Thank you very much, Ambassador. This is Rahim Rashidi, or Mr. Kurd, from Kurdistan, Can you please comment on human right records in Iran and minority situation over there?
And second question, human rights in Iraq and what is differences between Baghdad and Erbil about the human rights records? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, first on Iran, it’s one of the most serious human rights situations in the world, I think. When you read the report, it’s just one abuse after another. Executing people for no – without any due process, the political system where this self-appointed group selects who can be the candidates, just terrible abuses of people, lots of political prisoners. So not – very, very difficult situation and has been for some time, sadly.
On Iraq, I think you can see some of the same and some in contrast. The contrast is Iraq is a genuine democracy – have had elections. The last elections were seen as free and fair. There’s always the struggle to then compose a government coming out of that, but all the different groups in Iraq have managed to do that. So on that front, on the democracy front, it’s a model in the region.
On the human rights front, though, what we see is despite the defeat – the territorial defeat of ISIS and removing its horrible claws from the backs of people in the country – you’ve still got a lot of ISIS players around there who are committing violent acts and abusing people. And you also have the PMF militias, which is a really, really serious problem, particularly the ones that are under the domination of the Iranian Government. So it’s a – they get reported on as being part of the government forces because legally they are so, but in fact, the Government of Iraq doesn’t control them
This has been a huge problem in trying to resettle people. I know in the Kurdish region you’ve got refugees that fled from ISIS. Everybody wants – including those people – would like to see them go back to their homes in safety and be able to resume their lives, but one of the big obstacles to that is the security situation caused by these militias that are not – do not have the interests of the people in the country in mind.
So that’s a mixed picture, but I would say certainly, when you compare it to a couple years ago, a lot better. We don’t have ISIS anymore and congratulate the people in Kurdish region and in the rest of the country in being able to work together and deal with a lot of these problems.
Ambassador Michael Kozak:
His is the senior bureau official for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.