and persecution, sociologists Grim & Finke place Iran into the worst category, along with just 13 other countries. Minorities are heavily persecuted and attacks against all religious communities that are not Shia Muslim are broadcasted on government-affiliated outlets, "with the Bahá'ís and Jews being the most frequent targets"21. The International Humanist and Ethical Union in 2012 documented the worst-possible forms of bias and prejudice, stemming from religious dogma and governmental intolerance of dissent.

Severe restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of belief stem simultaneously from top-down pressure from government and institutionalized religion, and from bottom-up grassroots movements that often go even further than the government in harassing those who do not believe the right things (2011)35.

The result has been a mass exodus of religious minorities since the 1970s and persecution for those who remain. The number of Jews has plummeted from 75,000-80,000 in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 today. Christians and most other religious groups have shown a similar decline. [..] The Bahá'ís have faced the most violent, systematic, and virulent persecution.

"The Price of Freedom Denied" by Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke (2011)36

The International Humanist and Ethical Union produced a report in 2012 entitled "Freedom of Thought" (2012)20, in which they document bias and prejudice at the national level that is based on religion, belief and/or lack of belief. Their entry for Iran states:

There is no freedom of religion or belief in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranian law bars any criticism of Islam or deviation from the ruling Islamic standards. Government leaders use these laws to persecute religious minorities and dissidents.

Article 110 of the Constitution lists all the powers granted to the Spiritual Leader (a Muslim religious and political leader), appointed by his peers for an unlimited duration. Among others, the Spiritual Leader exercises his control over the judiciary, the army, the police, the radio, the television, but also over the President and the Parliament, institutions elected by the people. Article 91 of the Constitution establishes a body known as the "Guardian Council" whose function is to examine the compatibility of all legislation enacted by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with "the criteria of Islam and the Constitution" and who can therefore veto any and all legislation. Half of the members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Spiritual Leader and the other half are elected by the Islamic Consultative Assembly from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial Power (who is, himself, appointed by the Spiritual Leader).

The Guardian council exercises a double control of any draft legislation, with two different procedures:

  • conformity with the Constitution (all 12 elected members vote, a simple majority recognizes the constitutionality)
  • conformity with Islam (only the six religious leaders elected personally by the Spiritual leader vote, and a simple majority is required to declare the compatibility of a draft legislation with Islam).

Consequently, four religious leaders may block all draft legislation enacted by the Parliament. The Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader therefore and in practice centralize all powers in Iran.

Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution divides citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran into four categories: Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians. Nonbelievers are effectively left out and aren't afforded any rights or protections. They must declare their faith in one of the four officially recognized religions in order to be able to claim a number of legal rights, such as the possibility to apply for the general examination to enter any university in Iran. Other belief groups outside of the four recognized religions, such as Bahá'ís, also suffer from this discrimination and are actively prevented from attending university.

Only Muslims are able to take part in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to conduct public affairs at a high level. According to the Constitution, non-Muslims cannot hold the following key decision-making positions:

  • President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who must be a Shi'a Muslim (Article 1156)
  • Commanders in the Islamic Army (Article 1447)
  • Judges, at any level (Article 163 and law of 1983 on the selection of judges 8)

Moreover, non-Muslims are not eligible to become members of the Parliament (the Islamic Consultative Assembly) through the general elections. Finally, non-Muslims cannot become members of the very influential Guardian Council.

A study of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran reveals that, for a number of offences, the punishment differs in function of the religion of the victim and/or the religion of the offender. The fate of Muslim victims and offenders is systematically more favorable than that of non-Muslims, showing that the life and physical integrity of Muslims is given a much higher value than that of non-Muslims. This institutionalized discrimination is particularly blatant for the following crimes:

  1. Adultery: The sanctions for adultery vary widely according to the religion of both members of the couple. A Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is punished by 100 lashes (Article 8811). However, a non-Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is subject to the death penalty (Article 82-c12). If a Muslim man commits adultery with a non-Muslim woman, the Penal Code does not specify any penalty.
  2. Homosexuality: Likewise, homosexuality "without consummation" between two Muslim men is punished by 100 lashes (Article 12113) but if the "active party" is non-Muslim and the other Muslim, the non-Muslim is subject to the death penalty.
  3. Crimes against the Deceased: Article 49418 stipulates penalties for crimes against a deceased Muslim but the Penal Code does not edict any penalties for the violation of the corpse of a non-Muslim.

Cases of Discrimination

On Jan. 17, 2012, the country's Supreme Court confirmed the previously handed down death sentence for 35-year-old web designer and Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour. Malekpour had returned to Iran in 2008 to visit his dying father and was arrested for "insulting and desecrating Islam" for creating a computer program used by others to download pornography.

"Freedom of Thought" by IHEU (2012)20

Current edition: 2018 Dec 29
Parent page: Iran (Islamic Republic of Iran)

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#antisemitism #bahá'í_faith #burundi #canada #christianity #corruption #equality #eritrea #france #freedom #gender #homosexuality #human_development #human_rights #indonesia #intolerance #Iran #islam #judaism #mass_media #misogyny #peace #politics #sexuality #slavery #tolerance #women #zoroastrianism

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Anti-Defamation League. (ADL)
(2014) ADL Global 100, Executive Summary. Accessed on on 2017 Jan 02. The numbers given are of those who state that racist stereotyped statements about Jews are true; they have to agree to 6 or more of the 11 statements to be counted. An example statements is "Jews are hated because of the way they behave". The data was collected from 53,100 interviews across 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza. The global average is 26%.

Casely-Hayford, Gus
(2012) The Lost Kingdoms of Africa. Published by Bantram Press. A hardback book.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2019) "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" (2019). Accessed 2019 Jan 13.

Donnelly, Jack
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.

The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On

Grim & Finke. Dr Grim is senior researcher in religion and world affairs at the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C, USA. Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
(2011) The Price of Freedom Denied. Subtitled: "Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century". Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Cambridge University Press, UK. An e-book.

Human Rights Watch
(2018) World Report 2018. Covering the events of 2017.

IHEU. International Humanist and Ethical Union.
(2012) Freedom of Thought. A copy can be found on of Thought 2012.pdf, accessed 2013 Oct 28.

Klein, Naomi
(2004) No Logo. Originally published 2000, HarperCollins, London, UK. A paperback book.

McCall, Andrew
(1979) The Medieval Underworld. 2004 edition. Published by Sutton Publishing. A paperback book.

Thomson, Oliver
(1993) A History of Sin. Published by Canongate Press. A hardback book.

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2017) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. Data for 2015. Available on

Walk Free Foundation
(2018) Global Slavery Index. Published on


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  32. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p278.^
  33. Donnelly (2013). Chapter 16 "Nondiscrimination for All: The Case of Sexual Minorities" p289. According to a 1992 ruling of the Human Rights Committee, which declared that 'it is undisputed that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of privacy' when discussing Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See Human Rights Committee, Communication 488/1992, paragraph 8.2.^
  34. "What is the Best Country in the World? An Index of Morality, Conscience and Good Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2019)^
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