A letter to the Special Reporter on the Right to the Highest Standards of Physical and Mental Health of the United Nations

Dear Mr. Dainius Pūras,

To the Special Reporter on the Right to the Highest Standards of Physical and Mental Health of the United Nations.

The Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (IKHRW) was established in 2018 as an institution for humanitarian, non-governmental, and non-profit human rights organizations with the aim of protecting the rights of Iranian Kurdish citizens. It closely and expertly monitors the human rights situation and its violations in the Kurdish regions of Iran.

We would like to inform you that our organization has published documented reports of widespread and organized violations of human rights and children’s rights in some Kurdish militant groups (active in mountainous areas and adjacent to villages in Northern Iraq in Sulaimaniyah province). These quasi-military groups, including PKK, which are on the list of terrorist groups in the United States and the European Union violate the right of access to the physical and mental health of their members. Some members and coverage associations of these groups have also been arrested or closed down for several times for money laundering, drug distribution… in some European countries, including Germany.

Given the breakout of COVID-19 and its global spread, we would like to inform you that the above-mentioned groups do not allow members to access medical and health services due to their location in the border region and difficult mountain landscape, and their harsh and authoritarian policies. By creating a military environment, closed and armed, they prevent government and non-government entities from providing medical services and place themselves in cold mountains, which has led to the spread of the virus and the difficulty of sending health and medical services on spot. They also do not want international and human rights organizations to gain information about the situation of members, and this is due to the repressive nature of these paramilitary groups.  We have documented reports that the Coronavirus has spread, due to unsanitary and substandard bases, in these groups, threatening the lives of its members, including its Iranian ones.

Dear Special Reporter,

The IKHRW is concerned about the lives of Iranian citizens and other children, recruits who have been deceived or abducted by members of these paramilitary groups and are now exposed to the coronavirus without access to the minimum health facilities. Many Iranian teenagers have been deceived by the group under the pretext of studying in Europe, working in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and receiving large sums of money. The groups took them to the KRG and then handed them over to their military bases in the mountains of Northern Iraq. These children have now become virtually prisoners of these groups and are exposed to serious psychological and physical dangers and are being used as child soldiers. Child soldier recruitment by these groups has been confirmed and condemned by UN Security Council and other international organizations including the UN and its affiliated organizations.

To cover up their sabotage activities, these groups use the children, as an agenda, to buy essential items and actually misuse them as a tool to carry out their dangerous actions. Because these groups are based in the mountains, they send the children to the surrounding towns and villages daily to provide food and necessities, and to contact with the villagers, this exposes the children to probable COVID-19 exposure. The children are thus exposed to the coronavirus and the disease caused by it, because group leaders mistakenly believe that children do not get coronavirus. These groups do not allow medical and health teams to access their headquarters and do not treat children’s physical and mental suffering. This has led to the spread of the disease in their headquarters and its transmission to ordinary people.

Dear Special Reporter,

According to a number of credible reports, about 70 to 80 of the group’s militants, including the PKK and PJAK, have died of COVID-19, and there are fears that the number could increase. The militants forcibly took the bodies of people from hospitals and transferred them to their training camps and set fire the bodies. Unfortunately, the simplest health protocols are not observed, and thus, other people in these groups transmit the disease to the unsanitary mountain headquarters.

As a human rights organization, we urge you to pay attention to this important issue, to use your capacity of the United Nations to compel these groups to respect the rights of children and human right of access to healthcare, and to protect the lives of Iranian citizens. We ask for your immediate help. The KRG must work with international, regional and national organizations and public institutions so as to provide the members of these armed groups with health care.

Best Regards

Iranian Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (IKHRW)

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