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OVERVIEW of Iran | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted populations | Country of asylum information | Essential sources | Iranians in Canada – settlement experiences | Ethno-specific organizations & associations | Cultural profiles


Capital: Tehran
Area: 1,648,000 km²
Population: 68,688,433 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Persian (Farsi) and Persian dialects – 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects – 26%, Kurdish – 9%, Luri – 2%, Baloch – 1%, Arabic – 1%, Turkish – 1%, others – 2%.
Religion(s): Shiite Muslim – 89%, Sunni Muslim – 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i – 2%.
Ethnic Group(s): Persian – 51%, Azeri – 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani – 8%, Kurdish – 7%, Arab – 3%, Lur – 2%, Baloch – 2%, Turkmen – 2%, others – 1%. [accessed March 12, 2018].

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Humanitarian situation

“President Hassan Rouhani secured a four-year term in office in May 2017, in an election marked by debate over the state of civil and political rights in Iran. Executions, particularly for drug-related offenses, continued at a high rate. Authorities in the security apparatus and Iran’s judiciary continue to target journalists, online media activists, and human rights defenders in an ongoing crackdown, in disregard of international and domestic legal standards”. See, Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018 – Iran, 18 January 2018, available at: [accessed 1 March 2018].

Freedom of religion, expression and speech are severely restricted in Iran. Human rights organizations and non-governmental bodies have documented the legal and societal discrimination and persecution of women, children, LGBTQ persons, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, journalists, dissidents and critics of the regime.

The persecution of the above mentioned populations ranges from systemic barriers to employment and higher education to violence and government-sanctioned executions as mentioned above.

Legal and societal discrimination, as well as violence against women, remain problematic. The prohibition of discrimination in the constitution is poorly observed and enforced by the government.

“The authorities continue to crack down heavily on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, jailing scores of peaceful critics on spurious national security charges. Among those targeted are peaceful political dissidents, journalists, online media workers, students, filmmakers, musicians and writers, as well as human rights defenders including women’s rights activists, minority rights and environmental activists, trade unionists, anti-death penalty campaigners, lawyers, and those seeking truth, justice and reparation for the mass executions and enforced disappearances of the 1980s. Many prisoners of conscience have undertaken hunger strikes to protest against their unjust imprisonment. The authorities arrested hundreds of protesters following anti-establishment demonstrations that began across the country at the end of December. Reports emerged that security forces killed and injured unarmed protesters by using firearms and other excessive force. On 31 December the Minister of Information and Communications Technology blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging application Telegram, used by activists to promote and support the protests. Earlier in the year, judicial officials had exerted persistent pressure on the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology to request that Telegram relocate its servers to Iran and close tens of thousands of Telegram channels, which according to the judiciary “threatened national security” or “insulted religious values.” Telegram said it “rejected both requests.” See, Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2017/18 – Iran, 22 February 2018, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].

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Persecuted populations

LGBTI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons

Religious Minorities – Bahá’i, Christians, Jews, Suni Muslims and Sufis

Ethnic Minorities – Kurds, Baluchi and Ahwazi Arabs



Although Iran is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Iranian government’s reservation of the right to disregard and revise any provisions that contradict Islamic laws and domestic legislation undermine the purpose of the Convention. As a result, legal rights and education, trafficking and violence against children remain major issues of concern.

Exceptions made by the Iranian government to the Law on the Protection of Children and Adolescents raise concerns regarding violence against children. The government’s exclusion of various articles, which has the effect of legally allowing various forms of violence, is suspected to contribute to child abuse inside and outside of the family. Moreover, numerous non-governmental organizations supporting children’s rights have noted a significant increase in rates of child abuse within the past few years. See, Amnesty International, Iran: Scheduled execution of man arrested as teenager is an all-out assault on children’s rights, 15 August 2017, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].


Iranian and Afghan children in Iran are at risk of being trafficked internally for sexual exploitation. This may occur in forced marriages where girls are forced by their husbands into prostitution or involuntary servitude in order to pay debts or provide income for their family. In southern Iran, boys are forced into prostitution in male brothels.

Legal Rights

Iranian Laws concerning age of marriage, criminal responsibility, the death penalty, and labour laws are controversial or not observed in practice by the government.

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Country of asylum information

The following link leads to countries that host Iranian refugees; Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Greece. See, UNHCR Mid-Year Trends 2019;  [accessed August 2020].

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Essential sources

More information about the conditions in Iran can be found in the following documents:

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iran: Treatment by Iranian authorities of failed refugee claimants and family members of persons who have left Iran and claimed refugee status (2011-February 2015), 10 March 2015, IRN105089.E, available at: [accessed 1 March 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note Iran: Fear of punishment for crimes committed in other countries (‘Double Jeopardy’ or re-prosecution), January 2018, available at: [accessed 1 March 2018].

Iran: Spying charges against wildlife activists “hard to fathom”, Say UN experts. UN Human Rights Council February 23, 2018. [accessed February 28, 2018].

United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, World Refugee Survey 2008 – Iran, 19 June 2008, available at: [accessed 27 February 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Operational Guidance Note – Iran, November 2011, OGN v7.0, available at: [accessed 27 February 2018].

Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018 – Iran, 19 January 2018, available at: [accessed 1 March 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Country of Origin Information Report – Iran, 31 January 2008, available at: [accessed 27 February 2018].

Human Rights Watch, Iran: Investigate Killings of Protesters, 2 January 2018, available at: [accessed 1 March 2018].

Freedom from Torture, Turning a blind eye: Why the international community must no longer ignore torture in Iran, December 2017, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].

United States Congressional Research Service, Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy, 8 January 2018, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].

Amnesty International, Iran: Scheduled execution of man arrested as teenager is an all-out assault on children’s rights, 15 August 2017, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].

Human Rights Watch, Iran: Deaths of Detained Protesters Raise Concerns of Ill-Treatment, 9 January 2018, available at: [accessed 2 March 2018].

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Iranians in Canada – settlement experiences

Iranian Community Growing on P.E.I., CBC News, 7 December 2011.

Staying Put? The Settlement Experiences of Iranian Immigrants in Halifax, Wallace J. Porter R., Dalhousie University, 2010

Between 2005 and 2009, Iran became one of the most significant immigrant sending source countries to Nova Scotia. This report looks at the settlement experiences of Iranian immigrants in Halifax and whether they plan on staying in the province. Through interviews with Iranian immigrants, the author explores the factors which influence newcomers in developing a sense of belonging to Canada

Away from home: Iranian woman, displacement cultural resistance and change, Haideh Moghissi, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 30(2), 1999

The author looks at the construction of cultural identity within the Iranian Diaspora.

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Ethno-specific organizations & associations

Disclaimer: RSTP is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse these organizations. Their activities are not necessarily those of RSTP.

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Cultural profiles [accessed March 12, 2018].

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