Kurds Imprisoned by the Islamic Republic for Protesting


On Tuesday, March 25th, 2008, the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary court sentenced 7 Kurdish detainees to 3 years imprisonment in the city of Baneh, located in the Iranian Kurdistan region, for their participation in general demonstrations throughout Iranian Kurdistan in 2005 as reported to KurdishMedia.com by the communique, which is issued by the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran or KDPI.

Mr. Sadiq Amin Nejad, Saman Rasoulian, Abdollah Ranjbari, Kaveh Hassani, Mohammad Bahrami, Rastgar Mesgari and Mohamad Amin Ghaderi were sentenced to various imprisonment terms for participating in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic, the communique stated.

According to Amnesty International, hundreds more were arrested throughout Iranian Kurdistan in the cities of Mahabad, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Orumieh, Baneh, Shino and Maku just to name a few for simply participating in peaceful protests against the government.

Security forces reportedly used light and heavy weaponry in response to the demonstrations. Up to 20 people were reportedly killed and hundreds more injured. The report also mentions that hundreds of Iranian forces were sent into the cities to attack the crowds and helicopter gunships fired at the crowds causing dozens of deaths.

“They acted against National Security, disturbed general order and participated in covert meeting,” according to their verdict. The communique reports that the victims are condemned to one year communion jail and two years unconditional jail. They have been held under captivity since their detainment following the demonstration in April of 2005.

The protests started after Iranian Security Forces killed Sayed Kamal Astam (aka Shivan Qaderi), who was the leader of a Kurdish youth organization that organized a celebration/demonstration when Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, was elected President of Iraq. The purpose of the celebration was to ask the Iranian government to allow Kurds to participate in high-ranking positions in Iran and to give them federal autonomy inside Iran, similar to that of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, as the government restricts cultural and political activities that stress the Kurdish language and identity.

The Iranian Forces arrested Shivan and tied him to a truck and dragged his body around the streets of Mahabad for several hours until he died as a warning to the other Kurdish rights activists. After this event, photos of Shivan’s body began circulating the internet and people began pouring into the streets of Iranian Kurdistan demanding more rights for Kurds as well as justice for Shivan’s family. Amnesty International reports that recently, family and friends of Shivan have been beaten for simply attempting to visit his gravesite.

Iranian security responded by arresting hundreds and killing dozens. To this day, many are still being held without even having gone to trial. The Iranian government has tortured many journalists and editors of Kurdish newspapers on the grounds that their coverage of events in Iraqi Kurdistan was aimed at instigating separatist ambitions among Iranian Kurds.

One of which is the torture of Dr. Roya Toloyee, a Kurdish women’s rights activist and head of the Rasan (“Rising”) newspaper in Sine who was tortured and raped for 66 days for alleged involvement in the organization of peaceful protests throughout Kurdistan province before being released on bail and eventually escaped Iran.

Likewise, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch, just last month a Kurdish teacher by the name of Kamangar was sentenced to death for “endangering national security.” The prosecution claimed that Kamangar is a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to Kamangar’s lawyer, this trial violated the Iranian legal requirements that such cases must be tried publicly and in the presence of a jury. He also told Human Rights Watch that court officials ridiculed his requests that they follow mandated legal procedures.

In Iran, membership of any non-governmental political party could be punishable by persecution, imprisonment and even death. Unfortunately, the oppression faced by Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan today is not a new phenomenon. The Islamic Republic has very little patience for Kurdish demands and much too often opts for crushing unrest through military means.

On August 17th 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini declared holy war against the Kurds, entire villages and towns were destroyed to force Kurds into submission. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps fought to reestablish government control in the Kurdish regions, as a result more than 10,000 Kurds were killed. The Kurds are among Iran’s largest ethnic minority groups, and number around 10% of the population. They mainly live in the province of Kordistan and neighboring provinces bordering Turkey and Iraq.