Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iranian women, boys, and girls are purportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Iran, as well as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf—particularly the United Arab Emirates—and Europe; Iranian women and girls are reportedly forced into prostitution in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. In previous years, there were reports that Afghan boys and girls residing in Iran were allegedly forced into prostitution within the country. In Tehran, the number of teenage girls in prostitution reportedly continues to increase, with similar reports in Tabriz and Astara. Azerbaijani nationals are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Iran. Uzbek women and children are reportedly forced into prostitution in Iran, with traffickers sometimes recruiting them to the country through fraudulent offers of employment. According to estimates, there are 35,000-50,000 children—some as young as four or five years old—forced by their parents or well-organized criminal networks to beg in the streets of Tehran; some of these children are reportedly forced to sell drugs. Some children are also reportedly forced to work in sweatshops, while some are reportedly forced into prostitution in Iran and abroad. Traffickers reportedly subject Afghan migrants to forced labor in Iran, and reportedly force Afghan boys and young men under 18-years-old to work in construction and agricultural sectors. Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to Iran for low-skilled employment, such as domestic work and construction, and some are reportedly subjected to forced labor, including debt bondage, and experience restriction of movement, nonpayment of wages, and physical or sexual abuse. NGO reports indicate criminal organizations play a significant role in human trafficking in Iran.
The Government of Iran does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not share information on its anti-trafficking efforts during the reporting period. Publicly available information from NGOs, the media, international organizations, and other governments indicates that the Iranian government is not taking sufficient steps to address its extensive trafficking challenges, particularly with regard to the protection of trafficking victims. The government, however, hosted a regional anti-trafficking workshop in December 2013 for representatives from numerous countries and international organizations, and it held a separate anti-trafficking workshop in early 2014.
Recommendations for Iran:
Investigate, prosecute, and convict offenders of sex trafficking and forced labor; share anti-trafficking data and develop partnerships with international organizations to combat trafficking; institute victim identification procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking, particularly among vulnerable populations such as persons in prostitution, children in begging rings, and undocumented migrants; offer specialized protection services to victims of trafficking, including shelter and medical, psychological, and legal assistance; ensure that sex and labor trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; increase transparency in government anti-trafficking policies and activities through public reporting; and become a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Iran made few discernible law enforcement efforts against human trafficking. Iranian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. A 2004 law prohibits trafficking in persons by means of threat or use of force, coercion, abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability of the victim for purposes of prostitution, slavery, or forced marriage. The prescribed penalty under this law reportedly is up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and capital punishment for offenses against children. Both penalties are sufficiently stringent; however, the penalty for the trafficking of adults is not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Iranian law for rape. The Constitution and labor code both prohibit forced labor and debt bondage; the prescribed penalty of a fine and up to one year’s imprisonment is not sufficiently stringent to deter these serious crimes. The government reportedly remained unable or unwilling to consistently implement and enforce existing anti-trafficking laws due to a lack of political will and widespread corruption, including corruption within the security services and judiciary. The government did not report official statistics on investigations or prosecutions of trafficking cases or convictions of trafficking offenders. In May 2013, the Iranian ambassador to the UN stated Iranian police dismantled 46 human trafficking gangs, while in July 2013 state-affiliated media reported the arrests of 48 foreign nationals suspected of involvement in human trafficking in the northwestern Iranian province of West Azerbaijan. However, no details were available to determine whether these reports actually involved human trafficking, or were of smuggling or other types of crimes. It was reportedly extremely difficult for female trafficking victims to obtain justice, as Iranian courts accorded legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men. Moreover, women who were victims of sexual abuse, as well as sex trafficking victims, presumably were liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death. The government did not report efforts to investigate or punish government employees complicit in trafficking-related offenses. In previous years, there were reports that government officials were involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls and that some officials who operated shelters for runaway girls reportedly forced them into prostitution rings. In October 2013, President Rouhani submitted a bill to parliament that would increase Iran’s security cooperation with China to fight international organized crime, including human trafficking. The government hosted a regional anti-trafficking workshop in December 2013 with representatives from 16 countries and international organizations to discuss international police cooperation to combat human trafficking and sharing databases to fight transnational trafficking networks. According to government-affiliated media, the government also held a one-day workshop on human trafficking at the national police academy in February 2014, though the details of the workshop and its participants were not disclosed.
The Government of Iran made no discernible efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. Security authorities did not appear to differentiate between illegal foreign workers and victims of trafficking. The government also reportedly punished victims of sex trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as adultery and prostitution. Foreign trafficking victims were held in detention centers and jails until the court ordered their deportation. There were reports in recent years that government officials raped prisoners, some of whom may have been unidentified trafficking victims. The government did not report if it identified and referred trafficking victims among vulnerable populations to protective services, such as organizations unrelated to the government that assist vulnerable and socially marginalized groups. There were no apparent legal protection services or rehabilitation programs for victims of trafficking. The government reportedly operated several shelters for street children in Tehran, though it is unclear what type of services were available to children in these shelters or whether the shelters served any child victims of trafficking. There is no information to indicate the government provided assistance to repatriated Iranian victims of trafficking. The Iranian government did not appear to provide foreign victims of trafficking with a legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.
There were no reports of efforts by the Government of Iran to prevent trafficking, such as campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking, to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, or to reduce demand for child sex tourism by Iranian citizens traveling abroad. There were no apparent improvements in the transparency of the government’s reporting on its anti-trafficking policies or activities, nor were there discernible efforts to forge partnerships with NGOs in addressing human trafficking problems in this reporting period. The cabinet endorsed the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols in December 2013, though parliament did not ratify it at the end of the reporting period. Iran is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.