Saturday, July 30, 2005

Iran confiscating minorities' land says UN report

Iran is denying basic amenities to its ethnic and religious minorities and in some cases confiscating their land, a preliminary U.N. report said on Saturday.

The report focused on accounts of discrimination in areas across the country's western borders, home to Arab and Kurdish minorities, where ethnic unrest has flared this week. READ MORE

The findings were collated on a trip to Iran by Miloon Kothari, U.N. special rapporteur on adequate housing. His preliminary report will be discussed by a U.N. human rights commission next April.

"Regions historically occupied by Kurds ... seem to suffer disproportionate inadequacy of services such as water and electricity and unsatisfactory reconstruction efforts," Kothari's report read.

There was no immediate comment from the government which has denied such charges in the past.

Kurds rioted in the western town of Mahabad this month and three policemen were killed in a gunbattle with Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

Kothari said the Arabs in Khuzestan were particularly aggrieved to live in squalor when their province sat on most of Iran's gigantic oil fields.

"Land confiscation and 'confiscation style' purchase of lands by the government seem to disproportionately impact on the land and property of some religious and ethnic minorities," he said.

About 2 million of Iran's 67 million people are Arabs. Since April, Arabs, often citing their dismal quality of life and discrimination from Tehran, have poured onto the streets in protest. Several have died and hundreds have been arrested.

Kothari said there were also reports of the state confiscating land from the Bahai religious minority.

Bahais, whose religion was founded in 19th century Iran, say authorities have imprisoned and executed hundreds of adherents of their faith since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

They say Tehran, which regards them as heretics, has confiscated tens of thousands pieces of property.

Nomads, such as the southern Qashqai tribe, are also facing discrimination, with traditional pasture land being sold to the private sector, the report said.

When asked about the attitude of regional officials towards charges of ethnic discrimination, Kothari said most governors denied there was any discrimination in their provinces.
An important report.