Protests over hangings in Iran
PROTESTS are continuing over the executions in Iran of five political prisoners, including a leading Kurdish teacher and trade unionist, Farzad Kamangar, one of whose letters from prison we include below.
Students in Manchester intend holding a vigil for the Iranian hangman's victims tomorrow, at the Students Union at 1pm. There have been protests in Tehran called by the victim's families, and left-wing Iranians protested at their country's embassy in London.
Teachers' union organisations internationally have condemned the hangings, and the general secretary of Britain's Trade Union Congress(TUC), Brendan Barber, wrote this letter to the Iranian ambassador:
The HE Mr Rasoul Movahedian
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Prince's Gate
London SW7 1PT
The execution of Farzad Kamangar, teacher and trade unionist
I am writing to you on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national centre for British trade unions, with 58 affiliated unions and 6.3 million members, to protest at the execution on Sunday of teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar.
The TUC has been informed that Farzad Kamangar, together with four other prisoners, was executed on Sunday 9 May. He was sentenced after a court process which did not meet international or Iranian standards for a fair trial.
The TUC is opposed to the death penalty and unequivocally condemns the execution. It also denounces the inhumane treatment of Farzad Kamangar's family, who were not even informed before the execution took place. On Mother's Day, his mother was not even allowed to say goodbye to him.
The TUC has consistently denounced the persistent repression of trade unionists and all Iranians who do not share the views of the government. The brutal execution of Farzad Kamangar confirms the repressive nature of the Iranian regime, and your government's complete lack of respect for international obligations or human rights.
The TUC will support the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to which we are affiliated, in its complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association about this gross violation of the principles of the ILO.
The TUC will call on its affiliates to denounce this inhumane act, and show solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters. In that respect, we continue to express concern about the other teachers and trade unionists languishing in Iran's jails, such as bus workers leaders Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi.
I cannot emphasise enough the damage that this execution has done to the reputation of Iran and your government.
I urge you to let your government know how abhorrent British people feel this execution to have been, and urge your government to halt any further escalation of trade union repression and human rights abuses against trade union members.
The Iranian authorities had variously accused the prisoners of being "enemies of god" and terrorist offences, but both the trials and executions were conducted in secret, and Farzad Kamangar's family were not even informed that he was being put to death.
Karmangar was not only a trades unionist, but an educator and writer, speaking out for the poor and oppressed in Iran. His letters from death row are likely to be published and become classics of political literature, one day taught in Iranian schools. Here is one from last month, concerned about the rights of the Kurds and other peoples in Iran:
April 16, 2010
We Are People Too: A Letter by Farzad Kamangar, Imprisoned Teacher Sentenced to Execution
Farzad Kamangar was executed on May 9, 2010, along with four other prisoners.
A Letter by Farzad Kamangar, Imprisoned Teacher Sentenced to Execution
“We Are People Too”
The purpose of this letter is not to pinpoint the problems of the Kurds and deny the inequalities that exist among the Baluchis, Turks, Persians, and Arabs. By adopting a sympathetic comradely toward others, one can regard themselves as a religious or ethnic minority, and thereby recognize the pains of others. We are people too.
The Kurdish story is the story of the woman who gets nothing from her matrimony but insults and beatings. When her husband was asked, “You don’t really pay for her expenses nor do you show any love to her, so why do you beat and belittle her every day?” He replied, “If I don’t do this, how will anyone know I’m her husband?”
Now for our story. In Iran’s mainstream political discourse, the words Kurds and Kurdistan unfortunately imply separatism and have anti-revolutionary and anti-security (regional) connotations. It is as though the words Kurds and Kurdistan are uninvited guests and have no affinity with Iran.
The province of Kurdistan has become a breeding ground for certain adversities. The Kurdish people are deprived of many basic economical, social, and cultural rights. Historical underdevelopment in the province has resulted in poverty, unemployment, and disillusionment of the Kurdish people.
Although patriotic and kind Kurds have persistently opted for a peaceful life in Iran and have not asked for anything but their basic rights, the response to their legal demands has been an increase in political and civil imprisonment, exile, and execution. This is a result of existing negative perceptions and common prejudices against the Kurdish people.
The presence of ethnic and racial minorities in Iran and the rest of the world is not a new phenomenon. Ethnic, racial, and cultural plurality in a society can act as a double-edged sword. Under the conditions where a [minority] region is developed and fair and equal social relationships exist, co-habitation of various ethnicities is not only problematic, but it is also culturally enriching for that society. It increases the society’s tolerance and reduces cultural dogmas and narrow-mindedness. Today in the era of globalization, where many societies feel threatened by the shadow of cultural monotony, multiculturalism is a gift that needs to be protected and cherished.
At the same time, under conditions where the leaders of a society do not pay attention to the needs and legitimate rights of minorities, extended [negative] consequences will be inevitable. Perhaps one of the basic rights every Iranian feels entitled to, whether Kurdish or not, is the right to citizenship. This is a right that stands against seclusion and exclusion; two sentiments formed from the influence of tangible realities in daily life: from poverty to the dimming light in a famished child’s eyes; from the embarrassed father with empty pockets to the empty family dinner table; to the pale cheeks and impoverished look of a mother.
Seclusion is formed from the centralist approach and segregates the problems and the needs of the Kurdish people (the marginal population) from those living in the central regions [of the country].
There is no doubt that sentiments of exclusion, seclusion, and self-alienation are not limited to ethnic minorities when issues of underdevelopment and mismanagement are prevalent in society [as a whole]. These feelings affect, more or less, all members of society. However, due to structural inequalities, they have much deeper implications for minorities.
The sentiment of seclusion for all groups results in tension and unrest; especially in the presence of cultural poverty which is a consequence of economic poverty. Why not, even for once, instead of a security approach, we approach the basic problems of the people? This way we can solve the problems once and for all. However, there are other issues.
Is there no civil solution to fight the phenomenon of smuggling goods than to shoot or kill? If a person’s basic financial needs are met, would a young person risk his or her life to smuggle a box of tea or a few rolls of fabric across the border? Along the same double-standard policy, the security-centred approach implemented against Kurdish political and civil prisoners is severe.
[Translator's note: One of the only sources of income for the Kurdish population living near the Iraqi border is smuggling goods into Iran and selling them. The security and military forces shoot, injure and kill many of these impoverished individuals every year].
Even inside prisons, and in regards to punishment, do the Kurds have to still bear the label of ethnic minority and experience dark sentiments of seclusion and exclusion? Is there really a difference between a Kurdish and non-Kurdish prisoner that the former should be deprived of many legal rights such as access to a lawyer, temporary release, reduction in sentence, pardon, or freedom? Why despite recent leniency toward political prisoners of Tehran and some other major cities (I.e. their release, which is a source of great joy and I wish it continues), harsh and strict treatment of Kurdish prisoners persist. Instead of attempts to solve the issues, general policies continue to revolve around suppression and execution.
Unfortunately, some use the geographical location of the province of Kurdistan as a pretext to justify the security-oriented approach. The regime continues with pressures and crackdowns on political and civil prisoners. They also proceed with the occasional execution of prisoners who are essentially hostages or scapegoats rather than prisoners serving a sentence for a crime.
How long will this security-oriented view which has caused adversity and divergence amongst the Kurdish youth continue?
The victimized Kurdish population has chosen the most reasonable method to solve their problems: a non-violent life. Doesn’t the security-oriented approach toward the Kurds and Kurdistan imply that the Kurdish people are separated from Iran and Iranians, and thus have to be treated as non-Iranian citizens? I really wish this does not remain the case, or it can result in violence; a consequence that no sane mind wants to accept.
I hope the [discriminatory] treatment of Kurdish prisoners will end. By extending the same treatment to all prisoners, a necessary step (even if the step is small) will be taken to reduce the problems in this region. I wish the story of the Kurds will not be similar to the story of the woman whose only share of matrimony is the daily abuse she receives from her husband…
Evin Prison, April 10, 2010