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HRW slams crackdown on Iran's activists

Human Rights Watch has released a damning report about the treatment of activists in Iran since the election protests in 2009. The watchdog linked the crackdown to a spike in the number of Iranian asylum seekers.

Iranian authorities have subjected the country's civil society activists to a "campaign of repression" over the last three years, causing the number of Iranian asylum seekers to rise, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Friday said.

The report, "Why They Left: Stories of Iranian Activists in Exile," argues that Iran's government has severely dealt with political opposition members, journalists, lawyers and activists since a controversial election win by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi triggered mass demonstrations in 2009.

"The post-2009 crackdown has profoundly affected civil society in Iran," Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director, said in a statement.

"The images of police beating protesters mercilessly may have faded from television and computer screens, but many Iranian activists continue to make the painful choice to abandon homes and families."

The report details how activists have allegedly been the victims of "extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and widespread infringements of Iranians' rights to freedom of assembly and expression."

The number of Iranian asylum seekers grew from 11,537 in 2009 to 15,185 in 2010 and 18,128 in 2011 as a result, according to the report, which cited figures from 44 countries.

The watchdog also criticized the treatment of Iranian asylum seekers in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, flagging shortcomings in living conditions and the processing of asylum applications.

sej/cmk (AFP, Reuters)