Rights activist’s letter of concern over imminent execution of political prisoner in Iran


Voices that are buried under the debris of silence

A letter by Kurdish rights activist Ms. Soraya Fallah to Ms. Shirin Abadi concerning the imminent execution of a female Kurdish political prisoner Zainab Jalalian. (Translated to English from Farsi by Dr. Kamal Soleimani)

Honorable Mrs. Shirin Ebadi,

Your membership and supportive efforts on behalf of the campaign for
“a greater family for political prisoners”(1), as well as your
acceptance of several political prisoners of conscious as your own
family members, is once again demonstrating your attention and concern
regarding people who are facing abuse and torture or death and

I am now seeking your support regarding one of the women among the
listed Kurdish political prisoners in imminent danger of execution.

Zaynab Jalalian (2), a 27 years old Kurdish woman, was arrested in
Kermanshah in early 2007. She was dispatched to the infamous Sanandaj
prison soon after. This is the same prison which bears witness to
Ehsan Fattahian’s (3) execution, and the tragedy of two sisters Nasrin
and Shahla Ka’bi (4) who were violently annihilated. The same place
which is plagued by the memory of Shahriar who was forced to carry on
his back the tortured body of his brother Ahsan(Nahid) to an untimely
and unjust death by the bullets of a firing squad(5).

Last year, in a show trail that lasted only a few minutes, Zaynab was
condemned to death. Her offense was for the illusory “crime” of enmity
against God — moharebeh — and affiliation with a supposed
“anti-revolutionary” organization. Her death sentence was approved by
the highest judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the absence
of her lawyers Dr. Mohammed Sharif and Mr. Khalil Bahramy.

Ever since the harrowing execution of Shirin (Alam Hooli)(6), Zaynab’s
friend and fellow inmate, the shadow of death is looming larger over
her; however, Zaynab’s pleas for justice continue to go unnoticed by
activists, political figures, and human rights organizations. It seems
that many choose to continue to remain blind to Zaynab’s fate, out of
fear of being falsely labeled, accused of guilt by association.

It is saddening, but not uncommon to witness such discriminatory
treatments. This seems to be, and has always been, the fate of the
long list of Kurdish political prisoners (7): executed or awaiting
execution (8).

Unfortunately, no urgent action has been taken to change Zaynab’s
conditions; neither by the so called leaders of the recent movement in
Iran, nor by the Iranian human rights organizations. Thus Zaynab
Jalalian and the likes of her are grappling with the nightmare of
being slaughtered in obscurity, the worst nightmare for any political
prisoner (9).

In her short epistle of pain and suffering, Zaynab states that, “I
asked the judge to allow me to see my mother and my family for the
last time, to say goodbye to them before I die; the judge told me to
‘Shut the…up!’” (10)

Like other Kurdish women, in addition to facing the widespread gender
inequality in Iran, Zaynab has been doubly subjected to various forms
of cultural, social, economic, ethnic, and religious discriminations,
and experienced extraordinary inequality in educational opportunities.
Now too, instead of being provided with an opportunity to redress
these injustices, or like every human being be able to meet her full
potential, Zaynab awaits the gallows.

My own personal memories (from prison) make it possible to visualize
some of her nightmares. I am not sure where she is being held captive,
but if she is in one of Kurdish area’s prison, she will be taken to
the bathroom, blindfolded, twice a day. She is most likely being kept
in a crypt for solitary confinement. There she must lie down on the
bare ground, since a bed is something that she can be blessed with
only when she is being tortured. This prison is wholly sealed off from
inspection by any watchdog organization; it is not even inspected once
a year. Last June, in a cell next to Zaynab’s, a Kurdish prisoner,
without a trial of any kind, was accused of separatism and
consequently subjected to suffocation under the alcohol-boarding
method. Zaynab constantly thinks of him, and of another acquaintance
of hers, who was executed last May after months of torture.

Such nightmares are experienced daily; these atrocities, which have
gone completely unnoticed, frequently take place in the large and
small prisons of Kurdistan.

Of course, there are many who prefer to act as if they are unaware of
this situation. Such people even try to avoid reporting the news about
the long list of Kurdish prisoners awaiting the gallows and hangman’s
noose, and they refuse to print the names and pictures of these
prisoners because of a Kurd or even a Sunni “birthmark.”

It does not bother them to hear that one of the country’s
award-winning authors (11) is being tortured, simply because he is a
Kurd. Fearful that one day these prisoners might serve the Kurdish
nation, no one bothers to fight for their release. Great minds, men
who have dedicated their lives to combating HIV & AIDS (12), are now
kept in the crypt and solitary confinements. All Kurdish activists
must end up in prison; it does not make much difference whether their
field of activity is a political, scientific, cultural or literary

Last spring, after the sudden execution of five political prisoners in
Iran (four Kurds and a fellow Persian prisoner), some of my
[Persian](13) human rights activists asked me whether or not the
victims were separatists and members of opposition groups. I was
reminded of the forgetfulness of our uncles who wrote the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Apparently, at the time, our uncles did
not know, or they forgot to clarify who should be listed for execution
and who shouldn’t. Had they read articles 1–3 in the Universal
Declaration, perhaps their tender Persian nationalistic feelings would
not be so wounded.

I have chosen Zaynab as my sister (14). However, because of the
severity of her case, I have been unable to stay in touch with her.
For the last three years, my family has been barred from visiting her.
She was unable to even celebrate her birthdays. She has spent her last
two birthdays under constant torture and interrogations. I was
recently informed that due to frequent torture and heavy strikes on
her head, Zaynabs’ eyesight is fast diminishing.

I feel overwhelmed with pain whenever I read any news about Zaynab or
when I look at the pictures of her innocent face; it is as if she is
the bearer of all incarcerated Kurdish girls’ pains and embodies their

Thinking of her reminds me of those frightening, chilly nights in
Kurdistan’s prisons; the torturous sounds of the interrogators’ feet
and the loud reciting of the Quran — I had no idea from which cell it
was coming. I think of the military blanket and the curved strips and
the broken lines on the walls and those moments when I was forced out
of my cell to be tortured. At every moment, I felt a hostage of my
fears of the interrogators’ indecent hands, and my thoughts of
insufferable moments of violence, coupled with the hopes for freedom.

So each day now, in the hopes of hearing a piece of good news, that a
political prisoner is being freed, and in order to break my silence, I
join a group and participate in a campaign. Hoping that my voice may
unshackle a prisoner’s feet; hoping to see Zaynab, an adolescent who
left her home and family for the sake of freedom and equality, will
one day return home; hoping to see that in Dem-Qeshlaq village/Maku,
the little girls’ eyes will twinkle with the glow of happiness to
witness their Zaynab returning to their village; I, like hundreds of
like-minded people around the world who hold too many great hopes,
aspire to actualize the contents of the Universal Declaration of Human

Dearest Mrs. Ebadi,

In the light of your willingness to risk your own life to support and
defend many political cases in the past, I am emboldened to ask for
your support. You have been standing tall against various instances of
human rights violations and discrimination in Iran. I am encouraged by
your admirable use of your podium as a Nobel laureate in serving and
supporting political prisoners. My hope is that you appreciate my
logic, my fears, and my anxiety concerning the atrocities that are
taking place against Kurdish activists in Iranian prisons specifically
the fate of Zaynab Jalalian.

I am aware that you are not living in Iran any longer, and cannot be
present at the courts to confront a justice system that has no
independence whatsoever (15). However, Zaynab’s cries for justice will
surely not be silenced if you symbolically represent her and if you
accept her as one of your family members.

I believe human rights activists, and others whose voices can still be
heard, have a responsibility, and should make room to defend all those
whose voices have been silenced and buried behind prison walls, all
those who are subject to torture, execution, and imprisonment for
their fight against inequality, injustice, against the violation of
their freedom, their collective and national rights, their religious
rights, and against abuses and gender violence. Please help Zaynab’s
voice to be heard; her voice is being buried alive. Please let the
world hear all those voices that are buried under the debris of

With warmest regards,

Soraya Fallah (16)

A member of the Greater Family’s Campaign for Political Prisoners
& chair of World’s Women For Life (17)

[email protected]
[email protected]

1. http://freemyfamilycampaign.com/persian
2. http://miadgahezanekord.blogspot.com/p/zainab-jalalian.html
4. http://jahanezan.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/thmin-130/
5. http://www.andaryari.com/print.php?news.21 & http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-iranpics0611-28.html
6. http://iranhr.net/spip.php?article1563
7. http://www.andaryari.com/print.php?news.3
8. http://www.vokradio.com/content/view/1352/25/
9. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127833007 مازیار بهاری
10. http://kmmk.info/expand.php?id=673
11. http://www.radiofarda.com/content/f1_Kaboudvand/1373245.html
12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamiar_Alaei
13. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5557207,00.html
14. http://freemyfamilycampaign.com/persian
15. http://www.freemyfamilycampaign.com/persian/index.php/2010-10-12-00-48-04/36-2010-10-12-00-57-01.html
16. http://miadgahezanekord.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_64.html
17. http://www.wwfl.org/