NEW YORK – A survey conducted among American college students found that while they deem Iran to be the world’s worst offender in terms of human rights violations, few are aware of what these violations actually are.

The survey of over 500 college students across the United States was conducted by a research firm in conjunction with December 10’s international Human Rights Day to gauge American undergraduates’ perception of human rights issues.

“The results clearly indicate that human rights are a priority for American young people and that they consider Iran to be a serious human rights violator, but they’re not informed about the specifics of those violations,” Iran 180 director of outreach Chris DeVito said. Iran 180 is a coalition of NGOs demanding Iran reverse its human rights practices.

According to the survey, 91 percent of college students think Iran either has problems with human rights or is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, with 34% selecting Iran as the worst offender – more than any other country.

Since Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has grabbed front-page headlines for months, DeVito said, Iran’s number-one-offender ranking is “surprising.”

However, when students were asked specific questions regarding Iran’s religious laws, most did not know the range of punishable offenses – for example, that the regime’s definition of crime includes public displays of affection, free worship, belonging to a labor union and wearing nail polish.

“The implications are that people don’t understand the true nature of the regime in Iran,” DeVito said, which he characterized as “problematic.”

“We certainly have our work cut out for us in educating college students – and Americans of all ages – about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran,” DeVito said.

The results will be officially unveiled at a panel discussion in New York on Friday.

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