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Fundamentals of Freedom of Movement in Iran

Examples of Freedom of Movement Barriers in Iran

Unfounded Allegations in Leaving Iran

Iranian officials often accuse individuals of suspect behavior when they leave the state.

  • In August 2009, the interrogators of a female detainee who wishes to remain anonymous accused her of espionage and treason resulting from her recent trip to Turkey.  Her interrogators suggested that she was a spy, and involved in a group working against the Iranian government.[1]
  • In October 2009, Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani, a 37-year-old Iranian, was sentenced to death in part for allegedly illegally exiting Iran.[2]  He was executed in January 2010.     

Freedom to Move and Live Throughout the State

Iran limits the freedom of movement within its borders of political activists and others it deems threats to the State party. 

  • In 2003, police and plainclothes agents beat journalist and human rights activist Ensafali Hedayat  and threatened to cut off his testicles if he failed to leave Tabriz within six months.[3]   
  • In February 2005, the Ministry of Intelligence ordered that Arash Sigarchi be exiled to southern Iran to limit his ability to flee the country.[4]
  • Following the June 2009 presidential election, a court sentenced Ahmad Zeidabadi, Secretary-General of Tahkim-e Vahdat (a student organization), to five years exile in a city in northeastern Iran.[5]

Iran also interferes with individuals’ freedom of movement by subjecting former detainees to frequent and arbitrary arrests, and requiring them to check in at a court or office.

  • State party agents continued to harass and invade the privacy of women’s rights activist Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh after releasing her from custody in December 2009.  Interrogators constantly called and threatened her, forcing her to take the SIM card out of her phone.[6]
  • A few weeks after her arrest, beating, and release without being charged in January 2010, Tania Ahmadi Kaliji received a court summons to report to court.[7]

Freedom to Leave the State

Iran interferes with individuals’ freedom of movement by arbitrarily preventing them from leaving the State.

  • On May 7, 2009, State party authorities prevented two prominent women's rights activists from travelling to Guatemala, where they were scheduled to speak at a conference about the role of women in democracies.  The women, Narges Mohammadi and Soraya Azizpanah, were stopped at Immam Khomeini Airport and ordered to report to Tehran’s Revolutionary Court within 72 hours.  They were not given an explanation.[8]
  • Four days after the June 12, 2009 election, Greek journalist Iason Athanasiadis was arrested and detained as he was leaving the country through Tehran’s airport.[9]
  • Aida Sadaat, journalist and women’s rights activist, was prohibited from leaving Iran after signing an open letter in August 2009 criticizing the government’s reaction to post-election protests.[10]
  • Zhina Modares Gorji, a women’s rights activist in Sanandaj, was on her way to Dubai on November 13, 2009 when she was stopped in the airport.  She passed through the Passport Control Desk and received an exit stamp, but was paged over the airport speaker.  A plainclothes agent confiscated her passport and ordered her to report to the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj.[11]
  • On March 8, 2010, authorities prevented Simin Behbahani, Iran’s national poet and veteran women’s rights activist, from leaving Imam Khomeini Airport and confiscated her passport.  Commentators believe that Behbahani’s travel ban was in retaliation for comments she made to the international media shortly after Neda Agha-Soltan’s June 2009 death.[12]
  • Mansoureh Behkish, a member of the Mothers for Peace and the Mourning Mothers, was prevented from traveling to Italy to visit her children on March 17, 2010.  Passport agents confiscated her passport without explanation.  The Mourning Mothers (Madaran-i Azadar) is a civil society group formed by mothers (and their supporters) who lost their children and spouses in state-sanctioned violence following Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election.  The Mourning Mothers hold vigils for their loved ones.[13]
  • In March 2010, the Iranian government banned former President Mohammad Khatami from leaving Iran to attend a nuclear disarmament conference.[14]
  • In January 2011, authorities barred Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran, from travelling to the United States to receive an award for advancing sustainable transportation in Tehran.[15]
  • In July 2011, authorities again banned former President Mohammad Khatami from leaving Iran.  He was scheduled to attend a political seminar in Ireland.[16]


[1] Witness Statement of Soraya [pseudonym] prepared by IHRDC and approved by witness (April 12, 2010), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/witness-testimony/3182-witness-statement-soraya.html?p=4.

[2] IHRDC, Press Release: IHRDC Condemns the Death Sentence of Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani (Oct 9, 2009), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/press-statements/3133-ihrdc-condems-the-death-sentence-of-mohammad-reza-ali-zamani.html.

[3] Witness Statement of Ensafali Hedayat, prepared by IHRDC and approved by witness (Nov. 24, 2008) ¶ 21, available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/witness-testimony/3173-witness-statement-ensafali-hedayat.html?p=6.

[4] Witness Statement of Arash Sigarchi, prepared by IHRDC and approved by witness (Oct. 23, 2008) ¶ 54, available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/witness-testimony/3176-witness-statement-arash-sigarchi.html?p=17.

[5] IHRDC, Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and the Suppression of Dissent in Iran 87 (Feb. 2010), available athttp://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/reports/3161-violent-aftermath-the-2009-election-and-suppression-of-dissent-in-iran.html?p=8.

[6] Silencing the Women’s Rights Movement in Iran, supra note 3, at 24.

[7] Id. at 25.

[8] Id. at 16.

[9]Violent Aftermath, supra note 11.

[10] Id. at 69.

[11] Silencing the Women’s Rights Movement in Iran, supra note 3, at 39.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at 17, note 123.

[14] Fars News Agency, Mohammad Khatami Mamnouolkhorouj Shodeh ast ]Mohammad Khatami Was Travel-Banned[ (Mar. 9, 2010) available athttp://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8812181003 

[15] Fars News Agency, Mokhalefat-e Vezarat-e Eomour-e Kharej-e ba Safar-e Ghalibaf be Heiat-e Hamrah be Washington [Foreign Ministry’s Objection to Traveling of Ghalibaf and his Delegation to Washington] (Jan. 21, 2011) available at http://www.farsnews.net/newstext.php?nn=8911010331.  

[16]  Haaretz, Report: Former president Khatami barred from leaving Iran (July 26, 2011) available at http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/report-former-president-khatami-barred-from-leaving-iran-1.375404.

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Tagged as:

Travel Restrictions, House Arrest