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Working for civil liberties in Iran

Human Rights Day 2020

Today is International Human Rights Day, a day we commemorate every year as an organization entering our second decade of work to improve human rights conditions for the people of Iran. This year’s theme is “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights,” related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the notion of making sure that human rights are at the center of all recovery efforts.

In Iran today, a third surge in COVID-19 cases which began earlier in the fall has dashed hopes for recovery for the time being, but this time has also shown us the best of humanity, as it has done in many parts of the world.

Medical workers all over the country, though ill-equipped to properly defend themselves from the virus at work, returned day after day to help their patients and provide care, and hundreds have died as a result.

Communities and businesses came together across the country to support those at highest risk or without resources to protect themselves.

Artists played music from the rooftops to bring joy and hope to their neighbors.

But there was a lot that should have happened, and didn’t. The amnesty being considered for prisoners to help lessen the spread of the virus didn’t happen at the time or scale it was promised.

Some of Iran’s most ardent human rights defenders – including Nasrin Sotoudeh – were denied amnesty and returned to prison, despite not having recovered from the virus she contracted in prison.

And all the while, the government was suspected of grossly underreporting case numbers, continued in-person religious gatherings, and denied cities, hospitals, prisons, and vulnerable populations critical resources that would help them control the spread of the disease.

So on this day where we elevate the importance of universal human rights, we thank those who put it all on the line for their fellow human, be they medical workers, human rights advocates, or just ordinary people helping their neighbor, and urge the Iranian government to make decisions that do much more to honor the rights of their people and prioritize their health and safety.

Meanwhile, we at United for Iran will continue our work to advocate for justice, health, and safety for Iranian civil society during this especially difficult time. We will continue the development of tools and resources that support communities with some of the most pressing issues they face. We will continue to stand up for those who have been unfairly punished, and serve as a voice for those who have been silenced. We will continue to conduct extensive research on how the Iranian government can better respond to matters that critically affect their people, including the pandemic. And we will continue to work alongside our organizational partners in calling upon international bodies to support fundamental human rights in Iran.

Here’s to the people of Iran, and to a period of rebuilding and healing ahead.