Ethnic and religious minorities
During 2018, Iran also intensified its discriminatory crackdowns against religious and ethnic minorities by arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning hundreds, and curtailing their access to education, employment and other services.
Members of Iran’s largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, faced a particularly vicious crackdown after a peaceful protest they held in February 2018 was violently quashed. Hundreds were arrested and more than 200 were sentenced to a total of 1,080 years in prison, 5,995 lashes as well as internal “exile”, travel bans, and bans on joining political and social groups. One person, Mohammad Salas, was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial and swiftly executed.
At least 171 Christians were arrested in 2018 solely for peacefully practising their faith, according to the organization Article 18. Some received sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
The authorities also continued their systematic persecution of the Baha’i religious minority, arbitrarily detaining at least 95, according to the organization Baha’i International Community, and committing other abuses against them.
Hundreds of people from ethnic minority groups including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen have also faced human rights abuses including discrimination and arbitrary detention.
Hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs were rounded up after protests in April over a state TV broadcast which excluded Ahwazi Arabs from a map showing the location of Iran’s ethnic minorities. In October, following a deadly armed attack on a military parade in Ahvaz the previous month, more than 700 Ahwazi Arabs were detained incommunicado according to activists outside Iran.
Hundreds of Azerbaijani Turks, including minority rights activists, were also violently arrested in connection with peaceful cultural gatherings throughout the year, including in July and August, when at least 120 people were arrested. Some activists were sentenced to prison terms and flogging. Minority rights activist Milad Akbari was flogged in the city of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, after he was convicted of “disrupting public order” through “taking part in illegal gatherings and singing eccentric songs” at a cultural gathering.
At least 20 media workers were sentenced to harsh prison or flogging sentences after unfair trials. One journalist, Mohammad Hossein Sodagar, from the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic minority, was flogged 74 times in the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan province after being convicted of “spreading lies”.
Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens.
Iran’s ‘year of shame’: More than 7,000 arrested in chilling crackdown on dissent during 2018