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Iranian riot police stand guard as Sunni demonstrators protest

Dismissing practices against witches as a thing of the past would be a proof of humanity’s state of denial. Even today one is bound to find at least one act of unjustified cruelty against a fellow human.

Human beings have not changed since the burning of witches. They have become smarter. They have learned to use words to help mask their cruelties. First it started with fancy words. Those words have now become ornaments to fancy terminology, which leaders around the world use to manipulate and manoeuvre listeners to make people see things differently — as they want them to.

One should take a moment to think of all the things happening around and raise one’s voice against the injustices. Human rights violation is one such recurring event. And most people are either victims or perpetrators. Differently put, even if individuals don’t act as violators, their very silence is taken as tacit support and thus they become a part of it!

Every year the UN General Assembly creates a platform welcoming all to put forth matters of human rights violation and help bring justice. This main deliberative organ of UN, the general assembly includes representatives of all members including Bangladesh, each with one vote. The UN charter gives the general assembly a broad mandate to “discuss any questions or matters within the scope of the present Charter and to make recommendations to Member States on these subjects.”

Among the countries in the Middle East, Iran is one such nation that not only hides behind the mask of democracy but also is an active member of the human violator’s cult!

Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution states: “All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; colour, race, language and the like, do not bestow any privilege.” However, discrimination on the basis of religion and ethnicity is rife in Iran. Minority languages are suppressed and many minorities are disadvantaged politically, socially and economically.

Ethnic and religious minorities make up nearly half of the Iranian population. Discontent among various minority groups has risen sharply over the past three years. Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, the government has promoted the country’s majority Persian and Shi’a Muslim identity forcefully. In contravention to formal guarantees in the Iranian constitution and international commitments, Iran continued a crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities in 2007 through police repression, discrimination in education, and state media campaigns. The victims included Baluchis and Turkomans, Kurds and Sunni Muslims. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a report on human rights in Iran in October 2008 that highlighted the regime’s abuse against women and minorities as well as one issued in the 64th session of 2010.

The General Assembly put forth a four-page damning list of activities that amount to serious violation of human rights. The violations are not restricted to cruel or inhuman treatment or just torture but cover a wide range of human rights violations from executions by stone throwing to amputations. According to reports, Iran has witnessed a high number of executions — 129 in 2010 so far, according to an AFP count based on media reports last year the number was 270.

The document also mentions increasing harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders, forced closure of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre including the arrest of its staff, discrimination and other human rights violations against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities like Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis and Sunni Muslims and their defenders as well as attacks on Baha’is and their faith in state sponsored media, increasing evidence of efforts by Iran to identity, monitor and arbitrarily detain Baha’is, preventing members of the Baha’i Faith from attending university and from sustaining themselves financially, and the continuing detention of seven Baha’i leaders arrested in March and May 2008 for serious charges but without meaningful access to legal representation.

In the post-election protests to the alleged fraud in the presidential elections of 2009, Iran’s security forces arrested over 4,000 people, and in the past year tens of journalists and human rights activists have been imprisoned by the Islamic Republic. Since then many lawyers have also become the target of persecution for their attempts to defend political detainees.

Before, the Sunni community was allowed to hold Eid congregation but now some Shiite extremists using their governing power have banned Sunnis of Tehran to do that. In addition there are other cities where the Sunni community was also banned to hold their congregation, including Isfahan, Kashan, Qum, Kirman, and Yazd. According to the US Department of State, Tehran is the only city across the world where a single Sunni mosque is not found. According to Iran’s local newspaper “The Sunni News”, this Shi’a state sent forces to secure venues of Sunni Eid congregation and forced them away led by a Sunni scholar.

Iran has been arresting people and then pressing charges as opposed to it being the other way round and it has alarmingly been carrying out executions against Sunni minorities under various pretexts including drug trafficking.

Bangladesh has a vote in the upcoming UNGA meeting where in the previous years it has voted against action on Iran for human right violation. Bangladesh will get another chance this year to show it cares for human rights, whether it is that of a Hindu, Azeri or Sunni. The question is will it?

Neda Shakiba is a journalist

8 Responses to “Sunni persecution in Iran”

  1. kashif

    It is true, Sunnis are treated like animals in Iran, they are not even allowed to pray in their places of worship though in Sunni majority countries like Pakistan the Shia have more rights than Sunni majority

  2. Fayaz Ahmed

    I like this line – “First it started with fancy words. Those words have now become ornaments to fancy terminology, which leaders around the world use to manipulate and manoeuvre listeners to make people see things differently — as they want them to.”

    Unfortunately, looks like this article also fits within above terminology.

    I want to ask Neda Shakiba, on what basis you named this article “Sunni persecution in Iran”?

    This article looks like just another attempt from pro western writers to show how hostile Muslim groups are towards each other. Whereas, if you read the whole article, even if a single word of it is true, you’ll realise that it cannot be even remotely titled as “Sunni persecution .. .”

    May be the writer is counting on the nature of general people, since most of them will just read the title and may be a few lines here and there. This is a common practice of “Yellow Journalism”.

    Besides, look at the sources used here – “According to the US Department of State …..”, “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a report ….” — Come on people! Which world do you think we live in? We all know what US and its slave organisation UN is doing to the world, Shia, Sunni, Muslim, non-Muslim alike.

    Wake up, open your eyes and try to judge what is happening in this world from your own trusted sources.

  3. Partha Pratim

    Shouldn’t we try to solve the minority problems in Bangladesh before highlighting perceived injustices in other countries?

  4. sakib

    Unfortunately, when it comes to human rights, anti-Shia persecution in Sunni countries far, far outweigh any anti-Sunni persecution. In Pakistan, Bangladesh, and most Arab countries, the most scandalous allegations are routinely brought against the Shia people. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, Shia people have been massacred by Sunni militants. There has been no such anti-Sunni incident at all in Iran. So we are in no position to blame Iran. And as for racism, has this journalist ever visited an Arab country? If she did, she would probably not blame Iran for racism. When it comes to racism, Arabs and Pakistanis also outdo Iran by a very large margin.

    I don’t know what the purpose of this article was. Is the author trying to demonise Iran in order to drum up support for a possible war against Iran?

    • nabeel

      Sorry, but I think you are missing the point. If u do a bit of research you will find that a lost of injustices do take place in Iran against religious minorities. I personally know people who were not allowed into university or were randomly arrested solely based on their religious beliefs. The point of this article as I understand is in the last para… “Bangladesh has a vote in the upcoming UNGA meeting where in the previous years it has voted against action on Iran for human right violation.” This is probably because Bangladesh doesn’t want to get involved in these issues or doesn’t want to invite any hostility from Iran but if you believe in something like human rights, shouldn’t you stand up for it?

    • Somnath GuhaRoy

      We will never solve our problems if we go this way.
      The point is that any state based on any religious theme will actually always be – as throughout history – an instrument for fanatics and their cunning masters to rule. ANYONE opposing them will be extinguished in the name of religion – Christian, Hindu, Kaffir, Shia, Sunni, Ahmadiyya atheist, et al.
      I personally know of STATE (I won’t say SHIA) persecution of Bahaí, Sunni, Christian, non-Muslim, and also Shia Iranians who do not agree with the mullah-regime there.
      Look at Pakistan – after finishing off Hindus (including Sikhs), Sunni extremists are now busy killing Shias and Ahmadiyyas and bombing their mosques. Fanatics there openly preach in their parliament, on internet and on TV. Who loses?

  5. Somnath GuhaRoy

    Any regime/government based on religion is bound to act like this. Not only the Sunnis, even the mainstream/majority Shias are unsafe. Iran and Iranians suffer because they chose other-worldly clerics to govern them in ‘this world’.

    • Ibn Masud

      Not every system is perfect. Iran is not a state of angels. “Sunni persecution” or whatever you call it has been happening in Iran since the 17th century, when Iran was ruled by despotic Abbasid shahs.

      You say of religion? Has secular governments in recent history offered any better? IT IS SECULARISTS (self styled modern Muslims) who massacre the Kurds in Turkey. IT WAS RIGHT WING SECULARISM that led to the Holocaust. IT WAS COMMUNIST SECULARIST who denied God and did not want anyone around them to believe. Did Christian priest deport millions of Ukrainians, Latvians, Uzbeks, Chechens,… out of their ancestral land? Or was Comrade Stalin? Who said Buddhism was a “superstition” and ordered the destruction of Tibet? Was it not Chairman Mao? Which SECULAR judiciary and central government, was helpless during the carnages in India in 1992 and again in 2002? WAS IT NOT THE SECULAR Congress and “quasi secular” NDA governments?

      “If we are sound and rational human beings we will come to understand that some actions in this world are based on our assumptions and general view of the world. Is religion not one viewpoint of the world? And hence, can’t we at least tolerate some philosophical differences while agreeing on common issues. That is how we can live in harmony…

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