Civil Rights in The Islamic Republic of Iran

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10 September, 2016

By Abdolkarim Lahiji1

Translation by Iran Press Watch

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Prologue – Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations, on 6 September 2016, in a letter addressed to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, gave a glimpse of the atrocities and the “severe economic oppression imposed on the Baha’i community of Iran”, including the expulsion of thousands of Baha’i employees from the public and semipublic sector, including factories and firms; exerting pressure on institutions and private companies to dismiss Baha’i employees; confiscating assets of Baha’is; expelling Baha’i students from universities, and arresting and detaining Baha’is…. She reminded the Iranian president that as “the Iranian authority responsible for protecting the rights of all Iranian citizens,” his promises of “equal citizenship rights and opportunities for all people” have not been forgotten by the Baha’i community.  The Baha’i community, “the largest non-Muslim minority in Iran,” is seeking a resolution to this persecution and injustice.

Citizenship Rights – In judicial-political principles, citizens are defined as “everyone within the territory of a State, who shall, within that territory, have the right to civil and political rights.” The rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reached the UN General Assembly in 1966, and so far more than 170 governments have joined it. The Iranian government’s accession to the Covenant was in 1975 as the implementation of Article 24 of the Constitutional Law of Iran, and was passed by the Iranian National Assembly. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic also requires that the international treaties be approved by the legislature (Article 77). In addition to the clear provisions of Article 9 of the Civil Code of Iran, “Treaty stipulations which have been, in accordance with Constitutional Law, concluded between the Iranian Government and other governments, shall have the force of law.”

Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates: “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (ICCPR Article 2.1) Also, member states are required to “take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present legislative measures, in order to enforce the rights recognized in the present Covenant.”

Thus, the “Human Rights Committee”, consisting of international experts, which monitors the Covenant’s implementation, has repeatedly reminded the Islamic Republic of Iran to adhere to the provisions of its own laws and Constitution; foremost among them in the area of human rights and basic freedoms, is to be consistent with the fundamental conventions of the Covenant.

Aside from being established as general international law ‒ and as documented in the International Vienna Convention On the Law of Treaties (1969), the supremacy of international treaties over domestic law is recognized ‒ we have seen that the drafters of the Civil Code of Iran, 40 years prior to the adoption of the International Vienna Convention, considered the international treaty as ratified by the legislature to be adequate, and binding and indispensable as the “rule of law”.

Thus, the criteria, and the basic document for the rights of citizenship of the Iranian people, is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the executive branch and the judiciary are obligated to respect, ensure, and guarantee these rights for all people, regardless of gender, religion, language, political opinions and other attributes.

Duty to Execute – Although the structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran is more of an oligarchy than a republic, nevertheless, in the legal and political arena “after the Supreme Leader, the President is the highest official in the country, and bears the responsibility to implement the Constitution, as well as to carry out his duties as the head of the Executive Branch, except in matters directly related to leadership.”

In addition, although the basic executive levers according to the Article 110 of the Constitution have been designated as the authority belonging to the leader, nevertheless the president, due to his “duties under the Constitution or general laws, is responsible to the people, to the Leader, and to the Islamic Consultative Assembly.” (Article 122)

Therefore, beyond the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and within the framework of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, for which “responsibility for its implementation” lies with the President, we propose the following questions:

  1. Baha’is are Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, and according to Article 14 of the Constitution, “The Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to non-Muslims to respect their human rights in conformity with ethical norms and Islamic justice and equity.” Are the liberty, personal security, freedom of conscience and belief, the right to property, the right to work, the right to an education, to learning and development considered to be among the “human rights” of non-Muslims in Iran, or not?
  2. Under Article 22 of the Constitution, “The dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolable.” Why is this principle, which applies to Muslims and non-Muslims, not observed for Baha’is?
  3. Article 30 of the Constitution also explicitly states: “The government must provide free education for all the people in the nation through secondary school, and expand the availability of free higher education to the point of self-sufficiency for the country.” Are Baha’i children and youth, considered to be part of the “Iranian people”, or not?

In this article I do not intend to reiterate in detail the oppression and discrimination imposed on Baha’is in Iran for the past many years; however, inasmuch as in the letter of a Senior Representative of the Baha’i Community to the President the “severe economic oppression” has been more emphasized, I will allow the above questions to suffice.

However, in the letter by Ms. Bani Dugal, the policy of cruelty based on religious discrimination is called “economic apartheid” to ensure that there will be legal consequences for officials of the Islamic Republic before the international community.

In Article 7 of the International Criminal Court Statute of 1998 (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court), apartheid is considered to be a manifestation of crimes against humanity.

The future will determine whether the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran will heed these demands for justice, legal warnings, recommended citations, and admonitions, or not.


1. Honorary President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)





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