- Captain Shahbazi went to Geneva last March to attend the 19th UNHRC session. He then, attended to some panels and spoke out about the western sanctions related to air industry.
Captain Houshang Shahbazi a holder of a Bachelor of Science degree in aircraft engineering and maintenance. He has been working as a professional airline pilot in Iran's National carrier (Homa) and aviation for over 35 years and has flown many passenger flights. He became famous after he could land a plane when its front wheels didn't open. Captain Shahbazi went to Geneva last March to attend the 19th UNHRC session. He then, attended to some panels and spoke out about the western sanctions related to air industry.
Here is an interview of high council for Human Rights website with Captain Shahbazi.
Why are you here Captain in Geneva?
I am going to discuss one of the crucial problems that peace-loving Iranian people have been challenged with for the past 33years. I am going to talk about an important issue that if ignored, would not only endanger and confront the people of my country but also others from all around the world due to the political issues between some nations.
Could you explain a small part of this problem?
Sure I can. Imagine thousands of passengers including men, women, children, the young and old board a plane hoping to arrive at their destinations safely; they trust their captain and this places a huge responsibility on the his shoulders.
I, as a pilot, treat my passengers like members of my own family and from the moment of take off through to landing feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to use all my experience, abilities and knowledge to pilot the plane home safely despite all the dangers that come from bad weather, air traffic and possible technical malfunctions.
My concerns and deep feelings toward my people and my country from one side and their trust in me from the other, have brought me to Geneva to speak about this problem to the world.
You attended to some panels in Geneva last month. Did you talk to the audience about your experience to land that plane without the front wheels?
Yes I did. At the time, I screened a one-minute clip of flight 74 landing with me at the helm; the flight was from Moscow to Tehran on October 18, 2011 with about 80 Russian passengers and 40 Iranian on board. I said them this clip contained a message.
And what was that message?
Had the plane left the runway and one of its wings clipped the ground or there had been a fuel spill, an inevitable explosion would have occurred and I perhaps wouldn't be here to talk to you at this meeting.
What is the real problem?
Other pilots as well as I strongly agree on one thing: that the biggest aviation threat and concern in my country is to fly civilian airliners which have 60 years old technology and are technically worn out. These old airplanes prevent me and the other pilots from doing our jobs correctly and fulfilling our responsibility in response to our passengers' trust in us.
And you blame the western sanctions for that. Is that right?
Yes, absolutely, unfortunately sanctions imposed by the Western countries on civilian airlines in Iran have caused a considerable number of plane crashes and led to the deaths of hundreds of passengers, which according to the aviation statistics is above the average death toll from such unfortunate accidents in the in world. The sanctions also have resulted in technical failures over the last decade due to the dilapidated parts in the aircraft.
Civil aviation and people's lives have nothing to do with military issues. The principle of using equal air transportation facilities and services all around the world is undoubtedly a right. It is not fair for ordinary people to become victims of political tensions between governments and lose their lives to such issues.
As an Iranian citizen, I believe politics and policy-making should be in harmony with the interests of all people around the world to provide stable peace and security for them. Depriving a nation from secure flights by withholding spare parts which are crucial to its safety, could not be further from the slogans of human rights and world security and certainly does not follow the principles of democracy.
It is not acceptable to endanger some people so as to promise peace to others, or use people's well-being as leverage to impose pressure on their governments to reach certain political goals.
Is there any organization or international institute to object this process?
Unfortunately, international human rights organizations have chosen to remain silent against such unjust acts toward Iranians; many of whom are on a plane and may lose their lives right now because of a plane crash caused by technical problems while I am giving this speech. I believe the end must not justify the means in making a political decision.
The United States and European Community have threatened Iranian and foreign passengers' lives by ignoring the rules and regulations mentioned in the UN human Rights Charter. And in order to put pressure on Tehran have imposed strict sanctions on aircraft spare parts from abroad.
I am sorry to say that it is not only the human rights organizations that have chosen to remain silent on such cruel sanctions' regime imposed on Iranian civilians but International airspace organizations also follow in their footsteps and this bitter conduct has caused numerous tragedies involving the loss of thousands of innocent lives.
And what about other international organizations which dealt about air industries?
The reason for establishing organizations such as ICAO, YATA, SAFA, and agreements like the Chicago Convention, which has 96 articles, with the United States of America and other western countries as its primary founders and signatories, were to prevent such unjust and unfair treatment of some countries. After all security and safety of air travel and airspace development of countries, and helping or supporting underdeveloped countries were mentioned in the charters of all these organizations. The sanctions against Iran's civil aviation run counter to article 44 of the Chicago Convention.
These organizations should abide by the rules and regulations and act responsibly toward the safety of passengers and the airspace safety of countries. YATA is a trade union of Airline companies which is non-political, non-governmental and its duty is to provide services to airline agencies.
How do you consider this as a violation of Human Rights?
According to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or different beliefs, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
Other articles in this declaration and other political and civil international agreements also clearly emphasize respecting the rights of life and security for all people and indicate that no one has the right to take the life of another person. Iranians have followed such notion and emphasized this principle for thousands of years.
Cyrus the Great, the main founder of the first Declaration of Human Rights believed that: "Every person is responsible for his or her own acts and no one should be blamed or punished for anyone else's mistakes or sins."
Is there any guarantee that these sanctions are not used in possible disputes among countries other than Iran, as a tool for some politicians to deprive millions of people around the world of safe air travel?
I must ask a question that isn't it wise to draw a line between conflicts and problems between governments' and safety of nations and to separate political disputes from harming peaceful civilians? Isn't this attitude closer to peace and friendship among countries and world security?
To impose a specific political view, sanctions should not be placed on technology and airspace industry of a country to threaten the life of civilians. Even in World War first and 2nd", depriving civilians of medicine, food and life was considered inhuman. It has nothing to do with sanctions. Double standards and contradictions are not acceptable and are of no value.
Respectable leaders of ICAO, SAFA and human right organizations and fair politicians: dead people do not need help, support civilians while they are still alive in order to fulfill your obligations.
What about Red Cross officials! Are they waiting for something to happen?
I would like to ask the UN Human Rights High Commission to demand the primary and basic rights of my fellow countrymen and passengers and lift these sanctions which threaten the lives of my people. This is an important and urgent message.
I would like to ask human rights activists outside of politics to defend Iranian passengers' lives and their basic rights to live and not to allow innocent persons' lives treated as tools to obtain political goals.
I personally condemn violating innocent and defenseless people's rights who have nothing to do with the political disputes between governments in any part of the world, under any pretext or by any authority or country.
It is said that you sent a message to Mr. Obama. What was that?
That was a word with the American decision makers and law makers, too. President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, and Secretary of State, Ms. Hilary Clinton, The US Congress and all American leaders!
Politics is about wisdom on world interests and goals. And finally politics is honesty. I told them: You who talk about democracy, security and freedom in your speeches, you who talk about a new world, who approve a huge budget to cure AIDS, who worry about the Ozone layer depletion and who seem prepared to travel merely to save one life; let's stop this double standards and contradictory words. I should say to Mr. Obama! How am I supposed to believe your sincerity when you send your message of fraternity and friendship to Iranian people during the Persian New Year, Nowrouz, yet the next day move to endanger the lives of my countrymen by extending the sanctions on selling civilian airplane spare parts?
Mr. Obama! I hope this year you act upon your famous motto: CHANGE and politics aside, consider human rights standards and lift the sanctions on the sales of civilian airliners and spare parts, to save the lives of the people. Perhaps then the Iranians will believe your message of fraternity.