Iran (Human Rights)

Iran's human rights record continues to be of serious concern to the UK, and that is why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has designated it as one of its Human Rights Priority Countries.

I am pleased to report that Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was in attendance at the conference underscoring the importance the UK placed on this summit. I was also encouraged that whilst in Warsaw, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, with US Secretary of State Pompeo, co-hosted a meeting of the Yemen Quad - Foreign Ministers of the UK, UAE, USA and Saudi Arabia. They discussed the Yemen crisis to inject fresh international political momentum and support to the Yemen peace process and discuss measures to alleviate humanitarian suffering.

Hostility to the West, particularly the UK, the US and Israel is central to the worldview of the Iranian regime. Perhaps more important and tragic, however, is the appalling domestic situation in Iran. Amnesty International has concluded that Iranian authorities heavily suppress the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and the regime imprisons scores of individuals who voice dissent. 

Amnesty also reported that trials are systematically unfair, torture and other ill-treatment is widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments are regularly carried out. The authorities endorse a pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of people are executed every year, many in public, and thousands remain on death row. This even includes people who were under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crime.

Critically, the regime attempt to ensure that there cannot be any criticism of their tyrannical rule. Popular social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remain blocked and journalists and online media workers faced a wave of harsh interrogations and arbitrary arrests before the presidential election last May. Those using the app Telegram were particularly targeted for harsh prison sentences, some exceeding a decade.

Censorship of all forms of media and jamming of foreign satellite television channels continues unabated. Indeed, the judicial authorities have recently intensified their harassment of journalists working with the Persian BBC service, freezing the assets of 152 former or current BBC journalists and banning them from conducting financial transactions. The Association of Journalists also remains suspended.

I am similarly appalled by the state-sponsored misogyny of Iran. Women are subject to entrenched discrimination in law and practice, including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office, and in family and criminal law.

Acts of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and early and forced marriage, are widespread and committed with impunity. The authorities have failed to criminalize gender-based violence and the legal age of marriage for girls remains at 13. In addition, fathers and grandfathers can obtain permission from courts for their daughters to be married at an even younger age.

All 137 women who registered as presidential candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council and President Rouhani included no female ministers in his cabinet, despite civil society demands.

Compulsory veiling (hijab) allows police and paramilitary forces to harass and detain women for showing strands of hair under their headscarves or for wearing heavy make-up or tight clothing. State-sanctioned smear campaigns are conducted against women who campaign against the compulsory hijab and Iran’s Civil Code denies Iranian women married to non-Iranian men the right to pass their nationality on to their children, a right enjoyed by Iranian men married to foreign spouses.

The authorities monitor and restrict foreign travel of women’s rights activists. Indeed, Alieh Motalebzadeh was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in August for attending a workshop in Georgia on “Women’s empowerment and elections”. Authorities have even defied ongoing public pressure to open football stadiums to women spectators.

Please be assured that I entirely share concerns about the Iranian Government's human rights record.