Iran has undoubtedly become one of the International Community’s most discussed countries in the world. The Islamic Republic’s pursuance of nuclear technology has raised concerns but has also overshadowed perhaps the more concerning and most serious issues. Under the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the rate of executions in Iran has risen to one of the highest in the world. From a positive perspective, the execution of juvenile offenders has garnered a great deal of attention from nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch. However, it is important to note that still such attention has not been proportionately directed towards the persecution and execution of Kurdish prisoners in Iran.
"Although the Kurdish people consist of less than 15% of the Iranian population, they also make up about half of the number of people executed and have [been] subjected to political persecution in the past 10 years."
The persecution of Kurdish activists is extremely widespread and many of these activists are sentenced to death after unjust trials that take only minutes. Furthermore, the intensity of the persecution of the Kurds has been concertedly masked by the leadership in Tehran.
At present, there are a number of specific cases in which Kurdish activists have been sentenced to face imminent execution after short show-trials because of their political activities.
Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand:
Mr. Sadiq Kaboudvand is a well known Kurdish human rights activist who founded the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (HROK) in 2005.
He was arrested on July 1st 2007 and was charged with, “acting against national security through founding HROK”, and as well, “wide spread propaganda against the state by disseminating news”, “opposing Islamic penal laws by publicizing punishments such as stoning and executions”, and “advocating on behalf of political prisoners”.
In a letter written to the United Nations General Secretary Mr. Ban Ki-Moon on December 12th 2008, Mr. Kaboudvand highlighted the oppression and persecution of Kurdish people in Iran as follows: “Although the Kurdish people consist of less than 15% of the Iranian population, they also make up about half of the number of people executed and have [been] subjected to political persecution in the past 10 years. Currently about 50% of the political prisoners consist of Kurds.”
Mr. Kaboudvand has been sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment and his sentence has been upheld by the Islamic Appeal court.
On January 23rd 2009 Mr. Kaboudvand received the Hellman/Hammett grant which is awarded by Human Rights Watch to persecuted writers. It has been reported by reliable sources that he is in need of urgent medical care.
Farzad Kamangar – a well known teacher and human rights activist – is one of the Kurdish prisoners facing execution. Mr. Kamangar was arrested in July 2006 and was charged shortly after for allegedly holding membership in the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). However, according to his lawyer, there is absolutely no evidence to support this charge. He was sentenced to death on February 25th 2008, and his sentence is currently under appeal.
In a letter written in 2008, Mr. Kamangar highlighted the torture he was subjected to during his interrogations. In his letters he states:
“They took me to a room and as they were interviewing me they asked me about my ethnicity. When I told them that I was of the Kurdish Ethnicity, they lashed my entire body. They also lashed me because of the Kurdish music, which I had saved on my mobile phone.”
Mr. Kamangar is currently imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and is at risk of imminent execution.
Another well known student activist who faces the death sentence is Mr. Habibollah Latifi. Mr. Latifi is a 26 years old student who was arrested on October 23rd 2007 in the city of Sanandaj. He was convicted of, “endangering state security” and was sentenced to death on July 3rd 2008, in closed court, without the presence of his lawyer. His death sentence was upheld by the court of appeal on January 29th 2009.
It has also been reported that Mr. Latifi was tortured and ill-treated while in detention. According to Defend International, he is currently in a terrible physical condition.
More Political Prisoners:
There are at least 11 other Kurdish political prisoners who are currently facing the death sentence. Unfortunately, their cases have not received much publicity or international attention.
"Whether it is an act as simple as the preservation of Kurdish language and culture, or the organizing of peaceful associations that aim to highlight human rights issues in Iran, Kurdish women and men, children and seniors, bravely endure torture and imprisonment merely as a result of supporting democracy."
Ms. Zeynab Jalaliyan (aged 27), Mr. Ehsan Fatahiyan (aged 27), Mr. Shirkuh Moarefi (aged 30) and Mr. Anwar Rostami have all been convicted of being a “Mohareb” (enemy of God) for their alleged involvement with Kurdish oppositional groups and have all been sentenced to death.
Mr. Ramezan Ahmad and Mr. Farhad Chalesh are two other individuals who were sentenced to death in January of 2009 on charges of being members of the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). They are both currently being held in the Orumiyeh Prison.
Some of the other individuals currently on death row include Mr. Fasih Yasamini, Mr. Arsalan Evliyayi, Mr. Anwar Hossein Panahi, Mr. Rostam Arkiya and Mr. Ali Heydariyan. Unfortunately, there is very little known about the personal circumstances of these individuals.
Unfortunately, even the more well-known cases mentioned have garnered far too little discussion internationally and world leaders have failed to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran for its human rights violations. Thousands of Kurdish citizens in Iran have displayed resistance in response to the brutality of the regime. Whether it is an act as simple as the preservation of Kurdish language and culture, or the organizing of peaceful associations that aim to highlight human rights issues in Iran, Kurdish women and men, children and seniors, bravely endure torture and imprisonment merely as a result of supporting democracy; a freedom, which should be given without question and should be protected and encouraged by the government, rather than violated, stripped away, and brutally repressed.
Elements within the International Community, and in particular the United States under President Obama’s directive, have recently expressed more willingness to engage in direct discussions with Iran over the nuclear issue, without taking into consideration a much more pressing issue, being human rights violations by the Islamic Regime. Engaging in dialogue with a Regime that mercilessly persecutes its own citizens without having any regard for international human rights standards could be quite dangerous in increasing the Regime’s credibility and legitimacy within the International Community and allowing them to carry out their persecution of their citizens with greater ease of mind.
Sayeh Hassan is a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Toronto, a pro-democracy Iranian activist, and is currently involved in writing articles and translating news to highlight and draw attention to the human rights abuses in Iran. She holds a degree in Psychology and Mass Communication, and an LL.B.