As Millions Face Poverty, Iran’s Government Dissolves Largest NGO for the Poor

May 26, 2022 – While millions of Iranians are struggling to make ends meet, the Iranian government has shut down the country’s oldest and largest independent non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on poverty alleviation, the Imam Ali Popular Student Relief Society (IAPSRS).“The Iranian authorities are so threatened by any independent individuals and organizations that they sever lifelines for the Iranian people even when they are needed most,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

An appeals court’s decision to uphold a preliminary ruling issued last year to dissolve the NGO, commonly referred to as the Imam Ali Society, comes at a time when the Iranian people face debilitating inflation and growing poverty.

The government in Iran has meanwhile been violently repressing protests that erupted earlier this month over skyrocketing food prices. Scores of activists and protesters have been arrested under the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi and protesters have been killed by security forces.

“Iranian society is facing intensifying state suppression that is aimed at eliminating grassroots, civil society activists and organizations through all means—from killing defenseless protesters to handcuffing individuals who are trying to alleviate hunger,” said Ghaemi.

Court Ordered NGO to Pay for “Study” That Was Never Carried Out

The preliminary court order to dissolve the IAPSRS was issued in March 2021 upon request by the Interior Ministry, which was then operating under President Hassan Rouhani, and was followed by the detention of several of the organization’s senior staff.

Branch 28 of the Appeals Court in Tehran province upheld the ruling, the IAPSRS announced in a statement on May 23, 2022.

“The case judge decided to refer the matter to a panel of experts and the IAPSRS paid 15 million tomans (497 USD, free market rate) in fees to conduct a study about its activities,” the statement.

“However, the study was not implemented, and no report was presented by the expert panel. Also, the indictment contains unproven opinions and accusations,” the statement said.

Established in 2009, the Imam Ali Society is the only NGO in Iran with UN advisory status and is a member of the UN’s Economic and Social Council. It is devoted to providing services and support to impoverished families and children.

It was shuttered through an unprecedented and unlawful judicial process, with the state’s security-intelligence establishment arresting the organization’s staff under manufactured accusations that were never proven.

Reacting to the Appeals Court ruling, Iranian human rights lawyer Saeid Dehghan noted that the direct intervention of the Supreme Leader’s Office, the Intelligence Ministry, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization in this civil matter was unprecedented.

“In the past, it was the Revolutionary Court that would issue revolutionary decisions in such cases,” he tweeted.

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