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Freedom of expression has been under severe pressure in Iran for many years but in recent months it has been all but erased by the government's increasingly murderous agents of oppression: the Morality Police and Revolutionary Guards. These forces have been given the power not only to imprison but to torture and kill. The actions are aimed at all sections of society but are being targeted with exceptional harshness against women, young people, Kurds and religious minorities.

As in Russia, China and a depressing number of other states, the regime’s authority rests only on its ability to keep its citizens in a state of continuous fear. There is no excuse for the actions of police and the other militarised organs of state in countering dissent and opposition with violence. Enforcing conformity to its own intrusive social agenda is not a legitimate function of a state. Like its ally, Russia, Iran's government is at serious risk of isolating itself from the international community totally and harming its own people even more.

The Writers for Peace Committee of PEN International calls for:

  • the Government of Iran to refrain from further violence and intimidation, particularly against women and children
  • the Revolutionary Guard as well as the Morality Police to be disbanded and their members banned from all security duties in future employment
  • the removal of all reporting restrictions on coverage of political and social unrest
  • the removal of all regulations on dress and personal appearance for women
  • the reinstatement of women's free role in public life, equal with men
  • the observance of the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be reinstated in all aspects of the relationship between the Government of Iran and its citizens
  • the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should monitor the actions of the Iranian State and denounce all forms of repression against freedom of expression and other forms of human rights violations
  • The UN OHCHR should take action so that the UN Human Rights Committee, through the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on violations of human rights in Iran, can ensure the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in that country.
  • the reinstatement of the ability to express dissent legally - whether religious, cultural or political - without risking intimidation or punishment

While it is encouraging that Iran's Morality Police Force is apparently being disbanded, repression has not lessened, nor is there a sign that those within the Iran security forces will face justice for their violence. Therefore, our calls for serious reform are unchanged.


4 December 2022