Iran | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Not Free

The Islamic Republic of Iran holds elections regularly, but they fall short of democratic standards due to the role of the hard-line Guardian Council, which disqualifies all candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment. Ultimate power rests in the hands of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the unelected institutions under his control.

Key Developments: 
  • In February, Iran held elections for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body tasked with appointing and monitoring the supreme leader. Most reformist candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council.
  • In May, prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison on national security charges stemming from her activism, including membership in a group that aims to reduce the high number of executions in Iran. The sentence was upheld on appeal in September.
  • In August, Iranian authorities hanged 25 Sunni Muslim prisoners who had been convicted on terrorism-related charges; human rights organizations and lawyers representing some of the men cited a pattern of due process violations in the cases. Iran also continued to impose the death penalty on juvenile offenders, including a prisoner who had been convicted of raping a teenage boy when he was 17.
  • In October, a court in Iran sentenced an Iranian-American businessman and his 80-year-old father to 10 years in prison for collaborating with the U.S. government. Their friends and family dismissed the charges, calling the men “hostages” of the Iranian regime.
Executive Summary: 

Human rights abuses continued unabated in 2016, with the authorities carrying out Iran’s largest mass execution in years and launching a renewed crackdown on women’s rights activists. The regime maintained restrictions on freedom of expression, both offline and online, and made further arrests of journalists, bloggers, labor union activists, and dual nationals visiting the country, with some facing heavy prison sentences.

Hard-liners in control of powerful institutions, including the judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were behind many of the year’s abuses. There were no indications that President Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed moderate seeking reelection in 2017, was willing or able to push back against repressive forces and deliver the greater social freedoms he had promised.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi remained under house arrest for a sixth year without being formally charged or put on trial. As in 2015, the media were barred from quoting or reporting on former president Mohammad Khatami, another important reformist figure.


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