Press release

Iranian People Deserve Freedoms of Assembly, Speech, Information

The government’s brutal crackdown on recent demonstrations is an unacceptable assault on fundamental human rights.

In response to the Iranian authorities’ increasingly violent repression of antigovernment protests, Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz issued the following statement:

“The nationwide protests in response to the suspicious death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Tehran’s so-called morality police are a manifestation of the Iranian people’s outrage at decades of oppression and the brutality that so many Iranian women face on a daily basis. Activists, students, and other people from all walks of life are putting themselves on the line to demand freedom and justice—but the government’s sweeping crackdown on these protests shows that progress is far from assured.

“Over the past 10 days, the Iranian regime has responded to demonstrations with deadly force, censored unfavorable media narratives, prosecuted those who spread ‘rumors’ about the protests, and hindered people’s access to vital information online. Blocking social media platforms and disrupting internet and mobile service during times of social unrest is a classic authoritarian tactic. In its desperate bid to retain power, this undemocratic regime clearly has no compunction about denying its citizens their fundamental liberties and their very lives.

“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the Iranian regime’s escalating repression of its people, and we call on other governments to stand with these courageous protesters and hold Iranian officials to account for their abuses. If the cause of democracy and human rights is to prevail in Iran, democratic countries and organizations around the world must support Iranians in their quest for freedom from a tyrannical theocracy.”


On September 14, Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran from her home in Kurdistan Province when she was arrested by Iran’s Guidance Patrol, colloquially known as the morality police, for wearing her headscarf “improperly.” While in police custody, Amini fell into a coma, and on September 16, Amini’s family confirmed that she had died in Tehran’s Kasra Hospital. Authorities deny allegations that law enforcement officers killed Amini, insisting that she suffered a heart attack, a claim her family says is ludicrous given that she was in perfect health.

Protests broke out in front of Kasra Hospital and in Amini’s hometown of Saqqez within hours after her death was confirmed. Support for the protests spread quickly across Iran, with demonstrations arising in at least 50 cities nationwide. Crowds of civilian protesters clashed with security forces, expressing their anger over violence against women, onerous state restrictions on personal autonomy, and the broader suppression of basic freedoms in the country. Many women protesters removed and burned their headscarves.

Authorities have used batons, water cannons, tear gas, and gunfire to disperse protesters, and they have restricted access to internet and mobile service. As of September 26, at least 41 protesters had been killed, and authorities claim to have arrested at least 1,200 individuals.

Iran is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2022 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2021.

Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.