IRAN Gov’t approves bill against domestic violence

Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs, dedicated the move to ‘worthy and patient Iranian women’ in a tweet.


By Maziar Motamedi


Al Jazeera (04.01.2021) – – The government of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has approved a longstanding bill that aims to better protect women against domestic and other forms of violence.


In a meeting on Sunday evening, cabinet ministers greenlit the draft bill, called Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence, which has been in the works since the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


The bill must now be reviewed and approved by the parliament, after which it will be sent to the powerful constitutional vetting body called the Guardian Council, consisting of jurists and religious experts.


The most senior woman in Rouhani’s outgoing government hailed the move, which she said was the result of hundreds of hours of work by tens of legal experts, judges, executives and officials.


Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs, dedicated the 58-article bill to “worthy and patient Iranian women” in a tweet.


The legislation completed its lengthy process of review by the judiciary in September 2019.


It defines violence as “any behavior inflicted on women due to sexuality, vulnerable position or type of relationship, and inflicts harm to their body, psyche, personality and dignity, or restricts or deprives them of legal rights and freedoms”.


It obligates the judiciary to create offices to support victims of violence and hold educational courses for judges and other judiciary staff.


The bill also envisages the formation of a fund by the judiciary to support victims of violence and help imprisoned women, among other things.


The state broadcaster is also directed by the legislation to produce more programmes that promote the support of women and the prevention of violence against them as family values.


Moreover, the bill sees a role for the ministry of education in holding educational courses for students, teachers and parents, and in better identifying vulnerable students.


The ministry of health, on the other hand, is tasked by the draft bill to boost its medical and psychological services to women and train experts in handling women who have fallen victim to violence.


Law enforcement and prison organisations are among other entities that will have to increase their efforts as part of the vision laid out in the legislation.


In a report published last month, rights group Human Rights Watch said the bill had several positive provisions, including those that engaged different parts of the government and other entities in women’s issues.


But the New York-based organisation said the bill “falls short of international standards” as it does not criminalise some forms of gender-based violence, including marital rape and child marriage.


The bill was finalised by the government after several high-profile incidents concerning women that took centre stage nationally during the past year.


In late May 2020, a 14-year-old girl called Romina Ashrafi was gruesomely beheaded by her father in an apparent case of “honour-killing”. The father was given a nine-year jail sentence.


In September, decades-old sexual traumas were unearthed as Iranian women launched their own version of the global #MeToo movement on social media.


The movement implicated several high-profile artists and one major company, and led to at least one arrest.

COVID-19: 14 NGOs urge China, Iran and Russia to release all religious prisoners

HRWF (10.12.2020) – Fourteen human rights NGOs call upon the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19. These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.


In China, 1-2 million Uyghur Muslims and half a million Tibetan Buddhists are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in so-called ‘re-education camps.’ Furthermore, thousands of peaceful Christians of all faiths, but mainly of The Church of Almighty God, and thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been languishing in detention for years.


In Iran, over 60 Baha’is, a dozen Protestants and a number of Sufis have been sentenced to long prison terms for the mere exercise of their right to religious freedom.


In Russia, about 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in detention since this movement was banned for alleged extremism in 2018. Over 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently facing criminal charges. Muslims from two peaceful groups, Said Nursi and Tabligh Jamaat, have also been systematically imprisoned for many years.


More about the imprisonment of believers of all faiths in 14 countries can be found in HRWF’s latest annual report: “In Prison for Their Faith 2020”.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Willy Fautré

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Organizations supporting the call of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l


AFN – All Faiths Network (UK)


CAP-LC – Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)


CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions (Italy)


EIFRF – European Inter-Religious Forum for Religious Freedom (Belgium)


FOB – European Federation for Freedom of Belief (Italy) – FORB Romania (Romania)  (English) –  (Romanian)

FOREF – Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (Austria)


FVG – Faculty for Comparative Study of Religions and Humanism (Belgium)


IOPHR – International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (UK)


LIREC – Center for Studies on Freedom of Belief, Religion and Conscience (Italy)


Noodt Foundation – Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief (The Netherlands)


ORLIR – International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees (Lithuania)


PoC – Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund (UK)

IRAN: News about Baha’is and Christians in November


Home raids across Iran indicate alarming increase in human rights violations against Baha’is, says Baha’i International Community

BIC (30.11.2020) – – Over a hundred government agents raided the shops and homes of tens of Baha’is across Iran, on 22 November 2020, and demanded that they hand over their property deeds. The simultaneous raids were staged in at least seven cities around the country and came just hours into a 15-day national lockdown imposed to slow coronavirus infections in the country. More…

Baha’i university applicants summoned to sign pledge

Sen’s Daily (19.11.2020) – – On Wednesday 11 November, a number of Baha’is who passed Iran’s national university entrance exams were summoned by telephone to the Karaj branch of ‘Sanjesh,’ the body responsible for organizing and overseeing the annual tests in Iran. Several said that on arrival, they were taken into a private room and their mobile phones were confiscated. They were then questioned about their belief in the Bahai Faith, and made to fill out questionnaires on their family members, personal relations and social media activities. More…


UN passes resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran

BIC (18.11.2020) – – In spite of the ongoing pandemic, a committee of the United Nations General Assembly considered and approved a resolution today calling on Iran to observe human rights for all its citizens, including members of the Baha’i Faith.

The Third Committee of the General Assembly approved the resolution(link is external)by a vote of 79 to 32. Sixty-four Member States voted by abstention. More…

Security forces confiscate Baha’i agricultural land at Roshankuh

Sen’s Daily (09.11.2020) – – Recently, the Natural Resources Department of Mazandaran Province confiscated land owned by the mostly Bahai residents of Roshankooh village, near the city of Sari, under the pretense of protecting natural resources. These lands, which have been owned by the villagers for nearly a hundred years and have title deeds, have been occupied by a Special Security Forces Unit. More…


Baha’i students again barred from Iran’s universities


Sen’s Daily (02.11.2020) – – On Friday, October 30, Ebrahim Khodaei, head of the Iran’s National Organization of Educational Testing, announced that this year’s results of 2020 had been posted on the organization’s website.


As in previous years, when Bahai students logged on this year, they found that their records were flagged with the words “incomplete dossier”: a catch-all term the testing organization has been using for more than a decade now to stop students known to belong to the Baha’i community from progressing to the next stage in their education.


At the time of writing, IranWire had received the names of 14 Bahai participants who have been locked out of the grading system because of an “incomplete dossier”. The “Iran” news site reports 17 Bahai students have been excluded, without naming them.



House-church leaders acquitted of ‘acting against national security’

Article 18 (26.11.2020) – – Two Iranian Christian converts have overturned on appeal a combined 10-year prison sentence for their leadership of a house-church. Aziz Majidzadeh, known as Andreas, and another convert who cannot be named, were sentenced to four and six years in prison respectively in July – a ruling that was not made public at the time.

But on 9 November, an appeals court judge overturned the verdict, ruling there was insufficient evidence their leadership of a house-church amounted to “actions against national security”. More…

Four Christians given combined 35 years in prison

Article 18 (17.11.2020) – – Mehdi Akbari, Fatemeh Sharifi and Simin Soheilinia were given 10 years, and Mehdi Roohparvar five, all under the same charge of “acting against national security by forming a house-church”.

Very little is known about their case, but Article18 has been able to independently verify that Mehdi A and Mehdi R are both now serving their sentences in Ward 4 of Tehran’s Evin Prison. More…

Second Christian convert flogged for drinking Communion wine

Article 18 (16.11.2020) – – Despite international condemnation of the recent flogging of an Iranian Christian convert for drinking Communion wine, a second convert has now received the same punishment.

Zaman Fadaie, who prefers to be called Saheb, received 80 lashes yesterday, one month and one day after his friend Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi endured the same punishment. More…


Christian convert’s third plea for retrial rejected

Article 18 (13.11.2020) – – Imprisoned Christian convert Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh has been informed that his third request for a retrial has been rejected.

Nasser, who is 59 years old, is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison because of his membership of a house-church, for which he was convicted in July 2017 of “acting against national security”.

He has been in prison since January 2018. More…

Christian homes targeted in coordinated Fardis raids

Article 18 (11.11.2020) – – Twelve Christian homes were raided by intelligence agents today in a coordinated operation in Fardis, west of Tehran, at around 9am.

None of the Christians were arrested, but many of their personal belongings were confiscated – including phones, laptops, Bibles, Christian literature and anything else to do with Christianity – and they can expect to be summoned for interrogation in the coming days. More…

Tehran church with giant cross demolished

Article 18 (03.11.2020) – – A 70-year-old Adventist church in central Tehran has been demolished, along with the giant concrete cross on its facade.

The 8m cross was the largest of its kind in the Iranian capital, and a rare prominent symbol of Christianity in the city. More…

IRAN: Tehran frees 157 prisoners convicted of security offenses

Those released include Nasrin Sotoudeh, who tested positive for the coronavirus. The amnesty provision, granted by Khamenei for the anniversary of Muhammad’s birth, relates to 3,780 prisoners. This is the most important mass release of citizens indicted for conspiracy offenses. (11.11.2020) – – The Iranian judiciary yesterday afternoon announced the pardon of 157 prisoners accused of “security” offenses, in the context of a broader amnesty provision granted by the supreme leader, the great ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


The decision dates back to last week, coinciding with the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. According to the spokesman for the judges Gholamhossein Esmaili, on the occasion the authorities cancelled or reduced the terms of the sentence of 3,780 detainees.


Among those who benefited from pardon, Esmaili continues, there are ” 157 convicted of propaganda against the state, illegal gathering, collusion against national security, or participation in the riots”. Analysts and experts point out that it is the most important mass release of prisoners charged with crimes of opinion, linked to protests or demonstrations of dissent.


In announcing the measure, the spokesman for the judiciary has repeatedly referred to people detained for participating in the 2017 and 2019 protests against a devastating economic crisis, exacerbated by the sanctions imposed by the outgoing US President Donald Trump. In particular, the demonstrations in November last year, triggered by extortionate fuel costs, resulted in the deaths of at least 304 Iranians, most of whom were shot to death by the security forces.


In recent weeks, Tehran has released thousands of prisoners in the context of measures taken to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which in the Islamic Republic has recorded the highest number of victims and infections among the nations of the Middle East. In the past, prisoners for conspiracy offenses or related to street protests were largely excluded from the measures in spite of appeals launched by the UN and human rights NGOs.


Over the past 18 months, says Esmaili, “Iran has forgiven or anticipated the terms of release for 20,000 prisoners”. Among those who have been released in recent days is the activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, for weeks on a hunger strike to raise awareness of the risks for detainees in times of pandemic. According to the latest information, the activist would test positive for the molecular swab confirming the massive circulation of the virus in prisons.


Iranian Christian convert lashed 80 times for drinking Communion wine

Article18 (14.10.2020) – – Iranian Christian convert Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi was today lashed 80 times for drinking wine as part of Holy Communion.


It is illegal for Muslim Iranians to drink alcohol, but exceptions are made for recognised religious minorities, including Christians. However, Iran does not recognise converts as Christians.


This lack of recognition is also the reason Youhan spent the last two years in prison and is now living in internal exile – because of his membership of a house-church, which is the only available Christian fellowship for converts in Iran.


Youhan began his two-year term in exile in the southwestern city of Borazjan one month ago today.


Then, on Saturday 10 October, he received a summons from the authorities in his home city of Rasht, more than 1,000km north of Borazjan, to travel back home at his own expense to receive his lashes.


Youhan and two of his fellow house-church members, Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mossayebzadeh and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaee, were sentenced to the 80 lashes in September 2016 – by a Rasht civil and revolutionary court which at the same time refused to convict them of “acting against national security” by conducting house-churches.


That conviction – and accompanying 10-year sentences – was instead imposed on them, and their pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a year later by a revolutionary court in Tehran.


This was not Youhan’s first experience of lashes. Youhan was also given 80lashes in 2013, alongside one other house-church member, forthe same reason: they had used wine with Communion.


However, on both occasions friends of Youhan say he was grateful for the relative leniency shown him by those carrying out the sentence, after he explained to them that he had not acted with impropriety but had only shared in one cup of wine as an act of worship to God.