Using Photographs of Protests Outside Iran to Intimidate Arriving Passengers at the Airport
Authorities at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran have been collecting photographs of Iranians in protest gatherings outside the country. These Iranians have participated in gatherings to show solidarity with Iranians inside Iran for condemning violations of human rights in Iran. When leaving IKI Airport, some Iranian citizens have been randomly taken to rooms and after being questioned about the country and city to which they were traveling, their faces have been checked against available photographs in attempts to identify Iranians who have attended such gatherings.
Several people who have recently returned from Tehran told International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that at Imam Khomeini Airport, they spent a few hours with anxiety as their faces were compared to available photographs. One of these individuals who has recently returned from Tehran told International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “…after I checked in my luggage, an officer asked me to follow him to the side entrance door. In the room I noticed people sitting behind monitors showing hundreds of faces on them. They were not passport photographs, but photographs of people in different gatherings. In one photograph a girl had raised a fist and in another a young man was yelling.” These individuals said that at departure time, officers asked the names of destination states and cities and when they took people to the room where they checked for photographs, they searched on the cities where the individual was heading in order to see whether he or she had participated in rallys.
In another case, a young man who spent several weeks in Tehran, was asked to go into a room with a security officer after his passport was stamped at arrival. After they asked him to open his Facebook page on a computer, surprised, he told them that he did not have a Facebook page. The officer started searching for his name on Facebook and asked him to enter his Facebook account. After a few minutes of facing the young man’s resistance, he told him that he would face problems upon departure. No one caused him any problems upon departure, however.
Such actions to intimidate Iranians who live outside Iran are meant to prevent their presence in gatherings and are clear violations of these individuals’ citizens rights and their privacy.
According to an eye witness, Islamic Republic authorities send individuals into different gatherings outside Iran to take photographs of participants and to turn them into the Iranian authorities. In another case, a young man who participated in a demonstration in Germany noticed that someone was taking several pictures of his face. He went toward the photographer and asked him to stop taking photographs. When the man would not stop taking pictures, a scuffle broke out between the photographer and others who were following the episode nearby. In the end the police arrested them all. The young men insisted that this photographer was taking pictures for purposes other than personal use, so the police took his cell phone and looked through his photographs. The police officers were surprised to see that he had taken hundreds of pictures from different people’s faces on his cell phone.