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UN EXPERT ON HOUSING RIGHTS CONCLUDES VISIT TO IRAN: calls for increased focus on the housing rights of the ethnic and religious minorities and women’s equal rights to land and housing

The Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Miloon Kothari, issued this statement at the conclusion of his recent country mission to Iran:


Following an invitation from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing visited the country on mission from 19 to 31 July, 2005.

During the mission, meetings were organized, among other, with the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security, and senior officials from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs; national institutions and organizations and the national housing bank; members of the Judiciary and Parliament; local authorities; civic and community organizations; and United Nations programmes and agencies.

Because the Special Rapporteur places a particular emphasis on the need to undertake field visits, trips were organized to different neighborhoods in and around Teheran and in the provinces of Kermanshah, Kerman, Khuzestan, Boyerahmad va Kohgiluye and Fars. In addition, testimonies were received on the land and housing situation inm the provinces of Ilam and Sistan-Baluchistan.

The Special Rapporteur has highlighted in his Preliminary Findings some positive trends and best practices observed, such as the constitutional recognition of the right to adequate housing, the considerable number or governmental bodies carrying out work to improve housing conditions in the country, the serious attempts made by the government to reach water, electricity and sanitation across Iran since the revolution, the emphasis given in governmental housing policies to the groups in most vulnerable situation, and the nation’s reconstruction efforts and disaster preventative measures.

From all visits, interviews and meetings held by the Special Rapporteur, some points of main concern were identified concerning:
§ housing affordability (many of the interviewed indicated that rents and loan installments may represent 50 to 70% of a family’s income) and loans and other facilities that can only be accessed by middle-upper class families;
§ disproportionably adverse housing and living conditions of ethnic and religious minorities (Kurds, Bahais, Arabs, Laks) and groups like the Nomads;
§ considerable number of alleged cases of land confiscation and land grabbing; number of cases of forced evictions;
§ discrimination in equal rights for women regarding housing, land, inheritance and property;
§ current welfare programs in relation to housing and civic services not up to required standards for vulnerable ;
§ and the poor and limited quantity and quality of services provided to some neighborhoods (electricity, water and sanitation).

All these topics are further discussed in the Special Rapporteur’s Preliminary Findings on the Mission to Iran (attached).

In order to assist the Iranian efforts to deal with such concerns, the Special Rapporteur has put together a set of preliminary recommendations to the Government of Iran:

· develop further policies to address women’s equal access to housing, land, property and inheritance; ratify the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
· consider policies to intervene in the market and avoid land and housing speculation and commodification;
· need for special focus on historically marginalized provinces, such as Ilam, Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchestan;
· strengthen public participation in the elaboration of development plans and in the preparation and assessment of housing projects; support and facilitation of the work of NGOs;
· reinforce, expand and implement policies aimed at groups in vulnerable situation and ethnic and religious minorities in vulnerable situation (Kurds, Bahais, Laks, Arabs).

And to the international community:

· provide technical cooperation to facilitate an increase in the construction of earthquake-proof houses and cooperation in the area of disaster prevention across the country;
· increase funding to housing projects, specially those aimed to the groups in vulnerable situation;
· increase support, including training and capacity building programs, to the civil society carrying out human rights and community development projects in Iran.

The final report on the country mission to Iran will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the Commission on Human Rights in its 62th session, to be held in April 2006 in Geneva.

The preliminary report can be downloaded here:
www.ohchr.org/english/press/docs/20050809PreliminaryNotesonSRMissiontoIran.doc