Human Rights Watch and 14 other nongovernmental organizations are calling on the Iranian government to immediately overturn a court order to dissolve one of the country's largest registered NGOs working on poverty alleviation, calling the decision a "new assault" on independent associations.
In a joint statement issued on March 10, the human rights and civil society organizations are also urging the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the member states of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)to raise the case with Iran's government, and to "pressure them to stop further curtailing the already restricted civil space in Iran."
According to the verdict published in the media last week, the Iranian court backed the Interior Ministry's assessment that Imam Ali's Popular Students Relief Society (IAPSRS) had "deviated" from its original mission and insulted religious beliefs.
It referenced evidence that includes a statement by IAPSRS following the brutal crackdown on protesters in November 2019.
The court ruling follows "years of mounting pressure" by the Iranian authorities on the group, which over the past 20 years has provided "essential support" to marginalized groups, the NGOs said in their statement.
They said the group's founder, Sharmin Meymandinejad, was arrested in July 2020 and charged with "insulting the [supreme] leader and founder of the Islamic republic." He was released on bail in October.
Hard-liners in Iran have in recent years criticized the charity and accused it of being misused for political purposes and damaging the Islamic republic by highlighting problems, as well as working with foreign countries and international bodies.
Since 2010, IAPSRS has held special consultative status with ECOSOC and participated in side events at the UNHRC.