Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

Identify Your Objective

Imagine your objective in this documentation process is to find information about women’s access to maternal health services in Tehran. You want to collect information to prove that there has been an increase in health issues and maternal mortality.

Who are your supporting forces for this case?

  • A doctor in a health clinic who is willing to support your documentation because she is concerned about women and children’s deaths.
  • A women’s organization has been looking into similar issues and sees this as an opportunity to publish something without becoming public themselves.
  • Some women who have had health concerns during childbirth support the report because they want to make other future mothers are aware of the risks and believe speaking out may push the government toward policy changes.
  • An international NGO is interested in this study as a follow up to the work they are already doing on this topic.

Who do you think would be the resisting forces?

  • The directors of the clinics do not want to provide any information because they fear contradicting the government’s policies.
  • The Ministry of Health does not want to see a report in the public sphere that states the lack of support to health facilities is causing an increase in maternal mortality.
  • Some of the women do not want to speak out for fear of reprisals or because they believe speaking out will not change health policies.
  • Religious leaders do not want to increase discussion of maternal mortality in the public realm.

Security problems that you might face from resisting forces:

  • The women you interview might be vulnerable to accusations of speaking out against the state.
  • When trying to conduct interviews with women who experienced birthing complications, you may have difficulty accessing the clinics or encounter intimidation and resistance from local officials.
  • After compiling the information, you might be censored by state or religious leaders who are interested in stopping publication.

How can you leverage your supporting forces?

  • You can use the doctor who supports your effort to gain access to clinics without people interfering in the interviews or even knowing you are conducting research.
  • You can find women through the women’s organization who are willing to talk to you. They can provide a safe space for interviews to take place without raising suspicion.
  • The international organization might be willing to publish the information, while you remain anonymous, to avoid placing you in additional danger.