Activists, lawyers, journalists and bloggers have been fleeing Iran in record numbers since the Islamic regime began a brutal crackdown on civil society three years ago, Human Rights Watch reported Thursday.
The suppression campaign was launched in response to demonstrators who took to the streets in 2009 to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following a vote plagued by vote-rigging allegations.
The report says asylum claims in neighboring Turkey have jumped 72% since Tehran began targeting opponents so ruthlessly that Human Rights Watch said independent rights groups could no longer operate openly in Iran.
“The post-2009 crackdown has profoundly affected civil society in Iran,” said Joe Stork, the New York-based rights group’s deputy Middle East director. “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 urges Canada, Australia, the United States and European Union to consider admitting more Iranian refugees, “especially those who have left Iran because of persecution in response to their civil society political activities.”
The Canadian government suspended diplomatic relations with Iran in September over Tehran’s rogue nuclear program and human rights abuses. The government also declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.
This week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in an attempt to ratchet up pressure on Tehran, expanded economic sanctions on the regime include members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a paramilitary involved in the nuclear and missile programs and blamed for attacks well beyond Iran’s borders.