MESOP Shaheed’s UN reports. Realization & violations of socioeconomic rights in Iran

By Jamal Ekhtiar: Kurdistan Tribune – 31-8-2014 – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, focuses on some minor socioeconomic issues, while overlooking more vital concerns affecting the lives of millions in the country.One area he often covers in his reports is gender inequality and limitations placed on women’s employment. He also refers to the exclusion of students from their studies due to political activities.Shaheed’s reports also express concern about the negative humanitarian effect of sanctions but claims they do not negate basic economic, social and cultural rights of the population, putting the responsibility on the Iran regime to fulfil humanitarian obligations. The reports also discuss humanitarian exemptions and related issues such as the supply of medicine and food.

The situation in Iran is dire and several decades of misrule have worsened social, economic and every aspect of life for different components of Iranian society, though it varies according to nationality and other factors. From this perspective, socioeconomic rights cover a wider scope than have been discussed in the UN rights system and rapporteur reports.

Contrary to the old notions of a false ‘majority and minority’, multinational Iran is composed of several sizable nationalities such as the Azari, Baloch, Arab, Turkmon, Kurds and others, with an unjust domination of one nationality language (discourse), which is, in fact, the first language of a minority which has been marginalizing and taking away all the rights of other components, throughout the period of so-called modern Iran. This is a reference to the Persians who actually are not a majority in the country but still dominate all of Iran. During a century of the so-called modern state, all resources have been spent to make the center fatter at the expense of other nationalities. Today the notion of “Melate Iran” or nation of Iran belongs to one quarter of Iranians out of its eighty-million population.

Sadly, along with decades of stolen history and denied identity, Balochestan, Ahwaz, south, west, east Kurdistan and most parts of the country are being held back by widespread deprivation in every area of life, leaving non-Persian regions undeveloped while, on the other hand, we have central metropolises purchasing weapons and means of suppression to tackle “terrorists”, as claimed by the center. The national, centralized state labels any kind of resistance as terrorism, while there is in fact state terrorism enforced against non-Persian nationals in Iran. Although he is factual, true and accurate in his reports, Mr. Shaheed’s notion of socioeconomic, national, political and other rights, counts pennies and deducts sums.

It is not only the government that is hurting the lives of people; today the UN with its unjust, careless sanctions is clearly committing severe human rights violations. Promotion of human rights needs a strong civil society, but UN policies go in the opposite direction. People are suffering but the government still obtains enough funds for its programs. A new would-be refugee claimant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey says he left four kids in Iran and they have nothing to eat. He was complaining about the dire post-sanctions situation. The UN is not doing any better than the government in Iran.

The website of the Global Research Center states: “Economic sanctions are not only shattering the lives of the Iranian people but also strangling Iran’s social and cultural development. Iran is headed for a humanitarian catastrophe unless steps are taken to avert it.”

The sanctions not only affect routine life needs, they also threaten vulnerable groups such as hospital patients. Regarding the situation of patients the International Action Center states: “These sanctions have violated human rights in different ways and different public dimensions. When the rights of many people are violated it means that ‘the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being’ as stated in the article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also ‘the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’ as stated in Article 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are violated too.”

Likewise the rights of students have been violated and many students complain about their problems, while UN rights system claims to advocate for student activists.

The hypocrisy of the UN is better understood if we go back to several years before the sanctions, when the UN used to criticize the government of Iran for neglecting the socioeconomic rights of Iranian peoples. However, after the sanctions, when they found that responsibility lies with UN actions, they went quiet on this topic, which is now rarely mentioned in UN literature.

According to Rudaw TV, Danish MP and member of the European Council, Nikolaj Villumsen, “believes that human rights and minority issues in Iran are overlooked because of the focus on Iran’s disputed nuclear program”.

The UN rights system and Special Rapporteur need to go into depth, and not just play with surface superficial issues. The fundamental problem is not socioeconomic rights of female university applicants, and their employment, or the problems of hundreds of students. Although these rights should be respected, the issue is about millions of people with different identities and in every area of life, including socioeconomic rights.

If, in Tehran, women’s gender and economic rights are violated, in Balochestan, Ahwaz, Kurdistan and other parts of the country, humans – including women, men and children – do not enjoy their rights; therefore the United Nations should observe the whole picture and, through binding recommendations, encourage the state in Iran to remove historical inequity against the other Iran and stop its favoritism at the expense of other nationalities in the country. The UN also has to stop its violations and rhetoric against the peoples in Iran. Its Iran rights policy needs to be reviewed.

Realization of the rights of the other Iran would mean a fading away of centralized hegemony; a more democratic environment would help to protect the rights of every component and citizen, regardless of gender, and Iran would be no longer a threat to the region.

Jamal Ekhtiar is a journalist from eastern Kurdistan. He has been a writer and contributor to various English and Kurdish media over the past ten years. He also works with civil society organisations.