Dear Members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
We write in advance of your upcoming pre-sessional review of the Iranian government’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Informed by Human Rights Watch’s recent investigations, including firsthand research with children, this submission contains findings on Iran’s treatment of child offenders, migrant and refugee children, and children that belong to, or are perceived to belong to, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) community. The practices identified by Human Rights Watch engage the following Convention articles, among others: articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 13, 19, 22, 24, 28, 32, 37, 40 and 51.
This submission highlights concrete steps that the Iranian government should be asked to take to address these serious problems and identifies issues where further information is required from the government to facilitate an assessment of whether it is complying with its international obligations.
1. Implementation of the Convention
Articles 1, 4, 51
Iran ratified the CRC in 1994 but entered a general reservation “not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect.” The reservation is particularly relevant in cases where Iranian law does not recognize persons under 18 years of age to be children, in contravention of Article 1 of the CRC. An example is article 147 of the Islamic Penal Code which sets the age of criminal responsibility for girls at nine lunar years (equivalent to 8.7 years), and for boys at 15 lunar years ( equivalent to 14.6 years), which, permits Iranian judges to issue death sentences on child offenders.
Iran’s reservation, which it interprets to permit the issuing and implementation of punishments, including death sentences, for child offenders, is so overly broad and imprecise as to defeat the “object and purpose” of the CRC. It is important to note that Iran has not lodged a similar reservation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran ratified in 1975. Article 6(5) of the ICCPR strictly prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age.
- Withdraw the current reservations to the CRC, and refrain from submitting any further reservation that would defeat its “object and purpose,” including any seen to permit the issuing and implementation of death sentences for child offenders.
2. Execution and Ill-Treatment of Child Offenders
Articles 6, 37, 40
Iran is believed to be the world leader in executing individuals who committed an offense while under the age of 18. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran has reported the execution in 2014 of eight individuals who were below the age of 18 at the time of their offence. Amnesty International reports that during the past 10 years, Iran may have executed as many as 77 juvenile offenders. In his annual report to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported that at least 160 child offenders were serving time on death row. This situation prevailed despite recent changes in the penal code that allow the judiciary to significantly reduce the number of child offenders sentenced to death and executed.
Since 2010, numerous UN rights mechanisms and procedures, including UN experts, the Human Rights Council, and the Human Rights Committee, have strongly condemned Iran’s execution of child offenders. The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, recently denied that Iran executes child offenders. Authorities regularly assert that Iranian law prohibits the execution of children but argue that children are defined differently under shari’a law, and that state authorities do not execute anyone before they reach 18 years. They argue also that in the case of qesas or “retribution crimes,” such as murder, it is not the state that carries out executions but family members of the victim of the crime who decide whether the defendant should be put to death, pardoned, or pay compensation in the form of blood money.
Iran’s 2013 penal code amendments explicitly defined the “age of criminal responsibility” for the first time, but pegged it to the age of maturity under shari’a law. In determining maturity, judges referred to text in the 1991 Civil Code, which defined the “age of maturity” as nine lunar years (equivalent to eight years and nine months) for girls and 15 lunar years (equivalent to 14 years and seven months) for boys. This was already the practice under the old code, but the amended code includes a specific provision codifying the age requirement.
Iranian law specifically prohibits the execution of child offenders for certain categories of crimes, including drug-related offenses. Reports, which Human Rights Watch has not been able to independently verify, suggest that authorities may have nevertheless executed in 2014 at least two juvenile offenders convicted of drug trafficking. No prohibition exists for child offenders convicted of murder or hadd crimes – for which punishments are fixed under Iran’s interpretation of shari’a law - including rape or terrorism-related crimes such as moharebeh (literally “enmity against God”).
Under article 91 of the penal code, a judge may decide not to sentence a boy who is 15 or older or a girl who is 9 or older to death for murder or hadd crimes if the judge determines that the child did not understand the nature and consequences of the crime. The article allows the court to rely on “the opinion of a forensic doctor or other means it deems appropriate” to establish whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions. In January 2015, Iran’s Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring all courts to review death sentences issued for child offenders prior to the 2013 penal code if defendants and their lawyers petition for review. The ruling applied only to retribution crimes, including murder, however.
In 2012, Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to amend its penal code to impose an absolute prohibition on the death penalty for child offenders. Human Rights Watch has also called on Iran’s judiciary to impose a moratorium on all executions due to serious concerns regarding substantive and due process violations leading to the implementation of the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment.
Documented cases by Human Rights Watch of child offenders sentenced to death or executed include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Saman Nasim: Security forces arrested Nasim on July 17, 2011, after he and several other members of an armed Kurdish group, PJAK, allegedly were involved in a gun battle with Revolutionary Guards in the mountains surrounding Sardasht, a city in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. Court documents, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, allege that one Revolutionary Guard member was killed and three injured. Aziz Mojdei, Nasim’s lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that forensic experts established that Nasim had not been responsible for the killing, but that he was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to death on terrorism-related charges because he had engaged in armed activities on behalf of PJAK. PJAK is considered a terrorist group by Iran and the United States. Court documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that at his trial Nasim denied that he had shot at anyone during the July 17 clashes.
According to documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch and Nasim’s lawyer, Nasim was 17 at the time of his arrest in 2011. Nasim’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that he had petitioned the judiciary and government authorities several times to suspend his client’s execution because he was under 18 at the time of his arrest, but that the petitions were either rejected or not answered. The Supreme Court initially overturned a lower court death sentence in August 2012, noting that Nasim was under 18 at the time of his arrest, but ultimately affirmed the death sentence in December 2013.
A source close to Nasim’s family told Human Rights Watch that Nasim spent the first few months after his arrest in incommunicado detention in a facility believed to have been operated by the Intelligence Ministry in Orumiyeh. The source said agents tortured Nasim, including beating and lashing him and pulling out his fingernails. In September 2011, Nasim made a “confession,” filmed and aired on state television, in which he said he shot at Revolutionary Guard members.
Orumiyeh prison officials were scheduled to execute Nasim on February 19, 2015, and Human Rights Watch has not yet been able to determine whether the execution has been carried out. Several days after the scheduled execution date, the family told Human Rights Watch that they had still not been able to verify whether Nasim was alive or dead.
Article 39 of the CRC obliges states parties to take measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict. Iran has also signed but not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which requires states to provide all appropriate assistance for the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of persons recruited into armed forces or armed groups contrary to the protocol. Nasim has, to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, received no such assistance.
- Barzan Nasrollazadeh: Security forces arrested Nasrollazadeh in May 2010 in the Kurdish-majority city of Sanandaj in western Iran. A revolutionary court convicted Nasrollazadeh of terrorism-related charges (moharebeh or “enmity against God”) for allegedly participating in military training with “Salafist” groups and carrying weapons, and sentenced him to death in August 2013. Intelligence agents reportedly kept Nasrollazadeh in pretrial detention at a facility in Sanandaj for several months, and subjected him to ill-treatment and possibly torture. A source familiar with his case told Human Rights Watch that Nasrollazadeh was under 18 at the time of his arrest, and that he had never participated in armed combat. Nasrollazadeh’s lawyer, who was court appointed, met him for the first time five minutes before his trial.
Despite his alleged recruitment into an armed group, Nasrollazadeh has, to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, received no assistance for his physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration consistent with article 39 of the CRC.
As of March 2015 Nasrollazadeh was awaiting the outcome of his appeal before the Supreme Court.
- Razieh Ebrahimi: Authorities arrested Ebrahimi – also referred to as “Maryam” in the local press – in 2010 after she shot her husband in the head as he was sleeping and buried his body in the backyard, a source familiar with her case told Human Rights Watch. Ebrahimi, who is in prison in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, admitted guilt but expressed remorse. She said she snapped after several years of physical and verbal abuse by her husband.
In 2010, a criminal court convicted Ebrahimi of murder and sentenced her to death. Iran’s judiciary rejected Ebrahimi’s request for a retrial despite the fact that she was under 18 when she committed the murder. A source familiar with Ebrahimi’s case told Human Rights Watch that prison authorities attempted earlier to carry out her execution, but when she informed them that she was 17 when she killed her husband they returned her to her cell. The source said that following recent changes to Iran’s penal code the lawyer requested a retrial from the Supreme Court on the basis that she had been under 18 and did not understand the consequences of her actions, but the court refused. In an interview with an Iranian online magazine, Ebrahimi’s lawyer, Hassan Aghakhani, said that various branches of the Supreme Court have applied article 91 on the age of criminal responsibility differently, and he hoped the judiciary would at least suspend his client’s execution until all branches of the court applied the article uniformly.
To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, Ebrahimi remained on death row awaiting execution as of March 2015.
Mohammad Reza Haddadi: On January 6, 2004, a court in Shiraz found Haddadi and his co-defendants guilty of kidnapping and hiding the body of Mohammad Bagher Rahmat in an attempt to steal the victim's car. In addition, the court convicted Haddadi of Rahmat's murder. Rahmat's body was burned and buried at the side of a road. Mohammad Mostafaei, Haddadi's lawyer, said his client initially confessed to suffocating Rahmat with a belt after his co-defendants had struck Rahmat over the head with a stone and locked him in the trunk of the car. Later, on October 30, 2004, Haddadi again confessed to the killing during a court session. Haddadi allegedly committed the crime when he was 15 years old.
Authorities scheduled Haddadi’s execution for July 7, 2010. Human Rights Watch spoke to Haddadi's father who said he was en route to Shiraz to visit his son before his execution was carried out and that he had only spoken to his son once during the previous few weeks. He urged the authorities to spare his son's life and retry him in light of strong evidence that his co-defendants had manipulated him into taking the blame for the murder by promising to give his family money. Haddadi was the only defendant under age 18 at the time of the crime.
The July 7, 2010 date was the third time prison authorities had notified Haddadi's family of his imminent execution. In 2009, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, then head of the judiciary, intervened at the last minute and halted Haddadi’s execution scheduled for 27 May, 2009. The government rescheduled Haddadi's execution for July 16, 2009, but the judiciary again intervened to spare his life.
To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, Haddadi remained on death row awaiting execution as of March 2015.
Questions for the Islamic Republic of Iran
- Since 2010, how many death sentences have courts imposed each year on offenders aged under 18 at the time of the crime, and how many executions have been carried out of offenders sentenced for crimes committed when were under 18? For each year, please identify a) the number of executions, b) the identities of those sentenced and of those executed, and c) the crime/s of which they were convicted, and d) their age at the time of their alleged crime.
- As of January 1, 2015, how many child offenders (individuals charged with having committed crimes when they were under 18 years of age) have been sentenced to death and are serving time on death row? For each individual please provide their a) identity and b) the crime/s have they been convicted of.
- Of the child offenders currently serving time on death row, how many have had their sentences upheld by the Supreme Court? For each case, please provide a) their identity and b) the outcome of the case and any written judgment.
- Of the child offenders currently serving time on death row, how many have had their sentences reviewed pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling requiring all courts to review death sentences issued for child offenders prior to the 2013 penal code to determine if those convicted understood the nature and consequences of their crimes (per Article 91)? For each case please provide a) their identity and b) the outcome of the case and any written judgment.
- Since the amendments to the penal code came into force, how many judges have relied on “the opinion of a forensic doctor or other means” deemed appropriate to establish whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions? What other methods have been used by judges to determine whether the defendant understood the consequences of their actions?
Recommendations for the Islamic Republic of Iran
- Abolish the death penalty for all child offenders regardless of the nature of their crimes, and immediately vacate all death sentences against them either through commutation, pardons or other legal means.
- Publicize disaggregated data and information regarding all child offenders sentenced to death in a timely and transparent manner.
- Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and take measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict or were recruited into armed forces or armed groups.
- Impose a moratorium on executions in line with recommendations of the UN General Assembly.
3. Treatment of Child Migrants and Refugees
Articles 9, 22, 24, 28, 32, 37
Barriers to Education & Child Labor
The Iranian government does not guarantee that Afghan children not in possession of valid refugee documents, known as Amayesh cards, can attend school. As of 2013, the Iranian government also requires registered Afghan children with such cards to pay school fees, which authorities consider nominal but which some Afghans say are onerous. According to UNHCR, in 2012 tuition fees for primary, junior high and high school were raised as a consequence of the removal of subsidies, affecting both Iranian nationals and refugees.
Tuition fees increased between 42 to 50 percent for the 2012-13 school year as compared to the previous academic year. In recent years many Afghan children without documentation are effectively barred from education and at risk of taking on exploitative or hazardous forms of labor. Some children interviewed by Human Rights Watch, many of them unaccompanied minors who had come to Iran to work, described working in construction (including tiling and welding), agriculture, and carpet weaving from as young as nine years old.
In 2004, the Iranian government began charging Afghan refugee children the equivalent of US$150 per child per year to attend Iranian schools in what appears to have been an effort to encourage Afghans to leave Iran and return to Afghanistan. UNHCR opposed these new fees and in response terminated an education subsidy that UNHCR had been paying to the Iranian government to support education for Afghan refugee children. The US$150 fee has since been reduced. Currently, Afghan children with valid Amayesh cards can attend primary school but must pay an official fee of 50,000 tomans (US$40). According to UNHCR and Iranian officials, there were 230,000 Afghan children in Iran’s primary schools in 2012. Information received by Human Rights Watch indicates that primary and secondary education school feels for documented Afghan children range from US$15 (50,000 tomans) to US$70 (250,000 tomans) depending on the specific circumstances of each family.
In interviews with deported and returning Afghans, Human Rights Watch was consistently told that undocumented families are not permitted to register their children in Iranian schools, including for primary education. Habiba, age 30, was deported in 2012 along with her husband, their five children aged 10, 7, 6, 5 and 2, as well as her brother and his wife and family. “We couldn’t register the kids for school because we were undocumented,” she said.
Some families interviewed by Human Rights Watch had managed to register their children in the separate “Afghan schools” not registered or funded by the state, but then had to withdraw them because they could not afford even the lower fees.
Some children, unable to attend school, work in hazardous forms of labor instead. Jamal J., age 12, worked in Iran as a carpet weaver because he could not attend school. “He was not allowed because we were undocumented,” his uncle told Human Rights Watch.
Ill-Treatment and Abuse During the Detention Process
Unaccompanied Afghan migrant children – children traveling without a parent or other caregiver – are some of the most vulnerable Afghans and are often subject to myriad abuses. Some children are separated from their families during migration, particularly when arrested; others travel from Afghanistan without their families. Children who travel to Iran alone are at risk of violence and police abuse during the journeys in both directions. When they are in Iran, they do not have guardianship of any kind, or sufficient access to asylum, let alone assistance with basic necessities such as shelter, education, and food, as required by international law.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child limits the circumstances in which children may be detained and the duration of their detention. Such detention must be lawful, for the shortest appropriate time, and may be used only as a measure of last resort. The Convention stipulates that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions taken by authorities, which includes the administration of detention. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body that oversees the Convention’s implementation, has specified that “[unaccompanied] children should not, as a general rule, be detained,” and that “detention cannot be justified solely […] on their migratory or residence status, or lack thereof.”
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, oblige states parties to separate unrelated adults from children in detention. Besides the obligation to separate children from unrelated adults in detention, a number of procedural safeguards apply to children who are detained. The Convention on the Rights of the Child mandates states parties to provide detained children “the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty…” The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty dictates further principles for appropriate detention conditions for children.
Human Rights Watch interviews with 41 unaccompanied Afghan migrant children in 2012 suggest that Iranian authorities frequently detain children in transit detention facilities without due process, guardianship, or access to a lawyer. The children are often kept in rooms with unrelated adults, sometimes beaten or otherwise abused by police or transit detention facility guards, given inadequate food and no education during their stay, and often forced to pay fees in order to leave the detention facilities. The vast majority of these children are boys, but there are also a handful of girls. In 2011, Iran deported an estimated 2000 unaccompanied Afghan children through the Islam Qala border crossing with Afghanistan alone.
Most of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch, who ranged in age from 12 to 17 years old, had travelled alone to Iran to earn money to help their families. On being arrested and deported, these children faced a difficult and dangerous journey to reunite with families in Afghanistan, often in some of Afghanistan’s most remote and insecure areas. Most were penniless and some were afraid to return home, feeling that they had failed in their obligation to earn money and assist their families. Some attempted to return to Iran.
All of the unaccompanied children interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that while in the custody of the Iranian government – for periods ranging from one day to several weeks – they were held in overcrowded cells and detention facilities with unrelated adults. They were sometimes subjected to physical abuse from the guards for reasons which include failing to perform labor tasks, being unable to pay fees, or as “punishment” for having entered the country without legal documents.
None were provided special assistance by the Iranian authorities, in spite of clear international law that requires guardianship for unaccompanied migrant children. Such children are also entitled to free legal assistance in proceedings relating to their immigration status through a refugee claim or otherwise, and help in all aspects of child protection, including access to basic needs such as shelter, health care, food, and education.
Refugee and migrant children can be arrested as they move around the towns in which they live. Fourteen-year-old Nader R. was working in construction, unable to pay for school in Iran. On his way to work one morning, Iranian police grabbed him and handcuffed him. “They kept me at the police station for three hours,” he said. “They refused to let me call my family, and they hit me with electric cords.”
Ali Reza, age 16, said he was detained by police in Qom and deported alone after having spent 12 years in Iran with his family. “I always went out with my ID card but this one time I went out without it,” he said. “It was a Friday and I was with friends and we were confronted with five police officers.”
“In [the southeastern city of] Bam they arrested us – 48 of us total – while we were sleeping in guesthouses,” Daoud, age 16, said, describing how he was caught on the Iranian side of the border as he tried to rejoin his older brother in Iran following a previous deportation. He continued:
Around 6 a.m. about 20-25 officers in military uniforms attacked the houses and arrested us. Some of us were beaten. They loaded us onto trucks and drove for a while. Then we got out in the middle of a barren desert at some point. They brought us some food and then took us to a local police station. There were some 12 and 13 year olds with us too. At the local police station there were about 450 undocumented Afghans. We needed to come up with 5,000 tomans each (US$4) to pay for our transportation to the detention facility in Kerman. I was forced to stay one night because I didn’t have any money and they [the police] beat me with a baton in the head that night several times. They asked me to pay 2,000 tomans (US$1.63), but I didn’t have it so they put me in a car and transferred me to Kerman Detention Facility. There I needed 5,000 tomans (US$4) but I didn’t have it, so I cried and begged until people helped me. Kerman Detention Facility was horrible. [The detention facility guards] beat and harassed us and fed us very little.
Accounts of abuse from different parts of Iran were strikingly consistent. Sohail A., a 15-year-old boy, described his experiences in a detention facility in the central Iranian town of Yazd and in the southeastern town of Iranshashr close to the border with Pakistan: “In Yazd Detention Facility they slapped us around here and there and they bothered and harassed us too…. [Staff] complained that they couldn’t sleep at night because of us Afghans in the detention facility. They told us ‘Go back home!’”
When Sohail tried again to get to Iran, he was caught again, but this time in Iranshahr. And he was beaten again. “We were in a guesthouse sleeping when three police cars raided with 10 officers. They beat us a lot by kicking us with their boots and hitting us with their belts. At Iranshahr police station there were about 60 of us stuffed inside one room. They harassed and threatened us there.”
Detained children described a sense of being at the mercy of the Iranian security forces, who appeared free to inflict abuse with impunity. Ali Reza, age 16, described his arrest by the police:
They let the other guys go but kept me and beat me. They had problems and wanted to take it out on me for some reason. They took me and two or three other undocumented people. They insulted us the whole way [to the police station]. When we got there they took my mobile from me.
Security forces arrested Khalid, age 17, in the southeastern city of Zahedan shortly after smugglers managed to transport him across the border and into the country. “The Baloch smuggler had gone to get food when about 14 police raided and handcuffed us,” he said. “’Why are you here, you idiots? Go back home!’ they said.” Khalid says they were taken to a police station where the police charged them for transport and then to a detention facility in Zahedan.
“We spent two nights at the detention facility and were mistreated. They beat some of us and insulted us by saying things like, ‘Why do you come and dirty our country?’” Khalid says they were then taken to White Stone Detention Facility. “Some of us had to work there and stayed for another eight or so nights before being allowed to leave. [We paid] 26,000 tomans (US$21) to get to the border from White Stone Detention Facility. They mistreated us at White Stone and harassed us for no reason at all; I don’t want to return to Iran.”
Children held in detention facilities also complained of being held with adults and not having enough to eat or drink. After being arrested, Zalmai said he was held first in the police station in the southeastern city of Kerman and then taken to White Stone Detention Facility. In each place he was kept with adults, and “the situation was bad,” he said. “There was not enough food or water.”
Authorities at the detention facilities require everyone, including unaccompanied children, to pay fees for release from transit detention facilities. “We were en route to Kerman when we were arrested,” Sohrab, age 14 and Noori, age 15 told Human Rights Watch that they were en route to Kerman with a smuggler when they were arrested. Sohrab said: “All 28 of us were on foot. Six in our group escaped and the rest were arrested. We spent one night at the detention facility in Kerman and one night in White Stone. To [go to] White Stone they took 25,000 tomans (US$20) from us and from White Stone 5,000 tomans (US$4) plus 20,000 (US$16) for municipal taxes. If we didn’t have the money we’d have had to stay.”
Shahib M., 17 years old, travelled alone to Iran to try to help his family financially because his father has a long-term illness. Iranian authorities charged him 4,000 tomans (US$3) in transportation fees from a police station in Kerman to Kerman Detention Facility, 30,000 tomans (US$25) for transport onward to White Stone Detention Facility, and 25,000 tomans (US$20) for the trip from White Stone Detention Facility to the border. “They would have taken more of my money but I hid some in my sock,” he said. “I gave away about 20,000 tomans (US$16) to help others.”
Children who could not pay the fees charged by Iranian authorities consistently told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to work in transit detention facilities to pay off their “debt” for the fees. Some said they were physically abused if they refused to work or were seen as not working hard enough.
Shahib M., age 17, was arrested with 13 other Afghans as they crossed the border from Nimroz province in Afghanistan into Iran. The group was separated, and he and two others were taken to a police station at the border. “They made us work for three days straight. They had us offload trucks of potatoes, tomatoes, et cetera, to search for drugs and then load them again. They gave us a few leftovers to eat. If there was no truck, we could sleep. If someone was too tired to work, they beat them to make them get up.”
“At White Stone, they made me work for nine days without being paid [in the facility bakery],” said Amanullah, age 15. “In Yazd we were held at the station for three days,” said Shahib M., age 17. “They made us work for those days. I spoke once without permission, and one of the officers told me to get up and squat 80 times for punishment. ‘Son of a bitch, shut up,’ he said.” Shahib M. was later transferred to White Stone Detention Facility. “If we spoke at White Stone they would hit us over the head with their batons.”
While many children travel to Iran alone, as described above, others travel with their families and are separated during the deportation process. Such children most often have no clear way to reunite with their families.
In many cases, families are split apart in an instant by deportation, with no opportunity to communicate, challenge the deportation, or, if only certain family members are being sent back, to make the tough decisions about whether to endure separation or be deported together. International law, including the CRC, provides for the right to family life, which is violated when families are arbitrarily separated.
Recommendations for the Islamic Republic of Iran
- Allow newly-arriving Afghans and Afghans arrested for unlawful presence to lodge refugee claims or otherwise seek a protected status, review such claims fairly and efficiently, and guarantee rejected applicants a right of appeal.
- Do not forcibly return registered Afghan refugees and asylum seekers to Afghanistan, and do not block Afghans at the border who may wish to claim asylum in Iran.
- Ensure that every Afghan facing deportation has the opportunity to have his or her case reviewed by a judge and has access to legal assistance and the right of appeal.
- Ensure that determinations in immigration proceedings involving children are decided based on “the best interests of the child” as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and related international jurisprudence.
- Ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are given guardianship, free legal assistance with immigration proceedings and challenges to detention, and access to adequate shelter, food, health care, and education.
- Ensure that voluntary repatriation of refugees is genuinely voluntary and free from coercion, and that all refugee returns are conducted in safety and dignity with full respect for the refugee’s human rights.
- Ensure that the voluntary repatriation program fully respects the principle of family unity.
- Reform detention facilities in which deportees are held, with particular attention to Chapters 7-9 of UNHCR’s Guidelines on the Protection and Care of Refugee Children, and Chapters III-V of UNHCR's Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women.
- Permit all Afghan children, regardless of immigration status, to enroll in primary education free of charge immediately. Speedily abolish all fees for primary education.
- Remove discriminatory barriers to education for Afghans, including the requirement that Afghans give up refugee status in order to attend university, and progressively introduce free education in secondary and higher education as required by international law.
- Provide all refugees and asylum seekers, including Afghans, access to health services and medication on at least the same basis as other non-citizens in the country.
- Ensure that all law enforcement and other government officials treat Afghan refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants with dignity and respect for their human rights in compliance with their domestic and international legal obligations, without exceptions.
- Instruct law enforcement agencies that people with valid refugee or migrant worker documentation may never be summarily deported, and establish mechanisms to detect and punish officers who violate this rule.
- Ensure that all individuals facing deportation have the opportunity to contact family members and have the opportunity to choose to have family members not facing deportation join them, if those family members so desire.
- End the practice of charging deportees fees and taxes as part of the deportation process.
- Keep children separated from unrelated adults at all times while in custody, and provide social services, legal assistance, safe housing, and other targeted assistance to all unaccompanied children entering or present in Iran.
4. Treatment of LGBT Children
Articles 2, 3, 6, 12, 13, 19, 24, 37 and 40
Iranian law criminalizes all sexual relations engaged in outside the traditional bonds of marriage. Same-sex conduct, whether consensual or forced, is specifically addressed and criminalized in Iran’s penal code. According to Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, same-sex crimes are subject to hadd, a class of punishment that is fixed pursuant to shari’a law, where the claimant is deemed to be God. Individuals convicted of engaging in same-sex conduct are subject to severe punishment, including the death penalty. Individuals convicted of having engaged in same-sex relations may only be punished if they are determined to be mature (meaning criminally liable), of sound mind, and willing participants.
In light of the definition of maturity and criminal liability under Iranian law, however, boys and girls under the age of 18 who are convicted of these “crimes”, including members of the LGBT community, will be treated as adults and punished accordingly.
Iran’s Islamic Penal Code defines lavat (sodomy) as consummated sexual activity between males, whether penetrative or not. Same-sex relations between women, or mosaheqeh, are also punishable. Same-sex intercourse between two men is punishable by death for the “active” participant if he meets the aforementioned criteria and is either married, forces his partner to engage in sexual activity (rape) or is non-Muslim and his “passive” partner is Muslim. Under Iranian law the “passive” partner always receives the death penalty unless he is a victim of rape.
Iranian law also criminalizes tafkhiz, the rubbing together of thighs or buttocks (or other forms of non-penetrative sex between men), which is punishable by 100 lashes for each partner. The punishment for women convicted of lesbianism, or mosaheqeh, is similarly 100 lashes, regardless of whether the partner is active or passive. Iran’s penal code also criminalizes “homosexual conduct” that does not fall in the aforementioned categories, such as passionate kissing between two men or women. The punishment for such conduct is subject to between 31 and 74 lashes.
Iran’s LGBT community, including children, are also affected by criminal laws that do not specifically address same-sex conduct, but are applied to individuals who do not conform to socially acceptable norms on gender and morality. In fact, sexual minorities targeted by security forces in both public and private spaces often face charges related to offenses against public morals or chastity instead of sexual crimes. Examples of such laws include those that penalize the violating of “religious sanctities” in public, operating an establishment of ill-repute or corruption, and encouraging others to engage in “corrupt” and “obscene” acts. Additional provisions under Iran’s penal code address the production, use, and dissemination of material that is considered immoral under Iranian law, including LGBT websites, literature, and other paraphernalia.
Since 1979, the Iranian government has implemented several policies designed to deal with the complex realities of sexual orientation and gender identity in Iran today. On their face, some of these policies may appear accommodating. For example, the state legally recognizes transgender Iranians - as long as they agree to undergo sex reassignment surgery. It also allows gays, transgender males, or men who have sex with men to apply for a "behavioral disorder" exemption from military service if they can establish that they are gay or transgender. But while these policies may accommodate, or even benefit some, they aim ultimately to control and enforce conformity. At times they expose sexual minorities to further harassment, abuse, blackmail, extortion, and torture.
At least some LGBT persons told Human Rights Watch that they were coerced into undergoing ineffective or dangerous treatments as children in an effort to amend their sexual orientation or gender identity. They said they were directed, usually by their parents, to undergo medical and psychological treatment as children either because of their parents’ suspicion or concern regarding their sexual or gender expression, or after they revealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to family members.
Families sought the assistance of a variety of health care providers, including family practitioners, gynecologists, neurologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Human Rights Watch also interviewed individuals whose parents had taken their children to “sexologists” and psychiatrists, mostly in Tehran, who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual and gender issues. Treatment options ranged from psychological counseling and testing, prescription medication such as hormone therapy, and the recommendation that patients consider sex reassignment surgery.
Farrokh, a 28-year-old gay male from Karaj, told Human Rights Watch that his parents took him to a series of psychiatrists and psychologists when he was 17 because they suspected he was gay. According to Farrokh, some of these specialists were self-styled “Islamic psychiatrists” who convinced him that he was not homosexual:
When I was 17-years-old my parents took me to a psychiatrist, in part because they suspected I was gay. I told my psychiatrist I thought I was gay and he told my parents. It was very unprofessional of him to do this. They started pressuring me. Then they took me to an Islamic psychiatrist who told me I had an illness but that I could get better …
By the time I was 21 they had convinced me that I was, in fact, bisexual. Everyone is bisexual, they said. “If you want you can be a heterosexual.” So I got myself a girlfriend for a year and two months. But we never had sex. After some time we decided to sleep together, but I just got nauseous. So my relationship eventually came to an end. She thought I was being serious. I had been honest with her about my past, but I believed I could be straight [and she believed me].
The provision of medical care to children and the right of parents to decide what is best for their children is a complex issue beyond the scope of this submission. Notwithstanding these complexities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides that a child’s views should be given due weight in accordance with his or her age and maturity, and that children and parents should be informed and supported about child health. The CRC Committee has said that a child has the right “to express his or her views and to participate … [in] individual health-care decisions,” and that “children, including young children, should be included in decision-making processes, in a manner consistent with their evolving capabilities.” They should be provided with information about proposed treatments and their effects and outcomes. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has also emphasized that adolescents have the right to participate “actively in planning and programming for their own health and development.” If they are of sufficient maturity, informed consent shall be obtained from the adolescent, and parental consent shall not be necessary.
Many LGBT persons interviewed by Human Rights Watch indicated that primary school was one of the most traumatic periods in their life. This was the first time, many said, when they were exposed to the harsh realities of the outside world, where looking, acting, or feeling different often meant ridicule, harassment, and at times, abuse suffered at the hands of classmates, teachers, and others. Many interviewees told Human Rights Watch that they were the victims of sexual harassment and abuse at school perpetrated by both classmates and teachers.
Mani, a 29-year-old gay male from Tehran, said:
In primary school, we realize we are different from our peers, and because of this we become the focus of ridicule. The [kids] call us names like khaleh zanak (literally “auntie lady”) because we appear more feminine and because we don’t like to play like other boys. It is from this time that we begin to think that there is in fact something wrong with us.
Recommendations for the Islamic Republic of Iran
- Abolish all laws and other legislation under the Islamic Penal Code that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct;
- Cease the harassment, arrest, detention, prosecution, and conviction of members of the LGBT community, including children, based on offenses against public morals or chastity, including violating religious sanctities in public, organization of (or participation in) an immoral or corrupt gathering, and encouraging others to engage in corrupt and obscene acts;
- Cease harassment, arrest, detention, prosecution and conviction of members of the LGBT community, including children, based on provisions of the Islamic Penal Code, Press Law, and Cybercrimes Law that prohibit the production, use, and dissemination of material that is considered “immoral,” including LGBT websites, literature, and other paraphernalia;
- Immediately rescind any and all convictions and sentences related to punishment of individuals who have engaged in consensual same-sex conduct or relations, including children, and immediately release any and all inmates who are currently serving prison sentences for such convictions;
- Prohibit the public harassment, abuse, or arrest of members of the LGBT community (including children), individuals thought to be members of the LGBT community, or others (such as “effeminate men”) by security forces, including Iran’s basij units, and investigate and prosecute members of the security forces who engage in such actions;
- Ensure that law enforcement authorities properly investigate and charge perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse (including forced medication and/or medical treatment) regardless of whether the victims are members of the LGBT community or not;
- Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures to respect and legally recognize each person’s self-defined gender identity, including that of children, and to ensure that procedures exist whereby all state-issued identity papers that indicate a person’s gender/sex reflect the person’s self-defined gender identity;
- Refrain from encouraging or persuading members of the LGBT community (including children), especially lesbian, gay, and bisexual Iranians, to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to become “legal” under the law;
- Provide adequate access to physical and psychological services to transgender or transsexual Iranians (including children), including access to hormone therapy for individuals who have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
For further reference, please find below the link to Human Rights Watch’s country page on Iran: https://www.hrw.org/en/middle-eastn-africa/iran.
 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Iran (Islamic Republic of), UNO Doc. CRC/C15/Add.123, 28 June 2000.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rrights, art. 6(5).
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, August 27, 2014, A/69/356, para. 7.
 Iran: Still Executing Child Offenders (Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the 71 Pre-sessional Working Group (June 8, 2015- June 12, 2015)). The reports suggest that prison authorities may have executed as many as 13 child offenders in 2014, 12 in 2013, four in 2012, seven in 2011 and 1 in 2010. Human Rights Watch has not been able to independently confirm these numbers to determine whether all those reportedly executed were under 18 years of age at the time of the offense, but has verified several of these cases.
 Situation of human rights in Iran: report of the UN Secretary General, UN Doc. A/HRC/28/26, February 20, 2015, para. 17.
 See, e.g., UN human rights experts urge Iran to halt the ongoing surge in executions, March 12, 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14358&LangID=E
 “We Don’t Have Executions of People Under 18/No Targeting of Baha’is Solely Because They are Baha’i,” Iranian Students’ News Agency, April 9, 2014, http://isna.ir/fa/news/93012006444/%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7...
 After the execution of 17 year old Alireza Molla Soltani in September 21, 2011, a spokesperson for the prosecution justified the public hanging by claiming that Molla Soltani was 18 years under the lunar calendar. The judiciary had sentenced Molla Soltani to death for the murder of a well-known champion of Iran's “strongest man” competition. UN: Expose Iran’s Appalling Rights Record, Human Rights Watch news release, September 21, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/09/21/un-expose-iran-s-appalling-rights-record.
 Islamic Penal Code, art. 91.
 Iran generally uses the 365-day solar calendar rather than the lunar calendar.
 Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply Flawed, Human Rights Watch news release, August, 29, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/29/iran-proposed-penal-code-deeply-flawed.
 Iran: Still Executing Child Offenders (Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the 71 Pre-sessional Working Group (June 8, 2015- June 12, 2015))
 Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply Flawed, Human Rights Watch news release, August, 29, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/29/iran-proposed-penal-code-deeply-flawed. It is important to note that under Iran’s penal code rape is defined as forced same-sex or heterosexual intercourse outside of the traditional bonds of marriage. Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 221-224. According to Amnesty International, between 2005 and 2015 at least six child offenders were executed for rape by Iranian authorities. Iran: Still Executing Child Offenders (Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the 71 Pre-sessional Working Group (June 8, 2015- June 12, 2015)).
 The majority of juvenile executions in Iran are for intentional murder. Intentional murder, which under Iranian law includes cases where the murderer intentionally makes an action that is inherently lethal, even if he does not intend to kill the victim, is considered to be a crime punishable by retribution in kind (qesas-e nafs). While the judiciary is responsible for carrying out the trial and implementing the sentence in these cases, Iranian law treats them as private disputes between two civil parties, where the state facilitates the resolution of the dispute. The victim’s survivors retain the right to claim retribution in kind (that is, demand the defendant’s death), to pardon the killer, or to accept compensation in exchange for giving up the right to claim retribution.  Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply Flawed, Human Rights Watch news release, August, 29, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/29/iran-proposed-penal-code-deeply-flawed.
 http://www.rrk.ir/Laws/ShowLaw.aspx?Code=2460. According to Amnesty International, the General Board of the Supreme Court issued this ruling on December 2, 2014. Iran: Still Executing Child Offenders (Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the 71 Pre-sessional Working Group (June 8, 2015- June 12, 2015.
 Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply Flawed, Human Rights Watch news release, August, 29, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/29/iran-proposed-penal-code-deeply-flawed.
 Iran: Set Immediate Moratorium on Executions, Human Rights Watch news release, October 28, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/28/iran-set-immediate-moratorium-executions.
 Iran: Halt Execution of Child Offender, Human Rights Watch news release, February 10, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/10/iran-halt-execution-child-offender.
 Dispatches: A Possible Execution and the Agony of Not Knowing, February 20, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/20/dispatches-possible-execution-and-agony-not-knowing
 CRC, art. 39.
 ICCPR, art. 6(3).
 Iran: Still Executing Child Offenders (Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the 71 Pre-sessional Working Group (June 8, 2015- June 12, 2015)).
 Human Rights Watch interview with informed source, February 6, 2015. See also Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis, Human Rights Watch news release, June 12, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/12/iran-halt-execution-33-sunnis.
 Iran: Stop Hanging of Child Offender, Human Rights Watch news release, June 18, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/18/iran-stop-hanging-child-offender
 Iran: Rescind Execution Order for Juvenile Offender, Human Rights Watch news release, July 6, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/07/06/iran-rescind-execution-order-juvenile-offender
 The information in this section is extracted from Human Rights Watch’s 2013 report on the situation of Afghan refugees and migrants in Iran. Iran: Afghan Refugees and Migrants Face Abuse, Human Rights Watch news release, November 20, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/20/iran-afghan-refugees-and-migrants-face-abuse. The names used in this section are pseudonyms. The Iranian rial to dollar conversion rates correspond to rates in 2012-13.
 “Issuing new insurance cards to legal Afghan nationals Iran,” BAFIA, December 8, 2012, http://bafia.moi.ir/Portal/Home/ShowPage.aspx?Object=News&CategoryID=a25... (accessed November 6, 2013).
 Frances Harrison, “Iran’s Afghan refugees feel pressure to leave,” BBC, November 1, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3971711.stm (accessed May 30, 2012).
 Human Rights Watch interview with staff member of international organization (name and location withheld), April 2012. One interviewee told Human Rights Watch that he had been charged three times that amount. Human Rights Watch interview with Ali N., Islam Qala, April 19, 2012.
 “Iran Exploring Ways to Repatriate Afghans” Iran Daily, September 16, 2012, http://www.iran-daily.com/1391/6/26/MainPaper/4330/Page/2/MainPaper_4330_2.pdf (accessed September 26, 2012).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Habiba, Islam Qala, April 19, 2012.
 One interviewee told Human Rights Watch he had had to pay US$8 per month in fees for his son to attend an “Afghan school.” Human Rights Watch interview with Ali N., Islam Qala, April 19, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamal J. and his uncle, Islam Qala, April 17, 2012. The flip side of the obstacles to education for Afghan children in Iran is frequent child labor. Many parents and children interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that undocumented children, unable to attend school, had worked instead, often at very young ages. This problem has also been noted by experts including Bruce Koepke, “The Situation of Afghans in the Islamic Republic of Iran Nine Years After the Overthrow of the Taliban Regime in Afghanistan,” February 4, 2011, Middle East Institute Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, p. 12. Iran has a responsibility under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to set restrictions on child labor and enforce those restrictions. CRC art. 32.
 CRC, art. 37(b).
 CRC, art. 3(1),(2).
 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.6, para 61.
 CRC, art. 37 (c), ICCPR, art. 10(b). The CRC only allows the joint detention of children and adults if it is in the child’s best interests. Ibid.
 CRC, art. 37(d).
 United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (Rules for the Protection of Juveniles), adopted December 14, 1990, G.A. Res. 45/113, annex, 45 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49A) at 205, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (1990).
 Human Rights Watch interview with border official (name and location withheld), April 2012.
 The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) confirmed that they see thousands of children as young as 10 being deported alone and occasionally children as young as 8 years old being deported alone. Human Rights Watch interview with Afghan official (name and location withheld), April 2012.
 Many of the children interviewed had made perilous and terrifying journeys to Iran as members of large groups of Afghans escorted by smugglers, walking for many hours through the mountains, sometimes set upon by thieves. They or their families paid smugglers as little as US$120 but more typically US$500-600, though some said they we obliged to pay the smuggler only if they were successful in reaching Tehran. The main reason for making this journey was to try to make money to send home to impoverished families.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Nader R., Islam Qala, April 16, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Ali Reza, Islam Qala, April 16, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Daoud, Islam Qala, April 18, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Sohail A., Islam Qala, April 19, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Ali Reza, Islam Qala, April 16, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Khalid, Islam Qala, April 19, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Shahib M., Islam Qala, April 18, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Shahib M., Islam Qala, April 18, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Amanullah, Islam Qala, April 17, 2012.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Shahib M., Islam Qala, April 18, 2012.
 This is a more general problem. In a 2008 study of Afghan families deported from Iran, 6.5 percent of people interviewed said they were separated from family members during the arrest and deportation process. “ILO-UNHCR Cooperation Towards Comprehensive Solutions for Afghan Displacement: Research study on Afghan deportees from Iran,” August 2008, Altai Consulting (on file with Human Rights Watch) p. 84.
 Iran: Afghan Refugees and Migrants Face Abuse, Human Rights Watch news release, November 11, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/20/iran-afghan-refugees-and-migrants-face-abuse
 The information in this section is largely extracted from Human Rights Watch’s 2010 report on the situation of Iran’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Iran: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities, December 15, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/15/iran-discrimination-and-violence-agai....
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, Book 2, chapters. 1-2. The punishment for “illegitimate relations” between unmarried men and women (including fornication) is flogging. Islamic Penal Code, Iran, arts. 222, 230. Adulterers, on the other hand, may be subject to execution by stoning, Islamic Penal Code, Iran, arts. 224-25.
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 233-34.
 Mosaheqeh is defined as same-sex relations between women by genitals. Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 238-39.
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 234. Article 234 absolves a male victim of rape of any criminal liability because he is deemed to have not participated in the act willingly. In Iran, forcible sodomy or rape of a male by another male is often referred to as lavat beh onf. It should be noted, however, that under Iranian law the definition of lavat includes both forcible and consensual sodomy. This is
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 234.
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, arts. 235-36.
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, arts. 238-40.
 Islamic Penal Code, Iran, art. 237.
 Iran: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities, December 15, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/15/iran-discrimination-and-violence-agai....
 Human Rights Watch interview with Farrokh, April 5, 2010.
 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Adopted November 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S.3 (entered into force September 2, 1990), arts. 12, 13 and 24(2)(e).
 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 12, The Right of the Child to be Heard, UN Doc. CRC/C/GC/12 (2009), paras. 98 and 100.
 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4, Adolescent health in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/GC/2003/4 (2003), paras. 39(b) and 39(d).
 Ibid., para. 32.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Mani, September 2008.