Prepared by

Karen Parker, J.D.
Anne Heindel, J.D.
Adam Branch Humanitarian Law Project/
International Educational Development





The situation in Iran is a civil war. There is also armed action between Kurdish groups in Iran and Iraq, with some implications for the Iranian government.


The armed conflict in Iran is between the government and the National Council of Resistance (NCR), established in Tehran in 1981. The NCR consists of the People’s Mojahedin Organization, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the National Democratic Front and groups affiliated with these three organizations. The National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), the military wing of the NCR, has maintained control of certain areas in Iran. At present, a majority of the NLA’s top military commanders are women, and women comprise about 35% of the armed forces. The NLA was able to amass huge supplies of weapons and war materiel by raids in Iran in the closing years of the Iraq-Iran war, including US and British-made tanks and personnel carriers.

The Iranian government has been carrying out assassinations against Iranian exiles around the world including the 1990 murder of Kasem Rajavi, the NCR Human Rights representative in Geneva, and the 1996 murders of Zahra Rajabi, who worked with refugees, and her colleague Abdul Ali Moradi in Istanbul. There were many demonstrations in Iran in 1996 protesting the Irani regime’s human rights abuses. Irani forces fired on some of them killing, in two incidents, 27 in a protest in north-western Iran in March, and 7 in Lorestan Province in April. 130 students from Tabriz were arrested and nine hanged in public in May 1996.

In January 1997, Iran and Iraq began massing troops along the border in anticipation of an expected large-scale assault by Iran on NLA positions. The NLA is reported to have 30,000 soldiers at its Ashraf camp within Iraq. By August 1997, it was reported that the NLA had carried out 294 operations inside Iran since January, including attacks on bases of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. During the Fall of 1997, an escalation of the numbers of military clashes took place, with reports of more than 350 between September 23 and November 3, 1997 alone. High casualties of government forces were reported in Khorramshahr, Moussian, Dehloran and Qasr-e-Shirin and in the provinces of Khuzistan, Ilam and Kermanshah. Air strikes by government forces began on September 29 against NLA base-camps situated near the cities of Kut and Jalula, Iraq, in the Iraqi no-fly zone.

The Irani regime claimed to have the ability to produce missiles with a 250 km range. (The longest-range missiles during the Iran-Iraq war had ranges of about 40 km). The Irani regime intends to mass-produce a light rapid-response battle tank (the Tosan), and announced in September 1997 that it also possessed the technology to produce fighter planes and tanks. There are disturbing but credible reports from UN bodies that the regime has stockpiled 200 tons of VX nerve gas and 6,000 gallons of anthrax.

Since the election of a new President, Mohammad Khatami, in May 1997 (he took office in August 1997), there has been little improvement in the overall situation of human rights in Iran, a significant escalation of civilian resistance activities, and a significant escalation in the armed conflict. There was a major demonstration on February 22, 1999 in Sanadaj in which 20 were killed, dozens wounded, and over 2000 arrested. Assassinations of political opponents in 1998 included the November 22, 1998, murders of author Darioush Fornouhar, his wife and two other writers by a group calling itself "Fedayian-e Islam." Bombing incidents attributed to the regime continue abroad as well as inside Iran. In February 1999, the regime denied a visa for the son of former US President Carter.

Current Situation:

The armed conflict again escalated in 1999 and up to the time of writing (June 2000). In June, Iran carried out a missle attack against the NLA’s "Aschraf" base. Numerous clashes took place in towns and villages throughout the country, some in towns quite near the capital. The NLA carried out an unusual "balloon warfare" event at the beginning of the school year when it launched huge balloons near the capital and elsewhere in the country that carried slogans and the photographs of its leaders. The NLA announced that it was involved in propaganda activities in 662 villages.

In late October 1999, President Khatami visited France. Although France had blocked its borders to prevent Iranian exiles from other countries from entering, Khatami’s visit provoked huge demonstrations in Paris as well as in eighteen other cities in Europe and North America. Following his return to Iran, the Iranian Armed Forces launched a SCUD missle attack on the NLA’s "Habib" base in southern Iraq, following which Iraq issued a communique warning that this represented a "threat" to the security of the area. A February 6, 2000, attempt against the NLA "Anzali" base failed when NLA forces discovered the missles before they fired.

In December 1999, the NLA lauched a series of attacks on the regime’s bases in Ilam province that continued into February 2000, expanding to include attacks directed at the regime’s forces in Kermanshah province. Accurate casualty figures are not available.

In 1999, there was also an increase in public hangings and in amputations of fingers and hands. Prisoners continue to be hanged, including over 42 prisoners in a five month period at Rajaishahr prision outside Tehran. Political arrests continue to escalate, and one of Khatami’s top advisors (former Deputy Prosecutor-General Abbas Abdi) reports that arrests had increased 3.5 times to nearly 500,000 per year. Public demonstrations also rose, including widespread student demonstrations and strikes in January 2000.

A large number of public demonstrations marred the February 18, 2000 Majlis elections, which reports indicate were largely boycotted. In one post-election demonstration in Shoush on February 19, 8 were killed, nearly one hundred wounded, and 200 arrested.

Regarding the situtation of the Kurdish population, a leading Kurdish organization urged a boycott of the February elections. There are still many land mines in the Kurdish regions of Iran, including the border areas of Salmas, Urmieh, Piranshar, Rabat and Bokan. The Kurdish people forcibly removed from Kermanshah during the war with Iraq have still not been allowed back to their homes, and their villages are heavily mined.

The UN action listed below generally does not address the armed conflict but rather the human rights abuses of the regime. The conflict is receiving increased international media attention.

UN Action:

UNIIMOG (8/88-2/91).

GA Res 54/177 (12/17/99).

GA Res 53/158 (12/9/98). GA Res 52/142 (12/12/97).

GA Res 51/107 (12/12/96). GA Res 50/188 (12/22/95).

GA Res 49/202 (12/23/94). GA Res 48/145 (12/20/93).

GA Res 47/146 (12/18/92). GA Res 45/173 (12/18/90).

Comm Res 2000/28. Comm Res 1999/13.

Comm Res 1998/80. Comm Res 1997/54.

Comm Res 1996/84. Comm Res 1995/68.

Comm Res 1994/73. Comm Res 1993/62.

Comm Res 1992/67. Comm Res 1991/82.

Comm Res 1990/79. Comm Res 1984/54.

Sub-Comm Res 1996/7. Sub-Comm Res 1995/18.

Sub-Comm Res 1994/16. Sub-Comm Res 1993/14.

Sub-Comm Res 1992/15. Sub-Comm Res 1991/9.

Sub-Comm Res 1990/9. Sub-Comm Res 1990/8.

Reports of the Special Representative:

Reynaldo Galindo Pohl: E/CN.4/1990/24; E/CN.4/1991/35; E/CN.4 1992/34; E/CN.4/1993/41 & Add.1; E/CN.4/1994/50; E/CN.4/1995/55.

Maurice Copithorne: E/CN.4/1996/59; A/51/479 (11 Oct.1996);

E/CN.4/1997/63; A/52/472; E/CN.4/1998/59; E/CN.4/1999/32; E/CN.4/2000/35.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression:

Abid Hussain: E/CN.4/1996/39/Add.2; E/CN.4/1999/64.

Reports of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:

E/CN.4/1990/13; E/CN.4/1991/20; E/CN.4/1992/18; E/CN.4/1993/25; E/CN.4/1994/26; E/CN.4/1995/36; E/CN.4/1996/38; E/CN.4/1997/34; E/CN.4/1998/43; E/CN.4/1999/62; E/CN.4/2000/64.

Reports of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:

E/CN.4/1993/24; E/CN.4/1995/31 & Add.2; E/CN.4/1997/4 &

Add.1; Dec No 14/1996; E/CN.4/1997/4.

Reports of the Special Rapporteur on Torture:

P. Kooijmans: E/CN.4/1991/17; E/CN.4/1992/17; E/CN.4/1993/26.

Nigel S. Rodley: E/CN.4/1994/31; E/CN.4/1995/34; E/CN.4/1996/35 & Add.1;

E/CN.4/1997/7 & Add.1; E/CN.4/1998/38 & Add.1; E/CN.4/1999/61; E/CN.4/2000/9.

Reports of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions:

S. Amos Wako: E/CN.4/1990/22; E/CN.4/1991/36; E/CN.4/1992/30.

Bacre Waly N’diaye: E/CN.4/1993/46; E/CN.4/1994/7; E/CN.4/1995/61; E/CN.4/1996/4; E/CN.4/1997/60 & Add.1; E/CN.4/1998/68 & Add.1.

Asma Jahangir: E/CN.4/1999/39 & Add. 1; E/CN.4/2000/3 & Add.1.

Reports of the Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Religious Intolerance:

Angelo Vidal d’Almeida Ribeiro: E/CN.4/1991/56; E/CN.4/1992/52;

E/CN.4/1993/62 & Corr. 1.

Abdelfattah Amor: E/CN.4/1994/79; E/CN.4/1995/91 & Add.1; E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2; E/CN.4/1997/91; E/CN.4/2000/65.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism:

Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo: E/CN.4/2000/16.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers:

Param Cumaraswamy: E/CN.4/2000/61.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression:

Abid Hussain: E/CN.4/2000/63.

Complete Country Reports