Iranian Kurdistan: Political Prisoners in Spotlight
Human rights monitors say Iranian authorities continue to detain and harass men and women of Iran's ethnic Kurdish minority. According to the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, an independent human rights group, more than 100 ethnic Kurdish literary, cultural, and civil activists from Kermanshah and Ilam have petitioned Iranian authorities for the release of Mehdi Hamidi and Abbass Jalilian, from detention.
Mehdi Hamidi, an Iranian Air Force officer, and Kurdish cultural rights activist, has reportedly been held without charges for weeks by Iranian security services. Human rights activists say Abbas Jalilian, a noted Iranian Kurdish author and linguist, is being held incommunicado by Iranian authorities.
The signatories to the petition stated they "object to the detention of Mehdi Hamidi and Abbas Jalilian and support their cultural and literary efforts to enrich the Kurdish culture and language from south Kurdistan, especially the work of Jalilian by publishing numerous books, and demand their immediate release."
Amnesty International, in its recent report on human rights in Iran, expressed concern over the treatment of ethnic Kurdish prisoner of conscience Ronak Safarzadeh. Arrested shortly after distributing leaflets and collecting signatures for Campaign for Equality, she has been held in detention for over 15 months.
Farzad Kamangar, an ethnic Kurdish teacher and human rights defender, has been sentenced to death for so-called "crimes against national security" – a catch-all charge used to incarcerate those, like Mr. Kamangar, who peacefully oppose the current policies.
In January 2009, Human Rights Watch announced the award of its Hellman/Hammett grant, a grant given to persecuted writers, to Iranian Kurdish human rights activist Sadegh Kahboudvand. Mr. Kahboudvand is serving a 10-year prison term for his writings and is reportedly in urgent need of medical care.
By criminalizing dissent, the Iranian government increases the disaffection among its ethnic and religious minorities, along with many other Iranians who want their government to respect the rights of all its citizens. The U.S. urges the Iranian government to observe the basic human rights of all the Iranian people.