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Item 9: Xenophobia: Rise in Islamophobia
The recent terror attacks in France cannot be justified for any reason whatsoever. Killing of innocent people no matter under what circumstances is without a doubt condemnable.
The roots of today's hardline Islamic extremism can be traced back to the 1990s with the turning of Al-Qaeda against its original ally and sponsor the United States of America. The 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the suicide attack on USS Cole, are all proofs to the claim.
The turning point in the fight against this new more dangerous and ruthless phenomenon was September 11, 2001 in which almost 3000 people lost their lives in North Eastern United States.
The ensuing war against Taliban in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the pretext of WMD, has arguably done little to prevent the rise of Religious extremism, although the Taliban were overthrown and were degraded notably alongside Al-Qaeda, in recent years we have witnessed a surge in their comeback, and now we see breakaway offshoots of Al-Qaeda such as IS, which even Al-Qaeda has criticized its methods.
With the Arab spring's disastrous failures in some countries and successes in others, the geopolitical situation of the MENA region has been thrown into turmoil. The sectarian violence in Libya has forced the government and parliament to flee from the capital to Tobruk, and in Syria a bloody conflict has been raging for over three years with over 250,000 people killed.
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has attracted Western born and raised extremists to go to the region and join the fight, from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and other European countries and even the United States. These young people become radicalized and battle hardened witnessing and even at times carrying out brutal killings, and upon their return to their home countries they feel even more isolated and hatred towards the West.
The Toulouse, Belgium and Paris attacks over the recent months were conducted by second or third generation children of North African Immigrants. The question that must be asked is what drives these young men and women towards radicalism.
These individuals feel marginalized by society and their governments, they have poor education, are either unemployed or not holding steady jobs, and most of them have had a brush with the law for petty crimes.
Another cause for the recruitment of this vulnerable group of society is the Jihadi internet websites and some extremist imams.
All the abovementioned has increased and spread the feeling of Xenophobia and Islamophobia among western nations. Extremist far right groups which prior to 9/11 were fast losing popularity and support have now found themselves becoming more popular winning seats in national assemblies and even the European Parliament.
Over the last ten years religious extremism, some European newspapers and magazines started publishing cartoons of the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad. And in Holland the descendant of Vincent Van Gogh made a documentary on the alleged treatment of women in Islam. Subsequently Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a man of North African descent who claimed he did it for the defense of Islam. The publication and republication of cartoons by other European papers led to mass protests in most Islamic countries.
Religious extremism in all religions and forms are strongly condemnable. Boko Haram continues to commit heinous crimes in Nigeria in the name of Islam, an Islam which is not the true Islam which has a following of over 1.5 billion people on Earth. And to prove the point that the majority of Muslims care for their fellow human beings no matter what race or religion, we remind that the staff member who saved some people in the Jewish Kosher supermarket by hiding them in a freezer was a Muslim from Mali.
Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reaffirm freedom of religion and freedom of expression respectively, article 19 3(a) of the ICCPR however goes further on calling for "respect of the rights and reputation of others."
In March 2009 the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 7/19 on Combating Defamation of Religion, sadly however this resolution is not binding.
Freedom of expression is never absolute, not even in the most democratic and liberal countries. No matter where you are; you cannot scream "fire" in a packed movie theatre, because of the panic and the stampede and possible injuries that it will cause.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) strongly condemns the hijacking of religion for sick and twisted political agenda by terrorists. These terrorists are not real Muslims. Real Islam does not preach barbarity. It preaches peaceful coexistence and tolerance.
Freedom of expression cannot be absolute. Insulting and defamation of any religion is morally wrong. While expressing its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of the Paris terrorist attack, the ODVV also regrets the publication of the Prophet of Islam's cartoon on the front page of the Charlie Hebdo's first issue following the attack.
Authors and editors in the West must seriously consider the consequences of their actions in the world of Islam. The ensuring protests some of which led to violence, death and destruction of religious places of worship (Niger) in some Muslim countries should be on the conscience of these editors.
As always, the ODVV insists on an international forum to be held on Dialogue and Understanding among Religions. The ODVV and other Iranian sister NGOs are ready, willing and capable in assisting the holding of such venue.
Education after leaving the family, is an important part of the things that makes us become human beings in adulthood. It is necessary for children to learn and understand other cultures and religions, and education boards in all countries should design special classes in schools just for that.
Mutual respect between minorities and majorities is key for multiculturalism to work. At the same time Western countries must respect the culture and religion of their minorities and not forcefully make them change their way of life. Mutual respect and understanding must take place.
Item 7: Syrian Golan Heights; Sheer Violations of Human Rights by Israel
Joint Statement: Organization for Defending Victims of Violence and Neda Institute for Scientific & Political Research
Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967. It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, establishing the Purple Line. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarized zone that runs along the ceasefire line. This strip is under the military control of UN peace keeping forces.
Construction of Israeli settlements began in the remainder of the territory held by Israel, which was under military administration until Israel passed the Golan Heights Law extending Israeli territory in 1981. That was a clear one-sided annexation of occupied territories of Syria to Israel. This region includes the western two-thirds of the geological Golan Heights, as well as the Israeli-occupied part of Mount Hermon (Jabal Haramun).This move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in UN Resolution 497, which said that "the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect." Israel asserts it has a right to retain the Golan, citing the text of UN Resolution 242, which calls for "safe and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force". However, the international community rejects Israeli claims to title to the territory and regards it as sovereign Syrian territory.
In recent years we have witnessed violations of international will by Israel army in the said region as air strikes, assassination, seizingnatural resources etc. The last clear Israeli violation series performed in 17 Jan 2015 by an Israeli aircraft which fired two missiles in the Syrian province of Quneitra near Golan Heights just in front of UN peacekeepers station (UNDOF) in this region which left 6 people dead and a child wounded. Quickly after this terrorist attack, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights released an official statement in 18 Jan 2015 describing its troops' witness accounts of the incident. According to the statement, the observers saw two unmanned aircraft coming in from the Israeli side of the border and crossing the demilitarized zone at UN position number 30 near the village Masada in the northern Golan Heights. "This incident is a violation of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces," the UN said in its statement soon after the UNDOF statement and report released.
We as a NGO would like to express our worries about the serious threat of Israel not only to Syrian civilians in Golan but also to UN peacekeepers in that region.
Therefore, the following recommendations are offered to the Human Right Council:
Reviewing the Golan situation after 1974 Agreement to rewrite a practical strong text.
Forming a Fact-finding committee for recent terrorists attack and all previous violations of Israel in Golan specially Quneitra.
Item 4: Middle East Children as Victims of Armed Conflict
The alarming continuation of armed conflicts in the Middle East region, especially Iraq and Syria, has led to the violation of all human rights of civilians, especially the vulnerable groups including women and children.
Protection of children during armed conflicts is of vital importance because on the one hand, they suffer the most, due to their physical weakness and dependency on adults’ protection. On the other hand, their suffering leave lasting negative effects on their mind and their bodies. In the case of abducted children, serious worries are expressed about their fate, such as the girl children abducted by IS in Iraq and Syria, or the others, kidnapped by the terrorist group in the region.
During armed conflicts children are subjected to different forms of violence, including, being victims of violence and atrocity crimes by the enemy military or being recruited as child soldiers and getting directly involved in the armed conflict.
As victims of violence, children suffer from a number of the atrocities such as unlawful killing, sexual violence, enslavement, rape, forced marriages, displacement and abduction, which have unfortunately caused the world to witness a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in in Iraq and Syria, the crimes committed by IS and associated terrorist groups.
In addition to suffering from such atrocities, armed conflict not only continued to lead to violations of children’s rights to life and physical integrity, but also to deprive them of their basic economic, social and cultural rights. They cannot go to school, have limited access to food, doctors, medical care and limited access to justice. They are made homeless and are separated from their parents.
In Iraq conflicted zones, children suffer from atrocities such as forced conversion of their religion, forced marriage and die from thirst or hunger. In august, 2014, four Christian children who refused to convert their religion and say the words IS would dictate, got beheaded by the terrorists. Also, according to the released news, girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority have been raped, sold into sexual slavery and abused by IS. In August 2014, about 40,000 minority members remain trapped on Mount Sinjar which became a graveyard for their children. According to a UNICEF representative their children who were completely cut off, suffering from hunger and thirst died on the mountain and on the roads.
Those who have survived and managed to escape the terrorist attacks, are suffering from poor living conditions in camps, while the cold of the winter exacerbate the hardship.
Unfortunately, violence against children is not limited to Iraq and Syria region, it is witnessed in other parts of the world, for example, during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in 2014 more than 500 Palestinian children lost their lives, and among the 11000 injuredcivilians there were many children.
Another form of violation of children’s rights during armed conflicts is recruiting them as soldiers. Many child soldiers end up in detention where they suffer from various forms of violence, such as torture, summary or arbitrary execution or receive imprisonment sentences without due process of law.
This is while, according to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, no child under 18 should be allowed to participate in armed hostilities.
Many children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups because of having no other options. They want to escape poverty, defend their communities or fulfil a feeling of revenge. Children make better soldiers as they are manipulated more easily than adults and can be indoctrinated to perform crimes and atrocities without asking questions. However, being involved in armed conflicts, leave negative impacts on their lives. Their needs as children are forgotten and they are blamed by their communities for getting involved in atrocities.
In Syria conflict, children are increasingly used in armed combat roles, dragged into the conflict and exposed to extreme violence at an alarming rate. Over million children have been impacted by the Syrian conflict. According to Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF's regional child protection adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, children have been used as combatants, human shields, messengers, spies, guards and porters, sometimes manage checkpoints and maintain weapons. Underage Syrian girls have been forced to wed foreign fighters.
In some cases fathers bring children to join the IS. They attend schools in which they learn how to kill, behead or become suicide bombers. While, in some other cases, ISIS militants have altered local school curricula to fit their strict ideology and recruited boys for training camps and religious camps without the consent of their parents. The ISIS have been able to use social media and video propaganda to influence foreigners, including boys and girls, to follow their cause. IS boasts about its capacity to recruit child soldiers and is proud about it.
Children’s involvement in armed conflicts, has devastating long lasting effects on their lives, and in most cases child soldiers need to attend rehabilitation programs. In addition, it is very difficult to prosecute child soldiers for war crimes and crimes against humanity given their dual status as both victims and perpetrators, so governments are urged to make attempts to prevent any sort of child involvements in conflicts, specially recruitment of children as soldiers.
Considering the fact that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regards recruitment of child soldiers as war crime, and the notorious effects of war on child victims, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) offers the following recommendations to ensure more child protections in conflicted regions:
States are recommended to criminalize under-age recruitment, and prosecute and investigate perpetrators.
States, NGOs, the elite, including the religious leaders, the civil society actors and schools are urged to raise awareness about child protection at community level, describing the bitter consequences of recruiting child soldiers.
States and the civil society are urged to address the root causes of ‘voluntary’ recruitment, such as poverty, social grievances and survival, and provide children with alternatives to enrolment.
After the conflict, States are encouraged to run reintegration programs for child soldiers in order to integrate them into their families or community.
States are encouraged to provide alternative accountability mechanisms to prosecution and trial in a criminal court for former child soldiers and ensure that where a child is tried in a court, juvenile justice standards apply.
States are reminded of the fact that children must be among the first to receive protection and relief.
Children must be respected and protected against any form of indecent and assault.
Item 3: Situation of Women in Islamic Republic of Iran
Over the last few decades, women have experienced a lot of developments. With the rise in their awareness and education levels, they have increased their capacities, and no longer can they be marginalized in political-social participation.
In Iran, as the cultural acceptance of women participation in society enhances, women's education gradually and has continually had a growth. In the 1978-79 school year the total number of university students in the country was 175,675, 30.8 percent of which were girls. The total number of state run and private sector university and higher education students for the year 1996-1997 reached 1,193,538; 38.5 percent of which were girls.
In 2000-01 the total number of university students reached 1,577,000, 47.3 percent of which were girls. In 2011 this number reached to 4,117,208 in the country, approximately 60 percent of which were girls.
The education level of women can also be assessed based on literacy level index. In 1976, the women literacy level was only 36 percent in comparison to the literacy level of men (59 percent), which shows a 23 percent gap. The literacy level of women reached 72 percent in 1996 and 81 percent in 2006, and this gap was quite notably reduced and reached 8 percent (89 percent for men and 81 percent for women). According to today's statistics the literacy level of women has exceeded 96 percent.
According to articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Iranian Constitution, race, skin color, language etc. cannot cause distinction and discrimination among the people of Iran, and all individuals of the nation including men and women are equally protected by law, and enjoy all human, political, economic, social and cultural rights, with the observation of Islamic principles. Therefore discrimination against women for entrance to university or allocating some scientific fields of study to men is contradictory to the Constitution and unjustifiable.
Furthermore, due to a number of reasons such as economic, compensation of shortage of income and increasing the purchasing power of the family, independence and safety for their future, women work in society.
As half of the population of the country, the participation of women in economic activities not only had a key role in the development of women's capacities and potentials, but also played an important role in the economic and social development of the Iranian society. Therefore half of the nation's manpower cannot be ignored. All members of society, including men and women must have equal opportunities and strong impetus to participate in economic activities, in order for a society to get developed, therefore the employment of women has a special status within the domestic Iranian laws; such as articles 3, 20, 21, 28, 29 and 43 of the Constitution and the Islamic Republic of Iran's Perspective for 2025, the Women's Rights and Responsibilities Charter, the Fourth and Fifth Development Programs, and other laws and legislations.
Women in Iran have always been present in various social and political arenas shoulder to shoulder with men. But this presence had never turned into a serious participation in social, economic and political arenas. But in the recent years with fundamental political, economic and social changes that took place in the country, women's inclinations towards technology, knowledge and entrepreneurship has increased.
The number of Iranian women active in the economy in 1986 was less than one million, the figure reached 1,630,000, 1,765,000, and in 1991 and 1996 respectively. And rose to 4 million in 2005. This increase in the number of employed women shows Iranian women's interest in working and participation in the economy side by side with men, and suitable and positive policy settings towards boosting the entrance of professional and literate workforce into the society. Because the majority of women in employment in Iran are literate. But in the years between 2006 till 2011 the number of working women dropped approximately by 900,000. This was due to the country’s economic problems, and the negative effects of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union on Iran on the excuse of the country’s nuclear activities.
Nonetheless, according to information published from the public census of 2011, 30 percent of working women are experts, the majority of which are working in the public and governmental sectors.
Also from another aspect, the comparison of girl post graduates and higher education centers of the country to the total of post graduates (46.5) with the ratio of professional working women to all working professionals (44.9) shows that most of the women with higher education are drawn into the employment market and a small part of them have not entered the employment market due to various reasons such as the individual's lack of interest to work, and or the person's skills not be relevant to the needs of the employment market. In other words to enter employment market, women have further need for skills and higher education and this is one of the main reasons for women's interest in going to university.
The daily increasing successes of women in various scientific, managerial and arts fields indicates self belief and the activeness of their inner capacities. Increase in the education levels of women over the past years has resulted their social participation to be of better quality.
Therefore our NGO offers the following recommendations to the country authorities for improvement of women’s situation in the country:
1. Due to reasons such as extensive women presence in higher education and the budget that is spent on it, personal choices and interests in having a social presence and ultimately because women need to earn money, the authorities, including the government and the parliament must facilitate women’s employment, which can be the best strategy for women’s empowerment and enhanced social participation of women.
2. Women’s increasing achievements in different fields of science, management and art indicates their self-confidence and realization of their potentials. Women’s accomplishments in education has helped them to have a better presence in society. Along with the change of managers’ views toward women, we need to make correct use of opportunities and resources to improve women’s situation. We also need to consider women's issues as a common challenge and pay serious attention to women's health, hygiene and sports.
3. Solving of women's issues requires preparation of an action package and this package should include determination and development of employment opportunities, marriage, civil support, strengthening of moral relationships in the family, enhance women interest to enter society, coordination be made between government agencies in creation and support for jobs and skills and training opportunities.