Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in a sweeping crackdown on protesters and dissidents in the past year, in what has been called “a year of shame” for the Islamic Republic.
Those swept up by the crackdown include students, journalists, environmental activists, factory workers, lawyers, women’s rights activists, minority rights activists and trade unionists, according to Amnesty International, which published new figures on the scale of Iran’s repressive measures.
Protesters have been arrested for demonstrating against deteriorating economic conditions, perceptions of corruption, and the lack of political and social freedoms.
Amnesty told the Telegraph some 5,000 of the total number were detained in the context of protests.
Hundreds were sentenced to prison terms or flogging, and at least 26 protesters were killed.
In addition, at least 112 women human rights defenders were arrested or remained in detention in Iran during 2018.
Women began a campaign to highlight gender inequality by taking off the headscarves they are obliged to wear and posting pictures on social media.
Activist Shaparak Shajarizadeh was arrested in February and sentenced to two years in prison and 18 years suspended sentence for protesting the compulsory veil.
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Her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was herself arrested in June and faces several charges related to national security for defending those protesting against forced hijab-wearing.
"2018 will go down in history as a ‘year of shame’ for Iran," said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director. "Iran’s authorities sought to stifle any sign of dissent by stepping up their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and carrying out mass arrests of protesters."
Last year began with nationwide protests over Iran’s deteriorating economy. Iran is in the grip of a financial crisis and has seen sporadic protests in recent months as officials try to downplay the effects of the newly restored US sanctions on Tehran.
During 2018, Iran also intensified its discriminatory crackdown against religious and ethnic minorities, arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning hundreds, and curtailing their access to education, employment and other services.
At least 171 Christians were arrested solely for peacefully practising their faith, according to the organisation Article 18. Some received sentences of up to 15 years in prison.
The authorities also continued their systematic persecution of the Baha’i religious minority, arbitrarily detaining at least 95, according to the Baha’i International Community.
Large numbers of people from ethnic minority groups have also faced human rights abuses. Hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs were rounded up after protests in April over a state TV broadcast’s exclusion of the group from a map of Iran’s ethnic minorities.
In October, following a deadly armed attack on a military parade in Ahvaz the previous month, more than 700 Ahwazi Arabs were secretly detained according to activists outside Iran.