This latest report from the human rights watchdog explains that throughout the year, particularly during the high-volume protests that emerged in January, July, and August, Iranian authorities used live ammunition, teargas, and water cannons against unarmed protesters, often beating them as well.
Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East research and advocacy director, said: “The staggering scale of arrests, imprisonments and flogging sentences reveal the extreme lengths the authorities have gone to in order to suppress peaceful dissent.”
As the economic crisis in Iran worsens and more people are being pushed into poverty, workers are often taking to the streets to protest non-payment of wages and skyrocketing living costs.
Amnesty says that at least 467 workers, including teachers, truck drivers and factory workers, have been arrested, with many subjected to torture and dozens given prison terms or flogging sentences.
At least 112 women’s rights defenders were arrested for protesting the forced hijab law, with women silently waving their headscarves on sticks. The Regime reacted violently, often beating the women, before subjecting them to “grossly unfair” trials with harsh prison sentences of up to 20 years.
One protester, fled Iran whilst on bail, explaining that during her time in jail she had been tortured and placed in solitary confinement. Her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was arrested last June on vague national security charges for defending the protesters. Sotoudeh is already serving five years for campaigning against the death penalty.
Amnesty explains that other arbitrary arrestees include at least 91 students, 50 media workers, and 11 lawyers, with at least 20 media workers sentenced to long jail sentences or flogging after unfair trials.
This includes journalist Mohammad Hossein Sodagar, a member of the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic minority, who was flogged 74 times after his conviction for “spreading lies” and Mostafa Abdi, who works for a website that reports on human rights abuses against the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority and was sentenced to 26 years and three months in jail and 148 lashes.
Environmental activists were another keen target of the Regime’s abuse during 2018, with at least 63 of them being arrested on charges of spying for the West under the pretence of environmental and scientific projects, including monitoring endangered species with the full consent of the Regime. At least five environmentalists have been charged with “corruption on earth”, which is punishable by death.
Amnesty also noted that ethnic and religious minorities continue to be denied their most basic rights by the Iran Regime.
This violent crackdown is happening amidst incredible domestic and international pressure on the Regime. It is likely an attempt for the mullahs to retain control and project strength, neither of which is working.
Luther said: “Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens. They must speak out in the strongest terms against the crackdown and forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those jailed for peacefully expressing their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through their human rights activism.”