In his last several reports the Special Representative has been urging
the Government to establish a national minorities policy.
In this report he wishes to place this initiative within the
international context. To begin
with, the Special Representative would refer to Commission resolution 2001/55
of 24 April 2001,which “reaffirms the obligation of States to ensure that
persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities
may exercise fully and effectively all human rights and fundamental freedoms
without any discrimination and in full equality before the law in accordance
with the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or
Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities”.
The Special Representative notes that this resolution was adopted
without a vote. In this regard,
he would also draw attention to the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural
Diversity, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 2 November 2001.
The Special Representative believes there can be no doubt that the
treatment of minorities in Iran does not meet the norms set out in the
Declaration on Minorities or in article 27 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights. See
in this regard the concluding observation of the Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, following its examination of the initial report
of Iran, that the treatment of minorities in Iran is one of its “principal
subjects of concern” (E/C.12/1993/7 of 9 June 1993).
The Special Representative takes note of the writings on this subject
of one distinguished Iranian legal scholar that the Iranian Constitution, in
articles 15, 19 and 20 and elsewhere, in part expressly, in part implicitly
clearly establishes the right of all Iranians to equality and fair treatment,
and that this right has not been implemented in practice. The Government must commit itself to addressing urgently the
status of minorities in Iran as a whole and to bringing the conduct of Iran
in this regard into line with recognized international standards, as well as
with the Iranian Constitution.
The Special Representative hears frequent reference to what is
described as the Government’s implicit policy of assimilation.
It is asserted that such a policy was introduced first by Reza Shah,
prior to which time Iran had been in practice a multicultural society.
The Special Representative has earlier observed that the original
draft of the 1979 Constitution did acknowledge that Iran was a multicultural
nation in naming the main ethnic groups that made up the country.
He would also note that as seen in the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration of
the World Summit for Social Development, the right to be free from attempts
at assimilation is emerging as an international norm.
The Special Representative believes that at the first level the rights
of minorities consist not only in the right to be free from discrimination
but, put more positively, that there is now an obligation upon Governments to
protect minorities against discrimination and procedural unfairness.
At a second level are certain positive rights, such as the use of
minority languages in education and the media, and basic civil and political
rights such as fair trial, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and
of association. The Special
Representative draws particular attention to the provisions of the
Declaration on Minorities in this regard.
Information reaching the Special Representative suggests that very
little meaningful action is being undertaken by the Government to this end.
The use of minority languages in the media is sporadic rather than
substantive; the use of minority languages in the educational system seems
Finally, the Special Representative has referred to the need to
involve the minorities themselves in the preparation of a national minority
policy, a right articulated in the Declaration on Minorities.
Whether or not it is accurate to characterize the prevailing
atmosphere as one of Persian chauvinism, as some minority activists suggest,
it is clear that the situation is discriminatory in many respects, as well as
being incompatible with existing and emerging international norms.
The Government necessarily bears heavy responsibilities in this regard
and needs to make an urgent start on a national minority policy. For his part, the President is quoted as declaring that
“Iran belongs to all Iranians”.
The Special Representative has in several reports discussed the status
of the Kurds. He recognizes the
difficulty of capturing the real situation in such matters as the treatment
of minorities without access to the regions concerned.
The challenge of distinguishing local incidents from broader trends
may be also more formidable in this context.
In his interim report to the General Assembly (A/56/278, paras.
82‑84), the Special Representative identified a number of indictors
that conditions may be improving for the Kurds.
More recent information suggests that on balance, discrimination and
repression continue to exist. A
number of specific allegations are set out in annex IV.
In the political sphere, perhaps the most dramatic event was the
attempted, and in the event withdrawn, collective resignation in October 2001
of all six members of the Majilis from the province of Kurdistan.
In a letter to the Interior Minister, the six said “unfortunately,
Kurdistan province and the Kurds, especially Sunnis, are denied their
legitimate rights, and executive officials are turning their backs to calls
for justice on the political, economic, cultural and social issues they have
brought out”. Late in 2000, a
Kurdish member of the Majilis had publicly alleged the existence of “a
campaign of repression and serial killings” against the Kurdish community.
concerning the status of the Kurds
The Government of Iran is now openly recognizing the extent of the
social problem generated by drugs in the country.
Official estimates are that 2 million persons out of a
population of 65 million are now addicts.
Press reports suggest that over 100,000 persons in prison are
there for drug‑related reasons (see para. 23).
Iran also remains a major transit point for narcotics. The extent of
smuggling has reportedly made soft drugs as accessible as cigarettes,
especially in border cities. The
efforts of the Iranian authorities to stop this traffic have been
internationally recognized, but Iran is paying a high price in terms of human
life and budgetary resources in this struggle.
The Iranian authorities have sought regional and international
cooperation, cooperation which, according to the experts, is fundamental if
real success is to be achieved As pointed out by the Special Representative
in earlier reports, poverty and unemployment are major factors in the rise of
drug trafficking and abuse.
Sistan va Baluchistan, a major transit area, is one of Iran’s
poorest provinces. As stated by one
Tehran academic, those in the narcotics trade have few economic alternatives
The best job for local residents in some areas is working as a
guard on a drug‑smuggling caravan.
From the demand side, addiction is increasingly seen as an illness.
It is reported that this year a new Outpatient Clinic for the
Treatment of Addictive Behaviour at the Zahedan Psychiatric Hospital has
started experimenting with methadone treatment.
Social and Cultural Rights
In the period under review the scarcity of jobs and the treatment of
workers continued to draw public attention.
While a senior government official declared that unemployment had
declined to 13.7 per cent between March and July 2001, the press was
sceptical. In June, one paper
declared that, given the immense number of hidden, seasonal or unregistered
jobless people, “independent experts believe the unemployment rate to be
over 25 per cent.” The press
continues to carry frequent stories of unpaid salaries, sometimes stretching
over many months. Other stories
report workers being laid off, in some cases in very large numbers, and
sometimes being replaced by workers from contract companies.
There were also reports that some employers were resorting to
short‑term contracts in order to avoid making worker insurance payments.
In October, the press carried a report of a demonstration of
some 10,000 unpaid textile workers in Isfahan worried that a recent bill
passed by the Majilis would reduce the number of textile enterprises and thus
the need for textile workers.
ILO is planning to conduct an assessment mission in February 2002 to
develop a project in the area of employment creation for women.
The President, for his part, continues to express concern about the
employment situation. In October
2001 he told the Majilis that 42 per cent of the mostly young people seeking
jobs could not find them. The
Special Representative is concerned at the Government’s generally modest
efforts to address what is one of Iran’s most serious economic problems,
one that carries a devastating social and human cost.
In earlier reports, the Special Representative has described the
complaints of the Sunnis about the discrimination they face (see for example
his interim report to the General Assembly A/56/278, paras. 74‑75).
He would recall his earlier comment that underdevelopment seems to
coincide with those areas of the country in which Sunnis are in the majority.
The Special Representative has now received an allegation of
Government control over Sunni theological teaching in Kurdistan through an
organization called “Great Islamic Centre in the West”, located in
Sanandaj. All Sunni students
reportedly have to register with the Centre and the Government determines the
place of teaching, the subjects, the number of students and the salaries of
Such matters should clearly be in the hands of the Sunnis
In the south of the area inhabited by the Kurds, there is a little
known community called variously the Yaresan or “Al Haq”.
According to one scholarly writer, the Yaresan are Kurds who practise
an apparent form of Zoroastrianism or Yezidism (the only uniquely Kurdish
religion), but are labelled Muslems because they adopted several superficial
features, including veneration of Ali, the fourth Caliph.
The Special Representative has received representations from members
of this community concerning local discrimination, both official and social,
apparently based on their religion.
20. The Special Representative has received only limited first‑hand evidence of the treatment of this community. However, its existence seems to be widely accepted and its treatment to be consistent with the evidence he has received from other non‑Shi’ah communities. The Special Representative urges the Government to recognize the existence of the Yaresan, to prevent discriminatory practices against them and to include their representatives in the National Religious Minorities Commission.
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