The Iranian Parliament has temporarily shelved a bill that would give the government unprecedented power over non-governmental organizations. MPs had already approved 26 articles of the bill titled “Establishment and supervision of the activities of non-governmental organizations.”
Khabar-on-line quotes Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani saying the bill needs further review by the social commission. According to Larijani’s announcement, the repeated changes made to the articles passed so far have affected the bill’s later articles. He gave the social commission a couple of months to review the bill and return it to parliament.
Following Larijani’s statements, the deputy of the economic commission, Mohammad Kazem Delkhosh, called for a three-month hiatus for the bill, which drew criticism from a number of MPs.
Sari MP Alireza Yousefnejad maintained that parliament has reviewed this bill the bill at length, saying: “It is not dignified to take up the Parliament’s time and then return this bill in another few months for further reviews.”
Zohreh Elahian, Tehran’s MP and a member of the national security commission, said: “Parliament might not be able to review this bill again in the months remaining in its mandate, and this may be exploited by the foreign media to hatch their ominous conspiracies to take advantage of NGOs.”
Elahian, who helped to initiate the bill, told IRNA: “Foreign media have been very angry about the passage of this bill in parliament and in the Islamic Republic regime. This is because the seditionists planned to use the NGOs to confront the regime and circumvent it but they failed.”
The Iranian establishment refers to the protests that erupted following allegations of fraud in the 2009 presidential elections as "sedition."
Larijani responded to the criticism, noting that Parliament will only have to vote on the remaining articles when the bill returns. In the end, MPs approved a three-month hiatus with a vote of 20-10.
It was last year that Parliament first discussed the plan for a law that would create a government supervisory board to monitor NGOs, and the review of its individual articles was left for April 2011.
Under the proposed bill, the establishment of NGOs and civil organizations would require the approval and clearance of the ministry of intelligence and a government board comprised of members of the judiciary, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Endowment Affairs Organization, the Basij, and the Islamic Propagation Organization.
Existing NGOs would also be required to apply for a license from this board, which experts say will spell the end of many civil organizations in Iran.
Rights groups Amnesty International and Arseh Sevom issued a joint statement this month that condemned the bill and called it “another nail in the coffin of freedom of assembly and association” and the “death of civil society in Iran.”
On April 11, nine international rights groups together with Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi issued a statement urging Iranian MPs to stop the passage of this bill.