The Kurdish people, one of the largest minorities in Iran, have been heavily targeted by the Islamic Republic since its 1979 inception when Ayatollah Khomeini famously declared a "fatwa" [religious decree] against the province of Kurdistan and crushed opposing unrest by sending 110,000 troops complete with heavy artillery, fighter jets and armed helicopters. The fighting was so intense that residents were forced to flee into the harsh mountains. Kurdish men have been executed, dozens at a time.
Jahangir Razmi's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the execution of Kurdish men and others in 1979.
As Kurdistan continued its resistance, on September 17, 1992 three prominent Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders -- Sadegh Sharafkandi, Fattah Abdoli, Homayoun Ardalan -- along with their translator, Nouri Dehkordi, were gunned down by Iranian government agents in the Mykonos Greek restaurant in Berlin, Germany. From 1988-1998, Islamic Republic operatives carried out serial assassinations of opposition leaders and Iranian dissident intellectuals, both inside and outside Iran -- assassinations later dubbed "the chain murders of Iran."
Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Kurdish provinces have been neglected economically by the current government of Iran, an exclusion that gave rise to rampant poverty. Furthermore, Kurdish political, social and cultural rights are badly repressed by the present regime, causing widespread resistance, including armed conflicts, inside Kurdistan. As such, the majority of Kurds, who sympathize or hold a membership to Kurdish opposition groups, are viewed as possible "[armed] combatants," trying to overthrow the regime by the Islamic Republic. This trend can be seen in the nature of the charges and the sentences handed down to large numbers of Kurdish political prisoners, who are systematically tortured, given death sentences or long prison terms. Although there are many Kurdish prisoners, the exact number is unknown. The following are two cases where the families or the victims had the courage to contact human rights organizations, an outreach banned and punishable by the authorities.
Ms. Zainab Jalalian was arrested in July of 2007 in the Kurdish province of Kermanshah for allegedly being a member of a banned Kurdish opposition group of insurgents. She was initially taken to the detention center of Ministry of Intelligence, where she was tortured for eight months. As a result, Ms. Jalalian began to suffer from internal and intestinal bleeding. Two years after her arrest, in a trial that lasted only minutes, with no legal representation, she was accused of "waging war against God" and, at age 27, was sentenced to death. In 2010 she was transferred to the feared Ward 209 of Evin prison in Tehran, a section well known for torturing prisoners until they confess. There she was told that her death sentence would be lifted if she agreed to a televised confession admitting her "armed" involvement against the regime. She endured by maintaining her innocence and refused their demand. She was then transferred back to Kermanshah facilities to await execution.
In a letter shortly after she was sentenced to death in 2009, Ms. Jalalian wrote the following:
"…I am currently ill because of torture and I don't have any lawyer to defend me. I want to tell you that my trial took only few minutes. The court told me: 'You are an enemy of God. You must be hanged very soon.' That was the sum of my entire court process. I asked the judge to give me permission to just say good-bye to my mother before my execution. He told me to 'shut up' and rejected my request." — November 2009, letter obtained by ICAE
The Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) inside Iran created a report in 2011 by interviewing Ms. Jalalian's former cellmates. The report states that Ms. Jalalian was passed around like a soccer ball between male guards while she was tied up, blindfolded and beaten. In the first three months of her detention, she suffered such serious head injuries that her interrogators, in a rare and unusual act, were forced to transfer her to a hospital outside prison. The report also reveals that she was also flogged on the soles of her feet until she passed out. When she finally gained consciousness; she was forced to walk on her feet and was then flogged again. She was also threatened with rape by her interrogator; she protested, he then struck her on the head with an iron rod, which fractured her skull, causing her to bleed profusely. It is believed it was this blow, along with many more repeated blows to her head, affected her vision; she was consistently denied medical care for her injuries, despite many hunger strikes. She became blind in both eyes.
Between 2009 and 2010, Ms. Jalalian was the subject of an international campaign against her execution. As a direct result, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison. Ms. Zainab Jalalian is presently in agonizing pain due to bleeding and infection of her intestines. The authorities are deliberately refraining from transferring her to a city hospital for proper treatment. She has been given no provisions for her blindness while serving time. Both her ailments are direct result of torture while in custody.
Mr. Mansur Arvand is a Kurdish political prisoner who was arrested in June of 2011 and sentenced to death in July 2012 on the charge of "waging war on God" for allegedly being a member of a Kurdish opposition party.
Mansur Arvand and his daughter.
In an interview with HRANA News Agency in 2013, Mansur's brother, [Ismail] stated that most of Mansur's toenails were pulled out during his interrogations and his teeth severely damaged. He emphasized that Mansur is suffering from kidney infections that appeared only after his arrest, after torture, and that the authorities are ignoring his brother's serious medical needs.
In another interview with CFPPI in late 2013, Ismail stated that his brother was flogged 70-80 times on his back and stomach, that the torture sessions lasted 7-8 hours. He also added that the authorities had installed a noise device in Mansur's cell in order to prevent him from sleeping.
Mr. Mansur Arvand is kept in Orumieyeh central prison in West Azerbaijan province of Iran. Not only is he in imminent danger of being executed at any time; the authorities are withholding any medical care while they continue to torture him. Thus far, human rights organizations have not been able to overturn Mr. Arvand's death sentence.
Two prominent Kurdish political prisoners, Mr. Habibollah Golparipour (arrested 2007) and Mr. Shirko Moarefi (arrested 2008) were hanged respectively on October 26 and November 4, 2013. According to many international human rights organizations and various media; there has been a surge in the rate of executions after President Rouhani's election. 198 people have been hanged just in 2014 -- a period of only two and half months.
Sadly, Iran's grotesque human rights violations, the rise in executions or the fate of three Americans -- Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Robert Levinson -- held as political prisoners inside Iran, were not even discussed during the historic negotiations between the United States and Iran in late 2013.
Habibollah Golparipour, Kurdish political prisoner hanged Oct 26, 2013.
Shirko Moarefi, Kurdish prisoner hanged November 4, 2013.