Dear Readers,

A year ago I wrote, “Iran is not done surprising us, of that I am sure.” I am sure many of you would agree that those words are still true.

The door that was closed to civil society opened just a crack with the surprising first round election of Hassan Rouhani. His election raised the hopes of many and echoed the widespread aspiration of people in Iran to meaningfully engage with the world community.

Civil society is pushing the door open wider. Every day people in Iran are working for a better society. They are raising their voices against environmental degradation, forced hijab, and poverty. They are working to make sure medication reaches people in need. They are fighting for justice and demanding their rights.

The new administration was quick to put forward a citizen’s rights document. Even so, executions proceeded at a rapid pace and minorities continued to feel the brunt of the government’s oppressive policies. The work of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran has never been more important than it is now. The work done by the Special Rapporteur supports that of rights activists inside the country who are risking their freedom to challenge violations and defend the vulnerable. Without domestic efforts, the international community can do little.

2013 was a busy year for Arseh Sevom. It was a year of collaboration, partnerships, and exploration. In 2013, we brought eighteen people together to discuss civil society in Iran and create a strategy for moving forward as an organization more effectively. We did this by spending a significant amount of time mapping out Iran’s civil society, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, talking to civil society actors and organizations inside as well as outside Iran.

In 2014 and 2015, we want to hear more from you, our readers. Talk to us. Let us know what help you need and what we can do better. We’re listening.

Bert Taken
Board President, Arseh Sevom

Download the full report [pdf]
Amsterdam, May 2014