Apr 04, 2023

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Declares Arbitrary the Detention of the Kurdish Activist Zara Mohammadi

The Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva (KMMK-G), the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the signatories of the Daadkhast.org petition asking for her release, welcome the Opinion issued by the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the arbitrary decision of the Iranian Kurdish teacher Ms Zara Mohammadi. 

Zara was imprisoned by the Iranian regime for teaching the Kurdish language and literature to children. After analyzing the case, the Working Group found that “  Ms. Mohammadi was deprived of her liberty on discriminatory grounds, on the basis of her ethnicity and language. Her detention therefore violates articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant and is therefore arbitrary according to category V.” Furthermore, “The deprivation of liberty of Zara Mohammadi, being in contravention of articles 2, 3,7, 8, 9 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 9, 14, 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, III and V.

Zara Mohammadi, who was released on the 10th of February from the Sanandaj Correctional Center after that the WGAD sent its Opinion to the Goverment declaring arbitrary her detention and asking for her inmediate release, is one of millions of Kurds in Iran who are intimidated and harassed for wanting to promote their language and culture and the voices of people asking for a multilingual Iran. In close collaboration with her family, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva (KMMK-G) lodged a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in May 2022. The Opinion made public now by the WGAD reported on the case of Zara Mohammadi, but also denounced the general use of arbitrary arrests and imprisonment to prevent the free exercise of the rights to cultural and linguistic expression in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

On this line, the WGAD pointed out that Iran often instrumentalises its broad laws to target the Kurdish community : “The Working Group observes a pattern of harassment against the Kurdish ethnic minority community in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Working Group recalls that in his 2022 report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that between January and October 2021, close to 500 Kurdish individuals, including teachers, border couriers, artists, human rights and environmental rights defenders, journalists, artists and lawyers, were arrested or detained”. 

The UN added that “The Working Group is concerned that this indicates widespread or systemic arbitrary detention in the country, which amounts to a serious violation of international law.” Furhter, the experts indicate that “The duty to comply with international human rights standards rests with all State organs, officers and agents. The Working Group recalls that under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity. 

The WGAD decision serves as an important reminder of the need to protect linguistic minorities and their right to freedom of expression. It is a victory for human rights defenders who have been advocating for the protection of linguistic minorities, and for those who have been unjustly detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression. 

On light of this, we urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to comply with the Working Group’s rulings:

  • To make appropriate compensation or reparations to Ms. Mohammadi;
  • To ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Ms. Mohammadi and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of her rights.
  • To drop all the charges against all members of the Nojin Cultural Association;

We call also on the United Nations to ensure the fulfilment of above ruling and to hold Iranian authorities accountable for the systematic violation of the rights of Kurdish people and other minorities in Iran.

See the letter of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention here.

To have more informaiton about the case see here