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Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

Protesters Demand Clean Air in Zanjan

1003095_689483641078012_1381206090_nOn August 11th and 15th, 2013,  demonstrators filled the streets of Zanjan to declare their right to a clean environment and called for an immediate cessation of activities by over 70 lead and zinc factories[1] in Zanjan that have polluted the air and filled the streets with residue.  According to sources, the governor of Zanjan has agreed to halt the factories’ operations, but this has yet to be confirmed.

The Stockholm Declaration of 1972 was the first to link human and environmental rights, known as the “third generation of human rights,” by affirming the right to adequate conditions of life in Principle 1.  This link was established under a broad interpretation of the right to life under General Comment 06 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1982 as an adequate environment is essential to the enjoyment of the right to life.  In 1990, the UN General Assembly echoed the fundamental right to a clean environment in resolution A/RES/45/94 by declaring in article 1 that “all individuals are entitled to live in an environment adequate for their health and well-being.”  The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992 called upon governments to protect environmental rights through access to judicial and administrative proceedings, and for public participation in decision making when the environment is concerned.  Since then, domestic legislation and international treaties have dramatically enlarged environmental rights as a body of law.[2]  Environmental rights are important not only to protect the health of individuals today, but also the well-being of future generations.25012

Demonstrations by Iranian citizens protesting government policies are nothing new.  Over the last several decades, the Iranian people have made several attempts to assert their human rights.  Their repeated efforts, often met with violent crackdowns, demonstrate Iranian dedication to civil and political rights, and economic and social rights.  Perhaps the recent protests in Zanjan are illustrative of a new increasing concern for environmental rights.

[1] Two of the larger companies operating the factories are the National Iranian Lead & Zinc Co. and Calcimin.

[2] For a more detailed synopsis, visit the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights background paper on environmental rights by Professor Dinah Shelton, available at

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