August 27, 2010 / 12:37 PM / 8 years ago

U.N. urges Iran to tackle racism

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran should do more to protect its ethnic minorities such as Arabs, Kurds and Baluch, a United Nations human rights body said on Friday.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a group of 18 independent rights experts, said Iran lacked data on the numbers of ethnic minorities despite a census in 2007, but the participation of such people in public life appeared to be lower than could be expected.

Several armed groups opposed to the government are active in Iran, mostly made up of ethnic Kurds in the northwest, Baluch in the southeast and Arabs in the southwest.

“The Committee expresses concern at the limited enjoyment of political, economic, social and cultural rights by... Arab, Azeri, Balochi, Kurdish communities and some communities of non-citizens,” it said in a report on a regular review of Iran’s compliance with a 1969 international treaty banning racism.

The Committee also found discrimination is “rampant” against Baha’is — a minority whose faith the Shi’ite govt considers a heretical offshoot of Islam — committee member Dilip Lahiri said.

It also urged Iran to continue its efforts to empower women and promote their rights, paying particular attention to women belonging to ethnic minorities.

Some tenets of Islamic sharia law disadvantage Iranian women, Indian committee member Dilip Lahiri said. “On the other hand, in terms of their education and access to jobs, very remarkable progress has been made in Iran,” he told a briefing.

The committee voiced concern at reports of a selection procedure for state officials and employees, known as “gozinesh,” requiring them to demonstrate allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the state religion, which could limit opportunities for ethnic and religious minorities.

It said that lack of complaints was not proof of the absence of racial discrimination, as victims may not have confidence in the police or judicial authorities to handle them.

It called on Iran to set up an independent national human rights institution and report back to it at the start of 2013 on how it was dealing with the concerns and recommendations.

(For full report go to link.reuters.com/vyq67n )

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Charles Dick

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