April 12, 2019
The Iranian government and judiciary are intensifying a nationwide crackdown on civil society and beyond, as well as most forms of activism, to stifle any form of dissent, Abdolkarim Lahiji, a prominent Iranian human rights attorney now based in France, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
In a wide-ranging interview conducted by phone on April 5, 2019, Lahiji, who defended political prisoners in Iran before and after the country’s 1979 revolution told CHRI: “Today, it’s not just political opponents and defenders of human rights being imprisoned, but conservationists, hungry people and Sufi Muslims, too. The scope of the crackdown has expanded. When social and economic conditions deteriorate, the Islamic Republic believes it can only protect its cohesion by cracking down on people and if it loosens its grip, protests could spread into an uncontrollable situation.”
Excerpts of the interview follow.
CHRI: In recent years, Iran’s judiciary has been leveling various charges against prisoners of conscience based on activities that are not crimes under the law. How did we get here?
Abdolkarim Lahiji: First we have to keep in mind that we are dealing with an ideological and theocratic judicial system. Iran’s judiciary has two traits that we have witnessed since the first week after the 1979 revolution. The first trait is that it’s arbitrary.
What they have done to Abdolfattah Soltani, Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh are clear examples. They want to intimidate everyone, especially after the mass demonstrations that have taken place in the past two years, with people protesting against unpaid wages, high prices and poverty. They punish prisoners of conscience and political prisoners so that others would be scared to talk to foreign media and share their frustrations with the world.