Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Documenting Discrimination against Non-Aryans and Non-Shi'i Muslims in Iran

Comment: It is a well-known "secret" that non-Aryan Iranian peoples continue to be discriminated against by the country's Aryan "Persian" elite. Although the advent of the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran was supposed to end such ethnic chauvinism, many of Iran's non-Aryan peoples (Azerbaijanis, Luris, Arabs, Kurds, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Turkmen) and non-Shi'i Muslims (89% of Iranians are Shi'is as is the ruling religious autocracy) continue to allege, probably accurately, that the current regime has continued the Persianization campaign begun by the Pahlavi monarchy which Ayatullah Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni and acolytes in the Islamic Republican Party replaced in 1979-80. Thousands of Kurds and other non-Aryans were killed (often summarily executed) by revolutionary authorities in a brutal campaign to reassert centralized control. The first Pahlavi king, Shah Reza Khan, also used violent force to sedenterize Iran's nomadic peoples in the 1920s and 1930s.
50% of Iranians do not speak Persian as their mother tongue yet are hindered in using it in their regions and districts, even though this right is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. For example, approximately one-fourth to 30+% of Iranians are Azerbaijanis (whose language I'm studying intensively this summer, though in its Latinized Republican form.)
Despite complaints by Iranian Shi'i leaders of discrimination against Shi'is in the Arab world and Pakistan, which is also a real problem, Iranian Sunnis are also discriminated against, as are Iranian Baha'is, who orthodox Twelver Shi'is view as a heretical offshoot of Shi'ism (the Baha'is are one of several prominent offshoots of Shi'i Islam...Others include the Druze, from Fatimid Isma'ilism, and the Alawis of Syria and the Alevis of Turkey.)
For background, see:
*"Iran's Ethnic Groups (on minorities)"
*"Iran Arabs Denounce Discrimination"
*"Iran: Ethnic and Religious Minorities"
Human Rights Watch reports:
Excerpt: "This report identifies areas in which the treatment of ethnic minorities has failed to meet the standard of equal treatment under the law for all Iranians regardless of their ethnic origin, set forth in the Iranian constitution and instruments of international law. The Kurds are concentrated in a remote and underdeveloped area, far from the centers of political power. An armed Kurdish insurgency has clashed with the Iranian military. Civilians have been among the main victims of the conflict as villages have been destroyed and their populations dispersed, and broad areas have been seeded with landmines."
Excerpt: "As Sunni Muslims, the majority of Iran's Kurds suffer religious discrimination in the Shi'a state. Kurds played an active role in the overthrow of the Shah, and among their demands for greater autonomy from the central authorities in Iran was the demand for more autonomy in the religious sphere. However, Ayatollah Khomeini declined to appoint as his representative in the Kurdish region the popular Sunni cleric, Ahmad Moftizadeh, choosing instead a Shi'a cleric with no local following. Sunni Kurds have seen their aspirations for greater autonomy and respect for their right to religious freedom denied. Friday prayer leaders, even in the Sunni mosques, are appointed by the central authorities. Shi'a proselytizing is encouraged. For example, in March 1995 the Friday prayer leader in a mosque in Sanandaj announced that he would issue the call to prayer and carry out other religious rites in accordance with Shi'a traditions, regardless of the fact that he was serving a Sunni congregation."
Below is a resolution adopted by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization about such discrimination.
"The joint resolution calls upon the international community to condemn the repression and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, furthermore it request the UN General Secretary to initiate an fact finding mission to Iran.

Below is a Member Resolution as presented and adopted before the IX UNPO General Assembly held during 16-17 May 2008 in Brussels, Belgium:
IX UNPO General Assembly
16 - 17 May 2008, Brussels Belgium

Joint Member Resolution introduced by: The Ahwazi Arab, Azeri Turk, Balochi and Kurdish nation members of UNPO on Behalf of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran

The use of Arabic, Azeri, Balochi and Kurdish languages in schools and publications has been strictly prohibited even in their own regions. No cultural institutions or activities are tolerated among the non-Persians nationalities. Only Persian history is taught as “Iranian” history, never the history of other national groups.

The rights of Iranian Sunnis in general are restricted by the provisions of Article 115, which excluded Sunnis from holding the office of the Presidency of the Republic, thus reducing Sunnis to the status of second-class citizens.

Not only do Tehran and other major Iranian cities remain without a Sunni mosque, but after the 1978-1979 revolution Sunni mosques in Mashhad, Salmas, and Shahinzadeh were destroyed, and those in Shiraz, Orumieh, Sanadaj, Saqqez, and Miyandoab were closed.
The UNPO General Assembly,

Underlines that Iran is a multi-ethnic, multinational and multilingual country, composed of Turks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Baloch, Turkmen and others;
Notes that the 1/3 Persian minority has ruled this country since 1925, the result of which is that today’s Iran faces a cultural and linguistic apartheid;

Notes that in this non-homogenous country, an attempt is being made to artificially turn Iran into a nation-state, a decision made by the Persian elite-aristocracy and the ultra-nationalists, at the exclusion of all other constituent national and ethnic groups;

Notes that successive governments have continued the pursuit of a centralized national-state at the exclusion of others, leaving national minorities (Azeri-Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Baloch, Turkmen, and others), along with the women of Iran, as the most discriminated segments of society;
Emphasises that there is a great deal of national awakening taking place among the non-dominant national minorities, as a result of revolution in communication technology and globalization;

Noting that the advent of the internet and emergence of satellite TV had played an instrumental role in this national and irreversible process of self-awakening;
Emphasising that while the Iranian ruling [authorities] are unwilling and incapable of addressing the root causes of instability which is the exclusion of 2/3 non-Persian national groups, there is the realization that although Azeri Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Baloch, and Turkmen, who are subjected to more or less the same repression and persecution, cannot alone change the situation, but together and in cooperation they are capable of this task. It is for this reason that the leading political parties representing these nationalities came together to form the Congress of Nationalities for Federalism in February 2005 in London;
Noting that the Congress believes that it is the responsibility of all these nationalities to decide, with equal voice, the future of Iran and to solve the chronic internal crisis brought about by successive dictatorships;
Underlining that the Congress’ mission is to energize its critical masses to bring about a peaceful change of the current regime in Iran. Its vision is to establish a peaceful, stable and secure country and a democratic, secular civil society by strengthening relations among various national and religious groups within Iran and promoting democracy, social justice, federalism, rule of law, human rights, equal rights for women and protection of the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities including Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Mandanis, Zoroastrians and Sunnis. Under CNFI’s vision, future Iran will be a responsible country and a good member of the International Community;
Noting that whilst each nationality believes in its inalienable right to self determination and does not want to forgo or forfeit this right, but that faced with the UN and the internationally community that does not necessarily share this view of the basic fundamental right of self determination, and that as a pragmatic entity, the Congress believes that all nationalities in Iran want and have the desire to live side by side in a federal or in a nonfederal system of governance;
Noting that CNFI hopes for a democratic, peaceful, secular and federal Iran, and a responsible member of the International Community;
Noting that where all Iran’s constituent national and ethnic groups unite together to chart the future course of Iran, this will present a serious challenge to the Islamic Republic of Iran, presently oppressing its peoples and presenting a danger to the peace and security of the region and the world;
Noting that the Congress believes that this is the only way out of the current crisis in Iran, and that other choices, such as the status quo, are unsustainable or face an uncertain future;
Noting that Congress members will not participate in any socio-economic experience that does not guarantee them the right of self determination – internal or external – as enshrined and guaranteed by international law;
Therefore, we urge The UNPO General Assembly to:
1. Condemn the repression and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran;
2. Request the UN General Secretary to initiate an investigation and dispatch a fact finding mission to the areas of al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), Kurdistan, Balochistan and Azerbaijan to look into the issues of ethnic cleansing and serious human rights violations.
Submitted by Ahwazi and Baloch nation members of UNPO on behalf of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran.

Organizations: Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, Balochistan People’s Party and Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran.

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