ODVV Statements at 22nd Session of the Human...
The Situation of Refugees in the Islamic Republic of IranThe damage and impact which causes leaving homes because of war and insecurity, and or pursuit and torture because of belief, religion, race and or particular political belief and affects the lives of individuals is more than an asylum seeker can bear the rejection of other environmental economic or social pressures. Thus the intervention of the host country and national and international organizations such as the UNHCR becomes necessary.
According to current statistics approximately 900,000 refugees (mostly Afghan) which includes 274,000 families live in Iran, 97% of which live in urban or suburban areas and villages, and 3% in refugee camps.
The situation of these refugees who as a group that’s been living in Iran for a long time (over 25 years) is deeply different to the situation of refugees in other countries and also internationally defined standards. Therefore accordingly their needs have gone further than basic educational and health needs and mostly programming must be done in proportion to the new needs of the second and third generation of refugees in Iran.
Recognising and understanding this fact, the ODVV has tried to provide necessary services to refugees alongside other support groups; and to this aim the ODVV has held numerous different educational and advisory courses in proportion to the daily needs for Afghan refugees over the recent years.
In spite of these activities and the follow up of nongovernmental and international organizations (the UNHCR and the Iranian government) regarding support for refugees, there are still many vacuums in the provision of these support services, which require further attention. Therefore it has been tried below to highlight the these vacuums, particularly vulnerable groups, and their needs and conditions.
Due to not having a specific plan for the future and in view of the current conditions and the impossibility to foresee the future, particularly back breaking family economic conditions, Afghan refugee children are more vulnerable to suffering and inconsideration of their natural needs on basis of gender, age and etc. This problem makes the creation of educational and welfare facilities for the raising their and their families’ living standards necessary and urgent. Naturally the failure to pay attention to suitable education for the children and their families can have irreversible consequences to the host country. Meanwhile special attention to refugee girls, especially due to reasons such as cultural and social attitudes of the families and particularly men towards them and also the definition of their situation in society, their social and cultural capacities, which are all vulnerable to dangers, seems very necessary.
Poverty, traditions, social and cultural structures, the needs of the family, the profiteering of adults, and there not being enough educational facilities are just some of the reasons the consequences of which sends Afghan children to the streets and work.
Refugees and international sancions
The international sanctions isse and at the same time the implementation of the implementation of the Removal of Subsidies Act in Iran have on one hand made the living conditions of the vulnerable refugees community difficult and the abilities of ordinary citizens in conducting benefiting activities and financial assistance difficult.
This is why refugees, particularly vulnerable groups are faced with new problems, more than any other community in the host country, and their conditions have deteriorated more than in the past.
The provision of some services which are done by international organizations such as the UNHCR with the partnership of the Iranian government, and the participation of nongovernmental organizations only cover some parts of refugees needs. For example currently there are 280,000 refugee students studying in primary, secondary and high school levels for whom a minimum of 500 schools with 14 classes are required. This is while the international assistance that has been provided has only managed to cover the construction of a few schools across the whole of Iran. And these issues have resulted in social abnormalities, pressure on Iranian citizens and ultimately their being in conflict with the refugees’ community and in some cases followed up by their isolation. This example can also be said on other services too. Because of these problems it’s possible that in some instances tension to appear between the refugees’ community and Iranian citizens, which should be corrected. In this regard, the role of international organizations particularly UN bodies is very important, because incorrect stances without considering the foundation of its formation will not only not help solve the existing problem, but in some instances it can even escalate these tensions and further isolate the refugees’ community and put them under pressure.
The people have Afghanistan have continuously been stuck in power wars, and victims of the demands of big powers, and have suffered the most financial and physical sufferings. The occupation of this country by the Soviet Union from December 1979 till February 1989, left almost 1.5 million people dead and approximately 6 million refugees in Iran and Pakistan. After the appearance of extremists such as the Taliban in mid 1994 through the support of a certain number of countries, another tragedy befell on the people which saw an end following America’s attack on the pretext of 9/11 and war against the Taliban, although in the short term saw the voluntary repatriation of more than 800,000 refugees from Iran to their country, but in the long run due to the occupation of this country and failure in paying attention to the needs of these people, Iran saw a flood of 2 million illegal immigrants pour into the country.
While appreciating the provision of aid by countries such as Japan, the EU, Australia, Germany and France, it must also be mentioned that the provision of this aid has been very limited and does not cover the needs of refugees, particularly considering the news conditions such as the increasing of international sanctions and the Removal of Subsidies Programme, which has increased their economic problems.
In view of the fact that the Iranian government does not allow the integration of the refugees in Iran, the repatriation of refugees considering Afghanistan’s conditions, and the necessary basis not being ready and also the limited number of refugees that are let in third countries (resettlement) in practice has made these three international solutions impossible and a new plan is in demand for the refugee problem in Iran.
- A special attitude towards refugee children, particular street children and child laborers, with concentration on their empowerment to improve their conditions, at the same time as the Constitution and the Fifth Economic, Social and Cultural Development Programme of Iran, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the MDG, defense of the rights and dignity of mankind, observation of the basic rights of children, and prevention from their exploitation.
- Presentation of long term programmes for transparent information dissemination from refugees support institutions in Iran to refugees and NGOs.
- Prevention from unprofessional international intervention by irrelevant institutions who do not have a deep and meaningful understanding of the social and cultural facts in Iran; because this lack of understanding of culture and religion, makes the conditions of refugees worse and further creates problems for them. In this regard it is recommended that even UN bodies and institutions should refrain from giving personal and or unprofessional opinions without consulting with relevant institutions such as the UNHCR.
- International media such as those that belong to humanitarian institutions, the host country and donor countries can be very practical inn resolving refugees’ issues.
- Increasing international aid for solving refugees’ problems and helping to strengthen existing infrastructures for the provision of services to this community.
- Increasing the number of resettlement cases from countries that take in refugees.
- Support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, to create a suitable bases for the repatriation of refugees to their country as a sustainable solution.
Item 6: UPR mechanism
From the 21st Session of the Human Rights Council to-date several important and often painful developments have occurred with regards to human rights around the world. The making of an insulting movie about the prophet of Islam and an insult to the good sense of 1.5 billion Muslims, on the pretext of freedom of expression, the killing of many civilians and soldiers during the unrest across the Middle East, and the increase in the possibility of a rise in ethnic and religious tension in the region, increase in ethnic conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, the killing of many people in religious unrests in Myanmar, the killing of innocent children in Sandy Hook School in America, the painful and tragic rape case in India, and dozens of other events, that in reality there is a big gap between speaking of the observation of human rights and doing it in practice in the world. Unfortunately just like other issues, human rights is subject to the political demands of countries, and often concerns are raised when a stance is taken in these rights support and even they over look it in silence if there is a profit to be gained (hidden or open). The UPR has to-date held 3 sessions from the second round, and slowly moving towards mid second round. Although we believe that the existence of the UPR mechanism is oe of the most important accomplishments of the international community for the promotion of human rights at the international level, and this mechanisms effects must be sought over a period of time and on condition of its continuation and steadfast function, nevertheless after the passage of 65 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment of the UN Commission on Human Rights and its successor the Human Rights Council, still, the international community witnesses human rights violations instances such as those mentioned earlier, which shows that changes and new initiatives are needed.
With a reiteration on the importance and functionality of UPR mechanism, the ODVV believes now is the right opportunity to pathology this process. In this given opportunity we would like to draw the attention of the Council to two points that require thinking about and take necessary action.
First: in the first round of the UPR almost 21,400 recommendations were exchanged among 192 countries with the aim of further observation of human rights in the world. A major part of these recommendations were with regards to the signing or adopting of international conventions and covenants (4231), women’s rights (3693), rights of the child (3442), prohibition of torture (1743), the application of justice (1562). Although this can show the classification and layering of more important issues from other important human rights issues, nevertheless we have another point in mind. In the presentation of recommendations process, some countries were more active than others. We stated in the previous UPR Session that states must bring about the best conditions inside their countries so that they become shining examples for the observation of human rights to others. According to conducted reviews, overall Canada, Norway, France and Spain gave out the most number of recommendations in the first round, then it is expected from these four countries to improve their own human rights conditions. They should be forerunners in the observation of the fundamental spirit of the UPR mechanism, both by themselves and cooperation with others, and they should ditch the failed and tension building “naming and shaming” process. We believe that confrontational processes in the field of human rights although might have short term effects, but they do not bring about the lasting foundations of human rights for the people of a country.
Second: Another of the weak points of the UPR is the repetition of the same recommendations by different countries. Although states cannot be forced to give a specific recommendation and or regarding a subject, due to the relevant recommendation from another state, not take a stance and not express concern, however this process and the repetition of one recommendations by several states, reduces some opportunities for all sided review of the human rights situation within the state under review.
It is expected from the Council through the adoption of appropriate mechanism, through demand reduce the volume of repeated recommendations and bring about an atmosphere in which debates, exchange of ideas, colloquiums and solutions for human rights issues of states, and without politicized dialogues. For countries to try at least before the UPR working group session finalize their statements and put them on the UNHCHR or their representatives’ website for everyone to see can also be a recommendation. In this way other countries can through awareness of the areas of concerns by a state, can concentrate its attention to situations that are reviewed less. Although this recommendation can be put to practice, but its implementation depends on the political will of states too.
In any event, despite some shortfalls, the first cycle of the UPR showed a potential in the process of creating a real development in the subject of human rights, and placing them in the centre of attention of states. Also this resulted in many countries that for years had seen themselves as exempt from human rights commitments, and solely criticized and monitored the human rights situation of other countries, to be carefully scrutinized and assed from human rights aspect, and at least in appearance, to be equally scrutinized alongside other countries. In fact in most instances this process will cause the strengthening of the keenness of the human rights mechanism of the UN as a method to apply pressure on countries and force them to observe and protect their human rights commitments. This process has also gave encouragement and impetus for human rights defenders to interact with other human rights mechanisms such as special procedures.
And finally, the last point, which is Israel’s refusal to take part in the UPR process on 29 January of this year, inflicted a heavy damage to the universality, and unavoidability and answerability of states towards this mechanism. We believe the Council must prepare a mechanism where the cost of any similar action would be so high that countries think twice before doing it. Unfortunately Israel founded a process where if serious measures are not taken, very simply the UPR mechanism will within the next few years lose its credibility. We recommend that in this Session a resolution be adopted by the Council that stresses on necessity for positive and full cooperation of states with the UPR mechanism. It must not be forgotten that the disruption of the solidarity of the UPR, will have negative effects on the opportunities that have come about for the civil society to make positive intervention for the improvement of human rights in various parts of the world in coordination with UN bodies and relevant states.
The ODVV hopes that the lessons learned from the first round, alongside the will of countries for distancing themselves from the politicization of human rights, the second round turn it into a mechanism for the real improvement of human rights in all parts of the world.
Item 7: Human rights in Palestine and other occupied territoriesNeda Institute for Scientific Political Research
As one of the biggest violators of human rights, Israel has a black history in disregarding international law, treaties and norms, and even its own commitments to bilateral agreements with Palestinians. Israel’s human rights violations have continuously been condemned by the international human rights community, but Israel continually ignores these international condemnations and demands. Despite these criticisms, in 2012 we witnessed Israel’s suspension of cooperation with the Human Rights Council, to the extent in which Israel did not attend its own UPR session. This is the first time that a country fails to attend its own UPR session, and it is worrying that a dangerous custom comes about in the UPR mechanism and global respect to human rights.
In response to this action of Israel, the Council decided to postpone the session till 2013 and called upon Israel to cooperate with the UPR.
As we all know the poor function of the Commission on Human Rights in the encouragement for respecting human rights I the world, and day by day losing of its credibility which had turned into a political tool for human rights violating countries, and their influence in decision making were the most important reasons for the dissolution of Commission on Human Rights and its replacement with the Human Rights Council. The thing that became a cause for concern for the ODVV as a human rights NGO that has an active approach in the UPR mechanism, is the fear of the Council becoming like its predecessor.
While condemning this action of Israel, the ODVV expresses its concern that the lack of cooperation of countries with the UPR mechanism becomes customary.
This NGO stresses Israel’s approach in disregarding international laws and mechanisms alongside violation of human rights, has brought about complicated conditions, the solving of which demand the serious efforts of international mechanisms. Below a number of human rights violation in territories under occupation by Israel since 1967 in 2012 and beginning of 2013.
1 – Violation of Palestinians Right to Life
Through repeated attacks against Palestinians such as the Gaza Strip have killed Palestinians and thus violated their rights to life. For example in 2012, 290 Palestinians were killed, among which were 170 civilians that included 49 children in the November 2012 eight day war, and 1400 were injured, 439 of which were women and children. In the current year, 12 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank. Through measures that contradict common article 3 of the Geneva Four Conventions, which stresses on the necessity to protect civilians during conflict, does not distinguish between military personnel and civilians. Meanwhile the massacre of the Delo family which left 22 adults and 43 children dead must be investigated by the international community.
2 – Gaza Strip Blockade
Despite repeated international calls for Israel to end the Gaza Strip blockade, it continues to maintain the blockade. As well as affecting various living aspects of Palestinians and increase in poverty because of the blockade, Israel’s prevention of the reconstruction of the region has made the conditions worse and even brought about environmental problems for the people. According to the WHO Office in Gaza, in the event of failure to purify the waters of the region, by 2016 water in the Gaza Strip will be undrinkable.
3 – Palestinian Detainees and Prisoners Conditions
The conditions of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons are very worrisome. In December 2012 there was a total of 4656 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, 178 of which that included 7 legislative council members were in administrative detention, and 177 prisoners were children. Despite the agreement reached between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli Prisons Department, many prisoners are being abused by the Israelis and are in solitary confinement and have been tortured and their fundamental rights violated.
Meanwhile it is expected of Israeli officials to while improving the prisoners’ conditions and providing their fundamental rights, to suspend the Administrative Detention phenomenon which is contrary to article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and facilitate the trial of these detainees.
4 – Settlement Constructions and the Jewfication of Jerusalem
Through total disregard to international reactions and the rights of Palestinians, Israel continues to construct and expand settlements in the West Bank. According to the statistics of the Mir Amim Society, during 2012 the number of settlement construction permits reached 6932, which in comparison the previous year the figures have increased immensely. According to the Peace Now Society in the first week of December 2012 alone Benjamin Nethenyahu approved the planning and construction of 11,000 settlements on the other side of the ’67 border, which equals to the number of permits given over the last ten years. Meanwhile settlements construction in Jerusalem in contrast to international resolutions in 2012 increased by seven times compared to 2011. The E1 project which completely changes the Palestinian nature of East Jerusalem and causes the splitting up of the West Bank is a great cause for concern.
This is while construction of settlements and demographic alteration of nature of the Occupied Territories is fully banned according to international resolutions.
5 – Settlers’ Violence
One of the complicated problems which has put pressure on Palestinians in the West Bank is the violence of the settlers, especially around Al Khalil. As well as depriving Palestinians from their own safety, the settlers destroy their farms and lands. According to the monthly report of the Department of International Relations of the PLO in November 2012 alone IDF soldiers and settlers cut down 1360 trees most of which were olive trees, and in numerous instances attacked Palestinians and destroyed mosques, sabotaged water resources.
6 – Demolition of Homes and Confiscation of Lands
Systematically the IDF demolishes Palestinian homes and confiscates land in the West Bank. According to he report of the Wadi Halweh Centre, in the second half of 2012, on average Israelis destroyed four Palestinian homes per month, mostly in Jerusalem.
7 – Violation of Children’s Rights
The situation of Palestinian children as the defenseless victims of occupation and Israeli attacks is very concerning. According to the Palestinian Information Ministry report since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, 5000 Palestinian children have been injured as a result of Israeli and settlers attacks, and 1456 killed. Furthermore Palestinian children in the West Bank are suffering terrible conditions due to Israeli negative policies in restricting the movement of Palestinians, and the consequences of the construction of the Security Barrier, particularly with regards to the settlers’ violence and arrests and torture by the IDF, and also the violation of the right to education. All these are in violation of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (20/11/1959), Convention on the Rights of the Child (20/11/1989), and the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the protection of civilians during war and armed conflict. In his 25 May 2012, Richard Falk has pointed these dire conditions out.
8 – Violation of Palestinian Women’s Rights
The situation of women in the Gaza Strip due to the blockade and Israel’s repeated wars against the region is terrible. Many of them have become victims of these conflicts and been killed and injured, their homes demolished, their farmlands been destroyed, endured daily increasing poverty, restricted movements, the humiliating treatment they receive from IDF and settlers, and most of their rights as stated in international conventions been violated. Israeli officials are obliged to implement the contents of the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which Israel is a signatory to in territories occupied since 1967.
9 – Pilfering Palestinian Natural Resources
Although article 55 of the Hague Conference (1907) and the Geneva Conventions prohibit the use of natural resources by the occupying forces in occupied territories, Israeli officials however in a very targeted way they take Palestinian natural resources and through legislations they try to make them legal. According to the Al-Haq Palestinian Institute, Israeli companies situated in Jewish settlements in the West Bank which are illegal according to international law, take the bahrolmeit natural resources and make commercial use of them, which has caused economic problems for Palestinians.
10 – Freedom of Expression
Despite repeated claims by Israel to being the protector of democracy, it violates the rights of Palestinians to freedom of expression and peaceful association. In the November 2012 war against Gaza the IDF targeted Palestinian and international news network offices, and killed and injured many reporters in the region. The IDF also attacked demonstrators demonstrating peacefully against the Gaza conflict in parts of the West Bank and northern Israel, arresting many, and killing 12 demonstrators.
The ODVV stresses that the existing facts and statistics regarding Israel’s practice which this statement only reflected a part of, tells us that its nature is one of the biggest violators of human rights. This NGO believes that to prevent further violation of the rights of Palestinians, more effective mechanisms at the international level must be adopted to force Israel to observe international human rights commitments.
Item8: Human Rights and Cultural DiversityPerhaps it can be claimed that in the first few moments following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the seeds of a subject were sewn which to-date has been the origins of many arguments. The questions are: should human rights be seen as universal rights? Or on the opposite, with a commitment to diversity, the principle must be embedded in the historical and social development of a specific culture, and defend cultural diversity?
In fact at first look the terms “universality of human rights”, “cultural relativity of human rights” seem to be two completely opposite terms, where the first wants unification and the second diversity and harmonization.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence believes that approach towards cultural relativity, becomes atmosphere for proposition when human communities analysis level be a specific humanity recognizing concept. In this situation, inadvertently we see analytical units of the forms of separate human societies who have their particular customs, traditions and cultures. For this reason this level of analysis will take us to the plurality of the worlds of individuals, and therefore cultural plurality and differences. A radical look at this level of analysis, will guide us to a cultural atomism and the factors these cultures as island like, and therefore with an observance of to the minimum commonalities among cultures, will force us to write the words diversity a more highlighted way when writing the term cultural diversity.
But if we consider our analysis level, a structural analysis level, in this perspective structures such as international networks, institutions and organizations, through the passage of time will bring about frameworks where players such as states will have no other choice but play within the limitations of principles and frameworks. In fact in this perspective a a comprehensive cultural order dominates all cultural units extensively, coordinates their behaviours with imposed restrictions by itself, and gradually undermines cultural diversity, and ultimately moves towards the shaping of one universal order that is acceptable and enforceable for all cultural units.
Right now this analysis level, has been accepted more than cultural diversifying, and this is why that it seems it has reserved its name alongside human rights very well: universality of human rights.
Nevertheless we believe there is a need for another perspective. An approach that guarantees “oneness while different”. It seems it is this method that can facilitate the collective between cultural diversity and universality of human rights. In fact in this method the utilization of the harmonization element, the existence of different orders with different principles can be accepted. But at the same time it must also be accepted that these orders, have common and close to each other principles. In this view, common principles are principles have been recognized in important international human rights documents and covenants., and these documents have been accepted by a major part of the world community (not necessarily all of the world community; particularly those with different civilizations.
Although “making the principles stated in important and basic human rights documents a basis” is itself arguable, and many thinkers of the developing world believe that the thing that exist in the framework of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international covenants and conventions that have been adopted by the United Nations , before being the introducers of different world orders, these international documents are the expressions of the experiences of the western civilizations, and with a mistrustful look, they are hegemonic countries. Nonetheless human rights activists have tried to seek assistance from this analysis level, and in view of the problems and issues that lay in front of them, they try to find a solution that is based on the reduction of opposites, and not necessarily remove all of them. The fruition of this viewpoint can clearly be seen in two important and credible international documents.
1 – Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993):
Article 5 states: All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
2 – UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
In the preamble if this Declaration which was adopted by 188 UNESCO member states in 2001 it states: “Reaffirming that culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs,.. Affirming that respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security,”
This positive approach recognizes cultural diversity in all the 12 articles of the Declaration. Even to the extent where in article 1 UNESCO calls “cultural diversity, the common heritage of mankind” and in article 4 it sees “human rights as guarantees of cultural diversity” and states: “The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity. It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples. No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.”
The final words of this article indicates the same view on the possibility and necessity for Harmonization between the universality of human rights debate and cultural relativity. This means efforts must be taken to protect the particular characteristics of a cultural order alongside the acceptance of concentrated principles for stabilization in a collective of orders that in appearance are different but are the same within.
In any event and in view of what has been said above it can be concluded that although the need to listen to voices other that of the west’s culture and at the same time, the necessity to be committed to common principles to strengthen a universal human rights mechanism is a subject impossible on the surface but deep inside it will be possible. In facto two “politics and influencibility of culture” and also the “effects of globalization” will be key tools for this integration. In the recent years the more highlighted activities of other players in the international relations arena – be they NGOs or specific individuals – the suitable basis for the establishment of an environment to hear the others’ voice has come about.
Therefore now there are two paths that those who believe in the possibility of the conformity of different cultures in the subject of human rights. One path is to concentrate on the common denominators instead of differences, and through this path help each other to the closeness and concepts of legal systems. The followers of this view believe that even if it is hard to determine human rights, but we can still talk about mankind’s mistakes. Thus some believe to determine what is seen as injustice, is easier than determining justice. On this basis it can be said that “perhaps there are no comprehensive moral guidelines that is not universally acceptable, in which all local laws and customs conform to, but perhaps there are simpler guidelines which at least be used against some acts to gain legitimacy.” In confirming their statements, the followers of this viewpoint all believe some international laws such as the International Convention on Genocide (1948), and or the Confession of Defenders “Asian Values” in the prohibition of torture, and or the right to a fair trial can be mentioned on the basis of this viewpoint, has brought closer together the followers of different legal systems.
The second path, gives more support to universal ideas, but this support strongly bases itself on non-fundamentalism. This solution includes the acceptance of the subject where human rights are based on a special culture. In this solution instead of pointing to some universal supra-cultural standards, this idea is put aside which can show that human rights really do exist. Instead here a kid of culture is advertised in which these laws exist. In fact efforts to make specific human rights principles inclusive, take place when at first a cultural basis is established, and on that basis, these standards get accepted by society through normal and more importantly “cultural” principles, and reign people’s minds; in such way that without their presence, their culture may not be identified.
The ODVV believes that if this process can continue in a balanced way and without getting caught up in political games, then the differences in cultures and tradition, not only will not have a meaning in the benefitting from the positive repercussions of universality of human rights, but will be a factor towards the completion and strengthening of principles under the attention of all in the field of universal human rights.
Item 9: Islamophobia The term Islamophobia meaning the fear from Islam and Muslims, and Anti-Semitism, meaning being against the Semite race is the creation of the western world. The meaning of this term in the heart of human rights, is the protection of religious and ethnic minorities in society. But what we witness in practice is the difference in treating these two phenomena, because in practice Islamophobia unlike Anti-Semitism is not used for the abovementioned meaning.
Islamophobia is a visible phenomenon which is a form of discrimination against Muslims and negative propaganda and also creation of hatred towards Islam. This stance against Muslims in the West and their beliefs has at times advanced to the point of Anti-Islamism, the purpose of which is the adoption of aggressive approaches particularly via the mass media. According to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, in the individual and group forms, Islamophobia results in the deprivation of social and political rights of Muslims, and their omission from public arenas. Although Islamophobia has increased over the last three decades for different reasons, but it cannot be denied that the 9/11 terror attacks, gave some western governments a beautiful excuse to create a frightening taboo from Islam, and force it upon their public opinions. The comprehension of the link between Islamophobia in the West and western governments’ policies at the international level itself is a subject to study, in order to reveal further dimensions of the transformation of Islamophobia to Anti-Islamism in the West and more racial tendencies in this regard.
One of the instances where the efforts of human rights activists for the reduction of Islamophobia and the fight against its facets have been fruitless is the linking of Islamophobia to freedom of expression.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stress on “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19(3) of the ICCPR states: “The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”
Article 20 also states: “1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
This is while in today’s world we witness efforts are made to stir up religious emotions and expand Islamophobia on the pretext of freedom of expression
The Delegate further referred to the International covenant on civil and political rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the international convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination , all defend the Right to freedom of speech , nonetheless all of them in article 19(3),10(2)(respectively)or for the protection of the reputation or right of the others or if they disseminate superiority or hatred, prohibited acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any group of persons of another ethnic origin. Furthermore, article 20 (2) of the SCERD provided that any advocacy of national or religious hatred that constituted hostility or violence should be prohibited by law. In fact freedom of speech should exclusively purse the legitimate objectives, otherwise should be banned.
The international criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted three persons, founder of the famous Radio Television Libre (RTIM) and one editor in chief of one Newspaper on direct and indirect conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity thought the airwaves and print of materials, which were illustrated as “hate speech”.
Overall Islamophobia and its continuation is a product of the facilitation of western governments with insulting and inhuman behaviours of those that are against Islam and Muslims n the western society. These behaviours within the framework of the creation of hatred of Muslims, the failure to distinguish between Islam and terrorism, promotion and campaigning Anti-Islamism, and association to Islam are all very visible. The thing that is certain is that in a society where Islamophobia is campaigned, the grave violation of human rights is also present.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) believes that a vast majority of the world’s communities have deep and rooted problems in how they approach foreigners, racial and religious minorities, and also the way followers of religions approach them. Despite the acceptance of the fact of the level of these injustices and a hope for improvement of the conditions through raising the awareness of societies and making transparent these wrong views and beliefs, we are still witness to the strong and rooted racist and Islamophobic movement in Europe, despite this continent’s claim to human rights matter, is a cause for deep regret.
While condemning the measures and treatments that take place at official and nonofficial levels against Muslims which have no conclusions but the escalation of baseless religious hatred, the ODVV once again as stated in the 17th Session of the Human Rights Council, we call for further importance be given to subjects such as dialogue among religions, and making transparent and clear ambiguities from some wrong impressions of Divine religions, and to give a joint mandate to the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion and Belief to find practical and sustainable solutions for overcoming this problem.
We hope that by accepting and starting of this initiative, a suitable atmosphere that is away from the common prejudices and narrow-mindedness, the followers of Divine religions can live in peace and tranquility, and respect each others’ beliefs.
In general the concept of defamation of religion tries to recognize a right for belief and religion. Instead of observing on individual or a group’s rights which fundamentally are in contrast with current international law standards.
The ODVV believes that one of the most important measures which will result in a more effective fight against human rights violations that are caused by Islamophobia is to be committed to international law and human rights, and to recognize defamation of religion as hate speech.