The Islamic Republic of Iran has undersigned the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) in 1993 and once in every five years submits a periodic report to the United Nation on the compliance with the Convention.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, children are vulnerable to adverse impacts on their education, physical wellbeing, sexual exploitation, abduction and subsequent exploitation by human trafficking bandits. Beyond the window dressing acts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the following issues are current:
- The deprivation of South Azerbaijani children from the right to education in Azerbaijani Turkic, reflects the grim face of the Iranian politics for approximately 90 years and this is a key issue for all times.
- Iranian authorities turn a blind eye to child labor.
- Child addiction reflects a systemic failure in Iran due to a lack of cooperation among authorities.
- Female children are subjected to compulsory hijab.
- Child marriage is tolerated and there is a systemic negligence in this respect.
- Capital punishment brought against children is not uncommon in the harsh Iranian justice system.
- The list goes on and yet there are no signs of pragmatic policies to avoid these violations of the rights of the child;
ArcDH regrets to state that there is little glimmer of hope to signify possible progresses. We need you, and appeal to international pressure groups to pressurize the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are hopeful that you are capable of maintaining the glimmer of hope for South Azerbaijani children and other non-Persian ethnic children and Persian children within the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Below are some of the issues in detail.
Impacts on Education
Azerbaijani Turkic, the mother language of South Azerbaijani children, is not yet the language of education among the children in South Azerbaijan. This is one of the key issues and the unacceptability of status quo ought to be communicated to the Islamic Republic of Iran strengthened by dispatching a fact-finding mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Attention is drawn to the fact that dropping out of education among South Azerbaijani children are much widespread and this is also similar to ethnic territories compared with Farsi-speaking regions enjoying greater social and cultural investments. Not surprisingly, these ethnic children also suffer from poor academic achievements.
Organizations promoting human rights are consistently overlooking adverse impacts of the severe ongoing cultural assimilation and their impacts on children waged by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reluctance to education in ethnic territories within the Islamic Republic of Iran and skiving schools have been attributed to forcing the children to undergo education in Farsi in the absence of education in their mother language. This is often a hot issue in poverty-stricken regions, where the parents are particularly unable to speak in Farsi or they are not familiar with it.
Child Labor – often in the form of Casual Labor
The welfare director of East Azerbaijan stated that “We have 70 thousand child laborers, wandering in the street in Iran and the ranking of the East Azerbaijan is the 20th in general.”
Children get involved in such casual labor as: washing the cars glasses, selling cigarettes and in some cases they are drawn to drug dealing by adults. Driven by economic crisis in villages in East Azerbaijan, it is not rare to cite children under ten years old to be drawn to tough back-breaking labor ranging from street works to such places as kilns. They undergo work conditions for which they have physical or mental ability. The work in brick furnaces often requires long shifts more than even 14 hours in a day. As a rule, these works-places lack basic amenities, such as any sort of hygiene and therefore absence of drinking water causes sickness to these children.
One of the intolerable works for Azerbaijani girls is working in carpet factories from the age of five years old. There has been known cases, under which the unfortunate female children suffering such illegal child labor experiences were transacted as a worker by their parents to overcome the economic hardship in their families. This may have been normal during the feudal social orders prior to the Second World War, the Iranian governments, one after another, have tolerated the situation and disallowed the emerging culture of the Child Rights to trickle to poor ethnic societies.
It is noted that the law to safeguard children and youth include 9 articles, legislated by the Iranian parliament in November 2002 and were confirmed by the Guardian Council in December 2002. So the issue is not the absence of law but its enforcement.
Article 3 of this law states that: transaction, exploitation, employing the children to committing immoral acts such as contraband in any cases is prohibited and the one who commits these illegal activities shall pay the charges and be sentenced to prison terms from six month to one year or will be fined from ten million Rial (official currency) up to twenty million Rial. However, the record on enforcing this law up to now is poor and no one has been persecuted in any significant way; equally no child has been protected under the auspices of this law as they keep being exploited.
The impacts on the children exposed to labor exploitations include poor skeletal developments particularly finger bones and back bones during the ages of nine to ten. These children should be enjoying education in schools but not be thrown to the deep end of intensive labors. The children, grown in this way, live short lifetimes as during their harsh working life under harsh conditions, they are often exposed to excessive levels of dust causing lung disease. We regard it significant even if one little girl or boy is undergoing such harsh labor to contribute to fine art products that are exported worldwide and it fits the mindset of the national movement of South Azerbaijan to see that this intolerable problem is completely eradicated.
These exploited child laborers are not really counted in any statistics.
Seher Musevi, the manager of a Kindergarten in one of Tehran’s regions is concerned that there are no reliable statistics concerning the children welfare by stating that “so many of the laboring children are even without any kind of Identity documents and therefore are not counted in any statistics; whereas a considerable number of them live in underground workshops under the worst economical, hygienic and nutritional conditions. She also added that: many of these children do not have any families and they are caught up in the machinery of the child labor; they often live collectively in a small room with no access to basic amenities.
Addiction among Children
In spite of intensifying vulnerability of the children to addiction, we are witnessing the unrolling of a tragic situation among children allured to addiction driven by the lack of any cooperation between different organizations.
According to a social reporter of ISNA, on 14 February 2016, “the average age of addiction between children is seven years and the most obvious reasons of being addicted in this age are: having addicted parents or born with addiction. This is in a background where 47% of these children do not have ID cards and 36% of the children in this category are over the age of 7 with no schooling whatsoever. This research shows that addicted children are deprived mostly from any basic rights.
Maryam Kiani, a seminar director for addicted children, gave an account of a report concerning fields statistics collated from 10 provinces. She stated that: “among 116 addicted children that have been studied in some provinces, 73% of them were addicted boys and 27% of them addicted girls. Most of these children were in the age range from 7 to 13. Also these studies revealed that the number of newborn children to two years old with addiction was very high.
According to him the education system and broadcasting authorities ought to play an appropriate role in reducing the vulnerabilities and controlling impacts. However these institutions have their own restrictions and do not fulfill their roles accordingly. He stated that “according to their research, the West Azerbaijan province is within the five provinces confronted with the severe problem of using drugs and narcotic drugs.
In 2014, in East Azerbaijan, the number of children under the age of 15 coerced to marriage was 4488. This was stated by the deputy of the youth affair and sports of East Azerbaijan.
Earlier, on July the 4th, “Justice for Iran”, a human rights organization, reported that: “through the first nine months of the last year, the registrars recorded around 31,000 child marriages under the age of 15 in Iran. This report was based on the latest statistics of national organization for civil registration of Iran.
The report of this organization also indicated 41,000 child marriage registry in 2012 and announced that in that year at least 235 girls under 15 married to men over the age of 35 and around 100 girls under 15 married to men over the age of 40.
Under age marriage violates the convention on the rights of the child. This convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen and expressly prohibits any contract with it. Legally, marriage is also a kind of contract between man and woman and by definition there cannot be a contract with a child under any pretext. In this context, Maryam Mousavi, a lawyer, gave a statement to the Rouz publication that: it is not a valid interpretation to state that ‘the court is fit for determining what is right to a child,’ as commonly quoted. Where does this fitness come from concerning the child marriage? Who is the authority to determine the fitness of a child for under-age sexual relationships? I dare to state expressly that over 90% of the lawyers in the country have consensus to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 as a norm. After all the harms arising from underage marriages are undeniable by anyone. I have seen many divorce cases from provincial cities. It is a suffering experience to listen to the painful memories of little girls undergoing underage child marriages.
(a) Tragedy of Marriage of Girls 7 to 11 years old in South Azerbaijani villages
As the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran According turn blind eye to child marriages, South Azerbaijanis suffers from religious traditions with no mechanism to enforce the Convention. For instance, the report by Centers for Tourist Health publishing the news on tourism and cultural heritage in 11 July 2016, girls by the age of 15 in Khoy (a city in South Azerbaijan) is likely to have two kids of five and one year old.
Official statistics on education shows that: in Ashagi Pesek (a village in Khoy, where this name is given in Farsi as Pasak Sofla) out of 216 students at the primary level in 2016, only 96 of them were girls and 120 boys. Only 45 boys made to the first of the secondary school with no female student reaching the secondary first or the second stage. It is not possible to generalize such sparse data but the absence of reliable statistics does not absolve the Iranian authorities of their duties toward the compliance with the Convention. There are problems, although they are yet to be quantified.
(b) Divorce Affecting Child Marriage in Villages
Iran is a country where the authorities turn a blind eye on the excesses of injustice in the society and naturally South Azerbaijanis suffer from this. Paknahad, a family adviser and teacher states that young women in this village [i.e. Ashagi Pesek] often have daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws and grandchildren at their early ages while they are still young. A number of divorces have also been registered in recent years. The cause for one of those divorces was: child was playing with her puppet at the husband’s house. «They said: the child was searching for her puppet when she was woken up. This is why she was divorced».
Another underage married girl asked her husband to buy her cheese puffy. This was her favorite in her parent’s house but this wish in husbands house led to a raw and ended with a divorce. Six month ago, there was a seminar in the village of Pesek on social harms of underage marriages. The head of the office in Khoy for the Ministry of Education was accompanied by the advisor from the Advisory center and participated in this seminar. They advised the parents not to coerce their children for unwilling marriages. We have no information on the effectiveness of this seminar but they should be done in mother languages with appropriate sensitivities without politicizing the issues.
(c) Child Parents Vulnerable to Rapid aging
Children undergoing underage marriage are likely to lose their teeth and hair due to poor attention to their health; they are often exposed to premature births; and vulnerable to suffer from a range illness impacts. They can often be in moody states, tense and nervous and as such they retard and become prematurely aged.
(d) Child Husbands and Child Wives
It is not unheard of village girls to be expected to marry with men often 10 years older than themselves. The ranking for giving birth by child mothers in the first nine month of their marriage in 20XX was as follows: the province of Sistan-Balouchestan, the province of Khorasan Razavi and the province of Khuzestan (each with 158 recorded cases), East and West Azerbaijan with 99 and recorded 90 cases and Kerman with 87 recorded cases. Soraya Aziz-Panah, a member of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child stated that “the child will suffer uncalculated ill-effects if she is unduly subjected to sex, pregnancy, giving premature birth, in-house violence by husband or other members of the family. A child husband or a child wife is a potential hazard for the self and others and this is an adverse effect in the society, by-and-large.
Sexual Abuse against Children
There is an indication that approximately 2.4% of children are runaways from home because of sexual abuse or 4.8% have suffered sexual abuse living rough in the streets.
Many of street children living rough are in regions where, social problems are harsh with widespread addiction or prostitutions even among children. Considerable numbers of children submit to the burden of unconventional works and this can include prostitution, drug dealing and pocket picking. Some (0.9%) do the same unconventional things as well as casual street works. The children living rough are constantly exposed to the unknown dangers and insecure conditions.
According to quantitative assessments, 17.3% of children living rough had at least drunk alcohol once during their lifetime but as much as 7% of them drink alcohol daily; and 6.9% were exposed to drug use at least once in their life. The age for the first use of drugs by children living rough is often before 14. Experts believe that the main cause of using drugs at such an early age is driven by family problems and children desire to escape psychological pressures.
Many of addicted children have roots in addicted families (mostly father). 43.8% and 36.9% of the children reported that their father and close friends respectively were the cause of their addiction. Also according to this research there is a significant relation between the children leaving home and using drugs.
The lack of a proper education may be regarded as the core of the problem for the children becoming drug addicts. Many of these children become exposed to drug use through addicted individuals known to them or through family members. Some are exposed to drug use through curiosity and are then trapped due to poor public education programs.
Rough living street children are exposed to sexual abuse from early ages of their life. They are often driven by the lifestyle of their family. The age for the first experience of undergoing sexual acts is low and corresponds to 12.5 and 13.7 for girls and boys respectively.
The children going through normal school education are less exposed to sexual abuse than those living rough. The children running away from their home are also exposed to more risk of sexual abuse than those living in stable families.
Evidently, secure living environments for children living rough and informing them better can go a long way towards reducing the risk of exposure to sexual abuse to drug use but the policies and law enforcement in the Islamic Republic of Iran are not striving for eradication of such social problems.
Children Living Rough Exposed to Risks of AIDS
According to HERNA Agency, the General Director of the office for Social Affair under the State Welfare Organization of Iran stated that “unfortunately too many child laborers were exposed to sexual abuses and according to the latest statistics of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, rough living children transmitted 4.5 times AIDS more than other children.
According to ISNA news agency of government, Veli-ullah Nesr (transcribed from Farsi as: Vali-Allah-Nasr) issued a statement on the opening ceremony of Child Care Center in Zengan (Partov Mehr Yazdan Zanjan) that “it is regrettable that, we do not have ongoing scientific surveys and researches throughout the country to identify social vulnerabilities. Thus we have to resort to university studies undertaken by students for the partial fulfillment of their degrees. In spite of this, addiction is seen to be the mother of many social risk exposures evidenced by Hotline 1480 for Consultation or the Emergency Call No 123.
He emphasized that social pathologies are intertwined and it is not possible to ignore or consider them in isolation. “Studies have shown that addiction, family economical poverty and migration are main causes to drive child labor. In fact, the key factors are migrations to large cities, sub-standard living quarters (shanty towns) and failing to achieve higher standards of life and wellbeing. These play key roles in deploying children as part of work force.
General Director of the office for the Prevention of Social Pathology emphasized that the Organization for the Welfare takes upon itself the responsibility for the children deprived of proper supervision. He stated that “it is illegal to buy or sell children but the organization for Welfare has no policies to deal head on with this problem in any direct way. In spite of this, last year in March there were correspondence with the Ministry of Health and it was decided that the addicted mothers giving birth to their offspring should decide for themselves if they want to sell their newborns.
General Director of the office for the Prevention of Social Pathology stated that a single system alone is unable to take up the guardianship of the children welfare. He clarified that as approved by a Committee of Ministers that 11 systems, supposed to undertake the welfare of the children, are failing in their fulfillments of their responsibilities.
He also mentioned that despite the existence of so many organizations, such as Ministry of Education, the Aid Committee of Imam-Khomeyni, broadcasting authorities, prison authorities and so on, should cooperate on the welfare concerning children. Notwithstanding existing by-laws, the cooperation among different organizations is far from ideal conditions.
This communication was prepared by the ArcDH Association ( Arc – Association for the defense Human Rights in South Azerbaijan – Iran
02 August 2016