The US Report on Human Rights Practices in Iran has reflected a remarkable interest by the Biden administration in a number of issues, mainly how the clerical establishment in Tehran controls all political, economic and social aspects of life.
Released by the US Department of State on Tuesday, the report began by describing Iran as an authoritarian theocratic republic where the supreme leader and political leaders vetted by the clergy dominate key power structures.
“The supreme leader holds ultimate authority over all security agencies,” the report said, adding that presidential elections held in 2017 and parliamentary elections held during the year were not considered free and fair.
According to the report, Iranian government officials materially contributed to human rights abuses not only against Iranians, but also in Syria, through their military support for Syrian president Bashar Assad and Hezbollah; in Iraq, through aid to pro-Iran Iraqi militia groups; and in Yemen, through support for the Houthi militias.
Among these abuses, the report lists numerous unlawful or arbitrary killings, severe restrictions on free expression, severe restrictions on religious freedom, restrictions on political participation through arbitrary candidate vetting, widespread corruption at all levels of government, lack of meaningful investigation of and accountability for violence against women and unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by government actors to support the Assad regime.
It said the Iranian government effectively took no steps to investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials who committed these abuses, many of which were perpetrated as a matter of government policy.
“This included the killing of at least 304 persons during suppression of widespread protests in November 2019 and abuses and numerous suspicious deaths in custody from previous years. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces,” the report noted.
The Iranian regime also prevented activities it considered anti-regime, by restricting the right of assemblies and marches of unarmed persons.
“The regime closely monitored gatherings such as public entertainment and lectures, student and women’s meetings and protests, meetings and worship services of minority religious groups, labor protests, online gatherings and networking, funeral processions, and Friday prayer gatherings,” the report said.
Concerning religious minorities in Iran, the State Department said ethnic Azeris, who number more than 18 million, or approximately 24 percent of the population, were more integrated into government and society than other ethnic minority groups and included the supreme leader.
“Azeris reported the government discriminated against them by harassing Azeri activists or organizers and changing Azeri geographic names,” it said.
The report also mentions the status of Ahwazi Arabs, saying that international human rights observers, including the IHRDC, stated that the country’s estimated two million Ahwazi Arabs, representing 110 tribes, faced continued oppression and discrimination.
Tackling women’s rights, the report said the Iranian government made systematic efforts to limit women’s access to the workplace, and their participation in the job market remained as low as 16 percent, adding that women reportedly earned 41 percent less than men for the same work.