"Every time they asked me about my ethnicity, I answered, "Kurdish," and they beat me with a whip that looked like some kind of a hose."
~ Farhad Kamangar, Kurdish prisoner of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
~ Farhad Kamangar, Kurdish prisoner of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Last Friday, HRW issued its recent report on repression in East Kurdistan by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not that I agree with HRW's pacifist stance on everything particularly since, if you're a Kurd, the political avenue in the Islamic Republic is identical to that in Turkey--closed. But at least this is more documentation, more fuel for the fire. You can read the entire 42-page report here and here's something from the press release:
"Iranian authorities show little tolerance of political dissent anywhere in the country, but they are particularly hostile to dissent in minority areas where there has been any history of separatist activities," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division.
Kurds account for 4.5 million of the 69 million people in Iran, and live mainly in the country's northwest regions. Political movements there have frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The main Iranian Kurdish parties with a long history of activism deny that they engage in armed activity and the government has not accused these groups of any such activity since the early 1990s.
"No one would contest a government's right to suppress violence," Stork said. "But this is not the case here. What is going on in the Kurdish areas of Iran is the routine suppression of legitimate peaceful opposition."
The new report documents how the government has closed Persian- and Kurdish-language newspapers and journals, banned books, and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies. Authorities also suppress legitimate activities of nongovernmental organizations by denying registration permits or charging individuals working with such organizations with spurious security offenses.
One victim of the government's repression is Farazad Kamangar, a superintendent of high schools in the city of Kamayaran and an activist with the Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in Kurdistan. He has been in detention since his arrest in July 2006. The new report reproduces a letter Kamangar smuggled out of prison describing how officials subjected him to torture during interrogation.
On February 25, 2008, Branch 30 of Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death on charges of "endangering national security." Prosecutors charged that he was a member of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but provided no evidence to support the allegation. In July, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Kamangar's lawyer has appealed to the head of the judiciary to intervene, the only remaining option for challenging the sentence.
The report notes that the recent round of repression began in August 2005 with the murder of Kurdish activist Şîrvan Qaderî, who was shot by the mullah's flying monkey security forces and then tied to the back of their vehicle and dragged through the streets until dead in the venerable Kurdish city of Mahabad.
What is also interesting in the report is the discussion of the Islamic Republic's constitution and that it is interpreted in ways similar to that in Turkey:
Iranian laws ostensibly protect freedom of expression and thought . . .
Article 15 of Iran's Constitution designates Persian as the "official and shared language of Iran" but allows for the "use of local and ethnic languages in groups' press and media and teaching of their literature in schools alongside Persian." Article 19 of the Constitution states that "the people of Iran, no matter what ethnicity or tribe, have equal rights, and attributes such as color or race or language will not be a reason for privilege." Despite these provisions, the cases covered in this report show that the editors and writers of Kurdish publications face violations of rights guaranteed by Iran's constitution and Press Law.
Article 9 of the constitution contains two seemingly contradictory provisions. On the one hand, it endorses prima facie violations of international human rights law and allows no option for balancing individual rights of freedom of expression or association with legitimate security considerations when it states, "No individual, group, or authority, has the right to infringe in the slightest way upon the political, cultural, economic, and military independence or the territorial integrity of Iran under the pretext of exercising freedom." The article goes on to state that "no authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country." The authorities often rely on the first part of Article 9 to justify restricting freedom of speech in the Kurdish regions, while disregarding the same article's prohibition on undue restrictions.
[ . . . ]
The scope of Article 6 gives authorities broad legal cover to suppress freedom of expression. Section 1 prohibits publication of material that is "atheistic or contrary to Islamic codes, or promote subjects which might damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic." Section 4 outlaws material that "creates discord between and among social walks of life, especially by raising racial issues." Section 9 outlaws "quoting articles from the deviant press, parties, and groups which oppose Islam (inside and outside the country) in such a manner as to propagate such ideas." Section 12 prohibits publishing anything critical of the constitution.
The Islamic Republic's constitution is also supposed to protect minority rights but, as in Turkey, this is merely cosmetics. Take this, for example and notice how Turkish it sounds:
Article 15 states that Persian is the official language of the country but stipulates that "the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian."
Article 19 states that "all people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege."  Article 20 confirms equal protection under the law by stating that "all citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria."
Yeah, right everybody's equal! Well, we know very well that "Islamic criteria" don't count for a damn when the Muslims in question are Kurds.
The discussion includes "freedom of association" or the de facto lack thereof in the Islamic Republic's constitution, a lack which is justified by "security laws". All of these laws are interpreted broadly, as pointed out by the HRW report, so that they are virtually meaningless and a meaningless constitution is a hallmark of all fascist regimes. Such constitutions are nothing more than pieces of paper designed for show, to allow ugly regimes like those of Turkey or Iran a place at the table of so-called civilized nations.
A few years ago, a study published in the academic Journal of Religion and Society reported, "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies."
I wonder if higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator also correlate with higher rates of repression, human rights violations, and atrocities?