Amir Sharifi – Kurdish human Rights Advocacy Group and a delegation MEET AHMAD Shaheed, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
On July, 19, 2013 a Kurdish delegation consisting of the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group (KHRAG) and Kurdish American Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran (KACDHI) met with Dr.Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ special rapporteur in Los Angeles to discuss the Kurdish human rights concerns and interests. Our purpose in attending this meeting was to introduce and advance the Kurdish human rights. We commanded Dr.Shaheed for his last inclusive and transparent report that reflects the concerns of a wide spectrum of civil and political rights including political freedom, freedom of assembly and information, freedom of religion …etc. We particularly welcomed his discussion of “economic, social, and cultural freedoms covering issues of the right to education, economic, social, and cultural development of several ethnic communities including Kurds. We welcomed the positive steps, the diversity, depth and richness of the report; however, we pointed out that the Kurdish human rights have yet to find its rightful and distinct place.
Dr. Shaheed noted that he has always been sensitive to the issues of ethnic minorities and the discriminatory practices to which they are subjected. In the context of Kurds and human rights we reiterated and re-stressed a variety of concerns including economic injustice, the case of Kurdish couriers, political prisoners, arbitrary arrests, deaths of political prisoners in custody, torture, the subordination and stigmatization of religious minorities, linguistic discrimination, cultural repression, addiction, increasing militarization of Kurdish areas, social, economic, political, and civil exclusions. Mrs. Soraya Fallah highlighted the significance of paying particular attention to gender discrimination, self-immolation of women, and honor killings…etc. Dr. Shaheed conceded that there was a pressing need for a more focused framework and closer scrutiny of human rights violations through the adoption of a transformative and flexible framework to reveal and end all forms of ethnic and religious inequalities and injustices in Iran. He said that he was particularly interested in the deplorable condition of the Kurdish couriers, many of whom are killed and wounded in border crossings. We provided the Special Rapporteur with a letter (Please see below) detailing our recommendations and updated documents for his reference.
Although Dr. Shaheed has never been allowed to visit Iran, his last report is comprehensive enough to lay the foundation for a more challenging and ambitious framework for his next report. The open and democratic framework and his open conversations make it possible for different sectors of Kurdish communities, academia, human rights organizations, researchers, and activists to play a more direct and dynamic role in addressing human rights concerns. We emphasized the fact that Kurds need to work on providing probing objective and detailed information, input and insights about different aspects of human rights violations, particularly with respect to the Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Dr. Shaheed discussed the challenges he faces when it comes to the issue of ethnic minorities whose demands and any support for their cultural rights in the official rhetoric is encountered with accusations of “national disintegration”. We agreed and suggested that that such accusations also come from even some of the opponents and critics of the Islamic Republic of Iran who see the Kurdish demand for the right to autonomy and self-determination as a serious threat. In response to his question about the prospect for change under the cleric, Hassan Rohani, the new president, we expressed skepticism about any significant human rights improvements for Kurds in Iran. He asked the delegation to identify areas that needed greater attention and scrutiny. We highlighted the need to hear from different sectors of Kurdish society including women, political prisoners, their family members, persecuted members of religious minorities, particularly, followers of Yarsan, human rights activists and lawyers, cross border couriers, journalists, workers, students, and educators.
The meeting was concluded as the delegation hoped that Dr.Shaheed will advance new initiatives in the future; we assured him that all concerned Kurds and those who have been victims of human rights violations directly or indirectly will be happy to play a supportive role in providing a more comprehensive account of the situation of Kurdish human rights in his next report. While we understand the daunting challenges that the U.N Special Rapporteur faces in connection with Iran and Kurdish human rights, in particular, we believe the areas we discussed in the meeting are difficult yet important issues to be addressed. Such areas have been historically ignored and only partially addressed in previous reports. He welcomed our willingness to cooperate with his office to protect and promote Kurdish human rights. In the end we extended our thanks to him and his colleagues for their warm and insightful approach and commitment to our concerns.
Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group (KHRAG)
July 19, 2013
Dr. Ahmad Shaheed
Special Rapporteur for Iran to the Human Rights Council
Dear Dr. Shaheed:
Let us commend you for your latest comprehensive report on Human rights violations in Iran and your advocacy for open conversations about human rights. We share your concerns and hopes for changes in the status quo.
As you continue to work on the continuing violations of human rights in Iran, we are sure you are aware that the condition of ethnic minority groups, Kurds, in particular, is deteriorating. Violations of human rights continue as the increasing militarization of Kurdish cities and towns contributes to even more pervasive human rights abuses in violation of Article 27 of the Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities . These abuses as your latest report on the situation of human rights in Iran had documented, include arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, torture, and summary executions, and public hanging . In 2012, 160 journalists, bloggers, human right and cultural activists, members of religious minoriteis were arrested, many of whom still await trial. Kurds are aslo disproportiantely represented in the officially documted list of impending executions. As listed in the attached document, out of 83 prisoners condemned to death, 54 (65%) are Kurdish. From 2009, 13 Kurdish prisoners have lost their lives in prision as a result of torture and abusive treatement. Many Kurdish prisoners of conscience remain in prison without any legal resources and recourse. Several prisoners deprived of medical care have died in custody. Kurds as a distinct ethnic minority continue to suffer from institutionalized social, religious, and cultural discriminations. They experience internal displacement, expulsions, linguistic discrimination, suppression of publications, imprisonment of journalists and imposition of heavy bails on detainees. Psychological torture and intimidation through public ridicule and humiliation is becoming the hallmark of the Islamic Republic of Iran as it was the case with dressing up a convict as a Kurdish woman, the stigmatization of Yarsan and draconian restrictions against their religious practices are the latest examples of the Islamic Republic’s flagrant violations of Kurdish human rights. Kurdish political and human rights organizations and activists are treated and punished even more harshly. Even lawyers of Kurdish prisoners are not immune from persecution and imprisonment. Every year hundreds of the so-called Kurdish “border crossers” and couriers, many of whom young children are mercilessly killed by the Iranian patrolmen on the borders of Iran, Turkey and Iraq. From 2010 to 2012, 320 couriers were slain and many more injured ( Please see the attachment). The plight of these couriers despite documented massacres and injuries is largely ignored and rarely reported and investigated by the international community. We are working on documenting the recurring violations of human rights to report to your office for consideration and review to be included in your next report.
We are grateful that your office has begun to address some of our concerns; we have indeed seen some positive signs by the UN to address more specifically the situation of Kurdish human rights in Iran as defined in the Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. We welcome this increased attention; nevertheless, these steps are inadequate and fall short of expectations as stipulated in Article 27 of the aforementioned treaty. Kurds have no other hope and aspiration beyond these international treaties to protect them against discriminatory practices and ensure that they enjoy their fundamental freedoms and cultural and linguistic rights. In this context the United Nations has a key role to play both in the protection and promotion of the Kurdish ethnic, political, cultural and linguistic rights. It is our hope that you continue to pay particular attention to the situation of the Kurdish human rights in the context of Kurds as a distinct ethnic and linguistic group. It is imperative that the UN visit Kurdish areas to gain a better insight into the actual condition of human rights in Kurdish areas in Iran. You would be happy to lend you our support in your difficult and yet very important mission.
Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group ( KHRAG)
Dr. Michael Azad Moradian
Chair of Kurdish American Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran ( KACDHI)