Source: Center for Human Rights in Iran
Children without state-issued identification documents mostly from Iran's underdeveloped border provinces are being denied education in Iran, attorney Osman Mozayan told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). Iran only provides education to citizens and establishes citizenship based on the father's nationality.
"The Constitution stipulates that education is free, but that only applies to Iranian citizens," said Mozayan, who has represented several families from Iran who did not have official citizenship documents.
"We have many children with Iranian mothers [and foreign fathers] who were born in Iran, but are not Iranian citizens. When you are not an Iranian citizen, you cannot acquire an Iranian identification card and are effectively denied an education," he added.
According to Article 30 of Iran's Constitution: "The government must provide all citizens with free education up to secondary school, and must expand free higher education to the extent required by the country for attaining self-sufficiency."
In December 2016, Deputy Labor Minister Ahmad Meydari said 130,000 children were left out of Iran's education system that year. It's unclear whether the number he cited included children without Iranian citizenship.
Children from Iran's underdeveloped border provinces are most vulnerable to the problem.
"According to government figures, there are about 25,000-30,000 children who have not received an education in Sistan and Baluchistan Province this year, but members of Parliament believe the actual number is closer to 120,000," said Mohammad Naim Aminifard, the MP from Iranshahr, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, on July 2, 2017.
Aminifard estimated 70 percent of children without Iranian identification documents live in the province's cities of Iranshahr, Chabahar, Konarak, Nikshahr, and Saravan.
Mozayan, a member of Iran's bar association, said the problem was particularly acute in southeastern Iran bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in the northwestern region bordering Iraq and Turkey.
"There are many children without identification papers in Sistan and Baluchistan Province," he said. "We have children in Kurdistan Province who are not allowed to go to public schools because they are not considered Iranian nationals."
"Of course, the government has drafted a bill to at least allow stateless children and the children of foreign nationals to go to school," he added. "This will be very good if it is passed by the legislature, but so far it has not progressed well."
Mozayan added that "thousands" of children with citizenship are meanwhile being denied education simply because they live in remote areas of Sistan and Baluchistan Province with no access to the governmental registration offices that issue the identification documents required by schools.
"In the rural areas, the kids often leave school in the middle of the year to work in brick factories," the attorney said. "In many border areas there are no middle schools or high schools and students can't afford to go to the cities to continue their education, so they have no choice but to drop out of school. Girls are especially vulnerable in these situations because they are more likely to be held back by their families."
Iran's Law for the Protection of Children and Young Adults stipulates that all children must go to school and punishes adults with up to six months in prison if they bar children from getting an education.
"The government should send monitoring units to enforce the law and report parents who force their children to beg in the streets instead of going to school," Mozayan told CHRI.
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