20 people killed as Iranian authorities crack down on protesters

Peaceful Assembly

In December 2017 and early January 2018, Iranian authorities violently cracked down on anti-government protests, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 protesters. Thousands had gathered to protest the dire state of the Iranian economy. Most of the deaths occurred in January, after the protests grew in numbers and spread across the country. Over a thousand protesters were also arrested, according to reports. The state's violent response drew condemnation from four United Nations Special Rapporteurs. In a statement released on 5th January 2018, the Rapporteurs expressed grave concerns over the reported deaths, which include children, as well as those detained across the country for exercising their right to peaceful protest. The Rapporteurs urged the Iranian authorities to:

“[T]ake immediate action to ensure that all citizens can exercise peacefully the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and should ensure that these and other fundamental rights are not met with violence, to avoid any further casualties”.


Iranian authorities also arrested citizen journalists covering the protests, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). On 31st December 2017, Mohammad Sharifi Moghadam, Mohammad Reza Sharifi, Faezeh Abdipour and Kasra Nouri were arrested and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. According to RSF, up to ten citizen journalists were arrested at the time of reporting. On the night of 31st December, the Iranian authorities disrupted access to the internet and also blocked access to the Telegram instant messaging application. RSF also reported that the authorities attempted to censor citizens' access to international coverage of the protests.

According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, British-Iranian media worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in Evin Prison in Iran, despite hopes for an early release. She has been in prison since 2016. 

On 3rd April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was visiting her family in Iran with her three-year-old daughter when she was detained at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. She was arrested with her daughter as they were about to board a flight back to the United Kingdom. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was using her Iranian passport and her daughter was using a British passport, which was confiscated during the arrest but later returned. Her daughter remains in Iran under the care of her maternal grandparents, so she can visit her mother in prison.

On 10th September 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in jail "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime," amid claims that she had been training journalists in Iran. However, Zaghari-Ratcliffe maintains she was just visiting family.

The Iranian government appeared to promise an early release, following advocacy actions by the British government, with hopes she would be freed in December 2017. However, her anticipated release seems to have been delayed, as the authorities began their crack down on anti- government protests in late December 2017.