Iranian human rights defenders in the Diaspora. A needs assessment of Iranians in European exile

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Alvano, Olivia
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Human rights defenders are the key to protect human rights on local levels. Their importance was recognized through the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms from 1998. But recently authoritarian regimes such as Iran have closed down on the space for civil society, leading to a migration wave of activists. These activists are forced to live in exile, facing challenges due to their new surroundings as well as due to their continued activism from distance. Not many organisations have the specific situation of exiled human rights defenders in focus although exiled activists can achieve immense change for their authoritarian home country. In the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, the persecution of all kinds of human rights activists increased with the Green Movement in 2009 and many activists left first to either Turkey or Iraq and, if possible, continued their way to either Europe or the United States of America. They reformed in exile and created different initiatives to support their life in exile. The author interviewed two persons living in exile and two organisations working in the field of human rights defenders, trying to draw out the gaps between the needs of the activists and the offered support by organisations, also showing that there is a need to support the creation and strengthening of an Iranian activists network in European exile. In conclusion, civil society’s work is just at the beginning in what they could achieve and in an era of rising populism and authoritarianism diasporas are a tool not used enough to pressure the different governments and actors. Keywords: authoritarianism; human rights defenders; exile; diaspora; Iran; activist networks; transnational advocacy networks.
Second semester University: University of Padua
human rights workers, authoritarianism, Iran, exile, advocacy, activists, international cooperation