Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic constitutional republic dominated by Shi'a religious leaders. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dominates the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, directly controls the armed forces, and indirectly controls internal security forces. The unelected 12-member Guardian Council screens candidates for all national and local elections, including the upcoming June 2009 presidential elections, and has a history of disqualifying candidates on ideological grounds. During the past year, the government's poor human rights record worsened. The government limited citizens' right to change their government peacefully, as polling practices did not meet international standards for free and fair elections. There were unfair trials and numerous reports of unjust executions and severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning. Security forces committed torture and arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, including political prisoners. The government severely restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. Repression of workers, trafficking in persons, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals remained problems.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The United States has not maintained diplomatic relations with Iran for the past three decades. In multilateral fora and through public statements, the United States urges the government to respect the human rights of its citizens, draws attention to the country's human rights abuses, and encourages the government to uphold its human rights obligations in law and in practice, including its obligations under the international human rights conventions to which it is a party.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States communicates human rights concerns about individual political prisoners to the government via the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran and releases press statements highlighting the abuses of individuals or groups by the  government. The United States supports access to information and adherence to human rights standards via Voice of America radio and television broadcasts. The Persian-language version of the Web site also supports free access to information, posts articles about American society and values, and carries translations of U.S. reports about Iran that focus on human rights abuses, international religious freedom, and trafficking in persons. U.S.-supported Persian-language bloggers engage Iranians online and answer their questions about U.S. policy and society. The United States also funds Radio Farda, a Persian-language radio station broadcasting to Iran from offices in Prague and Washington, D.C.

For the sixth year in a row, the United States cosponsored and actively supported a UN General Assembly Third Committee resolution addressing the Iranian human rights situation. The United States regularly raises concerns about the government's poor human rights record in consultations with allies, urging them to raise these concerns during any formal human rights dialogue or other bilateral contact with the Iranian government. At the Human Rights Council's March 2009 session, the United States called attention to the lack of due process, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and closure of newspapers in the country.

Between 2006 and 2008, the United States obligated funds for a wide range of programs, similar in scope to those in other countries around the world, to support civil society, human rights, and rule of law in Iran, as well as to expand the free flow of information and the documentation of human rights abuses against Iran's citizens. The U.S. Government does not fund Iranian political parties or factions.

Finally, U.S. officials regularly meet with individuals and members of groups suffering human rights abuses in the country and document incidents for dissemination to other governments and for inclusion in the annual U.S. reports on human rights practices and on religious freedom. Every year since 1999 the U.S. Secretary of State has designated Iran a Country of Particular Concern for severe violations of religious freedom.