United for Iran has compiled the information for the Iran Prison Atlas through a knowledgeable team of Iranian researchers, many of whom are human rights activists and former political prisoners. To gather and vet data about the prisoners, United for Iran’s team is in consistent and direct contact with the families and friends of political prisoners, as well as various rights activists and political, religious, and ethnic communities inside and outside Iran. United for Iran meets with various stakeholders, to gather data and to build contacts. Information contained within this atlas is verified by multiple credible sources, including but not limited to personal contacts, family members, media, and other non-governmental organizations.
As a consequence of severe state repression and a lack of independent media and human rights organizations, Iranian human rights defenders face severe challenges in the process of data acquisition and verification on political prisoners. After the 2009 election, human rights organizations that had been operating informally were targeted and shuttered by judicial and intelligence organs. Staff members of these organizations who were able to leave the country have managed to continue their activities and maintain underground networks inside the country to report violations. Family members of political prisoners and their close acquaintances are threatened by security forces to not speak out or provide information to organizations or the media or face severe consequences.
The aforementioned restrictions on the free flow of information create barriers to providing a fully comprehensive atlas of political prisoners, prisons, and judges in Iran. As such, we believe that the actual number of political prisoners is higher.