LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – More than 1,285 high school students in Kurdistan province of Iran have dropped out of school, according to Rashid Ghorbani, the chairperson of the Education Department.
Currently, in Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhalat), 225,000 people are illiterate, 60,000 of whom are between the ages of 10-49.
Last year, 53 children between the ages of 6 and 11, in the city of Poldasht, West Azerbaijan Province, could not attend school due to poverty. Poldasht has a population of 18,000 and is located in the northwest of Iran, near the Turkish border.
Additionally, 268 students in their first and second year of high school also dropped out of school, according to Fars, the state-run Iranian news agency.
Overall, 1,500 students in the West Azerbaijan province, which is home to Kurdish and Turkish ethnic minorities, have been unable to continue their education, according to Iranian officials. The alarming statistics caused Mojtaba Talebi, the chairperson of West Azerbaijan Province Education, to warn about the increasing rate of illiteracy in the region.
However, activists say the real number of education-deprived children is much greater than what the Iranian officials admit. For example, they claim that at least 160 homeless children who live in Sina (Sanandaj), the capital city of the Kurdistan Province, are not included in the national statistics.
The systematic oppression of the ethnic minorities in Iran, through linguistic exclusion and financial discrimination can lead to fatal consequences in the poverty-ridden regions.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Constitution, the States parties believe “in full and equal opportunities of education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.”
Iranian laws also dictate that elementary and high school education should be free and available to everyone.
Although some schools do not charge tuition, families have to provide for their children’s textbooks, stationeries, and school attire and pay for transportation costs. Many parents in far-flung villages are not able to cover these expenses.
In addition to poverty, gender inequality is the reason many female high school students are denied the right to education.
“The woeful human rights situation of Kurdistan is a grave risk for Kurds. Deprivation of education is an obvious violation of civil rights,” Kaveh Taheri, human rights activist and journalist told Kurdistan24.
“Kurds are treated as second-class citizens, although Hassan Rouhani said in his presidential campaign that we have no second-class citizens in Iran,” Taheri added.
Although Iran is rich with resources, regions that home ethnic groups flounder.
Provinces such as Ilam, Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Lorestan and Kurdistan, located near the borders of Iran—home to non-Persian ethnic groups—are underdeveloped. For the children in these marginalized regions, the first grade of elementary school is often a traumatic experience, since they have to learn literacy along with a new language.
The one state, one language policy in Iran relentlessly impacts the vulnerable population.
By recognizing only one official language, Iran annihilates linguistic diversity. Experts say doing so damages the overall well-being, cognitive development, and self-confidence of the non-Persian students and guarantees unequal access to education.
Approximately 50 percent of grade one students in Iran have to learn how to read and write in a language that is not their mother tongue. Statistics suggest that these students are more likely to drop out of school.
Most students who are not attending school work odd jobs to provide for their families.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND DANGEROUS EMPLOYMENT
The international sanctions, corruption, and mismanagement of resources have crippled the economy in Iran. The high rates of unemployment have affected Iran in general, and Kurds and Baluch ethnic minorities in particular.
Many education-deprived students find no other means to earn a livelihood but to risk their lives and work as Kulbar. They climb impassable passages for long hours, and sometimes days while carrying goods such as tobacco and tea to make as little as $10 a day.
According to human rights organizations, in 2015, Iranian government forces killed and wounded numerous Kulbars. Many died of hypothermia and other diseases due to the extreme difficulties of their jobs, Kurdistan Human Rights Network reports.
Taimoor Aliassi, the representative to UN of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G), told Kurdistan24, “Despite the current administration pledges to change the government security approach towards the Iranian Kurdistan, the number of indiscriminate killings of Kurdish citizens by the security forces is dramatically rising.”
“Last year, the KMMK-G received reports of 64 cases of government security forces shooting Kurdish Kulbar,” Aliassi said.
“According to the information received, at least 36 border couriers were killed, and 29 others wounded by the government border security forces without respecting even the Iranian domestic law, authorizing the use of lethal force only as a last resort,” he added.
Education deprivation not only reproduces the vicious cycle of poverty, it can have fatal consequences in the ostracized regions such as Kurdistan where unemployed youth find only dangerous occupations to earn a living.
With education deprivation and unemployment comes the train of poverty, subjugation, powerlessness and voicelessness, a vicious circle that reproduces itself, swallows its victims and spits them out.