Monday, 18 February 2008

IMHRO: Children from minorities in Iran suffer discrimination in schools

Iranian Minorities’ Human Right Organisation (IMHRO)



In Iran education in mother tongue or first language is forbidden for Minorities. Cultural activists are calling for more pressure to be put on the Iranian government to end this discrimination and move forward to have more respect for indigenous people and ethnic minorities.

Yasser is 6 years old and from a Kurdish minority. Talking with IMHRO through his dad he explains that he cannot understand his teacher at all. ”At home we talk Kurdish, in school we have to talk Farsi”.

In Iran, minorities are only taught in Farsi or Persian. As a result many children from minorities leave school at an earlier age than their counterparts. As a result illiteracy amongst the minorities is very high. Various studies have proven that when learning takes place in the mother tongue, children learn more quickly.

Mansur, 10 years old and a Baluchi from Zahedan, told IMHRO that he has recently left his school because he has not progressed well over the last few years. He could not understand what the teacher said because he was forced to learn in Farsi.

The banning of teaching in the native language of minorities has a negative effect on their culture. Contributions to literature, art and music are declining due to lack of schooling for minority children. Work that is created is being lost and forgotten because of the lack of ability to publish the work.

Various human rights activists and organisations have named the banning of education in the mother tongue of minority groups a “Cultural Holocaust”. They have explained that “indeed you do not need to kill the people to stop their culture. By not allowing people to practice a culture, it is almost the same and it is very damaging.”

Yasamin is 9 years old and lives in the republic of Azerbaijan; she is originally from the north west of Iran. She has told IMHRO that since she moved with her family to republic of Azerbaijan and is taught in her native Turkish language, she feels she has progressed a lot better in school than when she lived in Iran. She found it very difficult when she had to talk and learn in Farsi.

If a culture is not practiced or expressed, it is in danger of dying. Language is not only a means of communication; it enables an expression of identity.

Rasul, an Ahwazi Arab and originally from city of Abadan, told IMHRO since he has moved to UAE (United Arab Emirates), he has found school less stressful as he does not have to worry about understanding the lessons. “In Iran I had a headache after every lesson and I did not understand them at all”.

Today is ‘World Mother Language’ day and the UN has named this year UN year of language to emphasis of importance of languages. However, many cultural activists who demand the right to learn in mother tongue in Iran are persecuted.

We ask the international community to pay attention to the enormous suffering that is caused by silencing millions of people in Iran. We ask for people to join us in demanding that the Iranian government allows people to study in any language, not just in Farsi or Persian.


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