Human rights for Kurds in Iran: Discussion with UN special rapporteur
By: Dr 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 Kurdish human rights. We commended 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 Kurdish human rights have yet to find their 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.