State Department: Iran Disproportionately Targets National Minority Groups

Kurdpa: The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Baluchis, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse, says the State Department report.

In its long-delayed annual human rights report released on Thursday, the US State Department cited Iran, along with many other nations, for violating citizens\' basic freedoms in 2014.

The report accused Iran of \"severely restricting\" multiple civil liberties and taking few, if any, steps to punish abusers.

“The most significant human rights problems were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, and press; limitations on the citizens’ ability to change the government peacefully through free and fair elections; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed,” the report stated.

“Members of ethnic minority communities were disproportionately victims of such abuses”, the report continued.

Quoting Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special reporter on the situation of human rights in Iran, “[Iranian] authorities executed four cultural-rights activists from the Arab minority community during the year: Hashem Sha’abani, Hadi Rashedi, Ali Chebeishat, and Khaled Mousavi. “

National groups in Iran, among them Kurds, get the lion’s share of the abuses.

“The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Baluchis, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse”, the report added.

Ethnic Azeris, who make up approximately 13 million persons, reported government discrimination due to the prohibition of the use of the Azeri language in schools, harassment of Azeri activists or organizers, and the change of Azeri geographic names.

It has also been claimed by Azeri groups that political prisoners had been jailed for the avocation of Azeri cultural and language rights; they were charged with “revolting against the Islamic state”.

Similarly, the government has prohibited the Kurdish culture by banning “Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies”, according to the report. “Although speaking the Kurdish language was not prohibited, schools were prohibited from teaching it.”

Iranian Kurds long yearn for self-rule, subjugates them to discrimination in law and practice.

“The estimated eight million Sunni ethnic Kurds in the country frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The government continued to use security law, media law, and other legislation to arrest and prosecute Kurds for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association”, the report said.

“According to online activists, Ghasem Ahmadi, a journalist and editor of the previously banned Tehran University publication Rozhaf, started his two-year sentence in Mahabad Prison in January. In August 2013 HRANA [Human Right Activists News Agency Iran] reported that Branch 1 of the Mahabad Revolutionary Court sentenced Ahmadi to four years in prison on unspecified charges.”

The report further noted that “There was no new information available regarding Vahid Faezpour Kiaksar, an Azeri blogger and activist, and five other Azeri activists who were arrested on their way to an International Day against Torture ceremony in June 2013 and subsequently detained”.

The report confirmed that the government executed 721 persons during the year, even though the government only announced 268 executions and did not release further information for many, such as the dates of executions, the names of those executed, or the crimes for which they were executed.

Writing by Kurdpa Staff Writers and editing by Sharmin Hassaniani.