The speech delivered by Dr. Karim Abdian, Executive Director of Human Rights Organization, one of the panellist in the “ The Situations of Human Rights of Minorities in Islamic Republic of Iran” held on Friday 13 June 2014 in HUN Headquarters in Geneva
Good afternoon Ladies and gentlemen – Thank you very much Gianfranco. I wish to thank MRAP and Zagroos for organizing this important event to coincide with the meeting of 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Almost exactly a year ago on 14 June 2014 Hassan Rouhani was elected president. As part of his campaign to address human rights of minorities, he issued a 10-point plan in which he promised, among other things, the immediate implementation of article 15 of the constitution, which allows non-Persian languages and specifically, Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and Balochis to be taught in schools in non-Persian regions and provinces. He also promised that non-Persian cultures and literatures and media to be respected and tolerated, along with the dominant Persian culture..
* Despite some optimism by some human rights defenders and activists as well as the international community, none of the above have taken place. In fact the situations have deteriorated with increased arrests and execution, mostly in the non-Persian regions. The execution increased at least 20% in comparison to Ahmasinejad’s presidency. 687 executions in 2013, is the highest in 15 years. We witnessed more public executions in the past year, under Rouhani presidency.
* Ahwazi-Arab executions, followed by Baloch and Kurdish executions, lead the political executions. Lack of transparency, unannounced execution in prisons and in public and in some cases extra judicial execution, have been in in the rise. Recent brutal suppression and attack against political prisoners in Evin prison occurred under Rounhani’s watch, with total impunity. Last year under Rouhani, we saw the same, lack of due process of law, forced confessions, unfair trial and use of torture.
* Surprisingly, new judicial policies and the penal code, have been enacted, to support these trends. The new Penal Code passed the Majlis on May 2013, expands the scope of executions by the judges and the judiciary. Article 279 of this penal code under the title of “Rebels”, allows more executions for charges under the “Mohareb” and “ Mofsed fi Alaraz” “Corruptions on Earth”. Under this code political prisoners are executed with no rights to appeal. More than 20 Ahwazi-Arab civil rights activists were executed in the past year under this penal code by the Ahwaz Revolutionary court.
* Socio-political structure of Iranian society is designed and subscribed to, and serves, the view that Iran is one nation with one language and one religion and one identity- but in fact Iran is the most diverse country in the region. A multinational state that is comprised of six major nationalities including Arabs, Baluchis, Kurds, Persians, Turks, Turkmen and smaller groups of other ethnic/linguistic and tribal groups. No one ethnic group has a numerical majority. Iran is home to Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Bahis, Manadis, Zurestorians, Yasai and others.
These ethnic and religious groups comprise at least 50% to and by some estimates 65% of the population. Yet these groups have not been accorded equal citizenship – They are not being officially acknowledged. By constitution, Persian language is the sole official language, and –Jafari Shiai is the official religion- all others are ignored, oppressed, negated or at best marginalized. According to Mr. Hajbabaei, former deputy minister of education, only 30% of Iranian 1st graders entering school speak Farsi.
Using Shia theology and Persian literature, history, language and the education, the regime, strategically and deliberately, privileges one ethnic group over others, thus creating, inequality, exclusion, animosity and factionalism among various ethnic groups, hence stifling solidarity and lessening a chance of democratic transformation. But by being silent on these issues, Iranian media, writers, poets and intellectuals are in fact accomplices to this perpetual ethnic and religious oppression.
There cannot be equal citizenship without equality in the use of languages, religions, cultural and equal human rights of all citizens, individual and collective rights. Future course of Iran will hinge upon realization of these rights.
Banning of non-Persian languages corresponds to banning their literatures and cultures- inducing and creating unequal citizenry. Denying the richly character of multinational, multilingual and multicultural character of Iranian society, is a violations of the rights of all Iranians. Right to be different needs to be acknowledged
Promoting aggressive nationalism in Iran – by the current, as well as the previous Pahlavi regime, by formulating the so called Iranian nations, meaning and using it synonymously as Persian nation- this aggressive nationalism often times manifest itself in anti-Arab racism, holding Arabs of Iran accountable for so called lost mythical civilization .
I learned the pain and the agony and lack of identity by not being able to communicate, read and write in my own mother language. I was a subject of anti-Arab racism is Iran. My parents had to take a Farsi translator in communicating with school administrators, a police officer or a judge in the court.
While violations of human rights in Iran crosses all religion and ethnicity, Ahwazi-Arab people have been one of the most excluded constituent nationality in Iran and Socio-economically, rank at the very bottom.
Arabs in Iran are about 10% of the population, they live in the Southwestern province of Khuzestan, or as it called by its historical name “aghlim-al-Ahwaz”, Ahwaz or Arabistan by the local Arab inhabitants. Ahwazis constitute an indigenous, ethnic, national and linguistic minority in Iran. They are roughly half shia is a mix of about roughly 70 Shiite and 30% Sunni. A population of 6-8 million. While 90$ of the Iranian oil wealth comes from this region, none of it is used to better the lives of the Arabs. Systematic “Arabsirtzi” or ant-Arab campaign to strip them of their national Arab identity, culture, language, and history is prevalent in Iranian media.
Arab demands for basic human rights, including education in our mother tongue, demanding social and economic justice has often been labeled as “separatist”, “secessionist”, “Wahabis” or called “stooges of foreign countries” or “danger to territorial integrity”.
The Islamic Republic government, under president Rouhani, continues the forced resettlement policy to force the Arab population out of Arabistan by providing economic incentives and enticements to settlers from provinces of Isfahan, Yazd and Rafsanjani. As in the previous regime, governor general of Khuzestan, all other province’s political, military and security commanders and officers, mayors and all high and mid-level government officials of Khuzestan have consistently been appointed from non-Arabs outside of the native Arab population. Names of cities, towns, villages, rivers and other geographical landmarks were changed from Arabic to Persian.
Now, as under Ahmadinejad, and ironically especially in the past year since the election of Mr. Rouhani, the regime intensified its campaign of repression against Arab freedom fighters, human rights and political activists by officially and publically executing over 30 Arab activists including writers, poets, high school teacher, such as Mr Shabani and Mr, Rasehedi, well known Arab writers and civil rights leaders, 6 weeks ago, 9 Ahwazi-Arab activists were hanged in public, 3 more awaiting execution this week. There is a joint UN Special rapporteurs to halt their executions.
Under a government ethnic cleansing policy called “Hmemyesh Sarzamini” (Land Experimentations), 1.2 million Ahwazis were forcefully displaced to central Persian provinces and 1.5 million Persian have been resettled in government paid, resettlement towns of Ramin, 1, 2 and 3, Shirin-Shahr in Arab cities and towns. As directed by the highest levels of government of the Islamic republic of Iran, over 450,000 hectares of indigenous Ahwazi farmers land have been expropriated and given to non-indigenous Arab Persian settlers, a scheme designed to break up and change the ethnic structure and racial mix of the province.
The West, and P5+1 has, unfortunately, ignored the plight and the human rights of minorities in its negotiations with Iran. Struggle for equal treatment and equal rights must be acknowledged by citizens of the dominant group.
But not only the West, Persian media, writers, poets, intellectual’s elite and historians by being silent on these issues, are in fact accomplices to this perpetual ethnic and religious oppression.
There cannot be equal citizenship without equality in the use of practice of equal linguistics, cultural and equal human rights of all citizens, individual and collective rights. Future course of Iran will hinge upon realization of these rights.