A worryingly large number of death sentences or long prison terms have recently been imposed by Iranian courts on members of minorities in Iran. Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning commented today (3 July) as follows:
“I am following the alarming treatment meted out to ethnic and religious minorities by the Iranian judiciary with grave concern.
I was outraged to hear of the execution of several members of the Ahwazi Arab minority who were sentenced to death in a trial lacking any transparency.
Like Christians, Sufis and Baha’is, Ahwazi Arabs and members of the Kurdish minority in Iran are increasingly becoming the victims of arbitrary trials in the Iranian courts, which do not even start to meet rule‑of‑law criteria.
This practice constitutes a crass breach of international law by the Islamic Republic, and is in violation of its international commitments and its own constitution. I call on Iran to respect the human rights of all its citizens equally, and to protect these human rights, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation.
I likewise call on the responsible authorities in Iran not to carry out death sentences that have already been imposed, but to pardon the defendants.”
Ethnic and religious minorities in Iran live in an extremely difficult environment. While Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are recognized as religious minorities and enjoy freedom of religion under the Iranian constitution, at least officially, others, above all members of the Baha’i faith, are subject to severe persecution.
Ahwazi Arabs have also repeatedly complained of marginalization and discrimination with respect to education, jobs, accommodation, political participation and cultural rights. Most of the Ahwazi Arabs live in south-western Iran. They are on the whole Shiite Muslims, although some have become Sunnites. Various press reports have stated that at least four members of the Ahwazi minority were executed on 18 or 19 June.
Terrorist activities by separatists, recruited from the Kurdish and Baloch ethnic minorities, have repeatedly led to reprisals by the central government, some of which have affected the minorities as a whole. This is true above all of the Kurds, who live predominantly in the west and north‑west of Iran. Kurds continue to be discriminated against in the exercise of their religious, economic and cultural rights. According to Amnesty International, at least 19 Kurdish men are currently on death row. They are accused by the Iranian courts of belonging to banned Kurdish organizations or of working for such organizations.