Introduction to the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
This report provides encyclopedic detail on human rights conditions in over 190 countries for 2010. Because we are publishing this report three months into the new year, however, our perspectives on many issues are now framed by the dramatic changes sweeping across countries in the Middle East in 2011. At this moment we cannot predict the outcome of these changes, and we will not know the lasting impacts for years to come. The internal dynamics in each of these countries are different, so sweeping analysis of the entire region is not appropriate. In places like Tunisia and Egypt, we are witnessing popular demands for meaningful political participation, fundamental freedoms, and greater economic opportunity. These demands are profound, they are homegrown, and they are being driven by new activists, many of them young people. These citizens seek to build sustainable democracies in their countries with governments that respect the universal human rights of their own people. If they succeed, the Middle East region, and with it the whole world will be improved.
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR
April 8, 2011
The Islamic Republic of Iran, with a population of approximately 77 million, is a constitutional, theocratic republic in which Shia Muslim clergy, and political leaders vetted by the clergy, dominate the key power structures. Government legitimacy is based on the twin pillars of popular sovereignty–albeit restricted–and the rule of the supreme leader of the Islamic Revolution. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not directly elected but chosen by a directly elected body of religious leaders, the Assembly of Experts, in 1989. Khamenei’s writ dominates the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. He directly controls the armed forces and indirectly controls internal security forces, the judiciary, and other key institutions. The legislative branch is the popularly elected 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly, or Majles. The unelected 12-member Guardian Council reviews all legislation the Majles passes to ensure adherence to Islamic and constitutional principles; it also screens presidential and Majles candidates for eligibility. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a member of the Alliance of Builders political party, was reelected president in June 2009 in a multiparty election that was generally considered neither free nor fair. There were numerous instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.
The government severely limited citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections, and it continued a campaign of postelection violence and intimidation. The government committed extrajudicial killings and executed persons for criminal convictions as juveniles and through unfair trials, sometimes in group executions. Security forces under the government’s control committed acts of politically motivated violence and repression, including torture, beatings, and rape. The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including amputation and flogging. Vigilante groups with ties to the government, such as Basij militia, also committed acts of violence. Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, often holding them incommunicado. Authorities held political prisoners and continued to crack down on women’s rights activists, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities. There was little judicial independence and few fair public trials. The government severely restricted the right to privacy and civil liberties including freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, association, and movement; it placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion. Authorities denied admission to or expelled hundreds of university students and professors whose views were deemed unacceptable by the regime. Official corruption and a lack of government transparency persisted. Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, children, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons were extant. Trafficking in persons and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems. The government severely restricted workers’ rights and arrested numerous union leaders. Child labor remained a serious problem.