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Iran and Iraq: Strengthening human rights defenders organisations working with vulnerable civilians


Location: Iran – Iraq

Duration: February 2017 – June 2020

What is the programme about?

This project seeks to protect the human rights of vulnerable civilians (including women and minorities) in Iran and Iraq by strengthening human rights defenders (HRDs). Through training, coaching, legal representation, technical support, and other capacity-building activities, the programme aims to build a network of HRD activists trained to effectively monitor and report human rights violations, mitigate the on-going security challenges and advocate for increased protection by local, national and international actors.

Why are we delivering this programme?

In both target countries, gross violations of human rights are rife. Both minorities and women are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses. In Iran, ethnic and religious minorities make up over 40 per cent of the population but are systematically excluded from senior public office and their associations are denied freedom of association and expression whereas women face widespread discrimination under the law and in practice. In Iraq, ethnic and religious minorities have been facing attacks and discrimination for years without redress, seen in mass expulsions from their historical homelands, summary execution, forced conversion, and destruction of their cultural and religious sites. Women are subject to high levels of gender-based violence, including, but not limited to kidnapping, rape, and sexual slavery.

Human rights defenders are the best placed to collect and provide information about human rights abuses, especially in the most remote and difficult-to-access areas. However, their work is undermined by the lack of experience, limited capacity and continuous government repression, manifested in threats, arrests and subsequent executions. Therefore, strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders will enable them to challenge discriminatory practices by allowing to monitor and document instances of human rights abuses more effectively. Providing improved legal protection and support for HRDs experiencing intimidation would allow them to increase their ability to mitigate security threats and work in a more secure way, putting pressure on relevant authorities to respond and account for violations.

What are we doing?

  • Capacity-building workshops in human rights monitoring, documentation and reporting for HRD organisations, CSOs and lawyers
  • Provision of a secure online reporting tool and formation of HRD network, with on-going technical support and coaching
  • Legal representation and family support for HRDs and civilian activists who are threatened, detained or harassed
  • Capacity-building grants for smaller HRD organisations/CSOs working with minorities and vulnerable women
  • Publication of periodic bulletins on the human rights situation, in English/Arabic/Farsi, with targeted media launches
  • Production of two documentary films, with public launches and screenings
  • International advocacy to enable local HRDs to have their voices heard by UN human rights mechanisms, international agencies and regional actors

Who is delivering the programme with us?

The Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), based in Iran, and its UK-based sister organisation, the Center for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR), were established by Nobel Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi and have extensive links and credibility with HRDs throughout Iran

ASUDA is a leading Iraqi women’s NGO specialized in combating violence against women, and its activities include victim protection and legal support, advocacy, awareness raising, research, and monitoring

The Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights was established by Minority Rights Group International to provide technical support on violations monitoring

This project is funded by the European Union. This content is the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Filed Under: Middle East, Iran, Iraq
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