The Iranian judiciary has issued a ruling that effectively outlaws Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society (IAPSRS), a charity organization dedicated to uprooting poverty and improving education among children in Iran’s most destitute areas.
The news about the ban was broken by the foundation’s lawyer, Saeid Dehghan, on March 3 as he lamented “the show trial” in which the verdict “had apparently been drafted already” before any defenses were presented. The ruling came only 10 days after a lawsuit filed by Iran’s Interior Ministry over the organization’s “failure to carry out administrative reforms” and claims about charter violations.
The ministry’s request had been challenged by the group in a public letter to Iran’s Chief Justice Ibrahim Raisi. The IAPSRS attempted to make its own argument by raising the alarm that mistakes in handling the case “will deal irreparable harm to the civil society in Iran.”
The foundation has been rapidly expanding over the past two decades, growing its original group of a handful of university students into a network of over 10,000 volunteers, covering some 6,000 children and 700 single mothers with branches in Iran’s most underdeveloped areas, including Khuzestan and Kermanshah provinces.
The charity has also been more than open in its criticism of prevalent corruption in the Islamic Republic and the Iranian authorities’ inaction in tackling the issue of poverty. But the approach has come with a cost. For years, hard-liners have gone the extra mile to put a spike in the foundation’s wheels. They have repeatedly linked the IAPSRS to “hostile states,” accusing it of exploiting the charity mission as a cover to “infiltrate the public opinion.” And in such a campaign, ultraconservative paper Kayhan, affiliated with the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ai Khamenei, has been taking the lead.