Arseh Sevom — In just a few weeks, it will be two years since the executions of four Kurdish activists shocked the international community. One of those executed was the teacher Farzad Kamangar whose plight had been the focus of international campaigning. In a report released on April 11 by The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), the repression of the Kurdish-Iranian community and the targeting of Kurdish-Iranian activists is detailed. The organization’s 70-page report, “On the Margins: Arrest, Imprisonment and Execution of Kurdish Activists in Iran Today,” reveals a disturbing and shocking pattern of repression and violence by the Islamic Republic of Iran against its Kurdish community. (Click here for the full report.)
The May 2010 executions of four activists may have been shocking to the international community, but they were no surprise to the Kurdish community. The report from IHRDC quotes one activist as saying:
While the whole of Iran discovered the brutality of the Islamic Republic of Iran following the election disputes in June 2009, we Kurds have known about it for more than 30 years, from the very establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Kurds have faced repression because they are both an ethnic minority and predominantly Sunni in majority Shia country. Although Muslim, Sunnis in Iran do not have the same rights as the Shia population. They have not been able to build a mosque in Tehran, for instance. (To be fair, dissent from Shia clerics is not tolerated either.)
Before his execution, Farzad Kamangar wrote a series of letters, including this one documenting his treatment in prison, which clearly shows he was tortured because of his ethnicity and religion.
They took me to a room [where they questioned me]. When writing down my information [I had to disclose] my ethnicity, and every time I answered “Kurdish,” they beat me with a whip that looked like some kind of hose. They also insulted me and beat me because of my religion. They beat me to their heart’s desire because of the Kurdish music that was on my mobile phone. They tied my hands, sat me in a chair, and put pressure on the sensitive parts of my body. They also took off my clothes and threatened me with rape by harassing me with batons and sticks. My left leg was badly damaged [while I was] there, and I passed out from simultaneous electric shocks and blows to my head. Ever since I regained consciousness, I feel like I have lost my sense of balance and I shake uncontrollably.
The latest report from IHRDC reveals a pattern of abuse and repression dating back to the beginning of the Islamic Republic. Its focus is the estimated fourteen Kurds currently on death row in Iran. Judicial irregularities, torture, and lack of access to counsel are among the violations the report from the IHRDC documents. The treatment of Kurdish-Iranians from the moment of their arrest violates Iran’s own constitution which guarantees due process. Many of those arrested and on death row — including the four executed in 2010 — are not informed of the charges against them, systematically tortured, and denied access to their lawyers.
Gissou Nia, the Executive Director of IHRDC stated:
“A government’s treatment of its minority communities serves as a bellwether in assessing the overall human rights record of any government. The Islamic Republic of Iran and its treatment of the country’s Kurdish minority is no exception. Today, Kurdish activists are targeted for arrest, and sentenced to imprisonment and even execution on thin evidentiary grounds. The government’s treatment violates protections embodied in both international and Iranian law. Iranians and the international community should continue to monitor this behavior very closely.”
Religious freedom, acceptance of minorities and even their protection should be of utmost concern not only to the international community, but to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Arseh Sevom hopes this report will lead to the release of prisoners of conscience and to religious freedom.