(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday waded into the controversy surrounding separations of illegal immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, deploring images of crying children and saying the policy shows how “evil” the Americans are.
“Seeing the images of the crime of separating thousands of children from their mothers in America makes a person exasperated,” Khamenei told a group of lawmakers. “But the Americans separate the children from the immigrant parents with complete maliciousness.”
“One cannot watch with a sound state of mind these children crying on TV,” he said, according to a report on an official website, khamenei.ir. “How can they commit such a crime of separating children from their mothers for the excuse of implementing some policy? This shows how evil they really are.”
The article on Khamenei’s address to the lawmakers was headlined: “The enemy of Iran and humanity is the regime that separates 1000s of children from their mothers.”
An editorial in Kayhan, a hardline Iranian paper whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, referred to “Trump’s toddler terrorism,” and expressed the hope that the president will be impeached.
Khamenei presides over a regime widely condemned for human rights abuses, and children are not exempt.
Most notoriously, during the 1980-1988 war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, tens of thousands of Iranian school children, drafted into the Basij militia, were deployed to the front where, according to published accounts, they were used among other things to clear minefields with their bodies.
Estimates of total Iranian fatalities in the war vary widely, from around 155,000 to 750,000.
Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has cited Basij figures saying that almost one-third of Iranian fatalities during the war were aged 15-19, and about three percent were younger than 14.
Khamenei was Iran’s president during the entire length of the war with Iraq. He became supreme leader in 1989.
Among more recent child-related human rights criticisms leveled at Iran by the State Department, international organizations and human rights advocacy groups:
--Girls may be legally married at 13, although girls as young as nine may be married with the permission of their fathers and a court. Seventeen percent of Iranian girls were married younger than 18, according to a 2016 UNICEF report.
--At least 86 juveniles were on death row in Iran last year and at least four were executed, according to U.N. human rights monitors.
--The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has reported “widespread discrimination against children of ethnic minorities” in Iran.
--Thousands of Afghan refugee children, including those born in Iran, cannot obtain identity documents. “These children were often unable to attend schools or access basic government services and were vulnerable to labor exploitation and trafficking,” said the State Department in its most recent annual human rights report.
--The report said child labor remains a serious problem in Iran. Children, many of Afghan descent, are detained for working as street vendors in major cities. It cited the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child as saying that many children are “employed under hazardous conditions, such as in garbage collection, brick kilns, and industrial workshops, without protective clothing and for very low pay.”
--Street children are “subjected to various forms of economic exploitation, including sexual abuse and exploitation by the public and police officers.”