Conditions of Iranian children amount to organized crime by the ruling mullahs
A glance over lives of children in Iran on World’s Children Day.
Being a woman and a child makes girl children in Iran the most vulnerable under the misogynist rule of the mullahs since they neither protect nor promote the rights of women and children.
As the world was preparing to celebrate the World Children’s Day, a 15-year-old girl in Ramhormoz took her own life on November 12, 2020. The state-run media in this small city in the southwestern province of Khuzestan revealed that another five high school students in Ramhormoz had preceded the young woman in committing suicide since the beginning of the school year in mid-September.
The fate of these high school students in Ramhormoz is emblematic of the lives of children in Iran.
Poverty, hunger and death coupled by horrific social ills such as child labor, child abuse, trafficking and sale of children and infants are among the hallmarks of the lives of children in Iran under the rule of the mullahs’ oppressive regime. Add to it, the regime’s laws which promote violation of the rights of children by sanctioning early marriages, honor killings, etc.
The clerical regime is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child but it does not take any action to safeguard and protect the rights and lives of children in Iran, particularly the girl children.
CRC Article 6 and flagrant violation of children’s right to life in Iran
Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges all states parties to recognize that every child has the inherent right to life and ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
Under the rule of the mullahs, however, the lives of children in Iran are easily spared.
According to the statistics of the Coroner’s Office in Iran, 7 per cent of the suicides in 2017 were committed by children under the age of 18. The numbers are expected to have grown higher in the past 4 difficult years especially after the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
In October 2020, Iran saw the suicide of an 11-year-old boy who did not have an adequate cellphone to attend online classes.
But suicide is not the only threat to lives of children in Iran.
The clerical regime’s decision to reopen schools earlier than every year without taking the necessary protective measures in schools also led to the deaths of many children in Iran and further spread the virus. Various provinces reported infection of hundreds of teachers and students and deaths of dozens, and the decision backfired.
Poverty is a major contributor to deaths, social ills among children in Iran
Rampant poverty in Iran is a major contributor to evitable deaths among the populace, including among young children and teenagers.
Children in Iran are also victims of substandard structures of schools and unsafe transportation in light of the irresponsible approach of education officials and staff. Every year, many young girls and boys lose their lives on the road to school, under a collapsed wall or ceiling, or in fire. Unsafe heating systems have also caused repeated poisoning of students.
In the impoverished Sistan and Baluchestan Province, in the absence of piped water, dozens of children lose their lives every year by getting drowned while trying to drink water from Hootags. More lose their arms and hands when trying to fetch water because crocodiles bite off their arms.
Hootags are natural or artificial ditches used to collect rain water which is consumed by both humans and animals.
CRC Article 4, laws sanction violation of the rights of children in Iran
The CRC stipulates that States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It further underlines the need that “With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.”
But the Iranian legislations and Constitution are the main source of violation of the rights of children in Iran.
The age of criminal responsibility in Iran is discriminatory. The Iranian Constitution sets 9 the legal age of criminal accountability for girl children in Iran and the mandatory dress code forces them to cover their hair since the first day of school at age 6.
Instead of ensuring their health and education, the clerical regime holds appalling annual coming of age ceremonies, called “jashn-e taklif”, where 9-year-old girls are recognized as religiously mature and have to account before the law.
The legal age of marriage for girls is set at 13. The Legal and Judicial Committee of the mullahs’ parliament turned down the proposed bill to increase the age of marriage for girl children in December 2018 for containing “religious and social deficiencies” and for contradicting “the teachings of Islam.”
And finally, the Bill to Protect the Rights of Children hastily adopted in June 2020, after 11 years of being stalled by the Judiciary and the Parliament, fails to protect the rights of the girl children in Iran.
The Children’s Rights Bill fails to address any of the current policies or laws that violate the rights of children in Iran. The bill also falls short of providing any means to ensure the allocation of a budget sufficient to meet the needs of child laborers or child widows. It falls short of addressing the clerical regime’s laws, which set the legal age of marriage for girls at 13 and the legal age of criminal accountability for female children at 9. The bill also fails to include provisions to ensure financial assistance to low-income families to improve their children’s living conditions.
Article 9 of the Bill to Protect Children and Adolescents states that abuses that lead to the child or adolescent’s death are punishable by imprisonment. According to the regime’s Punishment Law, this amounts to a sentence of 2 to 5 years. Thus, a parent who murders their child may be subject to 2 years in prison. This was the final ruling of the court trying the father of Romina Ashrafi who beheaded his 13-year-old daughter by a sickle when she was asleep.
Article 1179 of the regime’s Civil Code permits parents to physically abuse their children, provided that they do not exceed conventional limits.
CRC Article 24, failing to ensure access to health care and nutrition
States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child are called to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to health care services, and to take appropriate measures to combat disease and malnutrition through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water.
As mentioned earlier, many parts of Iran are deprived of access to potable drinking water and it often happens that children lose their lives during their effort to drink water. They are also deprived of minimum sanitation in their schools.
The clerical regime’s Health Minister recently acknowledged that there were 1,000 schools in West Azerbaijan Province which lacked toilets. (The state-run Tasnim news agency – November 8, 2020)
Another official in the Education Ministry said that they needed to construct 2,000 toilets in schools for nomad children (The state-run Khabarban.com – October 25, 2020).
In the meantime, malnutrition is a real problem for Iranian children and especially young girls.
On its official website, the Ministry of Health indicated that in Iran, there are 50,000 children under the age of 5 who are malnourished. But it is not clear how many of these children are girls (The state-run behdasht.gov.ir – September 29, 2020).
Another source reported that there are 137,000 malnourished children in Iran (The state-run Roydad-24 website – September 22, 2020).
Three years ago, the state-run ILNA news agency reported, “Currently, 200,000 children under the age of 6 are suffering from malnutrition due to poverty in the country” (The state-run ILNA news agency – May 31, 2017).
Obviously, given the rise in poverty in Iran over the past 3 years, it cannot be true that the number of malnourished children has gone from 200,000 to 50,000.
In 2020, Iran’s poverty line was declared to be 10 million tomans. Of Iran’s population of 83 million, some 60 million are below the poverty line (The state-run Tabnak website – September 20, 2020).
“According to surveys, between 15 and 35 percent of households in the country have eliminated or reduced their consumption of food items… Food items have been removed from the table due to declining family incomes and rising food prices,” a Health Ministry official said (The state-run behdasht.gov.ir – September 29, 2020).
CRC Article 28, violation of Iranian children’s right to education
States Parties are required by the CRC to recognize the right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity. They shall make primary education compulsory and available free to all. They shall encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need. They should also take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.
But in Iran education is neither compulsory nor free. The Iranian Education Ministry is formally asking for tuition from students, which further contributes to school drop outs since more than 80 percent of the populace are living below the poverty line and poverty is rampant.
Poverty of families not affording to pay for their children’s education, child participation in the family’s economic activities, seasonal immigrations, and lacking registered birth certificates, are among the reasons Iranian children are deprived of going to school.
The Iranian regime announced in 2018 that there were approximately 15 million school-age children in Iran, half of them girls. Estimates varied from 2 to 4 million on the number of children left out of school. Drop-out of girl children, 6 years and older, is widespread particularly in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Western Azerbaijan, and Eastern Azerbaijan.
After the outbreak of Coronavirus, this number has hugely increased.
The state-run Tasnim news agency reported on July 20, 2020, that poverty and lack of access to the internet have left 50 percent of students in Iran out of school. That is around 7.5 million based on 2018 figures of overall population of school-age children in Iran.
36 percent of students in Iran (approximately 5.5 million students) who live in villages and remote areas do not afford to buy a smartphone or a tablet, wrote the IRGC-backed Javan newspaper on September 5, 2020. Head of the Health Commission of the mullahs’ parliament, asserted on October 14, 2020, that “3.5 million students in Iran do not have access to smartphones or tablets.”
CRC Article 32, violation of the right to be protected from economic exploitation
According to Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, States Parties must recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
The Iranian regime’s laws set the legal age of work for children at 15, which is considered underage compared to international standards. But the government has no supervision or control over enforcement of this law and many children are deployed for long hours and very low pay at younger age.
More children are forced to work at very young age to help their families earn enough to survive under absolute poverty line.
The state-run Etemadonline.ir reported on April 15, 2020, that a Tehran NGO had identified some 4,700 children who scavenge through garbage in the capital alone.
An expert on child laborers in Tehran asserted that the statistics provided officially are not reliable. He said the situation and numbers of child laborers were catastrophic particularly in Sistan and Baluchestan and Razavi Khorasan provinces in eastern Iran.
Older estimates from 2017 put the number of working children in Iran between 3 and 7 million (The state-run salamatnews.com – September 17, 2017).
Child laborers are also subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse in violation of CRC Article 34.
This is while unofficial statistics on prostitution say that the age of prostitution in Iran has dropped to 12.
Child laborers are also victims of drug addiction and drug trafficking in violation of CRC Article 33. Drug trafficking mafia hunt child laborers who have no parents or guardians and no homes. Not only the regime does not take appropriate measures to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances, but Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the state entity that runs this business and makes enormous wealth.
The average age of drug addiction in Iran has dropped under 13 among girls (The state-run ISNA news agency, September 4, 2015). Again, this figure must be considered to have become lower due to widespread poverty and consequent addiction over the past five years.
CRC Article 37, violation of the right to be protected from cruel treatment
CRC calls on States Parties to ensure that no child is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.
The CRC further stipulates that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. And that every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. They shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance.
This is not the case in Iran where children are arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death without having access to a lawyer.
At least 23 juveniles were among those killed in the streets during the November 2019 uprising across Iran. Many more injured young protesters were snatched from hospitals and imprisoned under inhuman conditions and tortured to make false confessions against themselves. They were not provided medical treatment for their injuries as a way of further physical torture.
The Iranian regime is the world top executioner of minors. The only thing is that the regime waits for them to turn 18 in order to execute them.
The case of Zeinab Sakaanvand is just an example.
Zeinab Sekaanvand, 24, was hanged on October 2, 2018, in the Central Prison of Urmia despite appeals from UN Special Rapporteurs and the UN Secretary-General since her conviction in October 2014.
Amnesty International censured the execution, indicating that Zeinab Sekaanvand did not have a fair trial: “She was arrested when she was just 17 years old and sentenced to death for the murder of her husband, whom she married at the age of 15. Not only was she a child at the time of the crime, she was subjected to a grossly unfair legal process.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also condemned the execution, adding in her statement that “her claims that she was coerced into confessing to the killing, and that she had been a victim of domestic violence, were reportedly not adequately examined during her trial.”
“The sheer injustice in the case of Zeinab Sekaanvand Lokran is deeply distressing,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “The serious question marks over her conviction appear not to have been adequately addressed before she was executed. The bottom line is that she was a juvenile at the time the offence was committed and international law clearly prohibits the execution of juvenile offenders.”
Conditions of children in Iran amounts to organized crime by the ruling mullahs
There are many more serious issues involving children in Iran, like the sale of infants and trafficking of children in violation of CRC Article 11, and children who in violation of Article 7 are not entitled to birth certificates and identity papers because they are born from an alien father or out of marriage.
There was also a recent case where a toddler was separated from the Christian parents who had adopted her. A case which violates the CRC Article 9.
Children of ethnic minorities are deprived of learning their mother tongue in violation of Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Teachers, like Zahra Mohammadi, who teach children their mother tongue are arrested by the regime, tortured and sentenced to long prison sentences.
All in all, children in Iran are the most innocent victims of the clerical regime. They are the poorest, the hungriest and the most oppressed sector of Iranian society. They have no rights and their conditions over the past four decades, amount to organized crime by the mullahs’ religious dictatorship.