Sep 16, 2016

Ahwazi: At Side-Event to the HRC, Dr Karim Abdian Calls for Regional Autonomy in Iran

In his speech during a side-event to the 33rd session of Human Rights Council, Dr Karim Abdian, President of the Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation and UNPO member, demanded federalism and regional autonomy in Iran to ensure the right of self-determination to the Ahwazi Arabs. Dismissing the much touted argument of protection of regional integrity as a justification for current oppression, Dr Abdian warned that it is the continuous repression and social and economic marginalization of the Ahwazi people what carries the risk of extremist backlashes and independence movements. According to him, Iran needs to provide equality to all its citizens, which requires both the devolution of power and a fair redistribution of wealth.


Below Dr. Abdian’s speech at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council

Side event on the rights to self-determination under UN and international law.


Thursday, 15 September 2016


“We all heard the UN Human Rights Commissioner for Human Rights in his opening remarks of the current session saying that the Human Rights Council was created 10 years ago as a replacement for Human Rights Commission; it was designed to be more relevant than its predecessor; more credible; more impartial; and more focused on the rights and voices of victims. Yet he admitted that member States do not grant OHCHR, or the human rights mechanisms, access into their countries. Then, what is this United Nations? Outdated, laughable nonsense – it’s a place for bureaucrats and gilded elites!

UN with no executive powers, even without the coercive power that usually augments and drives successful diplomacy, how can it protect us and grant us the right of self-determination?

The UNHRC said that we should request access, in order to establish a neutral clarity about the facts on the ground. And access only becomes possible when the State extends an invitation to us; it cannot be forced open by OHCHR – so what the Commissioner is indicative of the current state of the UN and the power and influence over member states.

Nonetheless, and notwithstanding all that, we clearly support the UN despite its shortcomings – but in the absence of our representation in the UN and in light of the cultural genocide, ethnic cleaning and socio-economic subjugation by repressive states that rule us, the solution for oppressed people is the right to self-determination–but how do peoples such as the Ahwazi Arabs make the UN to abide by its obligations and enforce this right?

Let’s look at what the so-called international community, the UN, and the keepers of the “World Order” say about this right. In UN literature, right to self-determination is defined as the right of a particular group of people to freely determine and control their political, economic or socio-cultural destinies.

Article 2 of the UN Resolution 1514 of1960 states that: “All peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of economic, social and cultural development”. In all subsequent UN and regional organizations’ resolutions and literature, the word “peoples” is repeated over and over as the supposed possessors, or receivers, of self-determination.

ALL UN covenants such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966, the GA resolution of 1970, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and the charter of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adopted in Paris 1994 all refer to People entitled to self-determination--without defining who constitute people, with sometimes vague or conflicting or even contradictory explanations and definitions. I guess this what they call “CREATIVE AMIGUITY”

In a report by UN experts during the UN Conference in 1998 in Barcelona on the “Implementation of self-determination: as a contribution to conflict prevention”:

Presents two types of self-determination, internal self-determination and external self-determination.
By Internal self-determination they meant the right to decide the identity and the form of governing body by the whole population of a State and the right of a particular group within the State to participate in decision-making at the State level, and the right to exercise cultural, linguistic, religious or (territorial) political autonomy within the boundaries of the existing state. It says that, politically, internal self-determination can take the form of participatory democracy, federalism, confederation, local government, self-government within the existing state or any other arrangement that accord with the wishes of the people but compatible with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the existing state.

External, or full self-determination is described as the right to separate from the existing states of which the group concerned is a part of, and to set up a new independent state.

In the midst of the confusion, UNESCO International Meeting of Experts for the Elucidation of the study of the Concepts of Right of peoples, in 1989, provided the following definition for “people:

A group of individual human beings who enjoy some or all of the following common features is called a people:

A common historical tradition A racial or ethnic identity Cultural homogeneity Linguistic unity Religious or ideological affinity Territorial connection Common economic life.

There is a Distinction between “people”, “minority” and “indigenous nation or people”.

UN experts’ definition for indigenous peoples as follows: ‘Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, have a historical continuity pre-invasion and consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies. That they form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.’

Whereas a minority is basically a question of self-identification with characteristics that include numerical inferiority, ethnic, linguistic, cultural or religious characteristics distinct from those of the rest of the population of a state and the dominant group.

As you can see there are many overlaps and similarities between the 3 groups, people, minority and indigenous communities. However, only “peoples” are entitled to both internal and external self-determination whereas an indigenous peoples and minorities are entitled only to internal self-determination.

The concept of self-determination is problematically rigid regarding shifting borders or session. Generally, the consent of the state to which a people belong is needed for secession. For example, the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia, states that: “It is well established that, whatever the circumstance, the right to self-determination must not involve changes to existing frontiers at the time of independence except where the states concerned agree otherwise”.

An exception for full self-determination would be flagrant/serious human rights violations., : including persistent oppression, annihilation/targeted killings, domination, discrimination, marginalization, and other grave injustices denied any meaningful exercise of its right to self-determination, excluded its representatives from decision especially in matters affecting the well-being and security of the people, suppressed their culture, religion, language and other attributes of the identity valued by the members.

As for the possibility of internal self-determination for non-dominant ethnic minorities and/or peoples and nations in Iran, many Persian Iranians eschew such a concept, fearing that it would be the first step towards their country’s fragmentation. The Balkans wars are cited as an example of what would happen to Iran if its regional governments were given a measure of autonomy. There is also the supposed fear, whether true or pretense, that local autonomy would make Iran vulnerable to the kind of interference in its domestic affairs seen during certain periods of Iranian history, notably by the British and Russians during the Qajar dynasty and the Second World War and the Iraqis in the 1980s.

The notion that Iran would balkanize with the introduction of a federal democratic constitution is based on the supposition that Iran’s minorities are inherently disloyal. It is, in fact, a racist belief that ensures that the ambitions of regional-based ethnic minorities should be forever repressed to ensure the integrity of the Iranian state. This attitude is shared by significant sections of the Iranian opposition and the Islamic regime itself.

Equality needs to be accompanied by the devolution of power and a fair redistribution of wealth generated by the abundant resources in their traditional lands.

For the Ahwazi Arabs, federalism and regional autonomy would enable them to control their own affairs, protect their land rights and exercise their cultural rights. The only other alternative to being crushed forever under the weight of a militaristic centralized state is independence. Increased oppression and continued social and economic marginalization of the Ahwazi Arabs will also generate the kind of extremist backlash seen elsewhere in the region.

The failure of the broader Iranian opposition to extend solidarity to Ahwazi Arabs and acknowledge their plight and support their cause is leading many desperate youths to support complete independence from Iran.

In Iran, or any other repressive multinational state, an arrangement where a voluntary association of all national groups constituting Iran (or any state) in which they will have the opportunity to develop their respective cultures, languages, histories, economies and homelands, under an appropriate manifestation of sovereignty, federal, nonfederal with an equally suitable system of good governance that guarantees and respects the rights of self-determination, may be an interim solution for peace and stability until and within a reasonable period where civil societies can evolve and develop to facilitate the international community or, for  the keepers of the “World Order’, to embark upon and guarantee a fair and a transparent referendum for these nations, nationalities or peoples.