The last update to the methodology was made in May 2020.
What is the Iran Prison Atlas?
The Iran Prison Atlas (IPA) is a comprehensive database of political prisoner cases in Iran. The IPA gathers and verifies three types of information:
The first version of the Iran Prison Atlas was released in 2011. Since March 2016, the scope of the activities of the IPA has expanded and it is now available to users in the current format. The current version of the IPA contains information gathered since March 2016.
What information is recorded on The Iran Prison Atlas?
The IPA gathers three primary types of information:
How is the information collected?
IPA’s researchers collect information through:
What is the purpose of the Iran Prison Atlas?
Our team aims to:
What prisoners make it into the Iran Prison Atlas (i.e. how does the IPA define ‘political prisoner’)?
The IPA includes anyone detained for their beliefs, political activities, or free expression that fall within one or more of the following groups of prisoners:
The IPA generally uses the term 'political prisoner’ over ‘prisoner of conscience’ because the term ‘prisoner of conscience’ is narrow and excludes anyone associated with political violence or promoting political violence in their speech.
Are profiles made for prisoners as soon as they are arrested?
The IPA has set a minimum detention time of about two weeks before a detention is recorded on the database (one month in the case of mass arrest situations). It may take up to a month or more to record a person's information in IPA because many cases are not publicly known, especially in instances of mass arrests, or it might take time for the IPA team to properly verify the circumstances around the detention.
Is the IPA useful for political activists, academics, or human rights organizations?
Iran Prison Atlas is an advocacy tool for NGOs, activists, foreign governments, and all people working to improve human rights in Iran. The Atlas is designed to record the treatment of every current Iranian political prisoner.
By dividing prisoners by activity, gender, religion, ethnicity, charges and human rights violations and combining them with our Timeline, the Iran Prison Atlas enables political, social, and human rights researchers and activists to:
With the help of the IPA human rights organizations can:
Key people in the Iranian human rights movement are using the Atlas. For example, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, regularly used the Atlas in his reports. Iran Prison Atlas has also been a pivotal tool in encouraging countries to vote for UN resolutions calling on Iran to improve its human rights record.
What should be considered in using the IPA?
The IPA researchers do not have access to everyone’s religion or ethnic information. For example, the ethnicity or religion of a blogger arrested in Shiraz is usually unclear. Many people are unable to define themselves as a specific ethnic group, and some sources do not answer questions about religion. Therefore, in using the IPA note that the "uncertain" option plays an important role in dealing with various issues, especially ethnic affiliation or religious belief.
The IPA may record a person's possible ethnic or religious affiliation depending on geographic location, source of news, and other factors.
Generally, the judicial security system acts on the basis of a family's religion except in cases where a prisoner is arrested for religious reasons. For example, if someone is recorded as Shia in the IPA, it doesn't necessarily mean that he or she has Shiite beliefs as well. The family’s religion is assumed to be Shiite due to the geographic area of the arrest and political representation.
The IPA sets the basis of prisoner’s rights on Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code unless the Judiciary's refusal to comply with this article is substantiated.
In the Judges section, the “Other / total Sentences” option may be used for cases where the prisoner's sentence has changed in unusual ways, such as forgiveness of the sentences or instances where multiple cases of a prisoner have been combined.
In Iran’s judiciary, exile has various legal and illegal forms. The IPA records the exile on the prisoner’s profile in three forms: "Exile" for people who have been sentenced only to exile, “Exile” and “exiled to prison outside the city of residence” for those who have been sentenced to exile in prison and "exiled to prison outside the city of residence" for those who have been exiled without a judge's order.
The IPA considers detention in a closed room or suite for more than two weeks as an imprisonment in solitary confinement.
The IPA records a hunger strike when a prisoner refuses to eat, receive serum, or otherwise take nutrients for at least a week.
The IPA records visits and phone calls barring when a prisoner is deprived of a visit or a telephone call for more than two weeks and also in the early days after being arrested.
Whereas the Iranian government deprives political prisoners of having an elected lawyer during the preliminary hearing and the judiciary has also endorsed this organized deprivation, the IPA generally assumes no access to a lawyer unless the contrary is proved.
The IPA assumes that the detainee has been released if there is no information on the continued detention.
The IPA researchers may omit partial information such as a prisoner's multi-day transfer from detention to prison before release. This approach is necessary for the unification and deletion of statistical outliers.
How is the scope of prisoners' activity determined?
The IPA classifies prisoners based on the scope of their possible activity. There are currently 16 activity scopes in the IPA. Three of these are explained below:
I know someone who has been arrested in Iran for ideological or political reasons. Why can't I find her/his name in the IPA?
I know someone who has been arrested in Iran for ideological or political reasons, a judge who has made a ruling for political or ideological reasons or a detention center where someone is imprisoned for political and ideological reasons. Can I add my own information to the IPA?
Please send an email to ipa[at]united4iran.org, If you have information about a political prisoner, judge, prison or detention center, or a security or judicial center involved in dealing with political or ideological activists. Our researchers will review your information and publish it when validated, or contact you for further review.
Is the Iran Prison Atlas, really an Atlas?
The Iran Prison Atlas is really an Atlas. The only difference between this Atlas with conventional Atlases is that its researchers are both searching for what happened in the past and are currently updating information.
Please note that the information of all prisoners is not published in the media, and some files cannot be accessed by the IPA. The fact is, there is no reliable estimate of the number of such cases.
The Atlas enables users not only to zoom in and see the story of one person but also to zoom out and see patterns and trends of abuse among Iranian prisons and judges. The Atlas pairs unique stories with the big picture and is a valuable tool for anyone working for judicial and prison reform and the release of all political prisoners.
A real-time interactive map shows the distribution and the population of political prisoners in each prison. Users can monitor trends or drill into the data by focusing, for example, only on lockups administered by the Ministry of Intelligence.
A demographic matrix helps users sort current political prisoners based on ethnicity, gender, charges, and other classifications. Finally, Iran Prison Atlas ranks judges based on a number of factors, including those who have given the highest average prison terms against current political prisoners, highest total verdicts against political prisoners, or the highest number of procedural violations against political prisoners.
What is the reason for citing the source in some cases and not citing in other cases?
What kinds of violations are entered into the IPA?
The violations entered into the IPA are based on articles of international law signed by the Iranian government. Since the Iranian security and judicial system violates the Iranian and international law systematically, we were forced to intensify the legal criteria, appointed by international covenants, general comments, and Iranian domestic law. Otherwise, we had to enter most of the violations for most political prisoners, which could lead to senseless and indifferential statistics.
The Iran Prison Atlas Group and United for Iran have a multi-step process to validate the information on each case. This process was designed by Atlas researchers with over 10 years of experience in investigating Iranian political prisoners, prisons, and judges. However, gathering information on cases governed by a non-independent and purposely vague judiciary has many challenges and unusual complexities. As such, the United for Iran organization has no legal responsibility for the information provided.
Human rights activists and researchers interested in more details or related resources can email ipa[at]united4iran.org. We will respond to emails promptly. The Iran Prison Atlas Group expresses its willingness to cooperate with other human rights activists and those who seek to support political and ordinary prisoners.
Share the Iran Prison Atlas with your network. Click on the take action button to support an individual prisoner or a class of persecuted people in Iran. You can contact us with information or questions at ip[at]united4iran.org.