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UN Special Rapporteur condemns Iran's treatment of minorities

UN Special Rapporteur on housing, Miloon Kothari, has released a damning report on Iran's housing conditions, singling out ethnic and religious minorities and women as suffering discrimination.

Kothari visited Iran in July 2005 to assess living conditions and made a special visit to Ahwaz (Khuzestan), where he saw for himself the level of discrimination against Arabs, including land confiscations.

In his report submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council, he states that: "In Kermanshah and Khuzestan, the overall living conditions in poor neighbourhoods mainly inhabited by Kurds, Arabs and Muslim Sufis were extremely unsatisfactory. Particularly serious conditions were observed in places like Ghal'e Channan and Akhar Asfalt in Ahvaz with, in some cases, a complete lack of basic services impacting negatively on the populations' health status, in addition to contributing to severe security problems. Most poor neighbourhoods were unpaved, open-air sewage was sometimes observed and uncollected garbage blocked streets, obstructing traffic and access from the outside in case of emergencies."

The Special Rapporteur "visited lands traditionally cultivated by Iranian Arabs, which were expropriated by the Government for remarkably low prices in order to provide space for development projects and plantations, such as the Dekhoda sugar-cane project. The affected population had no access to legal remedies to challenge the legitimacy and legality of the expropriation orders and existing legal remedies only enabled the inhabitants to initiate discussions related to the price offered for their lands. Allegedly, even in the very few cases in which the prices were slightly raised by courts, they were still fixed much lower than market values. The affected population was not consulted before or during the expropriation procedure.

"Expropriations for the implementation of development projects have been especially criticized in view of the considerable amount of unutilized rural land, where displacement would be minimal, and which was already owned by the Government, where such projects could be located."

Kothari's initial observations led to a cross-party motion of condemnation of land confiscation in Ahwaz by the European Parliament, with some politicians such as Paulo Casaca MEP stating that the Iranian government was carrying out a policy of systematic ethnic cleansing against Ahwazi Arabs.

Click here to download the full report.