State Murder in Iran
The Iranian authorities have reportedly executed a Kurdish militant whom they charged with being an "enemy of God". Ehsan Fattahian, 27, was hanged yesterday in the western city of Sanandaj, according to Ali Akbar Gharoussi, head of the judiciary in Kurdistan province.
Ehsan Fattahian's executioners ignored pleas from international human rights organisations, and petitions signed by many thousands of people, appealing against the death sentence.
Ehsan had admitted membership of the banned Kurdish movement Komeleh, which has a long history of fighting for Kurdish rights and self-determination. He denied involvement in killings, and said he was tortured for three months. His initial 10-year jail sentence was changed to death by a higher court.
Ezzatollah Fattahian, the defendant's father, told Human Rights Watch that prison officials had prevented the family from visiting his son in prison for the past three months.
Amnesty International, which appealed on Tuesday for Ehsan Fattahian's life to be spared, has warned that two other Iranian Kurdish men are at risk of execution, and at leastleast 10 other men and one woman are believed to be on death row in connection with membership of and activities in support of proscribed Kurdish organizations.
Oppositionists say the Iranian regime is using incidents like last month's explosion in Baluchistan, in which 41 people including senior Revolutionary Guard officers were killed, to come down hard on minorities. A Baluchi group called Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. The regime accused US, British and Israeli intelligence agencies of supporting separatists.
"The Iranian regime is trying to intimidate ethnic minorities from joining the Green Wave," Komeleh leader Abdullah Mohtadi told al-Arabiyya TV, referring to the movement led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have beaten Ahmadinejad in the elections. "One of the methods to deter people is stricter sentencing in ethnic provinces such as Kurdistan, Baluchestan and Ahwaz."
The Komaleh, and Kurdish aspirations, go back much further than the present Iranian regime and its troubles at home or abroad. Like neighbouring Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a chunk of Kurdish lands, with around four million Kurdish people. Sanandaj, the capital of Iran- Kurdistan province, is in an area where Kurdish guerrillas have clashed with Iranian security forces. In September there were a number of attacks, often targetting religious leaders and judges. No group claimed responsibility. The authorities variously blamed a Kurdish Independent Life Party and "hard-line Sunni fundamentalists" linked with outside powers. But Komaleh is a secular organisation, which some even see as Marxist.
Amnesty International condemned the September killings, but opposed the use of the death penalty against political prisoners. Amnesty lists Iran as the world's second most prolific executioner in 2008 after China, and says it put to death at least 346 people last year.
Ehsan Fattahian was detained on 20 July 2008 and said in a letter smuggled from prison that he was regularly beaten in detention. Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced him to ten years imprisonment, to be served in exile, after a trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer. Both Ehsan and the prosecutor appealed this verdict, and in January this year the Appeal Court overturned the first sentence. Instead he was sentenced to death for "emnity to God". He said the new sentence was passed because he refused to confess, or to renounce his beliefs.
Here are the concluding paragraphs of Ehsan Fattahian's letter from the condemned cell:
"... shortly before my sentence was changed to the death sentence, I was taken from Sanandaj prison to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center, where I was asked to make a false confession on camera, show remorse for the actions I had not committed and reject my beliefs. I did not give in to their illegitimate demands, so I was told that my prison sentence would be changed to the death sentence. They were fast to keep their promise and prove to me how courts always concede to the demands of intelligence and non-judicial authorities. How can one criticize the courts then?
All judges take an oath to remain impartial at all times and in all cases, to rule according to the law and nothing but the law. How many of the judges of this country can say that they have not broken their oath and have remained fair and impartial? In my opinion the number is countable with the fingers on my hand. When the entire justice system in Iran orders arrests, trials, imprisonments and death sentences with the simple hand gesture of an uneducated interrogator, what is to be expected from a few minor judges in a province that has always been discriminated against? Yes, in my view, it is the foundation of the house which is in ruins.
Last time I met in prison with the prosecutor who had issued the initial indictment, he admitted that the ruling was illegal. Yet, for the second time, it has been ruled that my execution should be carried out. It goes without saying that the insistence to carry out the execution at any cost is a result of pressures exercised by political and intelligence groups outside the Judiciary. People who are part of these groups look at the question of life and death of a prisoner only based on their own political and financial interests. They cannot see anything but their own illegitimate objectives, even when it is the question of a person’s right to life - the most basic of all human rights. How pointless is it to expect them to respect international treaties when they don’t even respect their own laws?
Last word: if the rulers and oppressors think that, with my death, the Kurdish question will go away, they are wrong. My death and the deaths of thousands of others like me will not cure the pain; they will only add to the flames of this fire. There is no doubt that every death is the beginning of a new life.
Sanandaj Central Prison
I hope that Ehsan Fattahian's death does breath new life into the struggle against the Iranian regime, and that his brave stand will both inspire the young and remind us all that Kurds too are a people, with rights and aspirations, however inconvenient these may be, whether for Middle Eastern regimes or great power diplomacy.
I hope it will also increase the determination - expressed here by Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) - to separate our opposition to the Ayatollah's regime firmly from those who want to wage war on Iran and its peoples; and, at the same time, to separate the anti-war movement from those who are willing to be stooges of the Islamicist regime and accomplices of the hangman.
As someone who sympathises instinctively with anyone deemed "an enemy of God", I am certainly not religious. But I think the Old Testament suggests certain ideas about justice. So let us promise that wherever the working people and oppressed of this world take power from reactionary regimes like that in Iran, we will give our enemies a fair trial before we do whatever they deserve doing to them.