HRW: Iran arrests activists ahead of 1 year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death News
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HRW: Iran arrests activists ahead of 1 year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death

Iranian authorities arrested at least a dozen activists on Saturday ahead of the anniversary of nationwide protests that erupted in September 2022, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW). Last year, protests broke out across the region in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after Iranian morality police arrested her for “improper” hijab. As a result of the protests and surrounding fallout, hundreds of protesters died, thousands were arrested and some even faced hanging as punishment for their involvement.

HRW senior Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far explained:

Iranian authorities are using their go-to playbook of putting maximum pressure on peaceful dissidents ahead of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death […] The arbitrary arrests of a dozen activists are aimed at suppressing popular discontent with ongoing impunity and rights violations.

Recent days have seen reports on arrests from independent groups as well as news media. On Wednesday, Bidarzani, an independent women’s rights group, published details of Iranian security forces raids, which included the arrests of 11 women’s rights defenders and a political activist. Then on Thursday, Tasnim News Agency reported that the arrests were allegedly made because those involved were planning to “incite chaos and vandalism”—a charge that Iranian authorities have also used in connection with Mahsa Amini protesters in the past. The same day, Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that authorities in Gilan province arrested the sister of a protester who was killed during the 2022 protests, as well as a travel blogger Elaheh Asgari, who was arrested after attempting to re-obtain her seized passport.

Ahead of the anniversary, BBC Persian reported that Iranian authorities have warned the families of victims killed during the nationwide protests to avoid holding memorial services for their loved ones.

Far said:

The street protests may have slowed down but the authorities are continuing their crackdown, targeting veteran civil society and human rights defenders…UN member states that are in dialogue with Iran should put the rights defenders’ plight at the center of their engagement.

An April report from human rights groups Iran Human Rights (IHR) and Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) detailed how over 500 people were killed in 2022 in connection with the Mahsa Amini protests, with many more at risk of execution.

Authorities have also targeted journalists and clerics who have covered and condemned the authorities’ response. In April, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that, since the outbreak of the protests in September 2022, Iranian authorities have arrested 95 journalists. More recently, on August 15, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) revealed that Iranian authorities have targeted clerics who have decried the killings of protesters who took part in the nationwide protests.