By Yasmine S. Hakimian
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TEHRAN, Iran – On December 21, Iranian authorities raided and indefinitely closed down the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) in Tehran. The DHRC was founded five years ago by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Ebadi received the award for her human rights work, making her the first Iranian to receive the honor. Ebadi was arrested at the raid and taken into custody for several hours. No other arrests were made, but the office remains closed.
The DHRC served as a place to report human rights violations in Iran, defend political prisoners and support families of those prisoners. The raid occurred as the center was preparing a celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day on December 10.
Iran’s judiciary confirmed the closure of the center, stating it was involved in illegal activities. The judiciary claims the center was acting as a political party without obtaining a legal permit. The center is targeted for having illegal contacts with local and foreign organizations, and organizing news conferences.
In August 2006, the Iranian government informed Ebadi that the center was illegal and planned to arrest those who continued to work there.
According to Narges Mohammadi, deputy head of the center, dozens of policemen entered the office without showing a search warrant. The policemen said they were not obliged to show a warrant because they were wearing police uniforms. Iranian authorities have provided no written justification for the raid.
The DHRC is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights and has also been awarded a human rights prize by the Human Rights National Commission in France.
Over the years, Ebadi’s advocacy of human rights has led to imprisonment and a stream of threatening letters and telephone calls. Ebadi has noted the raid will not stop human rights activists in Iran. She insists the raid was illegal and she plans to protest.
For more information, please see:
CNN – Iran Raids, Closes Office, Nobel Winner Says – 21 December 2008
Huffington Post – Shirin Ebadi Office Shut Down by Iran: Nobel Laureate Claims Harassment – 21 December 2008
Iran Press Watch – Police Raid, Close Offices of Shirin Ebadi – 21 December 2008
News Daily – Police Raids Iran Nobel Laureate’s Office – 21 December 2008