AhwazHuman RightsPictureReportsStatement

Executive summary of United State’s Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities



The constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities and allows for minority languages to be used in the media and in schools. In practice minorities did not enjoy equal rights, and the government consistently denied their right to use their language in school. The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Baluchis, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse (see also section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees). These groups reported political and economic discrimination, particularly in their access to economic aid, business licenses, university admissions, permission to publish books, and housing and land rights. The government blamed foreign entities, including a number of governments, for instigating some of the ethnic unrest.e

There are between five and 11 million ethnic Kurds in the country, who have frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. There were two terrorist organizations inside the Kurdish province; however, they did not represent the majority of the Kurdish population. Nevertheless, the government persecuted the entire minority for criminal acts sponsored by the two organizations. According to a 2009 HRW report, the government used security laws, media laws, and other legislation to arrest and persecute Kurds solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association. The government reportedly banned Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies. Although the Kurdish language is not banned, schools did not teach it. Authorities suppressed legitimate activities of Kurdish NGOs by denying them registration permits or bringing spurious charges of security offenses against individuals working with such organizations. Kurds were not allowed to register certain names for their children in official registries.e

There were several instances of Kurdish activists sentenced for political crimes during the year. For example, on January 31, the Revolutionary Court in Kermanshah sentenced Kaveh Ghassemi Kermanshahi, a journalist and human rights activist, to five years in prison. Kermanshahi was an executive member of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization and the OMSC. He was also a member of the student organization Daftar Tahkim Vahdat. The court charged Kermanshahi with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.” His lawyer described his long sentence as “unprecedented.”e

In mid-June the Saqqez Revolutionary Court, in Kurdistan Province, found Mohammad Moniri, a Kurdish teacher, guilty on charges of cooperating with opposition groups and propaganda against the regime. The court originally sentenced Moniri to five years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to six months. Moniri entered prison on June 19.e

Foreign representatives of the Ahvazi Arabs of Khuzestan claimed their community of two to four million in the country’s southwest encountered oppression and discrimination, including torture and mistreatment of Ahvazi Arab activists and the lack of freedom to study and speak Arabic.e

On April 15, authorities violently oppressed a protest organized by ethnic Arabs in the Khuzestan region. Security forces reportedly fired live rounds into the crowd. It was estimated that a dozen demonstrators were killed and scores more injured. The RSF reported that authorities arrested up to 97 protesters. The demonstrators were commemorating the sixth anniversary of a 2005 demonstration that security forces violently suppressed. The government insisted that the report was fabricated. On the same day, a representative from the Ahvazi Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, based in London, told HRW that, since April 15, security forces had “killed 48 innocent protesters, injured tens, and arrested hundreds of Ahvazis.” On April 18, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi wrote a letter about the incident to the UN high commissioner for human rights. According to Ebadi, hundreds of people in the city of Ahvaz had gathered for a peaceful demonstration against the government’s discrimination towards its Sunni minority. The country’s semiofficial news agency Fars reported that only one person had been killed during the protests.e

On May 11, according to an official report from the Khuzestan district attorney, seven young Arabs had been executed in the preceeding days in the town of Ahvaz. However, posts on Facebook reported that nine young Arab activists from Ahvaz had been executed. Official sources claimed that those executed were criminals dealing in drugs, although such claims often were leveled as justification to execute political activists from the Arab minority. The Arab minority in Ahvaz asked for the intervention of global human rights organizations.e

Ethnic Azeris comprised approximately one-quarter of the country’s population, were well integrated into government and society, and included the supreme leader among their numbers. Nonetheless, Azeris complained that the government discriminated against them, banning the Azeri language in schools, harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names. Azeri groups also claimed a number of Azeri political prisoners had been jailed for advocating cultural and language rights for Azeris. The government charged several of them with “revolting against the Islamic state.”e

According to the ICHRI, during the six-month period from March 21 to September 21, more than 320 cultural, political, women’s rights, and human rights activists were arrested in the Azeri provinces. Most of these arrests concerned the protests about the drying out of Lake Urmiya, one of the largest saltwater lakes in the world. According to international media reports, protesters, who claimed that the government did not act to save the lake partly due to its location in the minority Azeri province, chanted, “Long live Azerbaijan,” and “Urmiya is thirsty / Azerbaijan must rise up, otherwise it will lose.” As a result of these arrests, Azeri activists were beaten, flogged, tortured, fined, and expelled from university.e

Iran Green Voice announced that in late May that a Revolutionary Court sentenced seven Azeri activists–Yunes Soleymani, Mahmmud Fazli, Naim Ahmmadi, Aydin Khajehei, Sharam Radmehr, Yashar Karimi, and Hamideh Frajazade–to six months in prison for membership in the Azeri Party’s Central Committee. A six-month suspended sentence was given to activists Alireza Abdollahi, Behbud Gholizade, and Akbar Azad, for a five-year probation period. Another activist, Hassan Rahimi, was cleared on all counts after being held in solitary confinement for four months.e

Local and international human rights groups alleged serious economic, legal, and cultural discrimination against the Baluch minority during the year. Baluch journalists and human rights activists faced arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and unfair trials, often ending in execution.

On June 6, a revolutionary court in Baluchistan Province sentenced Sakhi Rigi to 20 years in prison on charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime,” based on his blogging and other Internet activities relating to the government’s discriminatory treatment of the Baluch community.e

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity. A man can be put to death for same-sex sexual acts if he is of legal age, of sound mind, and engaged of his own free will. The Special Protection Division, a volunteer unit of the judiciary, monitored and reported on “moral crimes,” including same-sex sexual acts. According to a December 2010 HRW report, security forces used discriminatory laws to harass, arrest, and detain individuals they suspected of being gay. In some cases security forces raided houses and monitored Internet sites for information on LGBT individuals. Those accused of sodomy often faced summary trials, and evidentiary standards were not always met. The punishment of a non-Muslim gay man or lesbian was harsher if the gay man or lesbian’s partner was Muslim. Punishment for same-sex sexual activity between men was more severe than for such conduct between women.e

During the year there was an increase in the frequency of charges of homosexuality against individuals on death row or those executed. However, because such persons were generally convicted on a number of different charges and because of the lack of due process, it was unclear in most cases whether such charges of homosexuality were the basis for the executions.e

On September 4, authorities at Karoun prison in Ahvaz Province executed by hanging three individuals convicted of sodomy. While the circumstances of the case remained unclear at year’s end, the fact that they were executed on sodomy charges alone, and not sodomy by coercion or rape, which was normally how sodomy was charged, was significant. It was also the first case in many years in which the only declared charge was sodomy and not combined with other criminal acts, such as rape and armed robbery or national security crimes.e

ICAS reported that two young men, Ayub and Mosleh, ages 20 and 21, were in danger of execution by stoning in the city of Piranshahr in the province of Kurdistan. The group said the men filmed themselves engaging in same-sex sexual activity in a video that included pictures of President Ahmadinejad and that government officials discovered that video. Their whereabouts at the end of the year remained unknown.e

According to a June 10 IHRDC report, in 2007 authorities in Isfahan arrested Matin Yar (a pseudonym) at age 19, along with several of his friends, for homosexual activity. Yar described officials repeatedly beating and torturing him during his detention, including hanging him upside down on a metal rod and using batons, whips, and electric shock. Yar stated his nose and ribs were broken as a result of the beatings. During a second period of detention, Yar said he was subjected to mock executions at Isfahan on three or four different occasions. After sentencing, Yar was sent to Dastgerd Prison, where he claimed prison authorities raped him several times.e

The government censored all materials related to LGBT issues. In September President Ahmadinejad called same-sex sexual activity a “despicable act…that is dirty and harmful to humanity.” In January he was quoted as stating, “Homosexuality means the divorce of humanity from its integrity.” During his official response to the UNHRC, President Ahmadinejad categorically refused to answer all six questions regarding the LGBT situation in his country, stating only that the LGBT issue is “beyond the mandate of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The supreme leader referred to same-sex sexual conduct as a “shameful act.”e

The law defines transgender persons as mentally ill, encouraging them to seek medical help in the form of gender-reassignment surgery. The government provided grants of as much as 4.5 million toman ($4,500) and loans of as much as 5.5 million toman ($5,500) for transgender persons willing to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Human rights activists and NGOs reported that some members of the gay and bisexual community were pressured to undergo gender reassignment surgery to avoid legal and social consequences in the country.e

The size of the LGBT community was unknown, as many individuals feared identifying themselves. There were active LGBT NGOs in the country, but most activities to support the LGBT community took place outside the country. According to a HRW report, family members threatened and abused many young gay men, who also faced harassment from religious scholars, schools, and community elders. Some persons were expelled from university for allegations of same-sex sexual activity. The HRW report also alleged that Basij forces attempted to entrap or arrest persons engaged in same-sex sexual conduct.e

Link of the report:  http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=186425

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