Religion in Iran

   Today, there was a meeting on “Freedom of Religion or Belief,” co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Canada, the Bahá’ís International Community, and the European Centre for Law and Justice.

   The Moderator began the meeting with an introduction of the current situation in Iran. There have been more than 780 documented incidents of shop closings and dismissals of business licenses, and other actions of suppressing economic activities. More than 1450 executions have occurred in Iran since 2014, making Iran the country with the largest individual execution per capita in the world. All of these occurrences are due to the lack of religious tolerance in Iran; the only accepted religion is Shi’ism, and all other religious minority groups, the Bahá’ís, are persecuted. The panelists spoke of their personal stories: their family members and associates who were deprived of their education, unjustly arrested and interrogated, denied work and college acceptances all due to their distinctive religions. Mr. Tavakkoli spoke of the arrests and court cases he saw, as well as the multiple deaths and executions that were carried out in Iran.

   The second panelist, Ms. Aftahi, talked about how the Iranian students are always living with a feeling of uncertainty, not knowing how they will continue their education and get an occupation. Mr. Khanjani told of his family’s oppression economically, how 20 members of his family have been in and out of prison for over 45 years, merely due to their religious beliefs and practices. A video provided Mrs. Abedini’s personal account of the status of Iranian Christians and an orphanage that she created with the participation of the Iranian government, which led to her husband’s detainment and torture in Iran. The meeting closed with the message and promotion for human rights and religious freedom in Iran.

Meeting: Freedom of Religion or Belief

Date/Location: Wednesday, November 4th, 2015; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 8

Speakers: Individuals of the Baha’i International Community: Mr. Naeim Tavakkoli, Ms. Niknaz Aftahi, Mr. Siavosh Khanjani, Mrs. Nagmeh Abedini (by video), Mr. Danial Shahri (by video), Mr. Kambiz Saghaey

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Secretary General of the United Nations discusses Human Rights and Rule of Law

UN SECRETARY GENERAL MEETS WITH SPANISH PRESIDENTThe Human Rights and the Rule of Law meeting spoke on ways to support the integration of these objectives into the post-2015 agenda. Human rights fall into categories that either can enhance development or harm development. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the UN, spoke of promoting freedom of opinion and well-functioning institutions, along with better strategies and results. More than 1 billion people remain extremely poor, despite efforts to eliminate poverty. A key element in the ongoing agenda is to secure land for agricultural production.  The Rule of Law will prevent corruption and organised international crime, which H.E. Ki-Moon explained is require to balance the needs of people, while exterminating poverty. The agenda needs to close social and economic gaps.

The UN AIDS Goodwill Ambassador shared that despite decreasing incidence, AIDS continues to be the 2nd largest contributor to adolescent death. More than 40% of people with AIDS are 14 and younger. The Ambassador reported that in 9 of the world’s highest AIDS-prevalent countries, less than 9% of boys and girls have been tested. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, spoke of the success from programs that have been established in damaged areas. Mr Lake elaborated on more governments-based programs to keep children educated, vaccinated and sheltered. In a video message from Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented four suggestions for the new agenda; that the agenda must address both “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear”, the framework must include the principles of human rights and equality, must contain a strong global partnership and must be based on a strong accountability.

Meeting Title: Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Speakers: Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General; Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF; Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; President on Human Rights; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Location: United Nations HQ, Trusteeship Council, New York
Date: 9 June 2014
Written By WIT representative: Leslie Anokye
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

Voices From Syria

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 17 January 2014

During “Voices From Syria,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of Norway, three refugees from Syria spoke about their experiences during the current Syrian Civil War.  Mr. Knut Langeland the Norwegian Minister Counselor on Political Affairs, Disarmament, and the Security Council moderated.

Mr. Anas al-Dabas, a pharmacist from Darayya, Syria recounted how men from his town were pulled out into the street and humiliated by soldiers from the Assad regime.  Fifteen-second interrogations were deemed sufficient by the soldiers to establish the men as innocent or guilty, the later being punishable by death. Mr. al-Dabas explained that his neighbor, who narrowly survived the attack himself, showed him a basement in which 70 civilians were massacred.  Throughout the rest of the town more than 1,000 civilians had been killed by the Assad regime.

(A picture taken on January 19th of activists saving a young girl after her parents were killed in an air strike by a group loyal to President Assad in Allepo. The National. Picture: Mahmoud Hebbo)

Following this account, two cousins, Ms. Amineh Sawan and Ms. Hiba Sawan from Moadamiya, Syria detailed their experiences.  Feeling lightheaded, Amineh Sawan and her cousin rushed to a field clinic the day that the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons in late August 2013.  Upon their arrival, the pair sought to aid other victims by administering CPR.  Amineh Sawan recalled seeing other victims who had become paralyzed or twitched uncontrollably as result of the sarin gas. Hiba Sawan described how citizens of Moadamiya faced shelling and sniper fire at all times.  She recounted that the Assad regime deployed a strategy of “surrender or starve,” in which all access into and out of the area was cut-off.  

Mr. Langeland opened the floor to questions.  When asked about the future of Syria, all three refugees expressed concern about under education and the lack of hope for the their generation of young adults and teens. In closing, the refugees were asked whom they held accountable for these atrocities beyond the Assad regime. While Mr. al-Dabas looked at the inaction of the UN and the Unites States, Ms. Amineh Sawan and Ms. Hiba Sawan were more concerned about China, Russia, India, and other allies of Assad. All three Syrian refugees pled for their countries freedom, asking the world to stop clumping Syria with the external conflicts of Iran and Israel, and to focus on getting the current regime out of power so peace can be possible. 

Written by WIT intern: Katherine King