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On tour of Iran’s housing, UN rights official sees improvements and gaps

On tour of Iran’s housing, UN rights official sees improvements and gaps

Miloon Kothari
Despite positive government programmes and continuing improvements in water, electricity, sanitation and roads, good housing in Iran is often not affordable, with ethnic minorities, women and the rural poor often lacking most services, according to a United Nations human rights report released today.

To remedy the situation, Miloon Kothari, The Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing of the UN Commission on Human Rights, called for equal access to property for women, reinforced policies to help ethnic and religious minorities, and technical and financial assistance from the international community.

Mr. Kothari visited Iran from 19 to 31 July 2005 at the invitation of the Iranian Government.

In his report, Mr. Kothari recognized that Iran faced some unique problems, including earthquakes and droughts, along with the effects of the long war with Iraq, embargoes and a burgeoning population.

“A widespread feeling of continuing improvement in economic, social and cultural rights standards in the last 27 years has been verified,” he noted in the report, despite those problems.

“Water, electricity and sanitation were generally extended to distant villages in the country and roads have been built to provide access to those areas, although – according to information received – the quality of services is sometimes below standards and available only during some periods of the day,” he added.

He also welcomed the constitutional right to adequate housing, along with favourable Government policies for youth and other vulnerable groups. He was impressed by reconstruction efforts in Bam, the ancient city recently destroyed by an earthquake, as well as plans for strengthening of houses across the country to prevent large scale destruction in case of disasters.

Unfortunately, however, he found that rents and loan instalments could often represent 50 to 70 per cent of a family’s income, resulting in severe shortage of remaining income for other basic necessities such as education, food and health care. The situation was especially critical in provinces like Ilam, where 80 per cent of the population lives in poverty.

In addition, land confiscation and “confiscation-style” purchase of lands by the Government seem to disproportionately impact the land and property of some religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Baha’I, Iranian Arabs and nomads, who had been losing traditional camping fields and travel routes on the outskirts of cities such as Shiraz.

Women faced special difficulties in relation to access to and use of land and property due to cultural and financial restrictions resulting, for example, from women’s non-autonomous management of her income or that of her family and the limited shares assigned to women in inheritance schemes.