أعضاء في "جمعية الإمام علي" يحملون لافتة عليها شعار الجمعية واسمها.  © 2014 إيرنا

(Beirut) – The Iranian government should overturn a court ruling to dissolve one of the country’s largest nongovernmental groups that works to alleviate poverty, 15 human rights and civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch, said today in a joint statement. A court ordered the shutdown at the government’s request in apparent coordination with Iran’s abusive intelligence and security apparatus.

On March 5, 2021, branch 55 of the international relations court at Shahid Beheshti Judicial Complex issued a verdict in support of the Interior Ministry’s assessment that Imam Ali’s Popular Student Relief Society (IAPSRS) had “deviated” from its original mission and insulted religious beliefs. Activities the court cited as evidence of “deviation” include “questioning Islamic rulings such as qisas [retribution in kind]” and “promoting falsehood by publishing statements against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“Iranian authorities’ attempt to dissolve a reputable charity group on murky grounds is just the latest attempt to curtail the work of independent civil society,” said Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Iranian authorities should drop charges against the founder of IAPSRS and allow the group to operate as an independent organization.”

Iranian authorities ignore or punish peaceful dissent and have launched a sustained crackdown on civil society, from labor activists, lawyers and human rights defenders to journalists and even former senior political leaders.  Follow our blog which will document official repression and civil society activists’ attempts to push for respect for human rights during this tumultuous period.

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According to the verdict, the Interior Ministry’s assessment referenced evidence that includes a statement by the group in the aftermath of Iranian authorities’ brutal crackdown against protesters in November 2019, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests.

IAPSRS is an independent group that has worked to reduce poverty and address other crucial issues, including child marriage and death sentences against alleged child offenders.

Since 2010, the organization has held special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and participated in several side events at the UN Human Rights Council.

The court verdict follows years of mounting pressure by the government on the group. On July 21, 2020, authorities arrested the organization’s founder, Sharmin Meymandinejad, along with two of his colleagues, and charged him with “insulting the [Supreme] Leader and founder of the Islamic Republic.” On October 27, Meymandinejad was released on bail until his trial. The authorities also reportedly raided IAPSRS’s main office in Tehran.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, member states of the Human Rights Council, and ECOSOC should raise this case with the Iranian government at the highest levels, and press the government to stop curtailing the already restricted civil space in Iran, the groups said.

Signatories:

  1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran
  2. Arseh Sevom Foundation
  3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  4. Center for Human Rights in Iran
  5. Center for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR)
  6. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  7. FEMENA
  8. Gulf Center for Human Rights
  9. Human Rights Activists (in Iran)
  10. Human Rights Watch
  11. Iran Human Rights
  12. Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)
  13. MIAAN Group
  14. Siamak Pourzand Foundation
  15. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information