Feb 27, 2015

UNPO Alternative Report to CRC Highlights the Severe Human Rights Abuses Endured by Minority Children in Iran

On 27 February 2015 UNPO submitted its Alternative Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, on the occasion of its 71st Pre-Sessional Working Group, during which it will consider the Third Periodic Report of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report analyses the systematic discrimination and human rights abuses faced by children belonging to the Azeri Turkish, Baloch, Ahwazi Arab and Kurdish communities. According to UNPO, children from these ethnic minorities face severe legal, social, cultural, educational and economic discrimination.

The Alternative Report aims to examine the compliance with and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Iranian Government, focusing especially on children of the Ahwazi Arab, Azeri Turkish, Baloch and Kurdish minority groups in Iran. These communities face severe discrimination, in some cases institutionalized within the state of Iran and children, by definition particularly vulnerable, are especially affected by them.

The report draws special attention to the arbitrary arrests, detention, use of torture and death penalty endured by minority children. The Iranian Government clearly and openly violates the rights of minority children, by defining the age of majority as 9 years for girls and 15 years for boys, thereby allowing for the execution of juvenile offenders. Whilst this applies to all children, children belonging to minority groups are disproportionality affected, as members of ethnic minorities are arrested, detained and executed at much higher rates than ethnic Persians. The recent execution of Saman Naseem is only the most recent example of this situation. Mr Naseem, an Iranian Kurd, was arrested in 2011 for allegedly being involved in separatist activities at the age of 17. He was tortured for 97 days before being coerced into confessing and receiving the death penalty.

Moreover, these minorities often face severe poverty and restrictions in the employment market. They are prevented from practising their religion freely if they are not Shi’a Muslims and especially if their religion is not one of the few that are recognized by the State. There are also serious limitations to the possibility of teaching minorities’ mother tongues.

Considering that until now the Committee on the Rights of the Child has never examined the rights of Iranian children belonging to minorities, UNPO’s report hopes to raise awareness of this important topic. The report discusses the articles of the Convention it considers to have been violated by the Islamic Republic of Iran, grouping them in clusters related to specific topics and including recommendations on how to address the particular human rights violations at hand. Some recommendations are listed below:

-  Increase the age of majority to 18 years for both girls and boys;

-  Cease the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders;

-  Recognize all religious minorities within the State;

-  Allow the dissemination of newspapers, journals and books in minority languages across the country;

-  Take all appropriate measures to clear Iranian Kurdistan and other regions of landmines and other explosive remnants;

-  End the persecution of ethnic minorities and address the disproportionality of detentions, arrests, prison sentences and executions among ethnic minorities;

-  End the use of torture in Iranian prisons and by Iranian officials;

-  Build more schools, refurbish existing ones and provide more teachers in rural areas, in particular in regions where the majority of the population belongs to ethnic and religious minorities;

-  Adequately and respectfully address the culture, values and religions of minorities in school textbooks, avoiding all use of threatening and pejorative language;

-  Allow ethnic and regional languages to be used as the language of instruction during the first few years of schooling (alongside Persian);

-  Ensure ethnic minority children are able to participate freely in cultural and religious events linked to their ethnic minority community;

-  Ensure that all children deprived of liberty have access to legal assistance and representation before, during and after their trials;

-  Ensure all trials take place in front of and are decided by competent, independent and impartial courts and authorities.