Kurdish babies born in refugee camps are given names like Sangar (barricade), Awara (displaced), Revin (escape), Zindan (prisoner), Ranjbar (someone who suffers), Firmesk (tears), Bezar (spiteful), Xabat (fight), Tola (revenge), Hawar (wailing) Rizgar (rescued), Snoor (border), Lana (home).
They are victims of geography, survivors of a map.
They grow to sow their lips in protest and they carve symbols into their skin, coordinates of their birthplace as if to say “when you find me, send me home.”
Mothers spend hours lulling their restless children to sleep, singing lullabies that tell of a journey filled with rage. They do not migrate through the process of abscission. They are plucked in violence, deported.
What pains are passed on in these names? What wisdom?
It’s called secondary trauma, as if the seconds it takes to cut the umbilical cord from my mother could insulate me from the torture inflicted on her bones by the state, by displacement, by despair.
As if the lines that separate me from you is drawn in red, or in yellow tape, marking a departure clear enough for me to really feel where you end and I begin. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
I didn’t have to be there to see my uncles hanged for speaking their mother tongue to taste the bitter end of my roots flicker as I try to speak my language, the fluency of which escapes me now.
I didn’t have to be there to know of what you went through during forced confessions, Father. I didn’t have to hear the wailing of my imprisoned kin to now be startled awake by their cries.
Visions of my ancestors forced from the mountains into the desert with blistering feet keep me awake. I walk barefoot on tiptoes as if my feet are blistered. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
What is secondary about this intergenerational heirloom, passed down to me without my consent? What massacres happened in this crossing from one continent to the other? What comes first? Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
They say I have not differentiated myself enough (not in my identity formation). The subtleties of my individuality have become murky in the passage of loss from one generation to the other.
I close my eyelids to find refuge but my memory is fact. It is in my DNA, in epigenetic shapeshifting. The past is present.
What is secondary about waking every day to the news of another genocide, another friend dead, another aunt, sister enslaved? Another exodus? What is secondary about ritual mourning? Every morning! When can we heal? When can we fully grieve when it is never-ending? Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
I once read that pain flows from one family member to the next until someone is ready to feel it. I feel it. I feel it in my flesh, in the marrow of my bones, in my gut. It is like pins right under my fingernails, accumulating in somatic bruises on my thighs. And it shows when I reach out to you and say “I bear witness.” Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
At night, I twist and turn into the fetal position, my belly sounding off my people’s history. I carry it in my posture, the way I am weight down by sorrows I have no names for. I hold it in my voice when it vibrates with fear. I am anchored to the agony of exile. It is all-consuming. It is water. It is in the heaviness of the air that does not fully fill my lungs. It is in the space where I sit with all that has been done to you, in all the places where your jawlines were broken by armed men in uniform Father, beaten to shatters until you could not eat for days.
I remember so you can go on forgetting because you need to forget. I remember so you can go on forgetting.
Every time I look in the mirror, the outline of your silhouette is reflecting back your pain. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
What is secondary about this pain? To me, it has been an offering. It has been a profound loss, wrapped in every conversation, gifted to me in passing. That “all things are lost” is imparted in disorganized attachment, in denial, melancholia, in the sense of betrayal, in bedtime stories of persecution.
My mother, pregnant and imprisoned at 18, was beaten black and blue until she miscarried. I grew up knowing I was not her first child. Grief has come in abundance. Safety was scarce. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
Where is the line between lived experience and being raised with the knowledge of all that has been lost? Tell me, what is loss?
In the journey of displacement, I have lost language, I have lost language (s). I have lost birth certificates, passports, a state. I have lost the promise of return to a land forever stolen from me. I have lost count of my losses. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
The coordinates of my birthplace is Latitude 36°14′ 47″N Longitude 46° 15′ 59″ E. I am another refugee child with a mispronounced name. When I die, send me home!
Cklara Moradian, MSW
Cklara Moradian, MSW; is a diaspora Kurd, a former refugee from Eastern Kurdistan/Iran, and a spoken word poet. Her work is deeply steeped in her life experiences as a survivor.
She uses poetry and creative non-fiction as a response to the current and past atrocities/genocide her community has endured. Her work attempts to bear witness, tell stories of love and survivorship in the face of hardship and pain
Cklara is also a published spoken word poet who has performed at national and international human rights conferences, such as Amnesty International’s annual gathering, UNWomen events, university campuses, such as Cal State LA, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton, CalArts, and UCLA, as well as at national and international political rallies and literary events.
Cklara is a Social Worker, who is helping to implement the youth-centered strength-based interventions in clinical and policy/research arenas. Cklara’s work is rooted in anti-oppressive liberatory theory and practice. She hopes to continue to serve multiply-marginalized communities, center disenfranchised voices, and elevate the strengths and resiliency of people who have and continue to deal with personal and intergenerational trauma. Her journey of healing from mental and physical illness informs her work with diaspora communities. Prior to Social Work, for over ten years, Cklara was involved in social justice advocacy.
UN Confirms Iran Enriching Uranium in Excess of Nuclear Deal Limit
By Michael Lipin
July 8, 2019,
WASHINGTON — The United Nations’ atomic energy agency has confirmed Iran has surpassed the uranium enrichment limits spelled out in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said its inspectors verified Monday that Iran has surpassed the 3.67% enrichment limit set in the accord, aimed at restraining Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.
It did not specify by how much Iran exceeded the limit, but the Associated Press quotes a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on Monday as saying Tehran had enriched uranium to “around 4.5%” purity.
Iran earlier said it could enrich uranium to 20% as it backs away from its commitments under the nuclear deal.
Uranium enriched to 5% is sufficient to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, but still far below the 90% needed for building a nuclear weapon.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal last year and imposed tough sanctions on Iran.
Tehran has already pulled out of parts of the agreement and is threatening to move further and further away from it unless the remaining parties — Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia — provide economic relief from the crippling U.S. sanctions.
WATCH: US warns Iran
The European Union said it was “extremely concerned” about Tehran’s action.
“We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities that are inconsistent with the commitments” it had made under the international agreement, the EU said in Brussels.
Russia said it is concerned about Iranian action. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it had warned that Trump’s withdrawal from the pact would have negative consequences for global security.
Trump has warned Iran that it “better be careful.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton added Monday that the U.S. “will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear weapons program and ends its violent activities across the Middle East, including conducting and supporting terrorism around the world.”
Tehran long has insisted that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.
Columbia University researcher Richard Nephew, who was part of a U.S. team negotiating with Iran under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, said Tehran’s latest breaking of a nuclear deal commitment does not mean it is racing toward developing a nuclear weapon.
“What Iran is doing is going to shorten the timeline [for nuclear weapon development] by a measure of days, and in time, a measure of weeks,” Nephew told VOA Persian in a Monday interview. “But Iran still is a year away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon and will [remain so] for some time to come.”
But retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Dakota Wood, a senior defense researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Iran’s latest moves demonstrate the viability of its perceived nuclear weapons program.
“Because [Iran] didn’t have to dismantle any of its infrastructures under the  deal, it can quickly continue exceeding the [low-enriched uranium] quantity limit of 300 kilograms and then further enrich [to higher purity],” Wood said in a separate VOA Persian interview Monday. “So going to 4.5% purity, being on a track to 20% and then ultimately to 90% if they decide to go down that path, really reveals the organic, inherent capabilities [Iran] has in its nuclear program.”
Both Wood and Nephew said they believe Iran is using its breaches of the nuclear deal as leverage to win diplomatic concessions from the West.
Iran Says it Will Break Uranium Stockpile Limit in 10 Days
By Associated Press
June 17, 2019, 05:25 AM
TEHRAN, IRAN – Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days, the spokesman for the country’s atomic agency said Monday while also warning that Iran has the need for uranium enriched up to 20%, just a step away from weapons-grade levels.
The announcement indicated Iran’s determination to break from the landmark 2015 accord, which has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into free-fall.
The spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, made the announcement during a press conference with local journalists at Iran’s Arak heavy water facility that was carried live on Iranian state television.
The development comes in the wake of suspected attacks on oil tankers last week in the region, attacks that Washington has blamed on Iran, and also as tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States, a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America for the nuclear deal.
Kamalvandi acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and said Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs.”
That increase could be to any level, from 3.67% which is the current limit set by the nuclear deal.
Iran’s needs 5% enrichment for its nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr and it also needs 20% enrichment for a Tehran research reactor, the spokesman said.
When uranium is mined, it typically has about 140 atoms of this unwanted isotope for every atom of U-235. Refining it to the purity of 3.67%, the level now allowed by the nuclear deal means removing 114 unwanted atoms of U-238 for every atom of U-235.
Boosting its purity to 20% means removing 22 more unwanted isotopes per atom of U-235 while going from there to 90% purity means removing just four more per atom of U-235, he noted. Ninety percent is considered weapons-grade material.
That means going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.
US Resident Freed by Iran to Trump: ‘Get Back Your Hostages’
By Associated Press
June 14, 2019 03:47 PM
BEIRUT – A Lebanese man and permanent U.S. resident who was released after spending years in an Iranian prison called on President Donald Trump and Western countries to “please get back your hostages from Iran,” adding that he saw American detainees during his nearly four-year imprisonment.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Nizar Zakka said he was subjected to “all kinds of torture,” both physical and mental, during his detention in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, including standing on one leg for hours, extended periods of interrogation and lack of food.
“Nobody on earth deserves such suffering,” he said in the 30-minute emotional interview during which he broke down in tears at one point.
Zakka, an information technology expert, was arrested in Iran in September 2015 while trying to fly out of Tehran. He had just attended a conference there at the invitation of one of the country’s vice presidents. The following year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after authorities accused him of being an American spy — allegations he and his associates vigorously reject.
He was released Tuesday and flew back to his native Lebanon, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Last year, the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-impose heavy sanctions on Iran. The past weeks have witnessed a flurry of diplomatic activity to ease tensions and salvage the landmark deal.
Zakka is one of several prisoners with either dual nationality or links to the West held in the Islamic Republic’s prisons. It was not clear why Iran decided to act now, after years of Lebanese officials asking for his release.
“In my opinion, it was good timing for the Iranians, and especially they had a request from the President of the Lebanese Republic,” Zakka said. “They took this opportunity to send also a message … de-escalating tensions within the region.”
Zakka told the AP that during his detention he met several Westerners held in Iran, and for two years shared a cell with Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student sentenced to 10 years behind bars after being accused of “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad.
“I really ask President Trump to not leave Xiyue behind and other Americans behind, please,” he said.
Zakka also said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman, was held in the same building where he was until she was moved to the women’s section inside Evin prison. She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling with her young daughter.
Zakka added that Iranian-American Siamak Namazi was held in a cell “almost two meters away” from his, while the man’s father Baquer Namazi was held on a floor above. Both father and son are serving a 10-year sentence after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power.
Asked whether he met former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, Zakka said: “We heard some stories. Some people told me that they saw him. It wasn’t confirmed stories.”
Zakka called on the “American Congress, American administration and all Western countries, please get back your hostages in Iran.”
“I will take the opportunity to speak to the American Congress and to the American administration and to all the Western countries, please get back the hostages in Iran. Get them back home. They deserve to be back home,” Zakka added.
Zakka, 52, described how he was detained as he was headed to the airport in a taxi on Sept. 18, 2015, after a visit to Iran following an invitation by one of its vice presidents. “I was stopped by a civilian car and taken by people in civilian clothes. They took me as a hostage since then. I didn’t know anything. They blindfolded me and they took me to a place for almost 40 days. I didn’t know where I am.”
He added that the men told him that they are members of the intelligence department of the Revolutionary Guard and that they control the country.
“We decide. We are the judge. We are everything,” he recalled them saying.
World Bank: Iran Likely to Suffer Worse Recession Than Previously Thought
June 05, 2019 7:40 PM
By: Michael Lipin
WASHINGTON —The World Bank says Iran is likely to experience an even worse recession this year than previously thought, as U.S. sanctions largely choke off oil exports that have been Tehran’s main revenue source.
In its latest Global Economic Prospects report published Wednesday, the Washington-based institution that provides loans to countries said it expects Iran’s Gross Domestic Product to shrink by 4.5% this year, a steeper contraction than its earlier estimate of negative 3.6% GDP growth for 2019.
“The oil industry is an important part of Iran’s economy, and its oil production is clearly going to drop because of the new U.S. sanctions,” said Patrick Clawson, research director for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a VOA Persian interview on Wednesday.
The Trump administration imposed a total, unilateral ban on Iranian oil exports on May 2 as part of its campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran to negotiate an end to its perceived malign behaviors. It had issued sanctions waivers to eight of Iran’s oil customers in November to allow them to keep importing Iranian crude for six months, but later said it would not renew those waivers and would require those customers to reduce such imports to zero.
U.S. economist Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told VOA Persian in another Wednesday interview that Iran’s internal economic problems also are to blame for its worsening recession. “Iran is very corrupt, has very little economic freedom, and it’s hard to start a business there because Iran is not really a free market or liberal economy,” Hanke said.
Transparency International, a Berlin-based civil society organization that monitors global corruption, has ranked Iran 138 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index.
Iran’s other low global economic rankings include 155 out of 180 nations in the Economic Freedom Index of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy institute, and 128 out of 190 governments in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.
The World Bank’s new report also said Iran’s year-on-year inflation rate has risen sharply from about 10% in the middle of last year to about 52% in April. It said the depreciation of Iran’s rial since May 2018, when the U.S. announced it would re-impose sanctions on Iran, has contributed to the rising inflation. The rial’s slump versus the dollar in Iran’s unofficial currency market has made dollar-denominated imports more expensive for Iranians.
Clawson said Iran’s inflation is high primarily because it is relying on printing money to finance its spending. “The Iranian government is not bringing in enough revenue to pay for its expenses, so it is borrowing money from the banking system to cover the difference, and that is driving inflation,” he said.
Hanke, who says he is the only economist outside Iran to measure its inflation with high frequency, told VOA Persian that he calculated Iran’s actual inflation rate to be 113% on Wednesday, much higher than the World Bank’s latest reading.
The World Bank’s projection of a 4.5% contraction in Iran’s GDP this year is not as bad as the 6% contraction predicted by the International Monetary Fund, another global lending agency, in its latest report from April. The World Bank also said it expects economic growth in Iran to return next year “as the impact of U.S. sanctions tapers off and as inflation stabilizes.” It projected a 0.9% rise in Iran’s GDP for 2020.
Hanke declined to make his own predictions for Iran’s economic performance, saying any forecasts for a nation such as Iran are problematic because they rely on guesswork.
US Carrier in Persian Gulf Region Seen as Clear Signal to Iran
By: Associated Press
FILE – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transits the Strait of Gibraltar, entering the Mediterranean Sea, April 13, 2019.
Under a starry sky, U.S. Navy fighter jets catapulted off the aircraft carrier’s deck and flew north over the darkened waters of the northern Arabian Sea, an unmistaken signal to Iran that the foremost symbol of the American military’s global reach is back in its neighborhood, perhaps to stay.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, with its contingent of Navy destroyers and cruisers and a fighting force of about 70 aircraft, is the centerpiece of the Pentagon’s response to what it calls Iranian threats to attack U.S. forces or commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf region. In recent years, there has been no regular U.S. aircraft carrier presence in the Middle East.
U.S. officials have said that signs of heightened Iranian preparations to strike U.S. and other targets in the waters off Iran as well as in Iraq and Yemen in late April emerged shortly after the Trump administration announced it was clamping down further on Iran’s economy by ending waivers to sanctions on buyers of Iranian crude oil.
The administration went a step beyond that on Friday, announcing penalties that target Iran’s largest petrochemical company.
On Saturday, the Lincoln was steaming in international waters east of Oman and about 200 miles from Iran’s southern coastline. One month after its arrival in the region, the Lincoln has not entered the Persian Gulf, and it’s not apparent that it will. The USS Gonzalez, a destroyer that is part of the Lincoln strike group, is operating in the Gulf.
All interactions ‘safe and professional’
Rear Adm. John F. G. Wade, commander of the Lincoln strike group, said Iran’s naval forces have adhered to international standards of interaction with ships in his group.
“Since we’ve been operating in the region, we’ve had several interactions with Iranians,” he said. “To this point all have been safe and professional — meaning, the Iranians have done nothing to impede our maneuverability or acted in a way which required us to take defensive measures.”
The Lincoln’s contingent of 44 Navy F-18 Super Hornets are flying a carefully calibrated set of missions off the carrier night and day, mainly to establish a visible U.S. “presence.” As an apparent result, Iran seems to have tinkered with its preparation for potential attacks, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command, said Saturday.
He said on Friday that he thinks Iran had been planning some sort of attack on shipping or U.S. forces in Iraq. Two other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details, said Iran was at a high state of readiness in early May with its ships, submarines, surface-to-air missiles and drone aircraft.
“It is my assessment that if we had not reinforced, it is entirely likely that an attack would have taken place by now,” McKenzie said.
In an interview on the bridge, or command station, of the Lincoln with reporters who are traveling with him throughout the Gulf region, McKenzie said the carrier has made an important difference.
‘We are looking hard at them’
“We believe they are recalculating. They have to take this into account as they think about various actions that they might take. So we think this is having a very good, stabilizing effect,” he said.
“They are looking hard at the carrier because they know we are looking hard at them,” McKenzie added.
He said earlier in the week that he had not ruled out requesting additional defensive forces to bolster the deterrence of Iran, whose economy is being squeezed hard by U.S. sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The U.S. already has announced plans to send 900 additional troops to the Mideast and extend the stay of 600 more as tens of thousands of others also are on the ground across the region.
Iran’s influential Revolutionary Guard has said it doesn’t fear a possible war with the U.S. and asserted that America’s military might has not grown in power in recent years. “The enemy is not more powerful than before,” the Guard spokesman, Gen. Ramazan Sharif, said in late May.
The U.S. has accused Iran of being behind a string of recent incidents, including what officials allege was sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
McKenzie spent two days aboard the Lincoln to confer with naval commanders, observe both daytime and nighttime flight operations, and to thank crew members. Their deployment plans were disrupted when the White House approved McKenzie’s request in early May that the Lincoln cut short its time in the Mediterranean Sea and sail swiftly to the Arabian Sea.
“I am the reason you are here,” the general said in an all-hands announcement to the nearly 6,000 personnel on the Lincoln Friday night, shortly after he flew aboard by Navy helicopter from Oman.
Intent was to stabilize
“I requested this ship because of ongoing tensions with Iran,” he said. “And nothing says you’re interested in somebody like 90,000 tons of aircraft carrier and everything that comes with it. Our intent by bringing you here was to stabilize the situation and let Iran know that now is not the time to do something goofy.”
McKenzie also requested, and received, four Air Force long-range B-52 bombers. They were in the region 51 hours after being summoned and were flying missions three days later. They are now operating from al-Udeid air base in Qatar. There had been no U.S. bomber presence in the Gulf region since late February.
In an interview Friday after speaking with B-52 pilots at al-Udeid, McKenzie said it’s hard to know whether that gap in a bomber presence had emboldened the Iranians.
“Cumulatively, the fact that we had drawn down in [the Mideast] may have had an effect on Iranian behavior,” he said. “We do know that bringing stuff back in seems to have had an effect on their behavior,” noting that there have been no Iranian attacks on U.S. forces.
On Saturday aboard the Lincoln, McKenzie was asked whether there have been any incidents between Iranian and American naval forces in recent weeks.
“No, actually, I think things are pretty quiet right now,” he said.
Amnesty International: Human rights in Iran: A review of 2018
Today Amnesty International issued Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018, which describes how authorities across the region have unashamedly persisted with ruthless campaigns of repression in order to crush dissent, cracking down on protesters, civil society and political opponents, often with tacit support from powerful allies.
The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them the sense that they need never fear facing justice. Amnesty International’s report reveals that the crackdown on dissent and civil society intensified significantly in Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia during 2018. These three states are emblematic of the inadequacy of the international response to rampant government violations.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: REVIEW OF 2018
26 February 2019 Index: MDE 13/9900/2019
IRAN Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of state: Sayed Ali Khamenei
Head of government: Hassan Rouhani
The human rights situation in Iran severely deteriorated. The authorities suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned hundreds of people who voiced dissent. Trials were systematically unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments were carried out. The authorities sanctioned pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Executions took place, sometimes in public, and thousands remained on death row. They included people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
Iranian rights groups say authorities have detained two civil activists in the country’s northwestern Kurdistan province in recent days, one a teachers union member and the other an environmentalist.
Four groups quoted sources as saying Iranian security agents arrested Mokhtar Asadi, a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Association, in Sanandaj as he traveled home with his family on Thursday. They said Asadi was detained without a warrant and taken to an unknown location, hours after dozens of teachers held a peaceful protest outside the Sanandaj educational department.
The Sanandaj rally was part of a series of teacher protests held Thursday in six Iranian cities, with activists denouncing perceived government suppression of their rights and calling for better working conditions in their poorly paid profession.
There was no word on Asadi’s case in Iranian state media. He has been arrested several times before in relation to his advocacy for teachers’ rights and had been released from his most recent detention last July after spending a year in Tehran’s Evin prison on a charge of spreading anti-government propaganda.
HRANA has said Iranian authorities have tightened their grip on labor unions in recent years and have shown a “particular vitriol” toward those representing educators.
U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch joined four Iranian rights organizations in reporting the arrest of environmentalist Sirwan Ghorbani in Kamyaran on Tuesday. They said Iranian security officers detained Ghorbani, also a central council member of the Kurdistan National Unity Party, at his home.
The Iranian rights groups quoted sources as saying the officers who raided Ghorbani’s home put a sack over his head, seized some of his personal belongings and confiscated the mobile phone of his sister Samira Ghorbani, who fainted and had to be taken to a hospital. They said the agents also ordered Samira Ghorbani to report to a local information bureau in the coming days.
The rights groups said Iranian authorities detained 10 other environmental and civil activists in Kamyaran and Sanandaj in late December and in recent days extended their arrest for another month. A Jan. 7 report by Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Kurdistan provincial deputy security chief Hussein Khosheqbal as saying those detained had been engaged in “criminal activities” on behalf of environmental groups.
Iran has come under criticism from international rights activists for its recent detentions and prosecutions of other Iranian environmentalists. Eight have been on trial since last month on spying-related charges that their supporters say are bogus.
URGENT: LABOUR RIGHTS ACTIVISTS RISK TORTURE IN IRAN
Esmail and Sepideh were badly beaten with metal bars, restrained for long hours and intimidated with sexually abusive language.
They were first arrested in November 2018 for protesting the unpaid wages and poor working conditions of a sugar cane company in Iran. After speaking out they were rearrested and they could be facing further torture as you read this.
Peacefully protesting for workers’ rights is not a crime. Please email the president of Iran demanding their immediate release.
‘I could hardly walk for several days. I developed a fever and a cold. My face was swollen and blood clots came out of my nose. I could not move my jaw to chew food.’ Esmail Bakshi
When Esmail Bakhsi and Sepideh Gholian were first arrested they were taken to an office of security police in Khuzestan province.
Sepideh – a young student – was beaten, slammed against a wall and hit on her shoulder with the metal strap of her handbag.
‘The intelligence official slapped me in the head and insulted me constantly. He used very vulgar and violent sexual language, called me a ‘whore’, said I was having sexual relationships with Haft Tappeh workers, and threatened to get my relatives to kill me to protect the family’s honour.’ Sepideh
Esmail Bakhshi – a sugarcane industry worker – tried to stop this humiliation. He was shoved to the ground, had his hands tied behind his back, and was beaten by several men.
The situation went from bad to worse.
The pair were transferred to an undisclosed location. During the one and a half hour trip they were tortured several times.
Esmail Bakhshi said that the officials pulled his hair, hit him with their fists and batons, and strangled him multiple times. He said that the officials also pulled his legs apart and hit him in the testicles.
‘I experienced severe burning when urinating and I was in so much pain that it even hurt to sleep. After nearly two months, I still feel pain in my broken ribs, kidneys, ears and testicles.’ Esmail
When they arrived in the detention centre they were told by officials: ‘This place is the end of the world. There are no human rights here and you have no option but to confess like a dog’.
Then they were violently interrogated in long sessions which often started around 10am and lasted until the early hours of the following morning. They had no access to their lawyers during this period. All the while, they heard the screams of other victims from neighbouring cells.
On 19 January their ‘confessions’ were broadcast on state TV. They ‘confessed’ to colluding with Marxist and Communist groups outside Iran in an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic through organising workers’ strikes and demonstrations.
Who are they?
Esmail Bakhshi is a worker at Haft Tappeh sugar cane company who has spoken out bravely at peaceful protests over unpaid wages and poor working conditions.
Sepideh Gholian is a young university student and labour rights activist who attended the protests of Haft Tappeh workers and supported them through reporting on social media.
They are peaceful protesters who should be allowed to speak out against poor working conditions in their country.
They have been treated in the most appalling way and could be facing further torture as you read this. We must send a message to Iran that this will not stand.
Please send an instant email to the President of Iran demanding their release.
A Joint Letter to Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Imminent Execution of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish Political Prisoner in Iran
H.E. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights
52, rue de Paquis 10
1211 Geneva Switzerland
Re: The Imminent Execution of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish Political Prisoner in Iran
Yet another Kurdish human rights activist, Ramin Hossein Panahi is in imminent danger of execution in Iran. According to Hossein Ahmadiniaz, Mr. Panahi’s lawyer the supreme court of Iran has upheld the death sentence rather than advising the proper legal functions and procedures to be followed. Although no documented charges have been brought against Mr. Panahi, he has been kept in solitary confinement and incommunicado, leading to his ongoing hunger strike against the unbearable prison conditions. Mr. Panahi’s father, who had recently been able to speak to his son briefly on the phone, is apprehensive and wants the whole world to know about the imminent danger that his son faces. The terrified parents of Mr. Panahi have announced a sit-in front of the prison and have threatened that if their son is executed, they will also put an end to their own lives. The plight of this family is typical of many Kurdish and other Iranian families whose members are in prison, many of whom are on death row.
The current explosion in imprisonments and criminalization of any form of dissent following recent public protests is not unprecedented; Kurds as an ethnic and religious minority are under double surveillance, scrutiny, cultural policing, militarism, economic deprivation and political oppression. Anyone, particularly with an ethnic or religious minority background with the slightest discontent and dissent, is in danger of imprisonment and unfair trials. Mr. Panahai is a political prisoner of conscience whose demand for basic human rights is being met with greater injustice and gallows in flagrant violations of human rights in a system that stifles any dissent with mass arrests and death penalty, the details of which are well documented in your latest report on the situation of human rights in Iran, issued by the late Ms. Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Iran.
Mr. Panahi’s lawyer has appealed for a judicial review to override the death penalty decision against his client who has been falsely charged with armed insurrection against the Islamic Republic, a capital offense that is punishable by death. Because of the horror of solitary imprisonment, Mr. Panahi has been on hunger strike since January 27 to protest the prison condition and his conviction both of which are in violation of all international laws and Islamic Republic’s membership in such entities.
If human rights organizations and the international community stand aside and do not protest, the politics of fear and death will persist with its frenzied ritual of mass arrests and executions of political prisoners. We welcome the latest report and insistent call for the improvement of human rights in Iran and hereby urge you to take immediate action to halt the execution of Mr. Ramin Hossein Panahi. He urgently needs proper medical treatment and family visits as the solitary detention has put him in a more precarious condition. We appeal to you to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure Mr. Panahi’s immediate and unconditional release from prison.
Dr. Azad Moradian
Chair of Kurdish American Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran (KACDHI)
Dr. Amir Sharifi
Director of Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group-Los Angeles