The following is a roundup of the human rights situation in Iran for 2020, based on information from human rights associations, activists, and state media, collected by Iran News Update.
This report shows the grave and systematic violations of fundamental human rights in Iran despite the international community’s will and commitment to ensure the people’s rights.
In 2020, Iranian authorities once again boasted their defiance of international norms, rejecting global calls and appeals to stop executions and release prisoners due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
While Iranian officials implemented over 72 percent of death penalties in secret, human rights organizations reported between 243 to 272 executions in 2020.
The Iran Human Rights Monitor announced the Iranian government executed at least 24 prisoners in January, 24 in February, seven in March, 33 in April, two in May, 22 in June, 34 in July, 31 in August, 23 in September, 19 in October, eight in November, and 16 in December.
However, the human rights association No to Prison – No to Prison reported the implementation of 272 executions in 2020, including eight political prisoners, nine women, and five juvenile offenders.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported that the authorities executed 236 inmates from January 1 to December 20. HRANA added that the government has clandestinely implemented over 72 percent of death penalties.
Iranian authorities also executed Mostafa Salehi and national wrestling champion Navid Afkari for participating in the 2018 peaceful protests. They also hanged journalist Ruhollah Zam for bogus allegations of ‘corruption on the earth’ and ‘waging war against God.’
At dawn on December 31, Iranian authorities hanged juvenile offender Mohammad Hassan Rezaei, ending 2020 with another violation after holding him in custody for 16 years.
The regime also hanged a 55-year-old inmate Morteza Jamali in Mashhad Central Prison, northeastern Iran, for drinking alcohol on July 8, 2020. He was a father of two minors and had spent his last year behind bars.
1. Executions in Iran—2020
In 2020, Iranian authorities continued using execution as the main means to govern the country despite international pressure and appeals. In this respect, not only did the number of executed people not decrease but also the regime increased the implementation of this inhuman sentence.
In 2019, the mullahs hanged at least 259 inmates, while in 2020, they executed at least 272 jailed citizens, including juvenile offenders, women, political and civil activists, and prisoners of conscience.
The Execution of Iranian Political Prisoners in 2020
Thirteen political prisoners were executed in Iran in 2020. They were Iranian Kurdish activists Mostafa Salimi, Hedayat Abdollahpour, Diako Rasoulzadeh, and Saber Sheikh Abdollah; Iranian Baluch activists Abdulbaset Dahani and Hamid Mirbaluchzehi; Iranian Sunni activists Hamid Rast Bala, Kabir Saadat Jahani, and Mohammad Ali Arayesh; protesters Mostafa Salehi, Shahram Baygan, and Navid Afkari; and journalist Ruhollah Zam.
The Execution of Iranian Juvenile Offenders in 2020
Human rights activists also reported that the Iranian regime hanged at least five juvenile offenders in 2020. Some of these prisoners had been kept on death-row for more than ten years. They were Shayan Saeedpour, Majid Ismaeelzadeh, Arsalan Yasini, Moayyed Savari (Shia’ pour), and Mohammad Hassan Rezaei.
In April 2020, given the coronavirus outbreak in prisons and authorities’ negligence about inmates’ health and lives, prisoners launched riots in several prisons. The guards used lethal force to quell riots, leaving dozens killed. However, several prisoners managed to flee.
Later, authorities either captured or extradited several fugitives and immediately hanged them. Shayan Saeedpour was among those victims.
Iranian interrogators and prison guards killed several inmates under torture, including, juvenile offender Danial Zeynolabedini at Mahabad Prison, western Iran, Mohammad Davaji, 19, at Amirabad Prison in Gorgan city, northern Iran, as well as Farhad Vosuqi, 27, at Khorramabad Central Prison in Lorestan province.
Authorities also sentenced at least two inmates Reza Askari and Mahmoud Mousavi Majd to the death penalty for security charges and implemented the executions in July 2020.
Execution of Women in Iran in 2020
According to human rights defenders, Iranian authorities executed at least ten women in 2020. They were identified as Sara M, Maliheh Haji Hassani, Mehri, Fereshteh Heydari Ebrahimpour, Mahtab Shafiei, Razieh, Zeinab Khodamoradi, Marzieh Ebrahimipour, and two unidentified female prisoners.
Each had her own story. For instance, Razieh, 37, had been detained four years ago for two murder cases. She had divorced her drug addict husband. However, poverty and misery had forced her to marry a 62-year-old man.
The 62-year-old man refused to accept the custody of Razieh’s little girl, leading to her second divorce. She intended to end the life of herself and her children to finish their suffering. First, she ended the lives of her eight-year-old daughter Tahereh and four-year-old son Alireza. However, she could not finalize her act and kill herself. However, the judiciary fulfilled her act and eventually hanged her on October 10, 2020.
Furthermore, Fereshteh Ebrahimpour was the mother of five children. She had been kept on death-row for eleven years. Fereshteh was finally hanged in Mashhad’s Vakilabad Prison on August 18, 2020. She was the 107th woman executed during President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure.
Notably, Iranian authorities exert additional pressure on jailed women, pushing them to suicide. On July 21, a 30-year-old female inmate Monireh Bahrami hanged herself in Qarchak Prison’s bathroom. Initially, the regime denied the news. However, it was later compelled to confirm this tragedy.
The Iranian Regime Executes without Providing a Fair Proceeding
Additionally, Iranian authorities executed men between the age of 22 to 81 years old. In many cases, inmates were deprived of a fair trial and the right of access to a lawyer. In several cases like the execution of three Sunni inmates in Mashhad Central Prison or wrestling champion and political prisoner Navid Afkari in Shiraz’s Adilabad Prison, authorities did not allow them to visit with their family members before the execution.
Death-row #politicalprisoner #NavidAfkari from #Shiraz prison:
"I wrote a letter to judicial officials & said I'm not a murderer. The forensic report, eyewitness testimonies, & evidence proved I was tortured. But, they're looking for a neck to fit their noose" pic.twitter.com/9w8QVUH9sc
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) August 31, 2020
In several cases like the case of three Iranian Baluch activists, the Supreme Court accepted a retrial and publicly announced it on its official website. However, local authorities implemented the death penalty.
Nonetheless, there are many prisoners who are on death-row for minor or unproven crimes. However, since the government pursues to use the death penalty as an oppressive means and terrify society from further protests, the mullahs insist on executions.
Recently, the Parliament (Majlis) unveiled a new plan for executing gamblers, paving the path for more crimes under the Islamic Republic’s controversial Penal Code. Furthermore, Majlis Deputy Speaker Seyyed Nasser Mousavi Laregani urged ‘judges’ to issue amputation sentences during the Majlis public session on January 5.
2. Arrests in Iran—2020
Due to the continuation of arbitrary arrests in Iran, the number of detentions is very high, which makes it impossible to provide an accurate number of arrests. However, according to official websites and media outlets, the Iranian regime detained at least 7,000 citizens in 2020.
Most of the detentions were carried out by the State Security Force (SSF). However, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its Intelligence Department, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and the Judiciary system had also arrested numerous people on bogus charges.
Security forces have often detained citizens for repeated accusations, including communicating with dissidents like the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), Iranian Kurdish parties, or Iranian Baluch parties; as well as calling for protests or participation in rallies and strike, civil right or human rights activities, attempts for abolishing the death penalty, and social media activities.
However, judiciary officials usually condemned detainees to severe sentences for Moharebeh [waging war against God], insulting the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the state, violating [compulsory] hijab, or breaching [the mullahs’] religious laws.
Furthermore, the SSF frequently raided houses of activists and even youths’ parties under different pretenses. In some cases, oppressive forces interfered in people’s private lives or detained several individuals for non-fasting or drinking alcohol.
Political Arrests in Iran—2020
According to official statistics, Iranian authorities detained more than 1431 individuals for political activities in 2020. In January 2020, the SSF made the most number of arrests, and in August 2020, there was a smaller number of detained political activists.
The regime arrested most of these people for participating in the nationwide gas protests in November 2019 and January 2020 protests over the downing of Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 by the IRGC, leaving 176 dead.
In April, authorities detained two elite students Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi, accusing them of having ties to the opposition MEK. They denied accusations of any illegal activity, but the regime tortured them and even threatened them with the death penalty, coercing them to make televised confessions. However, they rejected televised confessions.
Suppression of Religious Minorities and Proselytists—2020
According to human rights activists, the regime has arrested at least 47 Baha’is or Christian converters. These citizens were captured due to previous sentences issued by the judiciary for performing or participating in religious ceremonies.
Notably, Iranian authorities have a notorious background in the crackdown on religious minorities. In the 1990s, the MOIS savagely assassinated three pastors for practicing their beliefs. The regime accused the MEK of involvement in the crime. However, Iranian officials later unveiled that it was a planned crime committed by the MOIS to demonize the MEK.
Arbitrary Arrests in 2020
In the past year, different branches of Iran’s oppressive apparatus arrested at least 4297 citizens arbitrarily. Given their outdated philosophies, the fundamentalist mullahs ruling Iran consider many ordinary acts as violations of the religious laws.
In this context, they easily breach citizens’ private lives and arrest people for drinking alcohol, participating in mixed-gender parties, or not fasting.
Other Arrests in Iran—2020
Jail sentences were also handed down for financial crimes, embezzlements, robbery, social crimes, or drug-related accusations. The number of these arrests reached above 1,500 cases.
However, the true economic criminals, who in the words of Bertolt Brecht have ‘established banks,’ are free or have received generous furlough due to their influence.
For instance, while the regime amputated a man’s hand for stealing some sheep, the judiciary gave unlimited furlough to Shabnam Nematzadeh, the daughter of former Minister of Mine, Industry, and trade.
She was freed because of the pandemic while she had been arrested for hoarding medication. Contrary to Nematzadeh’s case, the judiciary refused to release political and civil rights activists amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
The judiciary gave unlimited furlough to Tehran’s former mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi despite the intentional murder of his wife. However, the regime executed juvenile offenders and political activists.
Even 26-year-old graduated student Hadi Hosseini Mirak with Wilson illness and psychological disorder was executed. Four days before the execution, he had beaten himself and received 300 stitches in hospital.
The doctor prescribed a two-week rest for him. However, a day after his release from the hospital, Hadi was executed based on the Ardabil Prison warden’s order. “If we do not implement the sentence, we cannot control prisoners,” said the warden to the Mirak’s family.
3. Torture in Iran—2020
In 2020, there was news about rampant torture, harassment, and other ill-treatment against prisoners and detainees. In addition to using torture as a means for extracting confessions, interrogators and authorities employ torture to punish inmates.
In this respect, on September 2, 2020, Amnesty International published an exclusive report which shed light on gross and ongoing violations of human rights inside Iran’s prisons. The report had focused on authorities’ crimes against the gas protests’ detainees in November 2019. However, the mentioned cases are regular methods used by oppressors to pressure dissidents and inmates.
“Widespread torture including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances, and deprivation of medical care;
“Hundreds subjected to grossly unfair trials on baseless national security charges;
“Death sentences issued based on torture-tainted ‘confessions,’” listed Amnesty in its report.
“In the days following the mass protests, videos showing Iran’s security forces deliberately killing and injuring unarmed protesters and bystanders sent shockwaves around the world. Much less visible has been the catalogue of cruelty meted out to detainees and their families by Iranian officials away from the public eye,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
On the other hand, security services attempted to hide their failure to provide reliable evidence through extracting confessions from detainees. They brutally tortured innocent citizens to admit to charges they had not committed. Then judges used the torture-tainted confessions to issue excessive punishments against victims. Or in many cases, authorities lashed inmates, or worse, amputate their fingers to punish them.
In August and September 2020, Iranian authorities executed two detained protesters Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari after extracting forced ‘confessions.’ They time and again declared that their confessions were made under torture. However, they were convicted based on the Islamic Republic’s Penal Code and were hanged finally.
Furthermore, Iranian authorities apply different types of psychological torture. To force prisoners to succumb, particularly political activists, protesters, and dissidents, the interrogators and guards deprived them of medical care, family visits, access to lawyers, proper heaters in winters, and coolers in summers.
The guards frequently raid inmates’ cells and wards, destroying and confiscating their handicrafts and essential goods. Authorities also seize money provided by prisoners’ families or coerce them to buy their necessities from one institute affiliated to the Prison Organization for several times the actual price.
Iranian authorities also exiled dissidents to outlying prisons to remove their memory, which let them do whatever they silently want to ‘forgotten dissidents.’ For instance, the regime had exiled political prisoner Arzhang Davoudi from Karaj’s Gohardasht Prison, in Alborz province, to the quarantine ward of Zahedan Prison in Sistan and Baluchestan province, southeastern Iran.
After three years, authorities once again exiled him from Zahedan Prison to Zabol Prison. He has no visitation rights and no phone calls, and he has been deprived of communicating with other prisoners.
Female prisoners are exposed to overwhelming pressure. In addition to guards’ inhuman behaviors, female prisoners have to endure radical laws. For instance, Qarchak Prison’s warden Soghra Khodadadi recently announced new orders, pushing female inmates to use the chador as their hijab (Islamic veil).
In November 2020, she was personally involved in an attack on political prisoners to transfer rights activist Golrokh Iraee Ebrahimi to an unknown place. Since then, there has been no information about Golrokh’s fate.
4. Arbitrary Murders in Iran—2020
Murder of Kolbars or Fuel Carriers in 2020
During 2020, more than 127 Kolbars [porters] and fuel carriers were gunned down by security forces or border guards in Iran. Dire economic conditions and unemployment in Iran’s border provinces such as Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchestan, West Azarbaijan, and Ilam have forced many youths and even women to carry heavy cargos or fuel for long paths to make ends meet.
Authorities accuse these impoverished people of smuggling goods and mercilessly target them. On the other hand, many of them died of cold in Kurdish areas’ mountains in 2020. There were educated individuals and award-winning athletes among victims, who were compelled to become porters to feed their families.
Prisoners’ Suicide in Iran
In 2020, hundreds of inmates committed suicide in different Iranian prisons as a result of the guards’ inhuman pressure. At least 20 of them lost their lives. In some cases, psychological pressure led death-row prisoners to commit suicide. However, authorities ruthlessly implemented death penalties despite victims’ unnormal mental conditions.
Prisoners’ Death from Illnesses, Including Covid-19
In the past year, more than 39 prisoners in Iran lost their lives to illnesses, including the novel coronavirus and heart disorders. The real number of dead prisoners is far higher. However, prison officials do not publish this news. In November 2020, at least seven prisoners died of Covid-19 in Evin Prison in the span of just a few days, according to prisoners. But no officials reported this news.
Assassinations on the Streets
On June 28, the SSF chased and stopped Reza Tarfi at a checkpoint. Then they brutally killed him.
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) July 1, 2020
On July 6, the SSF gunned down 17-year-old Omid Eidani in Omidieh city, Khuzestan province. He went into a coma and lost his life some days later.
#Iran, #Khuzestan—Security forces target 17-year-old young
On July 6, the state security forces targeted Omid Eidani in Omidieh city. He is in critical condition.
Security forces provided no explanation over the incentives of targeting an empty-hand teenager with live ammunition. pic.twitter.com/q3ZXfkFtt4
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) July 7, 2020
On August 4, the SSF killed 13-year-old Mohammad Reza Veisi and injured his father in Ghahavand county in Hamedan province.
#IranProtests#Iran, #Hamedan—In response to Killing a 13-year-old boy, his relatives attacked security forces base in Ghahavand county.
On August 4, 1:00 am, security forces' without notice shooting on a motorcycle killed Mohammad Reza Veisi and injured his father. pic.twitter.com/6QWdehH5ae
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) August 12, 2020
On September 28, traffic forces opened fire on fed-up citizens with live ammunition in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province. There was no confirmed number of victims and injuries.
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) September 27, 2020
On October 16, the SSF targeted two 17-year-old boys in Kermanshah province, causing the death of Ashkan Azizi and severe injuries to his friend.
State security forces in #Kermanshah, W #Iran, targeted two 17-year-old youths. Ashkan Azizi lost his life and his friend has severely been injured and is in coma.
For the ayatollahs and IRGC forces, Iranian lives don't matter! pic.twitter.com/CmeEPzULeH
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) October 16, 2020
In October, the IRGC border forces killed 19-year-old kolbar Shaker Rigi under torture. Also, the SSF tortured Alireza Goudarzi to death while he was wounded in the shoulder and lung.
On October 24, the SSF killed a young man Mehrdad Sepehri with electric shocks and pepper spray in public in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province.
#Iran's state security forces (SSF) killed a young man Mehrdad Sepehri with electric shocks and pepper spray in public.
Iranian authorities weep crocodile tears for foreign citizens while SSF agents show no mercy.
🩸𝐈𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬' 𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫pic.twitter.com/s5wqAIy4L8
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) October 25, 2020
Several days later, the SSF killed 37-year-old Mohsen Minbashi in board daylight in Esfarayen county, North Khorasan province.
37-year-old Mohsen Minbashi is another victim of SSF murderers' cruelty in #Iran. Police shot Mohsen and beat him to die.
The mullahs intensified suppression in fear of erupting new rounds of #IranProtests.
🩸𝐈𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬' 𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫pic.twitter.com/NLNumu8iTF
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) October 25, 2020