Iran’s Ethno-Religious Minorities under Siege: Symposium on Capitol Hill


by staff writter

May 30, 2011 ( Representatives and leaders of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities were invited for a briefing symposium on Capitol Hill to discuss the situation of their communities this past Monday.

The event was hosted by two human rights organization (Leadership Council for Human Rights and Kurdish Human Rights Watch) and the president of the host organizations, Kathryn Cameron Porter and Dr. Pary Gharadaghi moderated the one and half hour session.

In her opening remarks Kathryn Cameron Porter referring to the difficult business of human rights stated “Senator Kirk, while he could not be here today, he is actually giving a speech in Chicago as we are meeting here wanted to bring up the case of a one particulate Kurdish man who is in Iran. He is Habibullah Latifi, 29 years old; he is a member of Iran Kurdish minority, an industrial engineering student, and his death sentence was upheld for second time. He was arrested in Sanandaj, a place I have been, and he was sentenced to death in July 2008.”

Leadership Council for Human Rights’ President conveyed Senator Kirk’s concern for the imminent execution of Habibullah Latifi and many others who have been unjustly condemned to execution or prolonged prison terms.

She also hinted that there would be a number of other briefings: “we are going to have, into the future, a series of these briefings so the staff people can come and learn in-depth about the situation in Iran that is not a one-sided perspective.”

“There are couple people I want to mention.  One is Mr. Hijri.  He is one of the most incredible men I have ever known.  He has a passion and a vision for his country and his people that need to be recognized and listened to.” Kathryn added in her remarks in the event that was organized in Mr. Hijri’s honor, the General Secretary of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

Dr. Pary Karadaghi, the President of Kurdish Human Rights Watch and as the moderator of the symposium stated “Today we have a wonderful group of people.  We have people from the Iran Federal Congress…a group of all ethnic and religious minorities in Iran who are very involved and persecuted but have also been vocal voice and the voice of the voiceless in Iran.”

photo gallery of the event

As the first speaker of the event, Mr. Mustafa Hijri, the General Secretary of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) talked about the “multi-layered oppression against the non-Persian nations in Iran”.

In his speech, he went on to discuss the situation of ethnic minorities in Iran, and emphasized on the fact that “Cruelty and violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran are carried out in an ideological and systematic manner.”

He also stated that the regime’s foreign policy is also drafted in the same fashion.  The General Secretary of PDKI while elaborating on his Party’s policies talked about the regime’s unmoveable foreign policy and stated that “bringing change to Iran without changing the regime is futile since all the players within the system carry out domestic and foreign policy according to the regime’s constitution.”

Mr. Hijri highlighted regime negative role in the events in the Middle East in particular in Syria and stated that “On one hand, the regime tries to stir-up instability in the “unfriendly” countries.  On the other hand, it not only remains silent regarding the violent, anti-government protests in Syria, but  also there are credible reports that the Iranian regime has a direct hand in the crack-down of the peaceful protestors in Syria and blames the outside world for provoking the uprisings.”

While welcoming mounting pressure on Iran’s human rights violators by the international community, US in particular, he said “Curbing the scope of the repressive forces, such as the Revolutionary Guards, to punishing violators of Iranian people’s rights and freedom are all steps in the right direction.”

At the end he reaffirmed that “The international community, US included have an obligation to assist and support Iran’s democratic and progressive forces to bring about regime change in Iran before more time passes. And when a new government is formed, it must reflect the rightful position of the nationalities within the country. Otherwise the effort to begin again will be doomed to failure.”

Leila Milani, the Co-founder and Executive Director of Iran Rooyan talked about the plight of women in Iran: “The story I want to tell is the story of the women of Iran.  They are a minority, but the beauty of it is they are Kurds, they are Bahai, they are Muslims, they are Christians, they are Jews so to tell their stories is to tell the story of Iran.”

Dr. Karim Abdian also talked about the situation of Iran’s nationalities.  His remarks were on behalf of a coalition of Iran’s national groups called the Congress of Nationalities for Federal Iran (CNFI): “We believe a secular, federal republic of Iran can be established by voluntary unity of the Iranian nationalities and ethnic groups…It was to this end that CNFI was created from 17 regional organizations and it is part of the transition of Iranian society to a democratic system advocating for peaceful change from within Iran by its own peoples.”

Carol Prunhuber, Journalist and A. R. Ghassemlou’s biographer and the author of “Passion and Death of Rahman the Kurds: Dreaming Kurdistan” also gave some remarks in regards to the plight of the Kurds in Iran through her experience with the Kurdish resistance movement in Iran in the mid 1980s. “In our gathering today, Kurds and other minorities are here to advocate for their cause, as aspired by Ghassemlou 2 decades earlier.  The Kurds are an important part of the Iranian mosaic and have led the resistance against the Iranian regime for decades.” She said.

“I have seen firsthand bravery by the Kurds in Iran against this regime.  They still continue to decry this regime and their presence here alongside of other minorities should be a clear indication that the people of Iran seek international support to get rid of this regime to bring about peace to the people of Iran, the region and the whole of the international community.” She concluded.

Dr. H. Hosen Bor, an attorney and a prominent Baluch rights activist also stressed on Iran’s multi-national composition and the need for a federal and democratic structure that can accommodate the rights of these nationalities.

Sam Yebri, an attorney and the co-founder of American-Iranian Jewish organization was the last speaker to draw a gruesome picture of the condition of religious minorities in Iran in particularly the Jews of Iran. “The shadow of Iran’s revolution and the regime’s tactics cast a long shadow over the Jews of Iran to this day…the entire [Jews] community still lives in fear for their security and safety.” he stated.


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