The call for international intervention in Sindh and Balochistan: legal and humanitarian aspects

Samad Baloch

The principle of humanitarian intervention is based on the notion of protecting people from being harmed. The actions of a consistent case of human rights violations by a state would transfer the duty of the protection to the broader community, which is to the international community. Many actions of the religious fundamentalist state of Pakistan during the last few decades are in clear violation of international laws concerning the protection of citizens. 

This is a brief analysis of the concept of international intervention and how it relates to the continuous and blatant violations of the fundamental human rights of the Baloch and Sindhi people.

The term humanitarian intervention has a broad meaning which contains a wide range of actions taken by state or states to protect people from violence or improve their conditions of wellbeing across the state borders. In other words, it is actions carried out by the international community to protect the political, social, and economic rights of the individuals. The universal human rights principles state that this is the duty of all states to promote and protect human rights regardless of their political and economic issues, meaning if a state is unable to protect or guarantee the rights of its people then there’s an international community that has to make sure that people have access to a just system. 

From a practical point of view, the humanitarian intervention may also take place through peaceful means if the country of particular concern would give in under the international pressure and allow the international observers and peacekeeping forces into the country. The peaceful method of UN operations is designed to ease the tension, monitor the situation, and provide an environment for negotiation. The UN missions can be deployed on the request or with the consent of the state in conflict or without consent or request.

The Genocide Convention and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, guaranteed the protection of people and individuals across the world. The declaration provided a collective and international response to the rights of individuals, and it was asserted that human rights would have primacy over the sovereignty of the state. For the first time in history, states came under the direct scrutiny of the international community and the non-governmental organizations about their domestic conduct. 

States are considered equal members of the international community and enjoy equal rights to maintain their various affairs. They also have equal duties for the entire community of nations and are expected to guarantee human rights and dignity. The obligation of a state regarding the rights of its citizens considered to be the part of its statehood and sovereignty. The sovereignty of a state is not holy per se;  it is the people who make a state respectful. The sovereignty of a state is important so the rights of its people as the people are the source of the legitimacy of the state. 

After the formation of the United Nations, there were two waves of international interventions occurring during the Cold War and in the post-Cold War era. In 1960-1964, Belgium and the United States intervened in Congo after violence broke out in the country which was followed by US interventions in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Panama in 1989.  France and Belgium intervened in Zaire in 1978 and in the same year Vietnam intervened in Cambodia. France has intervened in the Central African Republic seven times since its independence in 1960. Alongside the above interventions, there was one of the most significant humanitarian interventions that took place in South Asia in 1971. The systematic genocide committed by the Pakistan army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) prompted Indians to act and the Indian army intervened preventing the further slaughter of Bengalis. The second wave of interventions came after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was more collective in terms of international norms and organization.

Liberia was an example of a long-drawn intervention by the international community beginning in 1990. In 1991 the United States, France, and the United Kingdom established a no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from being massacred by the Iraqi army. The United States and the United Nations also became the part of international humanitarian efforts in Somalia in 1992, Rwanda in 1993, Haiti in 1994, and Sierra Leone in 1999.  The intervention of the international community ended the bloody conflict in Yugoslavia resulting in the creation of many independent states.  In 2011, a multi-state NATO-led intervention in Libya brought down the brutal regime of Colonel Gaddafi. Besides these humanitarian interventions, the United Nations played a great part in the independence of Eritrea in 1991, East Timor in 1999, and South Sudan in 2011.

The first and most important role of a state is to protect its citizens from being harmed and the second is to provide them justice according to the laws of the state and the rules of the international legal orders. But in Pakistan, things are very different, perhaps because Pakistan is not a normal country. Let alone protecting or providing the means of justice, Pakistan has been causing injuries and slaughtering its citizens. The only reason for that is that they dare to demand their democratic and national rights. On the other hand, the Islamic extremists, Taliban, and other outlaws enjoy the freedom of activity. They are allowed to incite and carry out violent acts against liberal politicians, human rights activists, and the minorities groups. The army considered them the part of the sacred security forces of the Allah-given state. These Jihadi groups are declared strategic assets of the state.  Many of the jihadi organizations patronized by the army are believed to be harbouring international terrorists who have carried out many acts of terrorism in countries including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and India. The Allah given country has become a haven for terrorists. It became hell for those who are raising voices for their national rights or opposing the exploitation of their natural resources. It became the worst place on this planet earth for the human rights campaigners and religious minorities.  

The army and its proxy jihadi organizations have unleashed a reign of terror throughout Balochistan and Sindh. Numerous death squads were created by intelligence agencies. They are assisting the military authorities in the dirty work of dumping the bodies of political activists in remote areas of Balochistan. The armed forces have been using heavy artillery and helicopter gunships against the Baloch people. These indiscriminate attacks on civilian settlements have caused heavy civilian casualties including women and children in many parts of Balochistan. In some cases, the entire town and villages were burned down by the army, making thousands of internally displaced persons. Thousands were lucky enough to flee the country and are now in various parts of the world away from their land and loved ones. Thousands of people have been missing for years and their fate is still unknown. There is strong evidence that the continued forced disappearances and the “kill and dump” policy of Pakistan has reached to a systematic genocide of the Baloch nation. These heinous crimes against humanity have been widely reported by many national and international organizations including, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch. 

In recent years, Sindh is witnessing new waves of enforced disappearances and kill and dump activities. Hundreds are verifiably missing for months and years. The surge in the kill and dump activities in Sindh is a replication of the army’s adopted strategy in Balochistan. Dumping of the tortured and mutilated bodies of Sindhi political activists and intellectuals has become a daily occurrence. The forced conversion of the Hindu minority population into Islam is a shameful reminder of the medieval ages where people were forced to abandon their ancestral faith with the use of force. 

The actions of the Pakistani state are blatant violations of fundamental human rights enshrined in the UN charter and various conventions. Pakistan is among the worse human rights violators in modern history and equally responsible for sponsoring Jihadists in various countries. The behaviour of the religious state is leading a disastrous situation which might be a great threat to the world’s peace and security. 

The Baloch and Sindhis are facing a grave humanitarian crisis. They are facing some of the worse subjugation, persecution, and genocide measures in recent history. They are seeking international intervention in the face of genocide actions of the religious state of Pakistan. When a state refuses to accept the internationally recognized human rights values or fails to protect the basic human rights of its citizens or a state descending into a civil war and unable to protect people from violence, it becomes the responsibility of the civilized world to intervene. The humanitarian intervention is a form of collective reaction of the international community against the violation of its core principle. The concept of a humanitarian intervention lies in the moral and legal responsibility of the international community, and the international legal system must not be hijacked by the bureaucratic rules and regulations in a situation where human lives are at stake. Searching for a flawless international legal approach would give us thousands of more Sindhi and Baloch dead bodies and catastrophic human suffering for millions of people in Sindh and Balochistan.

Samad Baloch is the Secretary-General of the Baloch Human Rights Council

BHRC publishes a book, “Balochistan of Pakistan: A brief on the miseries and sufferings of a people”

Abstract:

The colonial powers in order to safeguard their interests in regions where they had ruled, divided nations, and created artificial states. As a consequence of this policy, several regions of Asia and Africa became zones of never-ending conflicts and turmoil. The Baloch are among the largest national entities (only second to Kurds) in the world without a state of their own and one of the few nations in the contemporary world who still face the curse of colonialism.

From 1666, Balochistan was ruled by a loose confederacy of Baloch tribes under the Khanate of Kalat. In 1839, it was occupied by the British and finally divided and incorporated into many countries of the region. Major parts of Balochistan are presently controlled by Iran and Pakistan.

This writeup is about that part of Balochistan which is controlled by Pakistan since 1948. Since their incorporation into Pakistan, the Baloch have been the victim of dominating policies and strategies. They have faced the repression and subjugation of the religious and fanatical state for a long time and lives of millions of Baloch are characterized by oppression and exploitation in numerous ways. The cream of their society and a large part of the population have faced physical elimination. The violence by the security forces has manifested by the gross human rights violations and massive dislocation of the Baloch population with tremendous human suffering. Many actions of the state come within the definition of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

“This book is a brief account of how various socio-cultural, political and militant strategies employed by Pakistan caused many sufferings for the Baloch.”

For full contents of the book, please download from the link below :

The Islamization of Balochistan

By: Qambar Malik Baloch

Bordering Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the north and laying at the Strait of Hormuz to the south, Balochistan is generally known for its strategic importance, prodigious riches, an ongoing nationalist insurgency, and human rights challenges. Underneath this lies a systematic and diabolic subversion triggered by the military establishment of Pakistan which, as a consequence, is eroding the socio-political foundations of a secular and tolerant Baloch society and giving way to the fundamentalist Islam to take roots. Having been eclipsed by the war on terror in neighboring Afghanistan and northern areas of Pakistan for nearly two decades, the situation in Balochistan not only went largely unnoticed by the world but with a sophisticatedly controlled media, it also remains the least comprehended in Pakistan.

If remained unchecked, the impact of this shortsighted policy of the ruling establishment of Pakistan would be disastrous not only for the whole region in the coming decades but also this poses a danger with impacts on international peace.

Baloch secularism

Baloch scholar Jan Muhammad Dashti observes that Baloch society is governed by a definite set of conventions and codes of cultural ethics guiding its members in their religious, economic and socio-political affairs (Janmahmad, 1982). Anthropologist and historian Dashti (2012), pointed out that the social makeup and cultural values of secularism and religious tolerance which are forming the bases of a Baloch’s individual and national identity were established during the period from 12th to 16th centuries and were shaped by a coinciding pastoral ecology and tribal structure. According to Janmahmad, (1982), Baloch (1987) and Redaelli (2003), the majority of the Baloch consider themselves as Muslims, however, their attitude towards religion as compared to their neighboring nationalities is tolerant and secular. Not a single instance in their history of three millennia has been documented of politicization of religious faith, except the deplorable military ventures of Mir Naseer Khan I to forcibly convert Zikris (a renegade Islamic sect among the Baloch) into orthodox Sunni Muslims (Naseer, 1979; Dashti, 2012). Many factors have been cited for the development of a tolerant Baloch mindset, including the encroachments in their social life and subjugating measures by various regional powers in the name of religion. However, as observed by Grare (2013), it appears that this secular behavior is fading away in the face of constant manipulation by the security establishment of Pakistan.

In recent decades, the state establishment in its bid to dilute if not fully dry down the socio-cultural pool of the Baloch which contains all the ingredients of resilience, fierce sense of independence, secularism and strongly protective and unwavering love for its cultural values and fatherland, has been following policies of imposing fundamentalist Islam in various ways. This has been thought by the planners in Islamabad to be a necessary strategy in order to neutralize the Baloch national question in Pakistan.

Political Islam in context

The use of Islam in the achievement of some political objectives by the state establishment of Pakistan is the legacy of the colonial era. In the 19th century, during the period of the Great Game, the British conceived the doctrine of ‘Islamic Nationhood’ as a tool to mobilize the Muslim population of Central Asia against a fast encroaching Russia (Axmann, 2012; Dashti, 2012). A number of religious groups and individuals were cultivated by the British to form a religious line of defense against Russia and national liberation struggles in India and the Middle East (Curtis, 2010). Islam as a political tool was considered to be the convenient option. Two British agents, Jamaluddin Afghani, and Syed Ahmed Khan emerged as influential religious personalities. They were at the forefront of preaching the doctrine of Pan-Islamism and “Islamic Nationhood” (Dashti, 2017).

The engineering of political Islam or Islamic nationhood contributed in the partition of India on religious grounds and brought far-reaching consequences on various nations in South-central Asia who — with different historical, lingual and cultural backgrounds — were merged together in the newly-created religious state of Pakistan (Lifschultz, 1983; Dashti, 2017). In the new state, the power was handed over to a state establishment, which was loyal to the interests of its former colonial masters. As a member of Western political and defense alliances (CENTO and SEATO), one of the responsibilities given to the rulers of the state was to use the religious sentiments of the people to create a religious first line of defense against the rising tide of socialism led by the Russians and the Chinese. With Western patronization, the military not only assumed the ruler-ship of the state but also declared itself the ideological guardian of the country (Harrison, 1981; Wirsing, 2008; Grare, 2013; Dashti, 2017). The religion was used as a cohesive force to keep the culturally distinct people together and also as a strong tool to contain the political dissents in Pakistan.

For the last 70 years, the military remains the main source of politico-economic power in the country in general and in Balochistan in particular (Grare, 2006). Opposition against the establishment began to mount with a strenuous participation of progressive Sindhi, Pashtun and Baloch nationalists in the movement who sought democratic reforms (Janmahmad, 1989). Notwithstanding, in Balochistan, the first elected nationalist government of the National Awami Party – which was at the forefront of anti-military rule in Pakistan – was overthrown and Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun political leaders of the party were branded traitors and sent behind the bars (Lifschultz, 1983). The opposition by the progressive and secular elements of the country was seen as anti-Islamic by the military establishment. Balochistan became one of the core areas of General Zia’s Islamization strategy (Grare, 2013).

Historically the military establishment has never conceded legitimacy to Baloch nationalism by calling the Baloch proxies of anti-Islamic countries and failed to engage Baloch leaders in serious negotiations. Instead, it relied on a military response to the peaceful resistance movement of the Baloch. It resorted to measures outside the constitutional ambits and legal processes of the state. It began implementing one of the most inhumane and multi-faceted assimilating strategies causing in the gradual but general collapse of the socio-political fabric of Baloch society.

Patronizing Islamist militants

Islamization of Balochistan and the lateral entry of sectarianism was part of the strategy to contain or dilute the Baloch national movement. Grare (2006) and Zurutuza (2015) observed that the state establishment encouraged the penetration of Islamist militants in Balochistan to counter the mobilization of Baloch on nationalistic grounds. The chairperson of human rights commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Zohra Yusuf in a BBC interview in 2014 pointed out the rapid and systematic penetration by radical Islamists group, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl Sunnat Wa Jamaat (ASWJ), to counter the secular Baloch insurgency (“Religious Groups”, 2014). Notorious organizations like ISIS and Daesh have begun taking roots in Balochistan in complicity with the military establishment.

These observations can be corroborated by the incident of the earthquake in 2013 in Awaran that was also the hotbed of insurgency in Balochistan at that time. According to Fair, C. Christine and Hamza, Ali (2017), despite enlisted as an international terrorist organization by various international entities including the United Nations and United States, Filah Insaniat Foundation (FIF) an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), also operated as Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the past received the exceptional favour of providing relief work under Army’s supervision in Awaran; whereas, neutral organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were refused entry despite its willingness to offer medical and humanitarian relief.

Within a short span of military’s presence in Awaran, in November 2014, a religious outfit, Lashkar-e-Khurasan, believed to be an offshoot of ISIS, claimed responsibility for murdering six persons from the Zikri sect. Two months before this incident, the said outfit got involved in a bloody clash with the Baloch resistance fighters in Balnigwar area of Kech district, showing a close working relationship with the army units engaged in counter-insurgency operations against the Baloch nationalist forces. (“ISIS in Balochistan”, 2016)

Shrinking space for religious minorities

One of the core strategies of the establishment has been to upset the social harmony, of the Baloch society by intimidation and murder of Hindus, Christians and Shia Hazara of Quetta. The kidnapping for ransom, acts of extortion and murder of Hindus started in 2005 (Miakhel and Siddique, 2017).  ISIS in recent years has been involved in a series of deadly attacks on Christians in Quetta (“Murder of Christians”, 2018), the city heavily patrolled by the paramilitary FC (Zulfiqar, 2016). The most brazen victimization has been that of Shia Hazaras with an estimated death of 1,500 in the last decade mostly as a result of attacks by LeJ (Siddiqi, 2015). The attacks on the Hazara community began to take momentum with the beginning of the contemporary Baloch insurgency in Balochistan in 2002. In a very bold rebuttal to the criticism of the international community and national political parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan cleared 150 candidates of ASWJ, an affiliate of LeJ, to run for National Assembly elections held in July 2018 (Hashim, 2018).

Madrassas outstripping schools

The expansion of madrassas (religious seminaries) witnessed a boom in Balochistan under General Musharaf’s regime. As of 2006, the budget of the Ministry of Education for the province was 200 million rupees compared to 1.2 billion rupees allocated to the Ministry of Religious Affairs (Grare, 2006). Ever since the growth of madrassas in Balochistan has greatly increased with the highest enrollment rates in the country (Fair, 2014); however, the enrollment in schools has drastically dropped to the lowest (Alif Ailan, 2018). According to Ministry of Auqaf, the department also dealing with religious education, 13,000 madrassas operate in Balochistan, with highest number of madrassas in Pakistan after Punjab, whereas a report published by AlifAilan (2018) quoted the total number of schools in Balochistan as 13,845. The Secretary of Education termed 963 of the 13,845 schools as non-functional. The sources in the Education Department quoted the numbers of non-functional schools way higher than claimed by the officials (Shah, 2017).

To add insult to injury, school buildings and students have also come under constant attacks by the LeJ and other religious outfits operating in the province. LeJ has also claimed deadly attacks on the only Women University in Quetta, Balochistan (“Pakistan’s heart”, 2014). The splinter group of ISIS known as Al-Furqan threatened schools to stop girls’ education in the district of Panjgur (Shah, 2015).

Most startling is the exponential rise of the Tablighi phenomenon in Balochistan. Tablighis are supposed to be the preacher of Islam. Without any declared sources of income, these Tablighis have established sophisticated organizational structures in the province. However, the claim of the nationalists that Tablighis are involved in drug trafficking cannot be substantiated; nevertheless, it is generally believed that they are being financed by those who are operating illegal drug businesses with open patronage from the establishment.

With systematic and persistent state manipulations, the conventional and defined role of a religious cleric in Baloch society has dramatically transformed to an authoritative social position of settling disputes and guiding people in their social and political affairs. The situation is alarming. As observed by Grare (2006), a breeding ground of religious fanatics falling en-route billions of dollars of drug trade with potentials to generate enough money to sustain military activities can prove lethal not only to regional powers but a Balochistan in the grip of religious fanatics will also put at stake Western interests given to its strategic location.

References:

Alif Ailaan (2018). 2013-2018 Five Years of Education Reforms in Balochistan. Wins, Losses and challenges for 2018-2023. Islamabad: Alif Ailaan.

Axmann, M. (2012). Back to the Future “The Khanate of Kalat and the Genesis of Baluch Nationalism, 1915-1955” Oxford University Press: London.

Baloch, I. (1987). The Problem of ‘Greater Baluchistan’: A Study of Baluch Nationalism, Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden.

Curtis, M. (2010). Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam. Serpents Tail: London.

Dashti., N. (2017). The Baloch Conflict with Iran and Pakistan. Trafford Publishing: London.

Dashti., N. (2012). The Baloch and Balochistan: A historical account from the Beginning to the fall of the Baloch State. Trafford Publishing: London.

Eleven days after the first of two severe earthquakes hit the Awaran area of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) still has not received authorization to work in the affected area, despite daily discussions with the Pakistani government (2013, October 4). DOCTORS WITHOUT BOARDERS. Retrieved from https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/news-stories/news/pakistan-msf-still-without-authorization-work-earthquake-affected.

Fair, C. Christine (2014). Pakistan’s Internal Security Environment. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2475461 http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2475461.

Fair, C. Christine and Hamza, Ali (2017) “Rethinking Baloch Secularism: What the Data Say,” Peace and Conflict Studies: Vol. 24: No. 1, Article 1. 
Available at: hKp://nsuworks.nova.edu/pcs/vol24/iss1/1

Grare, F. (2013) Balochistan: The state versus the nation. Carnegie papers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, South Asia Project, April 2013.

Grare, F. (2006) Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism. Carnegie papers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, South Asia Project, Number 65, January 2006.

 Harrison, S.S., (1981). In Afghanistan’s shadow: Baluch nationalism and Soviet temptations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

 Hashim, A. (2018, July 15). Quetta Hazaras despair as religious supremacists contest

election: Members of minority say authorities gave clean slate to leader blamed

for hundreds dead. ALJAZEERA, FEATURE/PAKISTAN ELECTIONS 2018.

Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/quetta-hazaras-              

despair-religious-supremacists-contest-election-180712222735530.html.

ISIS in Balochistan and role of Pakistani state in fostering extremism (2016, October 19). Baloch National Movement. Retrieved from https://www.thebnm.org/single-post/2016/10/09/ISIS-in-Balochistan-and-role-of-Pakistani-state-in-fostering-extremism.

Janmahmad (1989). Essays on Baloch national struggle in Pakistan : emergence, dimensions, repercurssions. Quetta, Balochistan: Gosha-e-Adab.

Janmahmad (1982). The Baloch cultural heritage. Karachi, Sindh: Royal Book Co.

Lifschultz, L., (1983). Independent Baluchistan? Ataullah Mengal’s ‘Declaration of Independence’. Economic and Political Weekly, (18:19/21), pp 735-737+739+741+743-745+747+749+751-752.

Miakhel, B. and Siddique, A (2017, February 2017). Minority Sikhs, Hindus Flee Pakistan’s Restive Balochistan. Gandhara. Retrieved from https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/pakistan-sikh-hindus-balochistan/28317151.html.

Naseer, M. G. K. (1979). Tarikh e Balochistan (in Urdu) Quetta: Kalat Publishers.

Pakistan’s heart of darkness: Quetta (2014, April 23). DAWN, Pakistan. Retrieved from https://www.dawn.com/news/1042132/pakistans-heart-of-darkness-quetta.

Redaelli, R.and Fioran, V. P. (2003). Baluchistan: terra incognita: a new methodological approach combining archaeological, historical, anthropological and architectural studies. Oxford: Archaeopress: Hadrian Books: London.

Space being created for religious groups in Balochistan (2014, October 12). BBC URDU. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/urdu/multimedia/2014/10/141012_balochistan_extremism_hrreport_nj

 Shah, S. A (2017, March 29). 963 schools in Balochistan not functional. DAWN,

Pakistan. Retrieved from https://www.dawn.com/news/1323394.

 Shah, S. A (2015, May 15). Private schools in Panjgur closed after threats. DAWN, Pakistan. Retrieved from https://www.dawn.com/news/1106527.

 Siddiqi. F,  (2015, Jun 18). Sectarian Violence in Balochistan. Middle East Institute. Retrieved from http://www.mei.edu/content/map/sectarian-violence-balochistan-siddiqi.

 Zurutuza K. (2014, Feb 5). A black hole for media in Balochistan: Journalists face major difficulties in reporting from Pakistan’s troubled southwestern province. ALJAZEERA.                                                                                             Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/black-hole-media-balochistan-2014238128156825.html.

 Zulfiqar, S. (2016, September 25). The many lawmen in Balochistan. TNS. Retrieved

from http://tns.thenews.com.pk/many-lawmen-balochistan/#.W6iH62gzbIV

Murder of Christians: WHILE the level of extremist violence in the rest of

Pakistan has fallen sharply over the past couple of years, Balochistan has seen no

real reprieve (2018, April 04). DAWN, Archive.  Retrieved from

https://www.dawn.com/news/ 1399492.

Author: The writer is the Secretary Information of the Baloch Human Rights Council.

Source: Balochistan Times

Witnessing poor mother and child healthcare in Balochistan

In Pakistan, thousands of women and infants die each year from medical conditions that are easily preventable. In the southwest province of Balochistan, which has some of the worst health statistics in the world, the situation is particularly dire.  

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the largest international healthcare providers in the province. MSF provides obstetric and gynaecological care to mothers, and paediatric and newborn care to their children. Our teams treat over 11,000 malnourished children a year across four districts. A lack of knowledge about nutrition, weaning and breastfeeding mean that harmful health practices are an important concern for our medical teams.

Lack of knowledge on treating illness

“Malnutrition is a serious issue that is exacerbated by poor health-seeking behaviour, a lack of social protection, extreme poverty, conflict and displacement,” said Pylypenko Tetyana, medical coordinator for MSF in Pakistan. “It must be addressed in a holistic manner that extends beyond MSF’s mandate.” Gulshan’s* story 01 / 05

Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
Forty-year old Gulshan has come to the MSF facility in Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan, Pakistan, to give birth to her tenth child. She feels tired and weak and wants the pain to end. This is the first time in her twelve pregnancies that she has come to a hospital. Finally, Gulshan gives birth to a baby girl.
Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
Gulshan, in blue, gets into a waiting rickshaw that her 22-year-old son has hired to take her, his grandmother, aunt and newborn sister home once Gulshan has been discharged from hospital.
Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
At home, the entire family of nearly 25 people awaits their arrival, where the new baby’s aunt introduces her to her brothers and prepares to give her an oil massage, a tradition when a newborn is brought home.
Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
Gulshan’s baby is brought home to doting grandmothers. The family has lots of plans for the baby. Six days after she is born, they will have her ears pierced as per tradition. The MSF health educator explains to Gulshan’s mother and aunt that the baby is too small for such piercings and that she may develop tetanus as a result, which could cause the baby to go into shock. “But it is our tradition which we enjoy following. If the baby has fits then that is God’s will,” says Gulshan’s aunt.  
Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
Gulshan’s mother holds mixed herbs. She says that traditionally, this is what they will feed the child, in addition to breast milk, for the first few weeks. According to Gulshan’s mother, this will help the baby with indigestion. Education and knowledge about health is a big gap for people in Naseerbad, and it can be difficult to transform longstanding practices that contribute to poor hygiene, acute malnutrition and harm.

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Health seeking behaviour is how a community uses health services and this can be influenced by the cost of services, distance to health facilities, cultural beliefs, level of health knowledge and inadequate facilities.

Our health promotion and counselling teams work hand-in-hand with medical teams, conducting regular awareness-raising and counselling sessions to educate people about their health and discourage them from following practices that are medically unsafe.

Malnutrition leads to stunting and death, in babies and children

“When I couldn’t feed him, I gave him green tea instead,” says Malaika of her newborn son Arish, who was re-admitted to an MSF medical facility in a critical condition a few days after being born. “My mother-in-law said it was the best thing to do and that’s also what I had done with my other eight children.”

Green tea, black tea and other herbs can be very harmful to newborn babies. However, it is common practice in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts to feed them these.

Mother and Child Health in Balochistan
A baby suffering from an infection is seen in the MSF nursery at DHQ hospital in Chaman, Balochistan, Pakistan, October 2018.

When Malaika saw that baby Arish was unwell, she took him to a private clinic. As he continued to deteriorate, Arish was referred to the MSF facility. Unfortunately, Arish arrived in a very critical condition and died.

“Such cases are very common,” says Dr Zialullah. “Black tea and green tea are used as go-to remedies for everything, from burns to cuts, and to feed babies.”

In 2018, rates of malnutrition in Balochistan prompted the provincial authorities to declare a nutritional emergency. Earlier in the year, a National Demographic and Health Survey found that 47 percent of children in Balochistan showed evidence of stunting, a condition resulting from impaired growth and development that children experience as a result of poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.

Source: MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERS

State of Human Rights in 2018 – Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Annual Report: March 2019

Highlights:

Pakistan and international human rights mechanisms:
Pakistan has affirmed in its election pledge to the Human Righ Council that it is ‘firmly resolved to uphold, promote and safeguard universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.’

  • HRCP expressed concern that Pakistan had chosen to only ‘note’ key human rights principles including, among others, the reporting of investigation and prosecution of security forces that commit human rights violations; amending discriminatory laws against marginalised groups, taking effective measures to prevent the abuse of blasphemy legislation, and the use of violence against religious minorities.
  • Requests for country visits from UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions; the situation of human rights defenders; the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; freedom of religion or belief; and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, remain pending.
  • Pakistan has ratified the eight ILO fundamental conventions but never fully applied them.

Source: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

Iran’s ‘year of shame’: More than 7,000 arrested in chilling crackdown on dissent during 2018

24 January 2019 – Amnesty International

The Iranian authorities carried out a shameless campaign of repression during 2018, crushing protests and arresting thousands in a wide-scale crackdown on dissent, said Amnesty International, a year after a wave of protests against poverty, corruption and authoritarianism erupted across the country.

The organization has today revealed staggering new figures showing the extent of the Iranian authorities’ repression during 2018. Over the course of the year, more than 7,000 protesters, students, journalists, environmental activists, workers and human rights defenders, including lawyers, women’s rights activists, minority rights activists and trade unionists, were arrested, many arbitrarily. Hundreds were sentenced to prison terms or flogging and at least 26 protesters were killed. Nine people arrested in connection with protests died in custody under suspicious circumstances. 

“2018 will go down in history as a ‘year of shame’ for Iran. Throughout the year Iran’s authorities sought to stifle any sign of dissent by stepping up their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and carrying out mass arrests of protesters,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director. 

“The staggering scale of arrests, imprisonments and flogging sentences reveal the extreme lengths the authorities have gone to in order to suppress peaceful dissent.”  The staggering scale of arrests, imprisonments and flogging sentences reveal the extreme lengths the authorities have gone to in order to suppress peaceful dissent Philip Luther, MENA Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International

Throughout the year and particularly during the months of January, July and August, the Iranian authorities violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations, beating unarmed protesters and using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons against them. Thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Some of those swept up in the wave of arrests during the January protests were students, human rights defenders and journalists. Also targeted were the managers of channels on the popular mobile messaging application Telegram, which was used to disseminate news about the protests and to mobilize demonstrators.

Overall in 2018, whether in the context of protests or as a result of their work 11 lawyers, 50 media workers and 91 students were detained arbitrarily. 

At least 20 media workers were sentenced to harsh prison or flogging sentences after unfair trials. One journalist, Mohammad Hossein Sodagar, from the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic minority, was flogged 74 times in the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan province after being convicted of “spreading lies”. Another media worker, Mostafa Abdi, who is an administrator of the Majzooban-e-Noor website, which reports on human rights abuses against the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, was sentenced to 26 years and three months in prison, 148 lashes, and other punishments. 

In addition, at least 112 women human rights defenders were arrested or remained in detention in Iran during 2018.

Women’s rights defenders 

Throughout 2018, brave women’s rights defenders across the country joined an unprecedented protest movement against the abusive and discriminatory forced hijab (veiling) laws in Iran. Women took to the streets and stood on top of raised structures in public places, silently waving their headscarves on the ends of sticks. In response, they suffered a bitter backlash from the authorities, facing violent assault, arrest and torture and other ill-treatment. Some were sentenced to prison terms after grossly unfair trials. 

Demonstration in support of protesting steel workers in Ahvaz by their families.
A woman peacefully protesting against forced hijab in the city of Karaj, Alborz Province. © White Wednesdays Campaign

Shaparak Shajarizadeh was sentenced to 20 years in prison, 18 of which were suspended, for her peaceful protest against forced hijab. She fled Iran after she was released on bail and has since described in media interviews how she was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in solitary confinement and denied access to her lawyer.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender, who represented Shaparak Shajarizadeh, was herself arrested on 13 June 2018 for defending protesters against forced hijab. She faces several national security-related charges which could see her sentenced to more than a decade in prison, in addition to the five-year sentence she is already serving for her work against the death penalty. 

“Throughout 2018, the Iranian authorities waged a particularly sinister crackdown against women’s rights defenders. Instead of cruelly punishing women for demanding their rights, the authorities should put an end to the rampant and entrenched discrimination and violence they face,” said Philip Luther. 

Workers’ rights and trade unionists 

The year 2018 also saw Iran engulfed in a deepening economic crisis which triggered numerous strikes and spurred workers to take to the streets in their thousands to call for better working conditions and protections by the government. Delays and non-payment of wages amidst high levels of inflation, skyrocketing living costs and poor working conditions also provoked protests.

Instead of addressing their complaints, however, the Iranian authorities arrested at least 467 workers, including teachers, truck drivers and factory workers, summoned others for questioning and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment. Dozens were sentenced to prison terms. Iranian courts also handed down flogging sentences amounting to a total of nearly 3,000 lashes against 38 workers. 

On 10 May, the Iranian authorities violently dispersed a peaceful protest by teachers in Tehran, who were calling for higher wages and better funding of the country’s public education system. By the end of the year, the authorities had arrested at least 23 teachers following nationwide strikes in October and November. Eight were sentenced to between nine months and 10 and a half years in prison, 74 lashes each, and other penalties.

Throughout the year, at least 278 truck drivers were arrested and some threatened with the death penalty after they took part in nationwide strikes demanding better working conditions and higher wages. Following strikes in February and November, dozens of striking workers from the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company in Shush, south-west Iran, were arrested.  From underpaid teachers to factory workers struggling to feed their families, those who have dared to demand their rights in Iran today have paid a heavy price Philip Luther, MENA Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International

“From underpaid teachers to factory workers struggling to feed their families, those who have dared to demand their rights in Iran today have paid a heavy price. Instead of ensuring workers’ demands are heard, the authorities have responded with heavy handedness, mass arrests and repression,” said Philip Luther.

Ethnic and religious minorities

During 2018, Iran also intensified its discriminatory crackdowns against religious and ethnic minorities by arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning hundreds, and curtailing their access to education, employment and other services.

Members of Iran’s largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, faced a particularly vicious crackdown after a peaceful protest they held in February 2018 was violently quashed. Hundreds were arrested and more than 200 were sentenced to a total of 1,080 years in prison, 5,995 lashes as well as internal “exile”, travel bans, and bans on joining political and social groups. One person, Mohammad Salas, was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial and swiftly executed.

At least 171 Christians were arrested in 2018 solely for peacefully practising their faith, according to the organization Article 18. Some received sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

The authorities also continued their systematic persecution of the Baha’i religious minority, arbitrarily detaining at least 95, according to the organization Baha’i International Community, and committing other abuses against them.

Hundreds of people from ethnic minority groups including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen have also faced human rights abuses including discrimination and arbitrary detention.

Hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs were rounded up after protests in April over a state TV broadcast which excluded Ahwazi Arabs from a map showing the location of Iran’s ethnic minorities. In October, following a deadly armed attack on a military parade in Ahvaz the previous month, more than 700 Ahwazi Arabs were detained incommunicado according to activists outside Iran.

Hundreds of Azerbaijani Turks, including minority rights activists, were also violently arrested in connection with peaceful cultural gatherings throughout the year, including in July and August, when at least 120 people were arrested. Some activists were sentenced to prison terms and flogging. Minority rights activist Milad Akbari was flogged in the city of Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, after he was convicted of “disrupting public order” through “taking part in illegal gatherings and singing eccentric songs” at a cultural gathering. Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens Philip Luther, MENA Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International

Environmental rights activists

At least 63 environmental activists and researchers were arrested in 2018, according to media reports. The Iranian authorities accused a number of them, without providing any evidence, of collecting classified information about Iran’s strategic areas under the pretext of carrying out environmental and scientific projects. At least five were charged with “corruption on earth”, which carries the death penalty.


“Throughout 2018 the Iranian authorities have sought to crush the spirits of protesters and human rights defenders demanding respect for human rights by carrying out mass arrests and even grotesque flogging sentences,” said Philip Luther.

“Governments which are engaged in dialogue with Iran must not stay silent while the net of repression rapidly widens. They must speak out in the strongest terms against the crackdown and forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those jailed for peacefully expressing their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through their human rights activism.”

Source: Amnesty International

Pakistan: Enduring Enforced Disappearances – Amnesty International

27 March 2019

“We are repeatedly given advice that if we stop protesting, end our activism against enforced disappearances and sit at home, our Baba will come back.”

– Sasui Lohar[1], daughter of Hidayatullah Lohar, forcibly disappeared since April 17, 2017 from Nasirabad, Sindh, Pakistan.

In April 2017, Hidayatullah Lohar, school teacher (headmaster), blacksmith and political Sindhi activist was forcibly disappeared from the school where he taught. He was taken away in a “double-cabin grey coloured” vehicle by men in police uniform and civilian clothes.[2] Since then the authorities have refused to disclose his whereabouts.

Despite the presence of eye-witnesses, his family had to petition the Larkana High Court to order the area police station to register the First Information Report.  

Hidayatullah Lohar is one of Sindh’s “missing persons”. His family have been patiently seeking truth and justice through the courts and on the streets of Pakistan since his disappearance. His daughters, Sasui and Sorath Lohar are at the forefront of the campaign against enforced disappearance in the southern province of Sindh. Lohar’s case was also registered in the Commission for Inquiry of Enforced Disappearances of Pakistan (COIED) and a number of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) (appointed by the COIED) hearings have taken place in the province on the commission’s order but to no effect. The JITs comprise of government stakeholders, including the interior ministry, police officials, federal investigation agency officials and intelligence agencies.

ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES IN PAKISTAN

Enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize the practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity.

The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) has 2178 cases unresolved as of now. As per the Commission’s recent monthly report[3] 48 cases disposed of in the month of January 2019, included 46 traced persons out of which 29 were returned home, 10 were traced to internment centers, five are in jails on terrorism charges and two were described as “dead bodies”. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance has more than 700 cases pending from Pakistan. The number of cases of victims of enforced disappearance recorded by victim groups are much higher. Victim groups and the civil society have serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of Pakistan’s COIED, primarily that it is not using its powers to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable and that it does not have civil society or the victim groups representation on its board.

The groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organisations in Pakistan.

In some cases, persons are openly taken into custody by the police or intelligence agencies, and families trying to find out where they are held are denied information by the authorities. Some victims are eventually released or their whereabouts are disclosed to their families but they continue to be held in arbitrary detention including in internment camps. Those forcibly disappeared are also at risk of torture and death during captivity.

PROMISES BY THE GOVERNMENT

The new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has committed to criminalizing enforced disappearances. In January 2019, Pakistan’s Ministry of Human Rights submitted a draft bill to the Ministry of Law and Justice to criminalize enforced disappearances,[4] through an amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code. Shireen Mazari, the Minister of Human Rights has also stated that the government wants to sign[5] the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. While criminalization of enforced disappearance is an important and positive first step in ending these ongoing human rights violations, the process has not included consultations with civil society groups and victims’ families.

In recent months, there have been encouraging reports of people released. Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a human rights organization working on enforced disappearances from the Balochistan province told Amnesty International[6] that 65 forcibly disappeared persons whose cases were registered with them have been released so far, this year.     

However, when the forcibly disappeared are released, they are either warned to not speak to the media and seek accountability or the fear of recurrence stops them from speaking up about their disappearance. Therefore, seeking justice is not an option for the released victims and their families. It feels like our lives have gotten stuck in a moment and not moving forward. We cannot take any decisions about our lives, my children cannot get married, their lives have come to a halt Wife of Hidayatullah Lohar

HARASSMENT OF FAMILIES

Families of the disappeared are often threatened, harassed and intimidated, especially those whom have been more public with their protests and have campaigned openly for justice for their loved ones.

While marching against enforced disappearances, Sasui and Sorath Lohar have spent Eids in hunger strike camps outside the Karachi Press Club with other families of the “missing persons”, as the victims of enforced disappearance are commonly referred to in Pakistan. In May 2018, during a violent dispersal of the protest they were part of in Sindh, Sasui says she was assaulted by a law enforcement officer. In November 2018, a peaceful march of the missing persons of Sindh was interrupted repeatedly by the Sindh Rangers and by officials in plain clothes – who are thought to be from the intelligence agencies.

On 12 January 2019, Sindh Rangers attempted to detain one of Lohar’s sons, Sanghaar Lohar, without search warrants, from his mobile shop in Karachi. The sisters and mother resisted and raised enough noise to gather neighbours and managed to halt the detention. The video evidence of the entire incident shows men in uniform claiming that their brother was involved in wrongdoing, without specifying any allegations or charges. 

In 2017 and 2018, the family of the blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya were repeatedly harassed by intelligence agencies[7]. In 2017, Goraya was forcibly disappeared from January 4 till January 27, along with three other bloggers in Punjab for running Facebook pages critical of Pakistani military’s policies. Goraya’s father, Liaqat Goraya, told Amnesty International that they were continuously under surveillance and felt like their house was watched.

LOSS TO LIVELIHOODS

Families of the disappeared suffer significant harm. They live with continuous uncertainty about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones and their lives are often utterly disrupted by the disappearance. For instance, while waiting for their missing loved one, Lohar’s mother died during her son’s disappearance. The parents of Masood Ahmad Janjua, one of the emblematic cases of enforced disappearance from the country also passed away during his disappearance.[8] Political activist Shahid Junejo’s mother kept asking about her son but is gone now while he is still missing.[9] Another Sindhi activist, Aftab Chandio’s family sat with the dead body of his father and demanded that Aftab was permitted to say his funeral prayer.[10]

Lohar’s wife told Amnesty International, “It feels like our lives have gotten stuck in a moment and not moving forward. We cannot take any decisions about our lives, my children cannot get married, their lives have come to a halt.”

In addition to the sudden financial burden as Lohar was the primary income earner for his family, not knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones also takes a huge emotional toll on the health of the families. Women from the families of the victims who publicly campaign for truth and justice are regularly subjected to gender based harassment both online and offline. 

While the families of the disappeared want their loved ones released, they also want the perpetrators brought to justice. Sasui Lohar told Amnesty International, “missing relatives should come back but justice is incomplete without perpetrators being held to account.” 

Amnesty International calls on the Pakistan government to:

  • Ensure that all measures are taken to immediately end the practice of enforced disappearance.[11]
  • Immediately disclose the fate or whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearance to their families.
  • Either immediately release the victims of enforced disappearance or ensure that they are brought promptly before a judge in a civilian court to rule on the lawfulness of their arrest or detention and whether they should be released.
  • If people continue to be detained, ensure that they are charged with an internationally recognizable offence and that their rights, including to a fair trial are fully respected.
  • Consult civil society and families of the disappeared on the draft bill to criminalize enforced disappearance and ensure that the offence is defined in accordance with international law and standards.
  • Ratify and implement into national law the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, including making declarations, pursuant to Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention, recognizing the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance to receive and consider communications from individuals and states parties.
  • Ensure that all allegations of enforced disappearance are promptly, thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated and, where sufficient admissible evidence exists, prosecute those suspected of criminal conduct irrespective of their rank and status or the security agency they are affiliated with through fair trials.
  • Ensure that the victim families are free to associate with groups working on resolving the issue of enforced disappearances and to peacefully protest in public with fear of reprisal
  • Ensure all victims, including family members are provided with full and effective reparation to address the harm that they have suffered.

[1] Amnesty International interview with Sasui Lohar, daughter of Hidayatullah Lohar, August 03, 10 November, 2018 – March 17, 2019, Karachi, Pakistan.

[2] Amnesty International interview with family of the Hidayatullah Lohar, 10 November, 2018, Karachi, Pakistan also confirmed in court document, case number D-334, 2017, Sindh High Court, Circuit Court, Larkana, Pakistan. 

[3] See MONTHLY PROGRESS ON CASES OF ALLEGED ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES- JANUARY- 2019 http://coioed.pk/

[4] See PM approves draft law to criminalise ‘enforced disappearances’, The Express Tribune, January 29, 2019: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1899507/1-pm-approves-amendments-declare-enforced-disappearances-criminal-offence/

[5] See ‘PM advised to sign convention against enforced disappearances, Dawn, Nov 6, 2018: https://www.dawn.com/news/1443938

[6] Amnesty International interview with Nasruallah Baloch, Chairperson Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, 18 March, 2018 via phone.  

[7] Amnesty International interview with Ahmad Waqass Goraya, 19 February, 2019 via phone.

[8] Amnesty International interview with family of Masood Ahmad Janjua, 5 November, 2018, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

[9] Amnesty International interview with the family of Shahid Junejo, November 13, 2018, Hyderabad, Pakistan.

[10] Amnesty International interview with the family of Aftab Chandio, 13 November, 2018, Hyderabad, Pakistan.

[11] See – Denying the undeniable: Enforced disappearances in Pakistan – ASA 33/018/2008

Source: Amnesty International

Amnesty International Report 2009 – Iran

Amnesty International – 28 May 2009

The authorities maintained tight restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. They cracked down on civil society activists, including women’s rights and other human rights defenders and minority rights advocates. Activists were arrested, detained and prosecuted, often in unfair trials, banned from travelling abroad, and had their meetings disrupted. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were common and committed with impunity. Sentences of flogging and amputation were reported. At least 346 people were known to have been executed, but the actual number was probably higher. Two men were executed by stoning. Those executed included eight juvenile offenders.

Background

There was continuing unrest among Iran’s main ethnic minorities, notably the Azerbaijani, Baluchi and Kurdish communities, over their perceived marginalization and the government’s failure to uphold their economic, social and cultural rights as well as their civil and political rights.

The government proposed changes to the Penal Code and other laws that, if ratified, would further erode human rights.

International tension persisted over Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme. In March the UN Security Council voted to extend economic and political sanctions imposed in previous years.

International criticism of human rights violations continued. In an October report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the government to ensure Iran’s laws complied with international standards and end discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities. In November the UN General Assembly called on the government to end the harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders; to uphold the rights to due process; and to end impunity for human rights violations. It also called on the government to facilitate visits by UN human rights bodies.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders were harassed and intimidated but continued to press for greater respect for the rights of women and ethnic minorities and for an end to executions of juvenile offenders. Some were arrested and imprisoned, with prosecutions brought on vague charges; others were banned from travelling abroad.

  • Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of the Tehran-based Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), faced increasing harassment, threats and intimidation by state organs. On 29 December officials claiming to be tax inspectors raided her offices and removed clients’ confidential files.
  • In December the CHRD was forcibly closed by security officials shortly before the centre was to hold an event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Emadeddin Baghi, head of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights (ADPR), was released in October, after serving a sentence imposed unfairly in 2003 for “undermining national security”, following criticisms he made about the use of the death penalty. The sentence had initially been suspended. Prison officials delayed urgently needed medical treatment, although he was granted medical leave. He and members of his family were cleared by an appeal court of further charges related to their human rights work, but the judiciary reportedly referred the case to another court for further investigation. In November the trial began of Emadeddin Baghi on charges related to his work with ADPR.

Discrimination against women

Women faced continuing discrimination in law and in practice, and those campaigning for women’s rights were targeted for state repression. Parliament debated legislation that, if implemented, would limit women’s access to university education of their choice by imposing new residency restrictions. Controversial articles relating to marriage in draft legislation were dropped under pressure from women’s rights campaigners. The authorities closed the journal Zanan (Women), blocked women’s rights websites and disrupted peaceful gatherings of women’s rights activists, such as members of the Campaign for Equality which demands an end to legal discrimination against women.

In February the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences reported that the government had not responded to a single communication made in 2007. In November the Rapporteur criticized Iran for its repression of women’s rights defenders.

Dozens of women’s rights campaigners were detained, interrogated and some tried for their peaceful activities, including up to 10 who were sentenced by lower courts to prison terms and, in at least two cases, flogging.

  • Maryam Hosseinkhah, Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri and Nahid Kesharvarz were sentenced to six-month prison terms in September. Convicted of “spreading propaganda against the state”, they remained at liberty awaiting appeals. They were charged for articles they had written for the Campaign for Equality’s website and for Zanestan, a women’s rights website closed down by the authorities in 2007.

Freedom of expression and association

The authorities continued to repress dissent by restricting access to the internet, banning newspapers and student journals, and prosecuting journalists whose reporting they deemed critical. Officials harassed, intimidated and detained university teachers, trade unionists and students who advocated reform.

Scores of students were suspended or expelled from university for supporting pro-reform groups and the rights of suspended students. Others were arrested and detained, possibly as prisoners of conscience, for participating in demonstrations.

The authorities harassed and intimidated people on account of their appearance. Thousands of prospective candidates were barred from standing in parliamentary elections in March under the discriminatory practice of gozinesh, or selection, which impairs – on grounds of political opinion or religious affiliation – equality of opportunity to those who seek employment in the public sector.

  • In August security forces forcibly prevented a peaceful gathering at an unmarked graveyard in Tehran to mark the 20th anniversary of mass executions starting in 1988 for which no one was held to account. At least three people were subsequently sentenced to prison terms for participating in the commemoration, or planning to do so.

Discrimination – repression of minorities

The use of minority languages in schools and government offices continued to be prohibited. Those who campaigned for greater political participation or recognition of minorities’ economic, social and cultural rights faced threats, arrest and imprisonment. Members of minorities were denied access to employment in the public sector under gozinesh legislation. Many women were doubly disadvantaged, as members of a marginalized minority ethnic or religious group and because of the subordinate status accorded to women in some communities, such as the Baluchi and Kurdish communities.

Arabs

Members of the Ahwazi Arab community continued to protest against perceived discrimination, notably in relation to access to resources.

  • Ma’soumeh Ka’bi and her five children were immediately detained after they were forcibly returned to Iran from Syria in October, apparently to put pressure on her husband, an Ahwazi Arab activist, to return to Iran from Europe and surrender himself to the authorities.

Azerbaijanis

Activists continued to call for the Azerbaijani Turkic language to be used in schools and government services in the areas where Azerbaijani Iranians mainly live. Dozens of activists were arrested in February in connection with demonstrations on International Mother Language Day.

  • Four activists were held in solitary confinement between September and November, accused of “acting against national security”. They were among 18 people arrested apparently to prevent a symbolic one-day boycott of schools and universities in protest against the lack of teaching in Azerbaijani Turkic. Their fate was not known.
  • Asgar Akbarzadeh was sentenced by a court in Ardebil in December to five years’ imprisonment, to be served in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, on charges of forming an illegal political party; preparing and distributing “Pan-Turkist” documents; taking part in gatherings associated with Azerbaijani culture, including Azerbaijani folk dancing; and sending information to human rights websites.

Baluchis

In Baluchi areas, the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI), an armed group also known as Jondallah, sporadically clashed with government forces. In June the group took 15 or 16 Iranian border guards prisoner. One was released but the PRMI killed the rest by October. The authorities took harsh measures against suspected PRMI members and supporters.

  • Ya’qub Mehrnehad, a Baluchi cultural and civil rights activist and member of the Voice of Justice Young People’s Society, was executed in August after a grossly unfair trial. He was arrested after criticizing local authorities. He was reported to have been tortured, denied a lawyer and convicted of links with Jondallah by a court in Zahedan.

Kurds

Members of the armed group, Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, known by its Kurdish acronym PJAK, continued to attack Iranian forces. Many Kurds who were detained faced charges of membership or support of PJAK or other groups. Some, like teacher Farzad Kamangar, who denied the charge and was tortured, were sentenced to death following unfair trials.

Proponents of greater recognition of the Kurdish language and cultural and other rights were arrested and imprisoned after unfair trials.

The authorities failed to take adequate steps to address the longstanding problem of protecting women from violence within the family, despite a continuing high incidence of cases in which women set themselves alight, often fatally, apparently because they were subject to such violence.

More than 50 prisoners went on hunger strike between August and October to protest against the use of the death penalty on Kurdish political prisoners and to demand respect for the civil rights of Kurdish prisoners.

  • Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, founder and Chair of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, detained since July 2007, was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in May following conviction after an unfair trial of “propaganda against the system” and “acting against state security by establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan”. An appeal court overturned the one-year sentence for “propaganda against the system” and confirmed the 10-year sentence. He was denied visits by his family and lawyer for a prolonged period, and medical treatment that he required was delayed.

Turkmen

Hundreds of members of the Turkmen minority were detained in January in the wake of protests against the killing of a young Turkmen fisherman by maritime security forces in late 2007 near Bandar-e-Torkman. The killers did not appear to have been brought to justice by the end of the year. At least six school children aged under 15 were held for up to 12 days and reportedly tortured, including with beatings, rape with an object and electric shocks.

Religious minorities

Members of some religious minorities continued to suffer discrimination, harassment, arbitrary arrest and damage to community property. Some converts from Islam were arrested. Others detained before 2008 faced trial; at least two were acquitted of “apostasy” and all were eventually released. Adherents of the Baha’i faith continued to be denied access to higher education and some sites considered sacred by them were destroyed. Leaders and other members of the Gonabad Sufi order were harassed and arrested. At least three Sunni clerics were killed in suspicious circumstances; others were detained and two executed. A Sunni seminary in Baluchistan was destroyed in August. School administrators were required to report to local security offices the presence in their schools of members of “subversive sects” such as the Baha’i, Ali-Ellahi and Ahl-e Haq.

  • In March and May, seven Baha’i community leaders were arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials. In August they were charged with vaguely worded national security offences. All were prisoners of conscience.
  • Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, a cleric opposed to the government, remained in prison in poor health serving an 11-year prison term imposed after an unfair trial by the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC) in August 2007. The sentence included internal exile and in November he was moved from Tehran to Yazd.

Justice system

Scores of government critics were arrested, often by plain-clothes officials who did not show any form of identification. Some were detained without trial for long periods beyond the control of the judiciary and were reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated and denied access to medical care, lawyers and their families. Others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials or were serving sentences imposed in previous years.

Brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei, both medical doctors specializing in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, were arrested in June and detained without charge possibly because of their links with US-based NGOs and their criticism of government policy towards HIV and AIDs programmes. They faced an unfair trial on 31 December, accused of having “co-operated” with an “enemy government” and seeking to overthrow the Iranian government. During the trial, the prosecutor told the court of additional, secret evidence which the brothers’ attorney had no opportunity to refute because the prosecutor did not disclose it.

  • Mansour Ossanlu, President of the unrecognized Tehran Bus Workers’ Union, continued to serve a five-year prison sentence upheld by an appeal court in October 2007 because of his peaceful trade union activities. A prisoner of conscience and in poor health, he faced delays to necessary medical treatment.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and ill-treatment of detainees were common, facilitated by prolonged pre-charge detention, denial of access to lawyers and family, and a longstanding pattern of impunity for perpetrators. At least four deaths in custody were reported. No independent investigations were known to have been held into these cases or two others in 2007.

  • Abdolreza Rajabi, a supporter of the proscribed People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran who had been imprisoned since 2001, died in custody in October. There were reports that he may have been tortured.

Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

Sentences of flogging and judicial amputation were imposed and carried out.

  • Amir Ali Mohammad Labaf, a Gonabad Sufi leader, was said to have been sentenced in November by a court in Qom to five years in prison, flogging and exile to Babak for “spreading lies”.

Death penalty

At least 346 people were executed, including at least eight juvenile offenders sentenced for crimes committed when they were under 18. The actual totals were likely to have been higher, as the authorities restricted reporting of executions. Executions were carried out for a wide range of offences, including murder, rape, drug smuggling and corruption. At least 133 juvenile offenders faced execution in contravention of international law. Many Iranian human rights defenders campaigned to end this practice. The authorities sought to justify executions for murder on the grounds that they were qesas (retribution), rather than ‘edam (execution), a distinction not recognized by international human rights law. In January, new legislation prescribed the death penalty or flogging for producing pornographic videos, and a proposal to prescribe the death penalty for “apostasy” was discussed in the parliament, but had not been enacted by the end of 2008.

In January, the Head of the Judiciary ordered an end to public executions in most cases and in August judicial officials said that executions by stoning had been suspended, although at least 10 people sentenced to die by stoning were still on death row at the end of the year and two men were executed by stoning in December.

In December, Iran voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Iran continued to host almost 1 million refugees, most of them from Afghanistan. According to the government, up to an estimated 1 million other people were in Iran illegally.

  • At least 12 Afghan nationals, apparently returning to Afghanistan from Iran, were shot dead by Iranian border police in April in unclear circumstances.

Amnesty International visits

The authorities did not reply to over 50 letters sent by Amnesty International and refused to discuss the possibility of Amnesty International visiting the country.

Source: Refworld

“We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years”

Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan – HRW Report on Balochistan

First Published on July 28, 2011

Map of Balochistan

Summary

“Even if the president or chief justice tells us to release you, we won’t. We can torture you, or kill you, or keep you for years at our will. It is only the Army chief and the [intelligence] chief that we obey.”

– Pakistani official to Bashir Azeem, the 76-year-old secretary-general of the Baloch Republican Party, during his unacknowledged detention, April 2010

“Disappearances of people of Balochistan are the most burning issue in the country. Due to this issue, the situation in Balochistan is at its worst.”

– Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal, commenting on the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry for Missing Persons on May 4, 2010. 

“One of them pointed his gun at Abdul Nasir and shouted, ‘Get up!’ As soon as Abdul Nasir got off the ground the man walked him to their car. Since that time I have not seen Abdul.”

– Witness to enforced disappearance of Abdul Nasir, June 2010

Please click for Full Report

Source: Human Rights Watch

BALOCHISTAN: VICTIMS OF REPORTED DISAPPEARANCES AND ALLEGED EXTRAJUDICIAL AND UNLAWFUL KILLINGS IN BALOCHISTAN, 24 OCTOBER 2010 – 20 FEBRUARY 2011:

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION FOR PRESS RELEASE

For Detailed Report Please Browse the following link;

https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/32000/reg010012011en.pdf

Source: Amnesty International