ODVV Statements at 18th Session of the Human Rights Council

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ODVV Statements at 18th Session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3: The Conditions of Afghan Refugees in IranIntroduction:
The refugee phenomenon in Iran – Afghan refugees in particular – due to their sheer number and diversity and also their income and basic problems, are issues that dealing with which require special measures and specific executive approaches. On one hand the prolonged stay of Afghan refugees in Iran and the existence of social, cultural and economic problems in proportion with the general conditions of the country are deliberative and on the other hand the continuation of the unstable conditions in Afghanistan who is still not ready to repatriate its refugees (according to released figures), have openly and secretly made refugees problems more complex.. in a way while deepening past issues, the emergence of other social realities which are linked to the greater policies of the country such as the removal of subsidies have escalated the refugees problems.
According to published figures from the Afghan refugees registration programme Amayesh 6[1] by the Interior Ministry’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA), the number of registered Afghan refugees in Iran is over one million. Also according to the Iraqi refugees registration programme there are approximately 42,000 Iraqis in Iran. This is while nearly 2 million Afghan nationals are illegally residing in Iran.

Refugees’ Repatriation:
For a long time the repatriation of refugees as a lasting solution has been in the working agenda of the Iranian and Afghan governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. To this aim and following the improvement of security in Afghanistan and the formation of the world recognized Afghan government , and Afghan refugees from various countries that included Iran showed interest in repatriation, in 2002 the first trilateral agreement was signed between the UNHCR, the Iranian and Afghan governments. According to this agreement all three provide services in support of the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Iran, and these assistances still continue on. But gradually in view of the failure in the fulfillment of the expectations of the returnees, this process has slowed down to an extent where in 2010 only 10,000 refugees repatriated to their country.
From the start of the voluntary repatriation programme to date 1.8 million Afghan refugees have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan with the assistance of UNHCR. Approximately 880,000 of these returned with the assistance of the UNHCR in Iran and also 22,000 Iraqi refugees returned to Iraq with the assistance of UNHCR.

Refugees Income Situation in Iran
One of the challenges in the way of the income of refugees in Iran is the lack of approved jobs for them. Although in comparison with countries from which refugees have flooded into Iran, Iran has better employment conditions, nonetheless with the existence of different laws and regulations, refugees’ lack of awareness of the laws and regulations in obtaining temporary work permits, high costs and employment restrictions, the Afghan refugees are struggling with their income in the country. Furthermore livelihood assistance provided by donor countries is not enough, and these assistances haven’t been able to solve refugees’ problems.

Education Situation of Refugees
Undoubtedly in view of the stress of international laws that include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the subject of education in planning and policy setting of support services for refugees is one of the pivotal and determining indicators, and therefore education of refugees children in particular must be top priority in the activities of member states and national and international organizations.
By paying a part of their education costs, presently legal Afghan refugees in Iran can register in Iranian schools and study. Although the fees compared to the paid share of the government may be trivial, and in some instances the Iranian government gives exemptions from payment for vulnerable refugees, but overall there are refugees that have great difficulties in paying the low costs and are not included in the exemptions list of the government. In the long run this affects the education situation of the refugees, therefore further participation of international organizations in assisting refugees and the Iranian government for the provision of free education is very necessary.

Health and Medical Care Situation of Refugees in Iran:
Currently refugees that suffer from three particular sicknesses of hemophilia, Thalassemia, and diabetes, are covered by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Social Security Organization with the support of the UNHCR. Although considering that the majority of refugee families are not able to provide the medical bills for their members who suffer from other chronic diseases, therefore with the initiative of the UNHCR and the backing of the Iranian government in the current year the commendable supplementary medical insurance programme has been put into effect. This programme which the UNHCR provides 42% of the cost of refugees insurance cards, can solve a lot of the medical treatment problems that refugees face due to financial difficulties. In this programme vulnerable individuals can receive free insurance services.
This programme following the cutting of energy and necessary goods subsidies which had a negative effect on the social and economic situation of vulnerable refugees, was a positive step towards the protection of refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Recommendations:
While valuing the worthy services of the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the biggest host countries to refugees, international organizations, the UNHCR in particular and particularly donor countries that include Japan, the EU and the positive steps that these institutions have taken to solve refugees’ problems in Iran, we recommend the following:
1 – In view of the existence of some sanctions against Iran which has affected the income situation of Iranians as well as refugees, it is necessary for humanitarian measures to replace political actions and for international organizations to react towards pressures that result in the violation of citizen’s rights and rights of refugees directly or indirectly.
2 – It is necessary for self-sufficient projects to be implemented extensively for further support for refugees, particularly the vulnerable ones during their stay in Iran.
3 – Support for refugee producing countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq for the purpose of repatriation of refugees to their countries and furthering assistance for the returnees can be a sustainable solution. In spite of all the problems that refugees face in Iran, their repatriation has not been successful because they have had better access to welfare, security and health systems than their own countries.

[1] Currently the distribution of Amayesh 7 cards for Afghan refugees and Amayesh 6 cards for Iraqi refugees programme is underway.
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Item 4:
Despite the fact that in this current year there have been developments and changes in the Middle East and North Africa region, which shows the strengthening of democracy and life based on dignity and the true wish of the citizens of a number of Arab countries, nonetheless the violation of human rights continue unabated not just in the region but in all parts of the world. This had an inappropriate facet in some western countries who see themselves the protectors and promoters of the universal human rights system, and was cause for concern of human rights activists.
By highlighting a number of cases the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence hopes that the attention of the international community to be equal towards all parts of the world, just like the objective behind the establishment of the Human Rights Council, and the open and hidden human rights violations in the west to be reviewed in proporition with developing countries.

The United States of America
While still running for presidency Barak Obama had promised he would shut down Guantanamo Bay Detention centre for good, recently White House officials have been preparing a draft presidential directive which if approved by the President, would keep a number of Guantanamo inmates locked up indefinitely. Although the US government has said that this will only apply to those detainees that have been involved in terrorist campaigns and US officials deem them as threats to national security, nevertheless the US political and judicial system’s approach to Guantanamo detainees and the deprivation of their most basic human rights that are stated in international instruments, the slightly brighter prospects of an end to this human rights violation by America has once again been tarnished.
The high rates of women military personnel rapes and sexual abuse are twice as high as abuses within the American society. This has worried the majority of human rights activists and organizations. According to Pentagon’s annual report on sexual abuse cases in three military academies which was published in mid-December of 2010 out of 3 women military personnel one has been raped while serving in the Army. The report shows that unfortunately in 2010 the number of women’s rape and sexual abuses cases in the US Army have increased by 64 percent.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence believes both of these problems is a reflection of America’s improper policies with regards to its self declared war on terror and the ignoring of the fundamental rights of countries under attack and occupation, and also the negative effects of these measures on the American nation itself, and the ODVV urges the American government, just as the recommendations that were presented to the government during the USA Universal Periodic Review, to provide answers to the concerns of a vast part of the international community and also its domestic public opinion with regards to its military policies.

Canada
Over the recent years the forms of policy settings and the communications principles of this country with the international community have been increasingly been the disregard of universal human rights obligations. Canadian leaders hesitation in signing UN human rights resolutions, refusing to provide answers for Canada’s treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, cutting the budget of Canadian organizations that campaign for the rights of Palestinians, restricting allocated budges for the fight against mothers’ mortality in underdeveloped countries, refusing to sign the NPT, and also the lessening of the government’s support for the rights of asylum seekers are all instances which show Canada’s human rights movements are at a stand still and in some instances backtracked.

United Kingdom
The British police and government’s reaction to the recent street protests in London and a number of other cities, are instances where the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence suffer from grave human rights shortfalls. Even a number of British MPs and human rights activists have criticized the excessive heavy sentences handed out to individuals that were involved in the unrest. The fact that British leaders used the term phony human rights[1] when facing human rights claims, shows that unfortunately Europe pays importance to human rights only until when it does not feel the tiniest threat to national security. We believe that it is the leverage use of a holy concept which must be carefully studied by the British governmental and nongovernmental civil sectors.

Germany
The rise in Islamophobia in Germany alongside the rise in the number of rightwing extremists are two cases which cause concern for the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence. The numbers of attacks against mosques and Islamic centres in Berlin over the last few months has drawn a picture of natural preplanned series of actions. Explosion in front of the Iranian Cultural Centre, attack on the Al-Noor Mosque, and four attacks against Sehitlik Mosque last summer to date are examples of these sorts of acts. These behaviours take up a meaning when the report of the General Bureau of Protection of the German Constitution shows that the number of rightwing extremists read for violent acts has clearly risen. We call upon the German government who is host to one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe to pay particular attention to Islamophobia and rightwing extremism, and to find practical and sustainable solutions in this regard.

Italy
Daily intolerances, racist violence and xenophobia are issues that have fast increased in Italy.
Evidence gathered recently by nongovernmental organizations shows that the practical investigations of these instances in Italy are very rare and limited, and Italian officials try to portray the issue as insignificant, and how this approach in practice has resulted in the spread of these types of crimes. Furthermore, the tone of the officials of the country, politicians and the media add fuel to the fire of these intolerances by sticking negative cliché labels against migrants and the Roma community.
Sadly the Italian government has to date not made serious efforts to collect, analyse and publish information and data on racist crimes, something that makes it difficult to draw a real picture of the Italian society.
Alongside other NGOs active in the field, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence recommends the Italian government by changing its views on the important racism and xenophobia problem, to amend its criminal justice laws with the aim of fighting this social problem, and to set up mandatory training courses for the officers of the law and judiciary, and with the serious support of the National Bureau for Combating Racism, to increase the capacities of this Bureau for the fight against racist crimes.


[1] http://www.publicservice.co.uk./news_story.asp?id=17132
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Item 6 : Denmark UPR
While thanking the Danish government for all its efforts in observing and strengthening human rights, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) would like to raise a number of points which it thinks will help further improve the human rights situation in the country:
Although Denmark has joined many international human rights treaties, nevertheless they have not been institutionalization within the country’s laws and regulations. While calling upon the Danish government to adopt appropriate policies, to integrate its international commitments with its domestic laws, legislation and justice systems.
Also like many other European countries, Denmark has refrained from joining the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers. We believe that the feeling of the enjoyment of human rights must not only be limited to the citizens of a country, but individuals who are migrants from other countries and join the work force in the economy cycle to also benefit and enjoy these rights, and not feel discriminated against.
Furthermore, Denmark still lacks an executable nationwide plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights. We call upon the Danish government to prepare and implement programmes with the help of human rights NGOs such as the Danish Institute for Human Rights, to organize the improvement and promotion of the human rights of the country.
Also recently contrary to asylum seeking and granting of nationality laws codified by the United Nations, the Danish government has refused the granting of citizenship to Palestinian children. On this basis the Danish government has failed to inform Palestinian families the international laws with regards to their children born in Denmark would get citizenship. According to UN’s directive children whose lands are occupied and are born in other countries without prolonged process they can become citizens of those countries.
Although following the disclosure of this fact, with a 10 year delay the Danish government sent the families of nearly 500 Palestinian children born in the country letters asking the parents to take action in getting citizenship for their children, but the ODVV sees this as a bad treatment of Palestinians by the government, and urges the government to adopt methods to give back the dignity of Palestinian families.
The existence of cases of Islamophobia which has spread under the cover of freedom of expression is one of the major causes for concern of the ODVV, and urges the Danish government to set a distinction between defamation of religion and civil liberties when presenting its views and stances, and set the atmosphere for all the citizens of the country from any religion or ethnicity to observe and respect human rights.
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Item 9 :Islamophobia and Anti-Multiculturalism
Recent years have witnessed incidents of hatred or irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. Islamophobia has lead to the practice of discrimination http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.
A perceived trend of Islamophobia over the last few months has been recognized by the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence. Particularly, ignorance of governments to pay more attention to this form of intolerance is the ruling sentiment across nations with Muslim minorities.
A warning beyond mere “responsibility of the individual” is the heinous attack of the Norwegian gunman, an anti-Islamic extremist deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers who have warned for years about Islam’s supposed threat to Western civilization. Norwegians, along with all people of conscience, have questions that will require straight answers: “Why didn’t authorities pay more attention to the threat of domestic terrorism?” According to Mr. Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto, he spent a decade planning his attacks.
In the first 48 hours after the attack, media sources clamored to denounce "Muslim extremism". Media rush to blame Muslims for Norway attacks shows Islamophobia. Their blind assumptions, in the face of a vicious attack by an anti-Muslim terrorist, reflect how deeply rooted Islamophobia has become.
There is a broader issue: A disturbing, and growing, intolerance across Europe for Muslims and other immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Even mainstream politicians in Europe have sown doubts about the ability or willingness of Europe to absorb newcomers. Multiculturalism has utterly failed!
The tendency to paint law-abiding Muslims with the same brush as extremists is repugnant. Media is responsible for the depiction of Islam and Muslims as a threat to Western security and values. Expressions used in the media such as "Islamic terrorism", "Islamic bombs" and "violent Islam" have resulted in a negative perception of Islam. Routine anti-Muslim incidents consist of verbal abuse, blaming all Muslims for terrorism, forcibly removing women's hijabs, spitting on Muslims, and random assaults. Inherent negativity, stereotypical images, fantastical representations, and exaggerated caricatures are all identified examples of portrayals of Muslims in media. A greater receptivity towards anti-Muslim and other xenophobic ideas and sentiments has, and may well continue, to become more tolerated. Ignorance of the religion’s true nature has made the media to inspire and strengthen the supposed image that Islam imposes harsh regimes which deny the most basic human rights.
Notwithstanding the above, as the public sphere shifts to provide a more prominent place for Muslims, Islamophobic tendencies amplify.
In the course the past few months, the following incidents have been noticed by the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence:
In the United Kingdom
The Barnabas Fund began campaigning, in August 2011, against what it said was the growing "Islamisation" of Britain. When accused of terrorism, Muslims in the UK are Muslims; when killed by looters, they become Asian. Muslims in this country bravely defended shops and communities during riots in August 2011. Their example of outstanding civic duty in support of neighbors is worth highlighting- especially when sections of the UK media are so quick to print negative headlines about Muslims on the flimsiest of pretexts.
In the Netherlands
Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders was cleared of all five charges in June, for his insulting remarks against Islam, the Holy Quran and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). A court in Amsterdam acquitted Wilders who had, among other humiliating remarks, described Islam as “fascist” and the “sick ideology of Allah and Mohammad”, so done under the pretext of “freedom of expression”, and the “rule of law”. What Wilders did was to endanger the peace and harmony of civilizations by spreading hate against Islam and Muslims in his own country as well as in other European countries. Here’s where politicians fuel rise in hate crimes against Muslims, with their inflammatory remarks which lead to intimidation of Muslims in their own country, social rejection and alienation across society.
The Dutch government’s bill to ban halal meat is a further violation of the rights of Muslims in this country. In Islam, the term haraam, as the opposite of halal, is applied, among other things, to forbidden substances which are considered as harmful for humans to consume and, therefore, forbidden as per various Quranic verses. The ban on halal meat totally ignores the Muslim needs and the foods that conform to regulations of their religion. Pleasing to those who believe “multiculturalism and democracy cannot co-exist”, this xenophobic measure seems unlikely to face any serious opposition.
The issue of Muslim women threatened or banned is not of a completely new nature and history. Hijab is a cause of hate crime, with the veil ban in Italy, France or Belgium as its manifestations. Very often, Muslim women are denied a job because they wear a hijab. Prohibitions not only apply to face-covering clothing, but also to any clothing with an Islamic religious symbolism.
There is a tendency to a Europe-wide ban on Muslim immigrants, and passing parliamentary bills closing Muslim schools, banning the Quran, and forbidding the construction of any new mosques. The politics behind incidents of Islamophobia is quite obvious.
Here and now, outraged at the Norwegian attacks, and saddened by the unfair anti-Muslim atmosphere across the globe, we at the ODVV share the grief and pain of the Norwegians and mourn the people killed in Breivik’s and other similar rampages. In our view, the best way to punish perpetrators of such crimes and honor the victims of this clear instance of religious intolerance is to ensure that the world never becomes the xenophobic place they envision.
The ODVV calls all people of faith to “challenge Islamophobia”. People from all sections of societies have a crucial role to play in helping to dispel myths about Muslim communities. There is a common misconception that Islam is a religion of Violence. There is no basis for this in Islam. Islam is a religion of peace. The very first verse of the Quran reads: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the most Compassionate”. This verse, which is repeated in the Quran 115 times, clearly shows that the God of Islam is the God of Mercy and Compassion, and the book of Islam too is the book of mercy.
According to Verse 159, Chapter 3 of the Holy Quran:
It was by some mercy of God that thou [O Prophet] wast gentle to them; hadst thou been harsh and hard of heart, they would have scattered from about thee. So pardon them, and pray forgiveness for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; and when thou art resolved, put thy trust in God; surely God loves those who put their trust.[1]
In the end, we invite nations to improve understanding among all Abrahamic faiths and cultures and avoid incitement to hatred and violence, in order to reach a world of peace and security.


[1] The Quran, 3: 159
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“ ODVV Statements at 18th Session of the Human Rights Council ”