Letter of 11 Human Rights Organizations to UN Reporters about the Environmental Crisis in Iran

Posted on: February 18th, 2015

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran

 

Mr. John Knox, UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment,

 

Mr. Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,

 

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, write to call your attention to an issue of urgent and serious concern in Iran. We wish to urge you to use your respective mandates to make an urgent appeal to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran with regard to environmental crisis in western and southwestern Iran.

The environmental crisis in Ahwaz and other cities in Western and Southwestern Iran is indeed becoming a humanitarian disaster. Dust storms which have existed for years in this part of Iran, have been significantly intensified in the last few days and made local people to breath dust instead of air. For a good portion of year the amount of dust particles in the air reaches dangerous levels, sometimes up to 60 times the permissible level, and the air pollution up to 15 times the permissible level. On some days, the intensity of dust particles has been so high that it has rendered air pollution testing devices dysfunctional.

 

On occasions, the dust has reduced visibility to less than 50 meters, which has resulted in some fatal car accidents with high numbers of casualties. According to official reports, everyday, an average of more than 250 people attend emergency departments in Ahwaz hospitals for respiratory problems while some of them need to be admitted to special care units. So far, official authorities have declined to give any statistics on air pollution related deaths. They also refuse to give any clear, non-contradictory, and accurate explanation and information on the reasons behind the crisis, responsible bodies, and solutions to the problem.

 

It has been announced that the government has an “Executive Package” on the way to battle the dust storms, which sounds promising. However, the only tangible measure taken by the government so far in order to protect the lives of more than one million people of Ahwaz has been ordering schools and government departments closed. In the last two weeks alone, schools in Ahwaz have been closed down for seven days. Further, it was only days after the beginning of the crisis, and following public protests, that the government began distributing free surgical masks. This was however limited only to Ahwaz and in other towns and cities people still have to pay for the masks. The intensity of dust and air pollution is also observed in other cities in Western and Southwestern Iran such as Ilam, Piranshahr, Abadan, Dehloran, Dezful, Hendijan, Mahshahr, Ramshir, Khoramshahr, Bukan, Mianduab, Hoveyzeh, Hamidiyeh, and Dasht-e Azadegan and Urmia (Orumieh) where the majority of population belongs to ethnic minorities who are subjected to discrimination and violation.

 

Multiple reasons have been suggested for this environmental crisis, which has become more problematic since ten years ago and affected the lives and health of millions of Iranians. It has been claimed that drought as a regional problem, excessive use of water resources and the diverting of the Karun river, development plans without taking environmental concerns into account such as excessive construction of water dams in the region including in Iran, oil exploration projects, etc. have resulted in desertification and drying up of marshlands and lagoons, which used to prevent dust from getting into residential areas. Lack of cooperation between Iran and Iraq in preserving the marshlands is another factor contributing to the dust storms originated inside Iraq.

 

Over the past ten years, the government of the IRI has not carried out any effective plan to prevent dust particles getting into the air breathed by people. Now this has turned into an emergency crisis with no short-term solution, if any, in the horizon.

 

In a 2003 report[1], the UNEP had sounded alarm about the disappearance of two of the largest marshlands in the world and the largest ecosystem in southwestern Asia, Hur-ul-azim and Hur-ul-hoveyzeh, located on the Iran-Iraq border. According to this research, by that time 90 percent of this ancient and unique ecosystem had been destroyed. The report described the death of these marshlands as one of humanity’s worst engineered disasters and suggested that the only solution to prevent a major environmental crisis would be urgent measures to preserve these two international marshlands. However, this never materialized, neither by Iran nor Iraq, and dust particles raised from the dried-up marshlands became one of the main reasons of the current disaster that is unfolding in southwestern Iran, particularly the city of Ahwaz.

 

It is evident that short-sighted regional and national development plans and poor environmental policy-making have contributed to this disaster. The governments in the region, including the IRI, have failed to effectively and timely address the environmental problems and control harmful activities within their own terri­tories, which have caused the current disaster.

 

Human rights and environmental protection are interlinked and the rights to life, health, and development undoubtedly depend on a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The government of the IRI owes positive obligations towards its citizens in this regard and we are extremely disturbed by the fact that, the IRI has failed to effectively protect its citizens against environmental harm and to mitigate the consequences.

 

We, therefore, respectfully request that you consider the situation described above and urge the government of the IRI to take the following steps:

 

  • Take effective and tangible measures to prevent and mitigate harm to people.

 

  • Take urgent and special measures to protect those most vulnerable including children, ill people, and older people.

 

  • Carry out a comprehensive inquiry and hold accountable those responsible for causing the problem or failed to take effective and timely measures.

 

  • Provide full access to information about the problem and its impacts on the health and lives of people, as well as the decisions made and plans adopted.

 

  • Take into account in decision-­making process the environmental impact of activities on the right to life and health of people.

 

  • Invite local authorities, independent experts, civil society and rights groups to participate in environmental decision-making.

 

  • Provide effective remedies and access to justice –while ensuring non­-discriminatory treatment– for those individuals or communities who are directly affected by this problem.

 

In conclusion, we request that you watch the situation closely until all required measures by the Islamic Republic of Iran are taken and the problem is solved.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

Duman Radmehr, Board Member

Association for the Human Rights of Azerbaijani People in Iran(AHRAZ)

 

Dr Hossein Ladjevardi, President

Association des Chercheurs Iraniens’ (ACI)

 

Karen Parker, President

Association of Humanitarian Lawyers

 

Taimoor Aliassi, UN Representative

Association of Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva

 

Ibrahim Al Arabi, Executive Director

European Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation (EAHRO)

 

Keyvan Rafiee, Director

Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI)

 

Mohammad Nayyeri, Founder and Director

Insight Iran

 

Lydia Brazon, Executive Director

International Educational Development, Inc

 

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Executive Director

Iran Human Rights

 

Shadi Sadr, Co-Director

Justice for Iran (JFI)

 

Mohammad Mostafaei, Director

Universal Tolerance Organization

 

[1] UNEP, The Mesopotamian Marshlands: Demise of an Eco


Amnesty International: Saman Nassem Beaten, Days from Execution

Posted on: February 17th, 2015

Amnesty International – Iranian juvenile offender Saman Naseem was beaten to force him to make more TV “confessions” on 15 February. He is scheduled to be executed on 19 February for crimes he is accused of having committed when he was 17 years old.

Saman Naseem called his family on 15 February and told them that earlier that day men in plain clothes had taken him to the security department of the Oroumieh Prison. He said the men, who he believed belonged to the Ministry of Intelligence and were carrying cameras and recording equipment, beat him for several hours to force him into making video-taped “confessions”, but he refused to do so. (more…)


Human Rights Watch: Halt Execution of Child Offender

Posted on: February 11th, 2015

Human Rights Watch – Iran’s judiciary immediately should halt plans to execute a man convicted at age 17 of terrorism-related crimes for an armed opposition group and vacate his death sentence.

Iran’s Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence for the man, Saman Nasim, in December 2013. His lawyer and family fear that authorities may carry out the sentence in less than two weeks despite an absolute ban on the execution of child offenders in international law. Iranian media reports indicate that Iran has executed at least eight child offenders since 2010. Reports by Amnesty International and other rights groups, however, suggest as many as 31 child offenders may have been executed during that period, making it one of the countries with the world’s highest number of reported child offender executions. (more…)


Amnesty International: Execution Looms for Saman Naseem

Posted on: February 11th, 2015

Amnesty International – Iranian juvenile offender, Saman Naseem, could be executed as early as 19 February 2015 for crimes allegedly committed when he was 17 years old. He was sentenced to death after an unfair trial.

The family of Saman Naseem, who is now aged 22, have received reliable information that he will be executed on 19 February. Amnesty International understands that the authorities have prevented Saman Naseem’s lawyer from pursuing the case and have not allowed him to appoint another lawyer. (more…)


Civil Activists and Political Prisoners Call for “Yes to the Unconditional Implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights”

Posted on: January 12th, 2015

HRANA News Agency – A group of political prisoners and political and civil activists signed a letter to the Iranian people to join the campaign for the unconditional implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The following is the full text of this statement:

Dear compatriots!

Sixty-six years ago in the United Nations General Assembly, a declaration was adopted   that resulted from thousands of years of human effort and struggle to “recognize the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” The General Assembly in 10th of December 1948 adopted the Article 30 of the Declaration as the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights and published it as “a common standard achievement for all people and nations.” In 1975 after the approval in the National Congress, this Declaration was adopted as a law in Iran. (more…)


45 Political Prisoners Ask Ban Ki-moon to Address their Situation

Posted on: January 11th, 2015

HRANA News Agency – Tens of political prisoners in ward 350 of Evin prison who were transferred to Quarantine basement of ward 7 and are being kept in an inhumane difficult condition since last summer, wrote a letter asking for the help from the UN General Secretary, Human rights Council and some of the human rights organization to improve their condition.

In this letter which has been signed by 45 political prisoners as: Omid Kokabi, Mehdi Sajadifar, Hamidreza Derakhshandeh, Amir Mirza hekmati, Salaar Sotoudeh, Assdollsh Asadi, Esmael Barzegar, Rasool Heydarzadeh,Yaghoob Maleki, Behzad Abasi, Amir Dorousti and Majid Mohammadi Moein, the prisoners have complain about their inhumane condition in prison. (more…)


Political Prisoners Invited Behnam Ebrahimzadeh to End Hunger Strike

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

HRANA News Agency – On Wednesday 3 December 2014, Behnam Ebrahimzadeh was transferred from Ward 12 of Karaj Rajaee Shahr Prison which is designated to Political and Conscious Prisoners to another ward which is home to prisoners with heavy sentences and criminals on his return from the court.

He had initiated a hunger strike on the same day and was in extreme health condition during the hunger strike.

In a letter, a group of Political Prisoners invited BehnamEbrahimZadeh to end his hunger strike which is in the following: (more…)


Statement of Women Political Prisoners at Evin Prison about Hakime Shokri’s Exile

Posted on: January 5th, 2015

HRANA News Agency – A group of political women prisoners has signed an open letter to complain against the illegal exile of Hakimeh Shokri to Gharchak prison and asked the authorities to answer it.

Rooz On-line had published the Persian format of the statement, the English translation of which is being published by HRANA:

Hakimeh Shokri is a green movement prisoner in Evin and a member of mourning mothers of Park-e-Laleh. She was transfered to Gharchak prison in 15 December, unexpectedly.

She was expecting the parole while only 7 months of her 3 years imprisonment sentence remains. Under the pretext of her calling up to the prosecutor of Evin, they took her out without giving permission to collect the little amount of her personal properties.

The condition of Gharchak prison in Varaamin is known to any one, even keeping the criminals there is a kind of problematic. Inhumane condition of women’s ward was announced to the authorities in different ways but it has not been worked so much.

Besides, Hakimeh Shokri the green prisoner has been transferred to Gharchak Varaamin, unexpectedly. In our opinion, this transfer is an “exile” and she is forced to spend the rest of her imprisonment in a horrible situation.

As usual, the authorities of the prison bring typical excuses to exile dozens of our friends in ward 350 of Evin during these 5 years.
Keeping the political prisoners in such a condition which is not even valid for the ordinary prisoners is unavoidable and not permissible.

In another view, this exile is the reverse of Hakimeh Shokri’s rights and is double overcharge against the one who is imprisoned because of supporting the green movement.
We complain about this sudden, unreasonable unjustified exile and ask the judicial authorities to return back or free this political prisoner.

Bahareh Hedayat, Sajedeh arab sorkhi, Maryam Shafi poor, Farideh
Shahgooli, Fariba Kamal Abadi, Faraan Hesami, Nasim Bagheri, Nooshin Khadem, Shahin Mohajer, Maryam Naghash zargaraan, Ellahe Barmaki, Sedigheh Moradi, Maryam Akbari monfared


Statement of Death-Row Prisoners at Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj

Posted on: December 31st, 2014

HRANA News Agency – The prisoners of the unit 2 of Karaj-Ghezelhesar prison who have been sentenced to death on drug-related charges started a hunger strike from Monday (December 1st) to Sunday (December 7th), protesting against the recent increasing of the number of executions in Iran in the last couple of weeks.

 

These prisoners issued a statement, a copy of which has been submitted to HRANA as follows: (more…)