Rights groups slam Iran for dismantling leading anti-poverty charity
A coalition of human rights and civil society groups has slammed Iran for dismantling one of the largest anti-poverty NGOs in the country.
Imam Ali's Popular Student Relief Society (IAPSRS) worked on poverty reduction and urgent issues, including child marriage and death sentences decreed when the offender was a minor.
Through its network of national volunteers, the charity was able to broaden its activities over two decades, offering education programmes, medical care, legal and financial aid, as well as emergency assistance.
Last week, an Iranian court upheld an assessment by the interior ministry that IAPSRS - which held special status with the UN's Economic and Social Council - had "deviated" from its original mission and insulted religious beliefs, according to a statement published by Iranian media.
Branch 55 of the international relations court at Shahid Beheshti Judicial Complex condemned the charity's position toward "Islamic rulings" and statements it had allegedly made "against the Islamic Republic of Iran".
This included a statement against Iran's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in November 2019, which was cited as evidence in the interior ministry's original assessment.
The court's verdict follows targeted pressure by Iran's repressive authorities against the group. Last July, the organisation's founder was arrested and charged with insulting the supreme leader. Authorities also reportedly raided the NGO's Tehran headquarters, seizing electronic devices and documents.
Sharmin Meymandinejad was released from solitary confinement on bail in October.
A coalition of human rights groups and civil society groups - which include Iranian organisations as well as Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) - have condemned the move to dissolve IAPSPS.
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In a joint press release, they said it had come "in apparent coordination with Iran's abusive intelligence and security apparatus".
The groups called on the Iranian government to immediately overturn the decision, which they said marked a "new assault on independent associations".
"Iranian authorities' attempt to dissolve a reputable charity group on murky grounds is just the latest attempt to curtail the work of independent civil society," said Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at HRW.
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