Iranian Officials to Answer Questions About Foreign Travel Bans
Iranian citizens can now learn whether they have been banned from foreign travel, a change in policy from recent years. “Citizens can appear at their local passport offices holding their passports and inquire about whether they have been banned from foreign travel,” the Head of the Passport Office of the Iranian Police told Fars News Agency. “Citizens are told, according to orders, from which authority and at what time and with what reference number they have been banned from foreign travel,” said General Mahmoud Sadeghi.
Foreign travel bans are routinely imposed on Iranian citizens. According to Iranian law, the Iranian Judiciary must inform the Passport Office about an individual’s travel ban. Reasons for a travel ban include security concerns, financial debts, outstanding taxes, crime records of individuals abroad during prior trips, and outstanding sentences awaiting enforcement, as well as cases in which individuals who must give others permission to leave the country, such as husbands of married women and fathers of unmarried women and under-age children, request the Judiciary for a travel ban.
Iranians with travel bans are often unaware of their status until they reach the airport. Thousands of Iranians are informed each year about their travel bans only at Passport Control and as they prepare to board their flights.
Civil and political activists are often banned from travel even without any judicial orders. The presence of security organizations in all Iranian airports, particularly those with border checkpoints, has enabled security organizations to determine whether or not any Iranian citizen can leave the country, regardless of the existence of a judicial case against him or her.
In recent years, many activists have been kept from their flights even though their names were not on the list of those banned from foreign travel by the Judiciary. A political activist who was trying to leave the country through Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport last year told the Campaign that he was shocked when security forces kept him from boarding his flight. “I had an open judicial case. The court trial had been postponed for three years, and [naturally] no rulings had been issued in the case. When I tried to board a plane to go to Europe for a professional conference, my passport was confiscated at Passport Control, and I was told to go to the Intelligence Ministry to answer some questions. My objections about the fact that there were no judicial orders banning me from foreign travel were fruitless,” he told the Campaign.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC’s Intelligence Unit are two of the organizations that can arbitrarily bar people from traveling abroad without judicial orders. “No organization, including the Judiciary, is accountable for illegal travel bans,” one civil activist told the Campaign. “Although I was not banned from foreign travel by the Judiciary, I was kept from boarding a flight at Imam Khomeini Airport two years ago. They confiscated my passport at the airport. After a whole year when they gave me back my passport, without giving any reasons why it had been confiscated, last year I left the country through the Turkish land border. If I had tried to leave through a Tehran airport, they would have most likely kept me from traveling due to the illegal lists maintained by Intelligence Ministry and other security organizations at the airports,” the activist added.