Nine international and Iranian human rights organizations, together with Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, have expressed grave concern over the new Iranian bill aimed at controlling non-government organizations.

Amnesty International, Arseh Sevom, Education International, Hivos, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, FIDH’s joint project for monitoring human rights defenders and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have jointly announced that passage of the new bill will have adverse effects on independent civil organizations in Iran.

These human rights organizations are urging Iranian MPs to stop the bill from passing into law.

The nine human rights groups say the bill violates international provisions for freedom of association and assembly, which are part of Iran’s international commitments. They say the bill aims to destroy civil society in Iran.

The new bill, which is called “the establishment and supervision of activities of non-governmental organizations” is in its last stages of parliamentary approval.

The main articles of this bill have already been passed by MPs despite serious protests by Iranian NGOs.

The bill will affect numerous NGOs including women’s and human rights organizations as well as environmental groups and professional guilds. The bill proposes to create a “Supreme Board of Supervision over Activities of NGOs” which would monitor and regulate the independent groups. The board is to be comprised of representatives from the judiciary, the intelligence and foreign ministries as well as the Mosque Affairs and Endowment Organization, the Basij, the Revolutionary Guards and Security Forces. The board will also be in charge of distributing funds among the NGOs.

Most recently, Parliament passed Article 12 of the bill, which dictates that NGOs can only stage “non-political” demonstrations, and even then, only if the Supervisory Board issues a permit.

Shirin Ebadi said: “Contrary to Article 26 of the Iranian constitution, which permits the establishment of associations, we see government oppression of NGOs that are engaged in human rights activities.”

The new bill also proposes limiting Iranian NGOs in their international affiliations with other groups, subjecting them to permits from the proposed supervisory board.

Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said: “Obligatory permits for international connections will weaken the rightful ability of professional organizations such as the Teacher’s Association to join international organizations such as Education International.”

He added that the bill will let the ministry of interior interfere in the internal affairs of professional organizations and their affiliations with international bodies.

The nine human rights organizations maintain that the new bill threatens the activities and existence of all human rights and civil activists in Iran.