The Urgent Need to Revisit the Effectiveness of Refugee Resettlement Policies

To: The UN, the UNHCR, UNPO, US State Department, US and Canadian Heads of State, US Senators, the EU, NGOs:
Today we received a letter from Iran from former asylum seekers whom had been registered in Turkey.  In 2012, after being given a UN interview appointment date for late 2014, this refugee family was forced to return to Iran.  They had no financial means of support in Turkey during the long waiting process.  Upon their arrival in Iran they were arrested and one of the refugees has been imprisoned for the last two and a half years.  No charges have been filed against the individual and they remain incarcerated with no prospect of being released any time in the near future.
The length of time it takes refugee cases to be processed in Turkey, Iraq and other countries is unbearable for many.  We have approached the UNHCR about this problem before and were assured that processing times would be reduced to a reasonable time frame.  This occurred for a few months and then reverted back to 13, 15, 18 months and longer.  After acceptance, the resettlement process is initiated.  This extends the process even further as applicants to the USA and Canada are made to wait for security checks, which used to take five to eight months but, are now taking 18 to 36 months and longer in some cases.  This is completely unacceptable.  These people aren’t criminals, they are vulnerable and in dire need of protection and safe resettlement.
We request again that the United Nations speed up this process and that the United States and Canada speed up the security screening process. The extended delays are abusive and they are taking a toll on innocent victims of the regime, by the very system that is meant to protect them.
There is also the problem of employment while awaiting these decisions.  We are requesting again that the Turkish government forego the ‘Land Use Tax’ being charged to refugees or allow them to work under the same employment conditions as national residents, in order to pay the tax.  How are these families supposed to pay for rent, fuel, food and medicine to survive?  Without the financial means to subsist many of the refugees have no other choice but to risk returning to Iran.  This in itself comprises refoulment or forced return of the refugees to Iran, where their lives will once more be at risk.
Action is urgently needed by all parties involved to make the UNHCR system fit for purpose.  In addition, all states that have a genuine commitment to the U.N. conventions on human rights need to re-examine that commitment and make changes urgently to facilitate the timely resettlement of refugees.
Yours Sincerely,
Walton K Martin
Dr Gill Gillespie
Directors – Iranian Refugees Action Network

Life for Iranian Women on International Women’s Day 2014

Zeinab Jalalian

Zeinab Jalalian, falsely accused of membership of a political organisation, brutally tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment. She has been imprisoned since she was 25 years old and is now seriously ill in prison as a result of her torture.

By Dr Gill Gillespie, UK Director and Walt Martin, US Director:

Today is one to celebrate the achievements that women have made in winning the vote, going part of the way towards equality in the work place and in the home, and fighting for their rights.  It is also, Iranian Refugees Action Network believes, a  day to reflect on the struggles many women around the world still face.

Even in so-called ‘civilised’ societies, women are hardest hit by economic recession, poor economic management or even the deliberate targeting of certain family types, such as lone mother families. Please do ask us, we have the supporting proof, evidence and statistics.  This is, however, not the main focus of our article.

Our thoughts turn to women’s fight for human and equal rights around the world, such as the need to abolish the barbaric practices of FGM and stoning for adultery (women are even unequal in this brutal form of murder, being buried up to their shoulders, whilst men are buried up to their waist only.  If you can escape, you can avoid being killed….think about it).

We remind ourselves of women in countries controlled by Islamic regimes, patriarchal societies, subject to dictators who care little for the lives of them and their children and families, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan and Somalia, to name (unfortunately) only some.  Who can forget the case of Malala Yousefi, shot in the head at the age of 15 for asking for equal educational rights for girls in Pakistan?

What is life like for women who live under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example?  Women’s lives, under the misogynistic interpretation of Ayatollah Khamenei, are ‘worth half that of men’s’.  They are the ‘property’ of their husbands, or fathers, or the most senior man in the household.  If their husband dies, they become the property of the next senior man in the family, and so do their children.  Their children are usually taken away from them and made to live with the husband’s relatives.   Divorce is extremely difficult, with domestic abuse widespread, and women seeking divorce because of it often told to return to their husbands and ‘be better wives’.  They may divorce only if they can prove (and this level of proof is much higher than that which needs to be demonstrated by men) that their husbands are drunkards, drug addicts, insane or impotent.  As a consequence of the facts above, many women are forced to live in unhappy and even abusive relationships.

Women (and men) are not allowed to have a same-sex relationship.  If they fall in love with another woman and this is discovered, they will be hung, often in public executions watched by men, women and children who are horrified, but ordered to attend for the purposes of intimidation.

In the highly-recommend but heartbreaking film The Stoning of Soraya, another scenario which occurs is played out on the screen.  Here an Iranian man wants to divorce his wife and invents a story that she has committed adultery to avoid repaying Soraya’s dowry.  He persuades two of his friends and the local Mullah to lie about this and sentence this kind and gentle woman to death by stoning.  We reflect on the barbarity of this act.  Some will try to persuade themselves that it is no longer applicable to contemporary society, anywhere in the world.  But it is.  It was only enormous worldwide campaigning which stopped this happening to a woman sentenced to death for the ‘offence’ in Iran recently.  Check out the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani – you can Google it.  We are also meant to be appeased by the fact that her sentence was ‘reduced’ to death by hanging, after huge international publicity on her case, instead of by stoning.  Of course, this is also not acceptable, but it is a function of society dictated by the patriarchal Islamic Republic of Iran.

We all know that women are forced to dress differently than men in Iran as well.  The consequences of wearing nail varnish, at their mildest, can be a fine applicable for each nail on which it has been applied.  Those women caught wearing make up or having their hair dyed blonde, for example, can be arrested, humiliated and even lashed, another brutal punishment which leaves them scarred for life. Women like Zeinab Jalalian, in the picture above, are imprisoned on made-up and completely false charges related to their ethnic or religious minority.  If they are tortured, like Zeinab, the Islamic Regime of Iran are reluctant to release them, as they are frightened their stories will be told to the world.  We therefore have to be their voices and continue to speak out against their appalling treatment.

There have recently been a spate of articles which talk about the ‘increasing freedoms’ for women inside countries such as Iran, which have received coverage in the mainstream media.  It is no surprise that these are written by those supporting regimes who treat women like second-class citizens.  They discuss the degree, the layers and the minor differences in discrimination which women face, rather than the discrimination itself.

The Iranian Refugees Action Network would like to encourage feminists, who achieved so much for women over the past 100 years, to unite and condemn the treatment of women in the countries discussed above.  This condemnation must be consistent, damning (there is a huge amount of supporting data) and in no way ambivalent.  It is ironic, for example, to claim it is a woman’s ‘right’ to be discriminated against by, for example, wearing repressive body coverings in a certain way, rather than by being forced to wear it at all.

We conclude by promising women (and men) that we will continue to fight for their human and equal rights every day, and pay testimony to those whose bravery and resolution is so strong that they are suffering as a consequence of it under repressive regimes and societies.  Those who already enjoy such freedoms as equal rights – please speak out and continue to do so, until there are none of these regimes and societies left.


Dr Gill Gillespie and Walt Martin

Directors, Iranian Refugees Action Network

The Reactionary Phenomenon of Deliberate Mass Linguicide Policy of non-Persian Nations in Iran

This is the third of our articles about the persecution of Iranians of non-Persian origin, written by Rahim Hamid, a journalist and human rights activist.  It takes place against the backdrop of the recent executions of two young poets/teachers Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani, the latest two Ahwazi Arabs to be killed in January by the Iran regime for their writings and teaching in Al-Hiwar, a cultural institute – Dr Gill Gillespie, UK Director.


By: Rahim Hamid


I begin my study by addressing some constructive questions about the common factors that can be attributed to the gradual extinction of language, which frequently occurs intentionally and systematically particularly in multiethnic countries that one language strictly dominated on other languages as a discriminatory policy to assimilate the language of the ethnic minority or aboriginal people by imposing the most spoken language of particular majority on these people and placing a long ban on their languages  to build monolingual country.  Apparently, the non-Persian languages have been subjected to harsh measures of linguicide.

The Iranian officials seemingly are not willing to stop burying their head under the sand and accept that people in the integrity so-called Iran are not homogenous in term of ethnicity to be able to bring them together under a certain political banner.

The policies of linguicide in Ahwaz region, enshrined in the constitution and law of Iranian regimes because according to 19 and 15 of Iran constitution all non-Persian ethnic minorities have right for education in their native language but fascist Persian regime violates the rights of learning Arabic in Ahwaz and other non-Persian languages such as Kurdish in east Kurdistan, and Turkish in south Azerbaijan.

This disgraceful policy was adopted by Iran soon after the collapse of Qajar dynasty and formation of Pahlavi monarchy where Reza Shah raised to power and formed the integrity so-called Iran under the slogan of “Aryan land” by occupying non-Persian neighboring regions that had full autonomy during that era such as Arabestan (Al-Ahwaz) under the rule of Sheikh Khazaal in the south and south west of Iran that later its historical Arabic name changed into the current Khuzestan province. Let us put all this aside and raise some questions concerning language:

1 What is language death?

2 Why should we care?

3 Why do languages die?

What is language death?

The phrase of language death means a process that affects speech communities where the level of linguistic competence that speakers possess of a given language variety is decreased, eventually resulting in no native or fluent speakers of the variety. Language death may affect any language idiom, including dialects and languages.

Why do languages die?

Here, I do include the sociopolitical factors that are fuelling by Iran as systematic political targets in Ahwaz region for eliminating the Arabic language among the Ahwazi people whose native language is Arabic while they have no right to learn their language in an academic environment. 

These sociopolitical factors are official language policies (monolingual policies), racial discrimination, language stigmatization, repression, war, forced migration, emergence of settlements and so on. The   above-mentioned factors were conducted against the Ahwazi Arab people by the hand of Iranian regimes since 1925 until today.   However, among these factors, the Official monolingual policies can be and have been a particularly decisive factor in language death of non-Persian nations in Ahwaz, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan where local people speak in their native language that characterize with aboriginal dialects. In fact, after the Qajar dynasty, which had reigned since 1718, was replaced by the Pahlavi monarchy on non-Persian languages and cultures began to be enforced through violence.

Why should we care?

While the illiteracy rate in Iran is about 10 to 18 percent, this is over 50 percent among the Arabs men in Ahwaz (Khuozestan) and even higher for Ahwazi women .the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs students abandon school that rate 30 percent in the elementary level, 50 percent in secondary level and 70 percent in high school because they force to study in the official Farsi language which is not theirs. There is not any official institute for teaching Arabic in Ahwaz and learning Arabic is just confined to religious study for people who want to be a clergyman consequently the Ahwazi Arab are semi learner in their native language and are struggling to learn Arabic despite the denial of their Arabic language .

In fact, the education system in Iran promoted and enforced a superficial sense of nationalism based on Persian language and identity. Therefore, the multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual character of Iranian was explicitly denied and oppressed.

Moreover, shortly after the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty in the1925, all non-Persian ethnic groups and nationalities in Iran were denied the right to education in their own language.  Notwithstanding the fact that   the non-Persian nations such as Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Baluchs, Turkmens, and others constituted the numerical majority in the country, all the Persian regimes from Pahlavi to the Islamic Republic are sought to supplant our languages, cultures, and histories with those of Persian minority.

There are four criteria released from UNESCO indicating languages that are at the risk of death row:


Vulnerable: Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home).

Definitely endangered: Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in their home.

Severely endangered: Language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves.

Critically endangered: The youngest speakers are grandparents and older people, and they speak the language partially and infrequently.

Yet, it is not surprise if we admit that the harshest policy of deliberate linguicide definitely practiced in Iran, where the entire state machinery is mobilized in order to eliminate the non-Persian languages  including Arabic ,Turkish and Kurdish in both speaking and writing. However, non-Persian people are free to speak in their native tongue in private spaces (e.g., home).but, it would be considered a crime against the “territorial integrity” of the state if a member of the parliament or a political party uses the language in political campaigns, or if the language used in education or broadcasting. It is still illegal to write in the language. Most publications in Arabic in Ahwaz are regularly banned and confiscated, and authors, translators, publishers, distributers, and even readers are punished by the the recent years several cultural institutes e.g., Al-HiWar, the cultural institute, was banned and all its founders arrested  and sentenced to death penalty under some vaguely -worded charges. This cultural institute despite the severe restriction on its cultural activism was striving to revive the Arabic language among the young generation by holding some educational, cultural programs.

Based on the four above standard indicators about “the language endangerment scale”, I will explain the indicators by comparing them with the suppressed non-Persian languages that are plagued in terrible restricted domain of a harsh linguicide policy:

Linguicide and experience 

Similar to other Ahwazi Arab native speaker, I have experienced bitter times of linguicide. Born into an Ahwazi Arab family in an Ahwazis town, I had to get my education in Persian, the only official language in Iran, a multilingual country where Persian was the native tongue of any half the population.

At Ahwaz University, where I studied linguistics (2006-2010), my professors rarely referred to non-Persian languages and if my classmates from Kurdistan and Azerbaijan or I bring some discussions about Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish language entities, our professors reluctantly answered our questions.  These discussions in the class regarding the non-Persian languages would be considered ‘secessionism’, the unforgivable charges that are always waged against our people.

Non-Persian nations were subjected to open and shameful acts of linguicide, cultural annihilation, and forced assimilation. It is apparent that the Iranian regime certainly wants non-Persian people to lose their cultural independence and, in many cases, their spirituality, all of which go hand in hand with language.

As some historical facts have been passed from generation to generation to recall how thousands of Ahwazi Arab people in schools and offices and even in the street were arrested, tortured, and disgraced on charges of speaking in Arabic particularly in Al-Mohammara during the Pahlavi regime. Since 1925, Reading or writing in Iran’s non-Persian languages was treated as evidence of secessionism, treason and violation of the territorial integrity of the state.

The language policy of the Islamic regime, which came to power in 1979, was no different, in principle, from that of the secular monarchy. Article 15 of the Islamic constitution, which, in contrast with the 1906 constitution, does allow for the teaching of “ethnic literature” in schools, has not been implemented yet. Persian continues to be the only official language in a country where it is the native tongue of no more than half the population. Although publications in non-official languages are tolerated, the symbolic violence, the vilifying of non-official languages, has not come to the end.

Iranian regime not only targeted the speaking, writing, folklore music and every other related expressions in language but also they waged extensive state violence against all the aboriginal and historical name of places in the non-Persian region. Geographic terms, including the names of mountains, cities, villages, streets, rivers and regions, have been persianized.

Today we can see that all the original Arabic names of cities, villages and rivers in Al-Ahwaz were replaced by fabricated Persian names. It is likely surprise you that Ahwazi Arab are not allowed to name their children, as they like. There is a book of permitted names at civil registers, and no one can pick a name that is not in this book. For instance, Iranian authorities do not allow people to choose Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, or Aisha as names for their children In Ahwaz. Civil registers will not put these names on ID cards. 

In many cases, TV Farsi channels, radio stations and magazines openly and systematically insult the well-respected figures of non-Persian religious or historical Arab figures steering a symbolic violence, in the form of a systematic extensive propaganda campaign in order to shame Arab native speakers into abandoning their language and their identity.    

By this assessment, we can classify the Arabic language in Ahwaz along with other non-Persian languages as “severely endangered languages” under the threat of extinction or gradual death where the transmission of language between generations was interrupted by deliberate Persian machinery of Iranian government   . To clarify this situation, I propose the term “linguistic suicide” to refer to situations where parents who are speakers of minority language deliberately choose not to teach this language to their children and instead adopt a majority language in their home. The major reason for this phenomenon is the low prestige attached   to the minority language for example the Arabic language called the speech of illiterate and rural people. All these discriminatory policy against language aims to kill the Arabic language in Ahwaz that lead people to dress Persian culture.  the other reason for linguistic suicide is concern about children’s ability to acquire fluency in Persian language, the socially-and economically –dominant language in Iran.  

It is time for linguists in Iran to stop their silence and speak out against these systematic linguicide policies conducting against non-Persian languages in Iran because the death of language is the death of the soul and identity of people.

At the end, I would like to dedicate this article to everyone who stands to the freedom, every oppressed nation particularly in the Middle East because the new Middle East must be peace, friendship and achievement of national rights of the oppressed nations who lived under racial subrogation for years and the world must open its eyes and support the suffocated voices of these occupied nations especially in Iran.



Sunni Prisoners’ Families Ask For Help to Save Their Children

Ghezehhesar Prison, Iran

Ghezehhesar Prison, Iran

The Iranian Refugees Action Network, like many others, is appalled at the treatment of three Sunni prisoners in Iran.  They are on death row simply because their religious beliefs are different to those dictated by Khamenei, and has resulted in them being sentenced to death.  They have committed no crimes.  They are in the notorious Ghezelesar prison, and have sent a letter out asking for help from human right organizations and institutions.  The prisoners are so desperate, they are currently in their 30th day of hunger strike.  By this stage in a hunger strike, the body’s fat reserves have been exhausted and it begins to feed upon itself with consequences such as loss of sight and hearing.  Speech becomes slurred and  the skin grows dry and scaly. The hunger striker suffers vomiting, difficulty swallowing and internal bleeding.

Here is their letter:

In the name of God

We are the families of the prisoners, Jamshid Dehghani, Hamed Ahmadi and Kamal Rouyayi who have spent about 4 years under mental and physical tortures in prison and likely to be executed. They are kept with prisoners with drug dealing sentences and in a very bad environment and condition. Every day, they are treated by a new excuse and/or reason. The reason of their detentions under this condition is not clear for us yet, even though they should have been kept with people of the same charges, according to the penal code. Now, it is about a month that they are in hunger strike and they are in a serious bad health condition.

Stomach bleeding and blood pressure drop have caused in some collapses and loosing conscientious, and still no authority is considered their demands.

Our children’s charge is to be a Sunni and have different ideas. Since five years ago, which our children were sentencing to prison, one by one, we suffered from mental tortures align side with them.

We do not know where and how to get the sound of this innocence. Despite all of our corresponding to offices of (Ayatollah) Khamenehei, Parliament (members), President, judiciary and general attorney, and our sit in, we did not have receive any response, but treat!

We as families of six prisoners in death row, request from all of the human right organizations and institutes, to contemplate our children’s condition, and request from all free media to send our voice of innocence, to all awakened consciousness, in order to prevent their executions.


Reproduced from HRANA –

Anti Socio-Environmental policies in Ahwaz

ImageThis is the second post in a series of two by Rahim Hamid, on the serious lengths the Iran regime is going to in Ahwaz to damage the environment and consequently, the livelihoods of many thousands of men, women and children living in this region:

Water and Sanitation

“Having access to safe drinking water and sanitation is central to living a life in dignity and upholding human rights. Yet billions of Ahwazi Arab people still do not enjoy these fundamental rights.

Although Ahwaz has huge water resources, (about 33% of Iran’s total), the region is suffering from a serious water crisis. The water crisis has caused by ecological mismanagements of Karoon River; the largest river flow through Ahwazi lands .since 1979, Iranian revolution, and the karoon has faced more than 400 incidents of serious contamination. Beside the policy of land confiscation, a parallel policy against Ahwazis is being practiced that is diverting water of main river course in Ahwaz such as Karoon, Al-karkha, and Al-Jarrahi and pumping it to central Persian areas such as Isfahan, Yazd and Kareman for the purpose of irrigation. This happens while they deprive the Arab farmers of utilizing this water and make their struggle for survival very difficult and very frustrating. Periodically they fabricate flood via their dams that are known as Arab killer Dams that have been constructed for this purpose in order to demolish the infrastructure of Ahwazi Arab villages and their fertile lands to restrict their brutal circle force on Ahwazi Arabs farmers to abandon their lands and look for other alternatives for make living. They consequently facilitate the displacement of Arab people and confiscations of their arable lands and demolition of Arabian villages and the countryside of Ahwaz.

River diversion project

Environmental campaigners in Ahwaz City formed a human chain along the Karoon River in the current days in protest at the river diversion project.

The drying of the River Karoon is becoming a rallying point for Ahwazi Arabs, who   accuse the Iranian regime of presiding over an ecological disaster on a par with the destruction of the Amazon.

The mega-project involves the construction of dams and tunnels to divert water away from Iran’s largest river which flows through the city and is essential for farming, drinking water and the local ecology. Controversy surrounds the Koohrang-3 tunnel, which is currently under construction and is set to transfer 255 million cubic metres of water per annum to Zayandeh Rood in Isfahan. The diverted waters will be used for agro-industrial projects, instead of irrigating traditional Arab lands where food staples are grown, such as rice and wheat. Already, three tunnels transfer around 1.1 billion cubic metres of water from the Karoon and its tributaries to Isfahan every year.

Currently, there are seven dams and tunnels diverting Karoon’s water with a further 19 dams under construction as well as 12 dams on Karkheh river basin and five dams on Jarrahi river basin. Twelve of these dams have built in Lorestan province in the Karoon and Karkheh basins, which store 800 million cubic metres for local use. Two dams have built in Ilam province on Karkheh river basin with annual storage capacity 1.04 billion cubic metres. Three dams have been built in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province on Jarrahi River with annual capacity of 1.24 billion cubic metres. So far, 25 dams with total capacity of 10.44 billion cubic metres have into operation in the Karoon basin. These dams are located in Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari province, Lorestan province and the north part of Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan).

Due to the dam projects, around half the Karoon’s water flow is now waste water. This will reach 90 per cent when Iran’s dam building project is completed, according to Iranian scientists. The Karkheh and Jarrahi tributaries are now almost dried up and Ahwazi activists fear the Karoun – Iran’s only navigable river – will now dry up. Already, the region’s marshlands on which many Ahwazi Arabs traditionally depend for their livelihoods are a fraction of their former size due to the dam projects. Because of the dam projects, the Ahwazi environment will be destroyed and Ahwazi Arab will be forced to move to other cities in addition to contracting intestinal and renal diseases and different kinds of cancer… This will speed up the Iranian colonial plan of ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs.”

Rahim Hamid